Yegua Airgun Club summoned all FT shooters to its State Match and Grand Prix event to be held in March 2014.
Being one of the first events of the season and after the pummeling that some states have gotten from the Winter Weather, it was probably not as well attended as in other years.
Well, first things first: those that did not attend missed a VERY good shoot.
MD Ron Robinson took charge and made all arrangements possible so that we would all get our full 2 days of shooting, as it should be in a State/Regional Match.
He did NOT skimp on difficulty either. LOL! He admits to having calculated, before wind; drizzle; darkness and damp, bone chilling cold, a Troyer of 35.
Still, some shooters performed admirably. Notable are the "Open PCP" shooters, that managed those extremely high Troyer difficult targets with some ease.
Usually, physics and statistics can tell us something about the world we live in. And when they don't, we really need to suspect the basis or the premises because nature behaves in a continuous manner. Macroscopic, Human-scale, Nature is not digital, there are no "jumps".
This points out to me something I have been thinking along for some time, but I need time and results from many shoots to actually validate the theory, so this will happen along this year and probably, for next FT season, we will have better tools to plan the courses. SO, stay tuned on this!
Luckily, we had found a direct flight, by the time we arrived to LGA after dropping off the car in the long term car park, and after the airline had called in the Port Authority and they in their turn had called in the TSA, once our rifles were checked, XRayed, Swabbed for explosive residues, and re-checked visually, we were on our merry way. Since we had arrived with time enough for all this circus to take place, we were the ones that had the smiles on our faces, and I can tell you that this can go a long way to getting through with no problems.
So, if there is ONE tip that you will take from me, it should be this: "Get to the airport with PLENTY of time"
We started off LGA with about 30 minutes delay (normal for late flights), but still in time to get to Houston and rent our car.
Alas, by the time we landed, it was already an hour late.
We proceeded and took delivery of our car, not without a little hassle about the State of Texas requiring Liability insurance bought from the Rental agency (something I doubt still), but at that time we had little energy to argue and we simply accepted to pay more for insurance than for the rent of the car itself. . . . go figure.
We drove then the almost 2 hours that it takes to go from IAH to Somerville, by the time we arrived it was really late. In the hotel lobby we met Robert R. and Mr. Stylie, who gave us the news that Roz would not be attending. Ah, well, he ditched us for Vegas . . . again . . . go figure! LOL!
Friday was a most enjoyable day, warm weather, moderate constant breezes; and I was already picturing in my mind the writeup starting with : "as perfect FT weather as can be hoped for". Nahhhhh! Texas was keeping her cards tight to her chest and playing a mean hand.
After marking my scope's AO (I had not had a chance to mark it and had been shooting over the Fall and Winter seasons using "Bards" -Bushnell Yards- as read directly from the AO bell), I started shooting groups to feed info into the PP-Calc app. To my sort-of-surprise, the BC from this shoot was different from the BC obtained at the last nationals. This re-inforced my confidence in the fact that it makes sense to get a trajectory established for EACH match. Marking the AO scope took me about 2 hours. Had to take frequent respites to avoid my eyes becoming an error inducing aspect. Getting the new trajectory took all of 15 minutes.
I had agreed to pick Veronika up from the hotel and go get lunch so I did and after lunch we returned to the sight-in range, where she tried to sight in her rifle. From the start she had problems and it would seem that her scope was jumping on her. For a while I thought so too, but later research proved that the culprit was the interfase mounts-scope, but more on that later.
By the time we more or less finished, it was real dark, we called it a day, exchanged cell numbers with Leo and agreed to meet them for dessert or a beer.
We got up early Saturday, but by the time we wanted to go for breakfast, sun wasn´t up yet! We waited. And in the wait, we had breakfast and got to the Range in time for a good sighting in session.
The first day of the match (Saturday) was a good day. Normal temperatures, even a little hot. Sunny in spots but not too much to be objectionable. Wind very moderate to non-existent. Still had to keep attention to the wind-flag, but most of the times the attention to it was limited to "take ½ mrad and shoot" or "just shoot".
I was squadded with Randy Smith and his son Reagan, Randy is a gentleman from Oklahoma, who thinks nothing of traveling 5 hours to a Match. His and his son's first FT match had been a few weeks before at Yegua, so they had some expectations as to the lanes to be shot. What they did NOT expect was the change in difficulty from a local to a regional match. Yes they were more or less the same lanes, but the KZ's had been reduced substantially!
Still, they took it in stride and came through the first half of the match like good troopers, it was an honor and a privilege to share the lanes with them on Saturday.
But, when conditions force MD's to use more than one or two of very small KZ's targets, then the match becomes lopsided, and it also becomes critical, like, reactor-critical.
¿Why? some of you ask.
Well, the answers can be best exemplified by, at least one of the two targets that were thrown out of the first day's half:
Very small KZ's being shot at with 20 ft-lbs guns will create a shower of lead particles on both sides of the faceplate that go everywhere (lots of shaved pellets, lots of glancing blows, in some targets even hole-edge peening is visible, the KZ disappears amid a uniform splatter of bright silver colored lead of all the near misses . . .), and like in all places where Parkinson's Rules can apply (and that is everywhere), those high speed/high energy lead particles will go to the worst possible places and mess up the mechanisms at the worst possible times and ways.
There was this bat in Saturday's course that was a short shot with an-almost-microscopical KZ that most shooters could not even see, especially "Hunter Division" shooters.
