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    • Steve Rawsthorne of Holland & Holland offers tips on training sessions

      Steve says the first thing we need to do is to define our long term goal

      If you look at any top sportsperson, they will always have a coach or even a coaching team that they practise with. They want to stay at the top of their game, and they did not get there by just wandering out one day and winning a world title – it took a lot of hard work over a long time.

      Whether your goal is to win an England or Britain shooting team badge, become world champion in a particular discipline or just to beat your mates at the local 50-birder, if you want to improve, you will need practice. But training is not just going out with a friend or two and having a bit of fun blatting a few clays, nor is it shooting one clay 32 times on a single stand until you can hit it – all you have done is learnt the target on that stand. Practice needs to be structured, to have a goal, and to be relevant.

      The first thing we need to do is to define our long term goal – ask yourself: “What do I want to achieve? How much time and money am I prepared to commit? Will my family support me in this?” If you have a lot of family or financial commitments, perhaps young children, it may be that you cannot dedicate the time and money needed to achieve your goal. You might have to settle for less for now and build towards your ambition in the longer term when time and money permit. Will your employment allow you sufficient time off to do what is needed?

      Achieving a more consistent mount will enhance your success

      If you have just started shooting, it is unlikely you will be beating George Digweed and Richard Faulds this year. If you are a C-class shooter it might be to get into A-class. If you want to win a national team badge, you might first want to get into the county team or reach AA-class. When you have clearly decided on you ultimate goal, write it down, read it regularly. Now break it down into stages, what will you do in the next month? The next year? The next three years? Have a clearly defined and written set of goals for the short, medium and long term and review them regularly to check you are on target.

      To be a good shooter, you need to understand the science of shooting, you need to know and understand all three of the main methods of shooting: swing through, method and maintained lead. And you need to be able to shoot them and apply them to different targets presented to you. You need at least a basic understanding of ballistics relating to shotgun cartridges and clay targets and you will need a perfect gun mount and good footwork. You will need to be able to read the targets on a stand and set yourself up properly for them, so when the first target of a pair is a right-to-left crosser and the second is in the opposite direction, you are not orientated towards the first target and run out of movement for the second one, causing you to miss. When reading a target, the line is at least as important as the lead, and the only way to become good at reading targets is to look at and shoot as many different ones as possible. Some of the science you can learn by reading books and articles, the rest you will have to practise while shooting targets.

      Spend a session just perfecting your gunmount – spoiler alter: it shouldn’t look like this

      Practice allows you to perfect all of the above techniques in a calm, controlled environment with little stress, so that when you are shooting in competition, you are able to compete with little thought or effort, allowing you to focus on the targets in front of you. It helps you to build a full set of tools to tackle any target you will be presented with. A carpenter does not go to work armed only with a hammer, he has a variety of tools. You will need the same in your shooting career if you are to be successful.

      So when you are having a practice session, have a goal. It might be to work on your gun mount, in which case, actually hitting the target is a secondary objective, a concept many shooters struggle with. It could be a particular type of target, so arrange a session where you shoot ten, have a break, then shoot another ten before changing direction and distance of the target.

      If we want to practise the three methods of shooting, then set up a decent crossing target and shoot ten swing through, ten method and ten maintained lead. When we are consistently successful, move back ten yards and repeat, before changing direction. If your arms start to become tired, stop for a minute, don’t just carry on, you will not do yourself any favours. It may also mean you need to consider some gym work. One reason for Andy Murray’s success in the last couple of years is his fitness, something shooters often neglect.

      earn how to read targets and set up appropriately, unlike here, where we have the weight on the back foot and will end up with the face and the stock coming apart

      One common problem in trying to practise is getting the target you want for the length of time you want. You cannot do it in the middle of a competition, so you will need to find a ground where you can get the targets you want in a way that allows you to do what you need to. You also need to have someone with you to pick up and correct the faults you are making, which means they need to know exactly what they are and how to correct them. It is no good just saying “you’re behind it”. You need to know the reason why you are behind it and how to correct it. If there is a problem with footwork or gunmount, it needs to be diagnosed by someone who can explain what to do to be more successful.

