So, first of all, THANK YOU!
Thank you for reading, for paying attention, for expressing your sympathies, commiseration, and even "condolences" (in somewhat of a playful mood).
But most of all, thank you for showing that you care.
So, what did we learn from the 2019 World's? What will transform a hard experience into a lesson and concrete actions?
Truth is there are many facets and answers to that question. Most of which can be viewed as part of the "Gunsmith's Paradox" which says that a Gunsmith will not have the best possible gun because he is always too busy with OPG's (Other People's Guns).
During the last day of shooting, Hellen, my squadmate told me:
"When you get home, you forget about other people's guns and get yours working!"
Nice thought that I greatly appreciated.
But let's go back in history exactly 40 years:
Back in August 1979, I arrived in England for an extended stay, I was looking forward to doing post-graduate work at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology).
I found it was not easy to fit into English groups. Yes, student life is somewhat of a "bubble", but it was somewhat illogical to keep on seeing the same guys from way back home when you were living in a foreign country with all that a different culture has to offer.
I had always enjoyed shooting and was quite good at it, so I became a member of the University of Manchester Rifle Club.
Went through the process of getting my FAC, purchased my small-bore and then my full-bore rifles and I discovered that I was now, truly, one more "bloke" in the domestic crowd. Because Hector was complicated for the Lancastrians, I ended up as "Howie".
After a year and half I was offered the position of "armorer" for the Team and I gladly accepted.
Three Imperial Meetings at Bisley were some of the most incredible experiences of my life. The University Team posted good results that only improved as the years passed.
Last year I was there (1982), The University Team came in Champion in some events, among them the long range Universities cup (800, 900 and 1,000 yards), which earned us our "Full Maroons". The Match was a whole day deluge. EVERYTHING was wet. There was NO way to keep water from pouring down your barrel. There was no thunder, however, and so the shoot went on.
Because of the way the "stints" are organized, you had to be ready at least 20 minutes before your scheduled time and at the line of fire. Even if it was pouring rain.
When your time came, you went down to the line, got to the prone position, blew the water off your (iron) sights and awaited for the command to load and commence firing.
You took two sighters and then your "for score" shots (7 or 10, depending on the specific competition).
And then it was done.
When planning on the purchase of my full-bore gun I had thoroughly thought about it. A full-bore rifle is a lifelong investment. Caliber was simple, you HAD to use "service ammunition" (7.62X51 NATO), either the "Small Mark" or the "Green Dot" produced by the military arsenal. Berdan primed, you couldn't keep the cases. You had to account for every shot fired.
And so, I chose a gun I was already familiar with: The Steyr SSG-69
I loved it, and knew it was completely impervious to weather; ANY weather.
Part of it was the stock, one of the first successful precision "plastic" stocks in real service it was way ahead of its time.
Other shooters took other ways, from laminated stocks to metal inserts in the stock. In the end, the scores showed that the whole synthetic stock, when properly made, is superior to any form of wooden stock.
Nowadays plastic stocks are also cheaper to make, but there are few and far between that are truly well made, do not feel "hollow", or flimsy, and perform under all conditions. Not all "Synthetics" are the same. And those synthetics that are truly good are not cheap.
When I started shooting airguns seriously, I came up with a number of different solutions, as it was not easy to have a special stock made. Perhaps we can talk a little bit more about that in another entry; for this one, suffice to say that I decided to put a full length "bedding block" into a wooden stock (a Culbertson Match/Prone style).
The work was executed masterfully by a good friend of mine, Art Deuel, and when he delivered the stock, he said:
"I left some wood for you to adjust and you will need to finish the stock". Sure! I said. I was so happy!
I never took the time to truly adjust the stock apart from a little shaving off the pistol grip here and there, and I did run a coat of rub-on poly just to be sure that the stock would not stain too much.
For years, the stock had kept a reasonable zero, in some pretty harsh conditions:
New Zealand saw a day long drizzle
Nationals at Ennice, NC saw us drenched like soaked puppies and shivering
Long Island saw a shoot in the snow.
So, I was fairly confident of my stock holding zero.