My squad mates get to the target, Randy sits down and misses both shots (tough, I thought), then Reagan lies down prone style and also misses both shots (Oooops!). When, feeling that there had been a target malfunction, they asked me what to do I told them that the rule was to put a "P" by the score in the meantime and that if I did / could not bring the culprit down, feeling I had hit the paddle cleanly, I would support their "P's" with two of my own.
Now, after the TX nationals, I have been working with my system to refine the technique to "make" these shots, so I really have no fear of them now. I plopped into position and . . . down the bat went. Twice. I felt sorry and apologized to my squad mates, but the rules are the rules, I could not support their "P's". As we shot the next lane, we could hear a few "hurray's" from someone knocking down that bat again.
Next morning, we learned that the target had been thrown out to "equalize" the shooters, pity that some shooters, paraphrasing George Orwell: "were more equalized than others".
When a target gets thrown out, some shooters gain 2 points, but those shooters that through luck, skill, or the target's good will (that is why you should address the target nicely :-) ) had brought down the target twice, loose. It is a perverse incentive to protest targets.
Sure there are intermittent failures. I've seen them and experienced them: the best one was a toggle pin that had been replaced by a screw in a GAMO target that had been shot at with much more than 20 ft-lbs. When the threads of the screw aligned with the peened threads in the toggle, the target would refuse to fall. When the peened thread did not coincide, then the target would fall beautifully with 4 ft-lbs on the paddle. Confusing, baffling and, during the match, downright freaking annoying!
Believe me I KNOW about intermittent failures.
Putting too many small KZ's, in my most honest opinion, just invites them.
Still, after all was said and done, I ended the match with a 44 (pre-throw-outs) and I was happy.
After the shoot, we were going to have lunch when I realized I needed to get back to the hotel and we could not stay. We missed the evening's events (and downpour).
It was COLD. Like 35ºF, 80% humidity, 15 mph finger-numbing wind cold. My fingers got numb and I had just brought my fingerless shooting gloves. Cloth, no insulation. I was uncomfortable, annoyed at myself for not being prepared, and worried about Veronika's gun. I did my "zeroing in" somewhat hurriedly and in un-natural conditions and that would cost me dearly later.
Still, we tried to sort out Veronika's gun and it was discovered that slivers of lead had gotten into the breech seal. My guess is that at least one pellet did not load completely, stayed in the chamber cocked with just the head in and the skirt out, and when the cocking lever closed, with the transfer port architecture I use, the skirt got sheared off and parts were crushed, squeezed and lodged between the breech seal and the cavity in the compression cylinder that houses it.
Furthermore, it was noted that the AEON scope had moved forward, as the rear mounts were pushing the blade indicator where Veronika reads the distances and the indicator was starting to brush against the distance tape. Somehow, what had been an adequate torque in summer temperatures was nowhere near adequate at that near-freezing temperatures.
We sorted what we could and she was brave and valiant and shot almost all the second course, but we decided to post a DNF for statistical purposes.
What was an incredible stroke of luck for me was that we were squadded together. And I will come to that later, but let me tell you what was a GRAVE mistake on my part: When I re-zeroed for the day, POI was strangely twisted. I did not pay attention and just corrected it and went forward.
The third person in the squad was Leo D. great shooter, AAFTA Governor, and all around good person. He sat down and was going to start when we discovered that the timer in the lane was non-functional. So I went to change the timer. By the time I came back, Leo had managed to clean the lane.
Sat down and took my first shot, it went down. Confident, I took the second shot and the target just sang to me: "I'm still standing . . ."
Next two shots, the same. SOMETHING was radically wrong.
And then I started missing the small KZ's. I knew I had some points over Leo from day 1, but I am not comfortable with not matching my squad mates shot for shot. And after a few lanes, when I was sure that Leo now had the first place, a standing lane came. Leo got two shots of the four, so I stepped up and . . . missed the two near shots. The far away shots were at a rather generous KZ (quite big to be honest) that was nearly devoid of hits, so I thought NOW is the time to see what is happening. I took my two shots and both landed within ½" at 12 O'Clock. Almost at the edge.
Corrected my scope and when the time came, took two shots to the ground, and took the lane. I thought I had corrected enough, full 8 clicks in the Bushnell is 1 complete MOA. Wrong.
I still needed to correct more, but I still had not realized it, the match went back and forth Leo-Hector, Hector-Leo, back and forth, back and forth.
Then we arrived at the kneeling lane. Which is where I usually get even, I felt I was down by 2 or 3 shots with only a couple of lanes left (only 40 shots on the second day of the match). Got down and nailed the first target. Then got into a new position and went after the far target . . . two misses! I was ready to throw the towel.
So, I took a step back, took a deep breath, sighed deeply, and started considering what we would have to do to get everything back on track for the rest of the season. At just that moment, Veronika came to me, gave me a kiss and whispered in my ear: "I have faith in you".
I steeled my nerves, considered exactly how much that MOA meant trajectory-wise and decided to click in another half MOA. To pay attention to the wind and to simply pay attention to my FORM.
Careful laying and orientation of the bumbag. Levelling of the gravel surface if it was needed. Carefully following my "setup ritual", I started nailing targets. Out of the last 6 shots, I did not miss any. Even the 53 yarder came down decidedly and authoritatively. Twice. Now, I was the one singing: "Another one bites the dust . . . "
When all was said and done, from a low point where I had been about 7 shots down, I ended up only 1 point behind Leo for the second day, which implied that in the overall score I had a 3 points advantage.
It was a thrilling competition against a noble and more than worthy adversary and, to be quite frank I owe the match to Veronika. Without her support and her faith I would not have re-gained my sense of purpose.
You see? there is more to FT than meets the eye!
Thanks to Yegua Air Gun Club for a most memorable experience!