      It is worth considering using a shooting ground and the services of a professional coach. A well-intentioned friend or good shot is not necessarily the best person to do this. Your coach can set up the targets you need for the time you need. You should also remove the element of competition from your training, it is not helpful. Focus on the technique you are perfecting, leave competition for another day.

      This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      Steve Rawsthorne of Holland & Holland offers tips on training sessions

      Steve says the first thing we need to do is to define our long term goal

      If you look at any top sportsperson, they will always have a coach or even a coaching team that they practise with. They want to stay at the top of their game, and they did not get there by just wandering out one day and winning a world title – it took a lot of hard work over a long time.

      Whether your goal is to win ... See more
      See more on line
      Practice – the how and the why
    • Spanish Treasure? Richard Atkins is on the road to El Dorado as he evaluates a pair of keenly priced clay cartridges from Spanish maker SAGA

      SAGA Eurotrap 28
      28 gram 7.5 plastic wad
      Shot load: 430 grains
      Pellet (count per oz): 362
      UK shot (size / CV): 7.5> / 27%
      Pellets in 30” dia: 217
      Pellets in 20-30”: 96
      Pattern: 61%
      CD: 56%
      Velocity mps (fps): 383 (1,257)
      SD: 3
      Recoil (M): 10.7
      Pressure (unit = bar): 502

      SAGA Elite Special
      28 gram 7.5 plastic wad
      Shot load: 429 grains
      Pellet (count per oz): 339
      UK shot (size / CV): 7> / 23%
      Pellets in 30” dia: 223
      Pellets in 20-30”: 100
      Pattern: 66%
      CD: 55%
      Velocity mps (fps): 380 (1,247)
      SD: 6
      Recoil (M): 10.6
      Pressure (unit = bar): 486

      SAGA began as a small husband-and-wife cartridge business in north-east Spain back in 1951. 67 years later, SAGA is a major cartridge manufacturer owned by the explosives giant Maxam, which also owns the UK cartridge maker Eley Hawk.

      SAGA cartridges are currently exported to 50 countries and have been available in the UK for many years. They are imported and distributed by SSM International of Bromyard, England. SSM knows a thing or two about shotgun cartridges, having formerly handled the excellent SMI brand before it became a part of the cartridge and component manufacturing empire that is now Nobel Sport Italia (NSI). For some years, SSM also manufactured its own shotgun cartridges under the SSM/Pointer brand. It has what was then a state-of-the-art ballistic test laboratory underneath its cartridge-making plant.

      Components

      Maxam is a major manufacturer of every component required in cartridge production, so naturally most of the components used in SAGA cartridges are its own.

      Maxam supplies its parallel plastic tube cases, with Maxam primers, to many other cartridge makers. The SAGA Eurotrap 28 uses a red, 70mm Maxam case with an 11mm brass-plated steel head. The case exterior has a striated surface finish that is readily seen and can also be felt when the cartridge is in the fingers; this texture is a characteristic feature of Maxam cartridge cases.

      SAGA’s Elite Special uses a deep-blue, 70mm plastic-tubed Maxam case with an impressive-looking 24mm brass-plated steel head. Note that Maxam primers use a paper disc to cover the primer flash hole and prevent the ingress of powder granules that could otherwise alter the primer’s burning characteristics.

      Both cartridges have tight, well-formed, six-star-crimp closures; good crimps are essential for a consistent powder burn, without which velocities can vary more than they need to. The laboratory ballistic reports show that both the Elite and the Eurotrap produce consistent results; the Eurotrap in particular achieved supreme consistency during the tests.

      Richard’s tests on the Elite special are consistent with 5 per cent antimony shot and PSB+3 primer

      Propellant powders

      Making explosives and propellant powders is the core business for which Maxam is known worldwide, and it has a highly developed range of single-base nitrocellulose propellants for shotgun cartridges. Recent refinements have seen the range increased to cover the lighter 12-gauge powders, with particular attention paid to clean, efficient burning properties. This helps achieve the required energy content while minimising charge weights, which in turn helps keep cartridge costs down and pleases customers (who generally prefer their barrels to look clean after firing in any case.)