BUT this time in England, we got soaked two days in a row, and that was a bit much. Plus, as finishes go, Rub-on Poly is good, but it is not a "Marine Grade" varnish. It slowly erodes and I never did re-finish the gun.
Rifle went up 3 MOA's (24 X 1/8 clicks), and left 1.785 MOA (15 X 1/8 clicks)
Worst of all, not all at once. Part of it from finish of day 1 to Day 2 and the other with the drenching of Days 2 and 3.
So, Lesson #1.- SEAL YOUR STOCK. Inside and Out. Whatever it takes, just SEAL IT!
I have said this many times to friends, but never did occur to me that I should also follow my own advice. :-(
So, by the end of Day 2, I had finally found the "new" zero, and I was fairly confident that as long as suddenly we did not see a completely dry day (which would have spelled more "zero wandering"), I would be OK.
And I was, day 3 started and went on with target after target falling with a few interspersed misses, but basically because I was underestimating my pellets. I was over-correcting for wind. Many of the misses were perfect 3 O'Clock strikes when wind came from the right, and at 9 O'Clock when wind came from the left.
And here is Lesson #2.- KNOW YOUR PELLETS. If you did your job in selecting the brand, profile, head size, weight and ballistics in the short and long ranges, then GET TO KNOW THEM.
Practice, practice, practice WITH THE PELLETS YOU WILL BE SHOOTING.
Of course that needs a substantial amount of pellets, and once you have found the "good pellets", buy as many as you cannot afford and then create stashes reserved for important matches.
Yes this means finding a "Second Best pellet", but it is an effort that is worthwhile.
A good friend has used the same batch of pellets for the last 3 WFTC's, of course in normal competitions he uses a "second best".
As good as things were going, you can read about it in the correct entry, gun stopped cocking at our 30th target. I could feel that the safety was being pushed backwards, but the piston's button didn't manage to latch on the trigger retaining hook.
At the WFTC's I was almost positive that the piston's button had broken; I make the pistons' stems out of tool steel that is then tempered/hardened and drawn, but I couldn't be certain until I could disassemble the gun completely.
Taking heed of Hellen's admonition, I took apart the gun only to discover that the piston was 100% complete.
Of course this restored my confidence in my judgement of colors of steel at different temperatures, as the tempering and drawing of the temper had been correct.
But it also meant that some other part had failed, and so I had to disassemble the trigger unit/block to see what had happened.
To cut a long story short, the safety plate "carrier" failed.
What is somewhat annoying is that the gun works perfectly well without that prong.
Once the broken bit was removed, everything works well. It was the bit of broken metal what prevented the piston's button from latching.
Obviously I discussed this with the top echelons at DIANA, because I would contend that a well made plastic piece would have provided better service, but it is hard to argue with something that worked properly for over ¼ million times.
And the perception of the public about plastic pieces is still far from reasonable.
There is little knowledge about what modern plastics can do (even with the huge success of the Glock).
In my particular case, the problem was not the failure, but the moment of failure. If the piece had lasted 20 more shots, and then broken, I would never have found this out.
Or, if I had shot more regional and local matches (the WFTC's was the 4th match of the year for me), the part would have broken during one of those, not in the WFTC's.
Yes, we have had reports of this piece failing in OTHER areas, being a pressure cast piece, it is not easy to get a "perfect" one every time. So, we'll see what can be done. If it was my decision, I would have the piece made either in Playmobil grade plastic (I see the abuse that my kid's toys take and I am always in awe at the molding and material used by Playmobil), or in MIM (steel), but that is just me.
I am planning on shooting the Pyramyd Air Cup as the gun is, we'll see what happens.
But, the bottom line is Lesson #3.- SHOOT a LOT. NOTHING will prepare you better for a high caliber match than shooting a LOT.
I'll do my best to shoot more next year, kids are now 2 and 3, both going to school, and we can now travel a little bit more together. It's a question of finding an appropriate attraction near to where the shoots will be.
Next big shoot is the Pyramyd Air Cup, hope to do better there, though this year we will have some top British Spring gun shooters attending. So, it will be an interesting event all around.
Again, thanks to all for showing that you care, and that my ramblings somehow provide entertainment and, hopefully, some ideas to think about.
Keep well and shoot straight!