Monday, August 28, 2006

Dear Diary,

I'm introducing something new to our SCTP team this year: the shooting diary. Not all the kids are ready for it yet, but I think that our third year group is ready and will benefit from it. For anyone who hasn't used one, a shooting diary is simply a formalized way to keep track of your shooting experiences. Good performances, bad performances, things you've learned, experiments, anything that may make a difference in your final score. Trying a new color of shooting glasses? Write down how they work in your diary. You may find that on cloudy days you shoot better with yellow lenses and on bright days purple lenses work better. Your diary will help organize this information and keep you from having to reinvent the wheel each time you shoot.

I use an "anything goes" method in my diary....and by anything I really mean anything. I have the normal stuff like ammunition type and weather descriptions, but I've found that at this point in my shooting career little things really do make a difference. For instance, I've discovered that I shoot better when I wear shorts. Why? Because I can feel the wind blowing in the hair on my legs and read slight changes in direction or intensity sooner than other competitors. I've learned that eating chorizo before I shoot gives me heartburn by the time I get to the third trap. I've learned that the back of my knees need more sunscreen than my arms. I've learned that pulling the trigger with the very tip of my index finger instead of the pad or knuckle gains me an extra target here and there. I've learned that on windy days I score higher with #7 1/2 shot, but on calm days #8 gives me better scores. I've learned that Winchester wads work better for me than Claybusters. I've learned that even though I must eat lunch, I should eat about half of what I would on a non-shooting day. I've even learned that the music I listen to makes a difference: I score better at trap if I listen to Boston's first album on the way to the range, but when I'm shooting IPSC Pantera works better.

I've already started Kathy and Nathan with their diaries, using pages copied from my original U.S. Olympic Training Center diary. (Yes, dear reader, at the tender age of 15 yours truly was shooting at the US OTC as part of the NRA junior olympic development program. I never made it to the olympics, but it was a hell of an experience.) It should be quite interesting to see how this one plays out. Kathy took to the diary thing like a duck to water. She has a 3 page list of goals that she reads every time she goes to the range, and has really jumped on the "anything goes" method. She's already figured out that if she wears spaghetti strap tops her shooting vest chafes her neck, and that her hair needs to be braided and not just in a ponytail. She's tracking her scores vs. the type of shoes she wears and what she eats for breakfast. Last night she spent almost an hour working on a written description of the target flights we were dealing with on Sunday and the solutions she came up with to handle it. (Variable tailwind with the trap set to throw regulation height with the wind blowing but without enough spring tension to make the target float. She called the "woo-hoo's" because they would climb and fall so fast.)

Nathan's diary is much simpler. Where Kathy has 3 pages of goals and a detailed plan of how to reach each one, Nathan has two words: Beat Kathy. Instead of lengthy descriptions of how he feels when he shoots, Nate sticks to simple, hard facts. That's's his diary and he can keep it the way he wants. I caught him checking his diary before he changed his choke tubes on Sunday, so I think the boy will do fine.

If you've never used a shooting diary I highly recommend that you try one for 6 months or so. You'll be surprised at how much information you gather while your shooting that you forget by the time you get home.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Littleton shot maker - shot performance

Now that my automatic pellet hole counting accessories have returned from summer vacation, I'm able to bring a little more information to the table concerning the performance of the shot produced by my Littleton shot maker. Most of the patterns have been counted, but I don't have all the data compiled as of yet. Here is a quick comparison of four loads patterned through Nathan's new Carlson full choke. (Remember, we're trapshooters here. Any choke is good as long as it's full)

Load A 1 ounce "factory" #8 magnum shot @ 1200 fps 70%
Load B 1 ounce "home made" # 7 3/4 wheelweight shot @ 1200 fps 72%

Load C 1 1/8 ounce "factory" # 8 magnum shot @ 1200 fps 63%
Load D 1 1/8 ounce "home made" # 7 3/4 wheelweight shot @ 1200 fps 69%

Hmmmm.......the home made shot produced higher pattern percentages both times. Does that mean it's better? Not necessarily.

The home made shot is slightly larger than the factory #8 shot, so there are fewer pellets per ounce. The 1 ounce, 70% pattern of factory shot contained 286 pellet strikes. The 1 ounce, 72% pattern of home made shot contained 265 pellet strikes. So, an increase in pattern percentage of 2% actually means 21 fewer pellets in the 30" target circle. With the 1 1/8 ounce loads, the 63% factory shot pattern contained 290 pellet strikes. The 69 % pattern of 1 1/8 ounce home made shot contained 288 pellet strikes.

Percentages lie. Therefore, a high pellet count means a better load, right? Not necessarily.