      The powders used in both cartridges are from Maxam’s square-cut flake PSB range; grey flakes in the Eurotrap suggest PSB-5 and the light green flakes in the Elite suggest PSB+3. The latter is a little more progressive-burning than PSB-5, and this shows in their relative mean pressures. Velocities proved almost identical, but the Elite averaged a slightly lower pressure when propelling the same shot charge weight. Both powders burned very cleanly, with virtually no residue remaining. The semi-auto pattern test barrel was especially clean in both cases.

      The wads used are different. Eurotrap uses the Maxam A24 plastic cup wad, which has a novel multi-layered set of tubes forming the compressible centre section. It has good sealing skit, and the shot cup is moulded with four ‘petals’, which are lightly joined at the mouth for snag-free loading.

      The Elite Special uses a new plastic wad from wad maker Gualandi: it incorporates its trademark oval tub along with a lattice-bridge-formation collapsible cushioning central section. This too has its four-petal moulded shot cup joined at the mouth.

      The Elite Special wads, sourced from Gualandi, have a distinctive oval cup

      Shot loads

      Regular readers of these tests know that shot quality plays a very important role and has a considerable effect on cartridges’ patterning performance. While a mismatch of other components might detract a little from the performance of excellent shot pellets, no combination of other components – however good they may be – can make low-grade shot pattern as well as high-grade shot.

      The single most critical feature of shot, with the greatest influence on its quality – and hence patterning potential – is its hardness. Antimony is used to harden lead shot. It is very expensive (yes, even more so than lead!) and so it increases the cost of cartridges. This is the key reason why premium cartridges cost more than budget ones.

      Both types of cartridge actually contain very good shot, nicely polished and graphite-coated. The Eurotrap gave quite good crush value (CV) readings, indicating somewhere between 2 and 3 per cent antimony – ideal for Sporting or as a first-barrel Trap cartridge.

      The shot in the Elite, as anticipated, proved harder than in the Eurotrap; its 23 per cent CV reading suggests around 5 per cent antimony content. That is premium shot quality by any reckoning.

      Both shot samples were round, well-formed and reasonably closely graded for size. Although both are marked 7.5 shot size, the Elite gave a shot count almost exactly the same as UK size 7 shot. Eurotrap shot had a very slightly wider (but not extreme) range of shot sizes and a higher pellet count per ounce, equating to what would be UK size 7.25 if there was such a size. In summary, then: two very respectable shot samples.

      Laboratory tests

      Following our standard procedure, both the SAGA cartridges were submitted to the Birmingham Proof Laboratory for pressure, velocity and momentum testing. Pattern tests were fired at 40 yards from my regular pattern testing gun, featuring a 30” standard bore size barrel with 2¾” chamber, standard forcing cone and bored Imp Mod choke.

      The Eurotrap cartridges use graphite-coated shot, and what appears to be a PSB-5 primer

      Performance

      The laboratory reports reveal that both cartridges are very consistent. The Eurotrap velocities proved to have among the tightest SD figures a shotgun cartridge can achieve. Few have matched these figures, which goes to show that although these are keenly priced cartridges, they are put together extremely competently.

      Patterns confirmed what the shot load suggested: both cartridges have very sensible velocity levels, similar to a number of more famous brands we have featured over recent months. The harder shot in the Elite put 5 per cent more of its pellets within a 30-inch pattern at 40 yards. That equates to one choke-bore more open – just over a Half Choke pattern compared with the Imp Mod-like 61% produced through the same barrel by the Eurotrap.

      This once again shows something I have often tried to point out: changing your cartridges will almost invariably alter the pattern results.

      The sensible velocity levels used in both the Eurotrap and the Elite Special mean that recoil from the cartridges is not too punishing, as is shown by their moderate momentum figures. This contributes to steadying any muzzle climb, a factor that could help maintain your personal concentration and performance level over a 100-bird competition.

