HFT – Nomads 19/11/17

Looking back at my previous blog posts, you may have noticed that I’ve been shooting HFT quite regularly. When possible, I’ve also been writing a bit about how I got on, what I did right and wrong, and so on. Yesterday though, I didn’t write my usual follow on blog when I got home. I had a bit to think about and I think it’s going to lead to some interesting posts in the future.
I’ll start by setting the scene a bit, which goes back a few weeks. I have been practising A LOT. Mostly this has been in the garden after work, at a limited 18 yards. But shooting small enough targets makes it challenging enough.
I made a fairly big change to my TX200HC too, by fitting the internals from my TX200 Mk1. Essentially this means a shorter stroke and less swept volume. A very common modification to the mk3 design.
Finally there is a new adjustable Rowan Engineering trigger that I got for my birthday recently (thanks Mum and Dad).
I spent some time with the newly modified gun and several different tins of pellets. The grouping was good (with the right pellets and trigger technique) and I was really confident about shooting a competition with the new set up.

Trigger testing at 18 yards

Fast forward to yesterday and about half an hour before the safety brief, I had confirmed my zero on the range, and started shooting a 40 yard group to get my eye in.
The first pellet landed bang on top of the mark on the plate that had been covered by my first mil-dot. Perfect. The second pellet hit the plate but I couldn’t see where. Ditto the third pellet.
Then the fourth pellet, I just happened to see it hit the plate (sunlight in the right direction I guess) and it had gone almost in the same place as the first. They were making a roughly 15mm group. This was probably the best group I had ever shot at this range.
Gun back in the bag and now very keen to get started. It was fair to say confidence was very high at this point. It helped that there was barely a hint of a breeze too. At 45 yards I was getting just under half a dot of wind when the breeze was blowing. Horrible for the course setters, perfect for the shooters.

The first target fell easily. The second should have followed, but I mis-ranged it and dropped the pellet at exactly 6 o’clock, just on the lip of the KZ. A couple of millimeters higher and it would have been another 2 points.
Five more knock downs were quite convincing, and then I just fell apart. You can see this on my scorecard. 7 dropped points in a row from lane 18 to 24
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best shot in the world, but this was a real blow to that earlier confidence. 30 minutes ago I was dropping pellets on top of each other at 40 yards, and now I was pulling shots all over the place at every range.

It definitely wasn’t the equipment. I had already proved it was all working well, and the misses were too random to be a knocked scope. Plus I’m very careful carrying it around. And it wasn’t a lack of preparation. I have been practising hard and getting good results for the last 3 weeks.

What I think actually happened is that I let a couple of dropped points get into my head, and this started the mind games which affected all the shots afterwards. One dropped point is OK, that happens. Two in a row isn’t ideal but again, it happens. Three in a row started setting off doubts in my mind. Was there something wrong with my scope? Was my range finding all off today?

These questions have a couple of knock on effects. Firstly they make you overthink the next target. If I guessed the last range wrong, maybe I’ll get this one wrong too. Have I knocked my scope? Are my pellets bad?
Along with that, you now have anxiety building, even if you aren’t aware of it. This can make your muscles tense up and now the next shot is definitely going to be more difficult.

Looking back now, I’m sure this is what was happening. During that streak of dropped points, I was constantly going over the missed shots and making myself more and more nervous. And I was pulling a lot of shots to the left. An error in my trigger technique which I thought I had solved.

I said at the beginning this was going to change the way I write, and this is how. The realisations above have lead me down the path of reading into sports psychology. I want to understand how the top athletes deal with set backs, and work through them to continue delivering good results. I’m going to take the same ideas and methods and try to apply them to shooting, specifically HFT. 

The first post in this new series will be looking at mindfulness. Not from a spiritual context, but a sporting one. The general idea is being able to concentrate fully on your current situation or goal, and not let previous events or future challenges affect you. The perfect example for HFT would be this:

  • You have just completely missed a target that you thought would be easy. Zero points for lane 1
  • You are waiting to shoot at lane 2
  • You have seen that lane 3 is an unsupported stander at 35 yards

The top shooters will be able to ignore the upcoming stander, and put the previous missed shot behind them. Focusing completely on target 2. This is mindfulness, and I don’t have it! I ponder the missed shot, and worry about the next one. Not ideal.

I haven’t said much about Nomads HFT so I’ll rectify that here. A great course and a great layout. I think it’s got everything an HFT course needs (but I am new to this so you tell me!). I really like the mix of terrain and variety of targets, I just wish I could have done it more justice. I will be back and am determined to break the 50 mark next time.
Also it was a absolute pleasure meeting Jim and chatting to him on the way round. As a massive springer fan I could listen to him talk all day about his experiments. Unfortunately we had to rush off to collect a new gun (BSA Challenger Carbine). A fantastic looking thing that might get its own feature soon.

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