Assuming that there is an even distribution of pellets within the target circle (there isn't) and assuming that the pellets don't lose any velocity before they reach the target (they do), the #8 factory pellets in a 1 1/8 ounce load produce a pattern density of .41 pellets per square inch. (290 pellets in a 706.86 square inch circle) A standard clay target has an area of 14.19 square inches, so the factory shot gives us 5.82 pellets per target. At 3.42 ft/lbs per pellet, that is 19.904 ft/lbs of energy per target. The home made shot has a pattern density of .41 pellets per square inch and 5.78 pellets per target, but because the larger pellets carry 3.58 ft/lbs of energy we get 20.69 ft/lbs of energy per target.

Pellet count isn't everything. Therefore, high pellet energy on the target means a better load, right? Not necessarily.

Out of all the calculations and assorted geek speak above, the only one that really matters to me in choosing a load is the pellets per target number. All of the loads listed above have over 5 pellets per target, so for my purposes they are all good loads. Why? Because it takes 3 pellets to break a target. This can be demonstrated by the very scientific method of wandering around in the target landing area and picking up unbroken targets. Quite a few can be found with one pellet hole in them, several will be found with 2 pellets holes in them, but there simply won't be any with 3 pellet holes.

So which one of these is the best load? I have no clue yet. The statistical sample is too small. To really determine which is the best load, Nathan needs to shoot a minimum of 1000 targets with each one.

I'll get back to you on that next summer. {wicked evil grin}


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Getting ready

It's almost time for another SCTP season to begin. Time to set up meeting agendas, class schedules, competition schedules, training diaries, memberships, and registration forms. Time to gather the earplugs, glasses, shell bags and hats. Time to clean and lube all the target throwers and test all the guns.

Somedays I don't think human cloning is that bad an idea......I could use some help.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Shotmaking - field test

It's back to school time for 3 of the 4 people here at the ol' ranch, so to show that our priorities are correct the kids and I went out last Saturday to Red Mountain do a little shooting with the home made shot. I know that I still haven't gotten all the pattern data posted yet, but it's more fun to break clays than it is to count itty-bitty holes.

I'm happy to report that all of us shot over our average with the "new" shot. I ended up with a 97x100 for the day, so I'm quite happy with the performance. I've loaded and shot all of the first batch, but we'll be making more this weekend.

Back to counting itty-bitty holes...........


Monday, August 07, 2006

Customer Service

I've run into two problems with my new RCBS 'Grand' progressive shotshell press. The first issue was that the primer transfer bar wore through and broke due to a mis-aligned primer drop tube before I got the press. I corrected the setting on the drop tube and the transfer bar still worked, but due to the crack it would bounce the primer out of the track every once in a while. I called RCBS customer service to order the new part. I explained the situation to the lady who answered (third owner of the press, breakage due to incorrect settings, etc) and gave her the part number that I needed. She then asked for my name and shipping address, and then told me that the part would ship out the following day. When I asked how much the part would cost, she simply told me "It's covered under the warranty. Thank you for using our products."

Awesome customer service and product support. RCBS and Dillon are setting the examples that the rest of the world would do well to emulate.

Oh yeah....the other problem: the darn thing loads so fast that I've run out of empty hulls. I suppose that's a good thing. {big grin}


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New toy

This is why I haven't posted much for the last few days:

Welcome to The Grand by RCBS.

As always, there is a story behind any new acquisition. One of my shooting buddies recently upgraded from this machine to a Spolar Gold. He sold the press to another of my shooting buddies who used it for a few weeks and then realized that the green press clashed with his "all blue" reloading room. That shooting buddy upgraded to a Dillon SL 900 last weekend and sold the RCBS press to me for $200. Such a deal!

Both of my buddies pooh-poohed this press because it will only load about 400 rounds per hour. Considering that I've been using a 100 round per hour MEC Sizemaster for the last 20 years, the new RCBS seems just fine to me. {grin}

I haven't gotten rid of the MEC, but I think it will be retired to load development and short runs of hunting loads. I've loaded more in the last few days just playing with the RCBS machine than I did in the last two weeks on the MEC. Woo-H00! More time to circle and count little holes......


Carlson's choke tubes....patterning

Last Sunday I began the process of patterning Nathan's Citori with the new Carlson choke tubes. I shot 26 patterns, so I'm going to be counting itty-bitty holes for quite a while. Here are the first set of pattern stats for my standard 1 ounce load of #8 shot:

Modified : 256 pellet strikes 62.5%
Improved Modified : 284 pellet strikes 69.4%
Full : 286 pellet strikes 69.9%
Extra Full : 289 pellet strikes 70.6%

Not much difference in the top 3 chokes, huh? This is without any load development for this particular gun....this load is the one I use for 16 yard singles in my BT-99.

When I get the other patterns counted I'll publish the rest of the data.


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