      Pattern results were good for both types. The spread of pellets was as regular as with any competition-grade cartridge and better than some; I have had notably less regular results with much more expensive cartridges than these SAGA loads! Both avoided excessive central densities too, which provides a bit more leeway for aiming error while still producing effective pattern density.

      Notice how the slightly smaller pellets in the Eurotrap have produced a similar pellet count across their patterns to the more expensive Elite Special. With a 7.25 shot size carrying good clay-breaking energy way past 40 yards, it’s little wonder they performed well on the clays.

      Pattern results: SAGA Elite Special at 40 yards

      On the clays

      I tried both SAGA loads on Sporting clays and felt at home with them. The Eurotrap did all that I required on every target presentation. To see if I could detect a difference, I set my own Acorn trap up and, as I often do, moved back to see how far away I could break clays. Even the Eurotrap achieved good breaks when I reached the 45-yard mark, where judging line and lead (especially on blustery days) becomes tricky. When I connected, the clays broke.

      I set up a DTL-style target to test the Elite Special. With my full-choke Trap gun, it absolutely smoked clays beyond the 40‑yard mark; more pellet energy and tighter choke at long range made for very positive kills.

      While testing these cartridges I suffered an infected spider-bite on my left hand, so I couldn’t hold a gun to do proper Trap targets at Park Farm. Then I remembered that Paul Cerri used SAGA cartridges for several years, so I spoke with him. Paul has consistently been in the top 20 DTL shooters in the country and has won four caps from the England DTL Team. Three of those were won using SAGA Eurotrap cartridges. Paul has tried the Elite Special loads too, but he did so well with the Eurotrap that he stuck with them, using them in both barrels to claim his England places and win many titles. Among the many competitions and trophies Paul has won with SAGA cartridges, one of his proudest achievements has been getting his name on the Fauxdegla 300/300 Hall of Fame plaque. That was achieved using Eurotrap cartridges.

      My Trap shooting doesn’t come close to Paul Cerri’s, but I know I will be using more SAGA cartridges in future: the Eurotrap for first-barrel DTL, and the Elite Special reserved for second-barrel ABT. This blend of performance and economy could well suit many shooters, whether they compete in Sporting or Trap.

      Pattern results: SAGA Eurotrap 28 at 40 yards

      Specifications guide

      Velocity Metres per second measured at 2.5 metres from the muzzle.

      Pressure The mean breech figure in bar (as per CIP).

      SD Standard Deviation (consistency).

      CD The Central Density rating, recording the percentage of pellets landing in the 30-inch circle that were recorded within the inner 20-inch circle

      Shot size This is derived from actual pellet count per ounce and listed to the nearest UK size (< denotes slightly smaller than, and > denotes slightly larger than). UK shot #7 = 340 pellets/oz; UK # .5 = 400 pellets/oz; UK #8 = 450 pellets/oz; UK# 9 = 580 pellets/oz.

      Shot weight The average actual shot load, measured in grains. (28 grams equals 432 grains; 24 grams = 370.4 grains; 21 grams = 324 grains. There are 437.5 grains in one ounce.)

      CV Crush Value. This is the amount by which the shot is reduced in size when subjected to the standard crush test. A smaller value means harder lead – a CV of 20% is harder than a CV of 30%, in pellets of a similar size. Smaller shot crushes proportionately more than larger.

      CHOKE BORING Half-choke = nominal 60% pattern; Imp Mod (¾) choke = 65%; and Full-choke = 70% at 40 yards.

      This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      Spanish Treasure? Richard Atkins is on the road to El Dorado as he evaluates a pair of keenly priced clay cartridges from Spanish maker SAGA

      SAGA Eurotrap 28
      28 gram 7.5 plastic wad
      Shot load: 430 grains
      Pellet (count per oz): 362
      UK shot (size / CV): 7.5> / 27%
      Pellets in 30” dia: 217
      Pellets in 20-30”: 96
      Pattern: 61%
      CD: 56%
      Velocity mps (fps): 383 ... See more
      See more on line
      Cartridge Test: SAGA the Spanish treasure!
    • ENTER NOW!


      The Clay Shooting Classic is just a week away, kicking off on Wednesday 30 May at Southdown Gun Club & Shooting School.


      This legendary event kicks off on the Wednesday on two 75-bird courses, and continues through to Saturday 2 June. Then the top competitors return on the Sunday for the super finals.

      Sponsorship from Browning, Eley Hawk and Aimcam – plus cash prizes – make this an event for everyone, from the elite of the Sporting scene to new and enthusiastic shooters.

      How it works
      150 targets will be broken down into 24 stands across two courses. The Red and Blue layouts will each comprise 75 targets over 12 stands. Each competitor will start on the same stand and progress in the same order at 10 minute intervals from 9am to 12.10pm on Wednesday to Saturday. There will be finals across all classes and categories starting at 9.30am, with the last squad going out at 12.20pm. Shoot-offs will take place at 1.30pm and prize giving will take place at 2-2.15pm.

      Why you shouldn’t miss it
      Taking place at Southdown – voted the Nation’s Favourite Shooting Ground two years in a row – the Clay Shooting Classic is not just another Sporting shoot. With devious yet rewarding targets set by Bob Clarke, the 150-bird shoot (split into two courses) takes advantage of a total revamp of Southdown’s ground, with each course starting in a section of the Lane before branching out into totally unused ground. So you’re guaranteed to get something you haven’t seen before.

      Top prizes have been announced as a Browning 725 Sporter II, Aimcam glasses, Eley Hawk Select cartridges as well as a cash pot. And there’ll be pool shoots and Services prizes to further boost what you can win.

      How to enter
      If you still haven’t entered, don’t delay. Fill in the entry form or call Southdown on 01903 877555.
      ENTER NOW!


      The Clay Shooting Classic is just a week away, kicking off on Wednesday 30 May at Southdown Gun Club & Shooting School.


      This legendary event kicks off on the Wednesday on two 75-bird courses, and continues through to Saturday 2 June. Then the top competitors return on the Sunday for the super finals.

      Sponsorship from Browning, ... See more
      See more on line
      Clay Shooting Classic – one week to go!
    • In this third and final instalment of his Persistence of Vision series, Ed Lyons looks at alternative methods to enhance our visual system

      A different eye routine can be more effective than prescription glasses

      Occasionally, I will work with a client who has excellent vision and doesn’t require prescription glasses or contact lenses, but still exhibits inconsistency with their sight and visual behaviour.

      There are also those that do need a form of refractive correction, but that is not the whole story, which is why it’s vital to look at the binocular vision status of the client, i.e. how well the eyes work together as a unit.

      Sometimes, it can be an eye-muscle defect that causes a certain type of eye dominance issue. Of course, the simplest and most effective way to tackle such an issue is to close an eye, but that’s a separate topic for another article. Untreated eye-muscle and focusing disorders can and do cause difficulties in picking up and tracking a clay – particularly the quick transition between two targets at different distances.

      A client from last year experienced this phenomenon, and he felt he needed prescription glasses to help with the target clarity and general sensation of “strange vision” he was experiencing.

      While there was a tiny refractive error evident, it wasn’t significant enough for me to want to prescribe glasses with corrective lenses. It was only by studying his pre-shot routine that we discovered where the problem came from.

      In order to help with a case of ‘the yips’ he had been advised to focus intensely on lining up his cartridges, and only look up once the previous shooter had finished his shot. In Trap shooting, if the shooter prefers to look down while the rest of the squad is shooting, and then looks into the distance just before their turn, their eye-muscles and focusing system may go momentarily offline as they fight to sync up with each other.

      We experimented with a different visual routine, picking a distance point away from the trap house once he was two shooters away from his turn. This meant he wasn’t concentrating and worrying about watching too many targets, but had relaxed, “distance-tuned” eyes. He was delighted to discover that this fixed the problem pretty much straight away, and he didn’t even need to buy a new pair of glasses!

      Muscle training

      Pencil pushups are a simple eye exercise that can get the eye muscles to work together effectively

      Sometimes our eyes may struggle to work together because of a motor issue – muscle weakness or over-action. Sometimes the root of the problem is a sensory issue, for example the presence of a cataract in one eye, which was dealt with in the previous article.

      Here, we will deal with motor issues. Before any exercise is attempted, it is advised that a full eye examination is carried out to assess suitability, as sometimes training muscles that don’t require it can actually induce problems.

      The eyes are governed by a muscular system, which, like all skeletal muscle groups, is responsive to exercise. In shotgun sports, it’s advantageous to have fast eyes that are able to acquire multiple rapidly moving objects, as well as to have fine control in our tracking of the target.

      There are six extraocular muscles that move each eye, and it is important they work well together to ensure that both eyes are pointing in the correct direction. Each eye is like a video camera, constantly panning around collecting visual data. Our brain needs to fuse the images our two eyes produce, as this facilitates accurate depth perception and target acquisition. Stress, dehydration, tiredness and age can all lead to a reduction in muscular efficiency and therefore the ability to keep and hold a deep, three-dimensional image.

      A common problem I encounter in everyday practice is Convergence Insufficiency (CI). This is where an individual has difficulty in maintaining stable binocular vision at close proximity. Even though our sport is performed at distance, weaknesses here can be indicative of overall eye muscle deficiency, which can potentially lead to fixation loss and breakdown over the course of a shoot.

      It is important to note that convergence issues can cause problems with reading and computer use at school or work, which can then lead to tiredness and visual stress come shoot day. Tackling this issue to ensure our eyes are as relaxed and rested as possible can be very beneficial.

      One client I am currently working on eye muscle coordination with is ace Sporting shot Ryan Sperling. Ryan came to see me last week, and while he was shooting very well, he was aware that his vision could be better.

      After my assessment, it was evident Ryan needed a very small prescription to make each eye sharper, and also needed training to get his eyes to coordinate as a team – his left eye had a tendency to do its own thing on occasion. Having corrected a small amount of short-sightedness and astigmatism with an insert that clipped neatly into his existing Pilla Outlaw frames, we went on to discuss ways to begin vision therapy. We opted for a plan to re-establish accurate eye muscle control with some basic exercises before levelling up in the coming months.

      The Brock string measures the effect of eye muscle balance in the brain

      The simplest eye exercises are pencil pushups, where the target (often a pencil or other similar object) is slowly brought towards the nose from arm’s length while the patient tries to keep it single rather than seeing it splitting into two. If the image splits, this indicates the medial rectus muscles by the nose are unable to pull the eyes in together to follow the moving target.

      If the accommodation (focusing power) is adequate then the target should have fine detail. The patient should try to keep the target clear, as well as single. The edge of a 10p coin can be used here, with the patient focusing on the ridges.
      There is some evidence that more sophisticated exercise regimens have a higher success rate, so we paired the pencil pushups with jump convergence. Again, we start with a target held at arm’s length. A distant target (text on a TV screen or a clay put at the end of a room) is then introduced and the patient alternates fixation between the near and distant targets. As they do this, the near target is brought closer in towards the eyes following the same method as stated above.

      After two weeks of spending five minutes per day on each exercise, we will move on to the Brock string, which is a simple series of beads (usually three to five) on a string of about ten feet in length that the client looks at with both eyes. It demonstrates and measures the effect of eye muscle balance in the brain, and is a powerful tool for helping the patient understand and control their own vision.

      During therapy, one end of the Brock string is held on the tip of the nose while the other is tied to a fixed point. The beads are spaced out at various distances. The patient is asked to focus on one of the beads, while noting the visual input of each eye and sensation of convergence. The patient can use various techniques to make focusing easier or more difficult by moving the beads closer to or further from the nose and by employing lenses and prisms.

      Although this procedure is usually associated with binocular vision and anti-suppression therapy, it can also be a valuable procedure for developing accurate fixation skills under binocular, two-eyed conditions. The next stage will be to add in vectograms, which are similar to the Magic Eye pictures that were popular in the 90s. This will further help in the development of visual control.

      The (very near) future – neurological training

      The Senaptec Sensory Station assesses ten visual and sensorimotor skills

      A few years ago, Nike entered the vision training market and brought out the SPARQ vision training station, a $60,000 state-of-the-art piece of equipment designed to revolutionise the diagnosis and management of sport-related visual anomalies.

      They also developed the Vapor Strobe glasses. Created to help train athletes’ eyes for improved sensory performance, SPARQ Vapor Strobes featured curved plastic lenses that used liquid crystal displays to create a stroboscopic effect – moving objects appeared to be going in slow-motion.
      When the difficulty was turned up via controls on the side of the glasses, the strobe became
      slower, allowing a smaller amount of visual information to come through. This process was called ‘visual loading’. The theory behind it was to force the user to make split-second decisions based on a reduced amount of visual data. According to Nike, the glasses
      helped train six aspects of the athlete’s regimen: focus, timing, imagery, reaction time, balance and peripheral vision. The company claimed that 10 minutes of training a day for two weeks could lead to months of improvement later on.

      You may notice that I’m using the past tense here; a few years ago funding was cut and the program was sadly terminated. However, I’m very excited to reveal that a new company was born out of the ashes of the Nike system, and following a conference trip to Utah I have ordered the first of the new Senaptec Sensory Station systems to come in to the UK. Once Ryan has progressed with the basic ‘free-space’ exercises discussed above, we will graduate on to the Senaptec.

      The Sensory Station is a sensory evaluation and training station that assesses 10 visual and sensorimotor skills. In less than 25 minutes, it can determine an individual’s strengths and opportunities to improve sensory performance. The system allows benchmarks to be set and creates global comparisons with other users. I am planning to demonstrate it at a major shooting ground very soon and have nine free spaces left for full program evaluations to be taken on the day – for anyone that would like to book, please email me at ed@ed-lyons.com

      More information can be found by clicking here

      This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      In this third and final instalment of his Persistence of Vision series, Ed Lyons looks at alternative methods to enhance our visual system

      A different eye routine can be more effective than prescription glasses

      Occasionally, I will work with a client who has excellent vision and doesn’t require prescription glasses or contact lenses, but still exhibits inconsistency with their sight and visual behaviour.

      There are also those that do need a form of refractive ... See more
      See more on line
      Persistence of vision pt3: Focus on success
    • Without proper rest, you might not be fulfilling your potential in competition – Ethan Lowry explains the effects of a poor sleep pattern

      Not only is sleep important for us physically but our mental health is equally reliant on it

      Sleep is a biological phenomenon. We have studied it for decades and while we understand a great deal about it and its effects on the human body, there is an even greater part of it that eludes us. Most of us enjoy going to bed, feeling rested and refreshed the following day, but rarely do we think about what our bodies do during this process.

      We enter an altered state of consciousness, in which nearly all of our voluntary muscles are relaxed and we are significantly less aware of outside stimuli such as noises and smells. We are in an anabolic state as our bodies attempt to build and repair themselves after the stresses of daily living. Our bodies also use this as an opportunity to ensure it remains in a state of homeostasis. Put simply, this is an attempt to ensure every physiological aspect of the body is performing at an optimally balanced level. Not only is sleep important for us physically but our mental health is equally reliant on it.

      Though our muscles are relaxed during sleep, our brain is definitely not. To understand brain activity, we have to look and the various stages of sleep: Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-REM, which is then broken into three further stages.

      The optimum level of sleep we require varies greatly from one person to another

      As we sleep, we progress through each of these stages gradually, getting into a deeper sleep until REM. During this stage, we dream, our eyes blink rapidly, neurons within our brains fire up and brain activity runs wild.

      The optimum level of sleep we require varies greatly from one person to another. The number of hours we actually sleep, whether it exceeds this optimum level or falls short of it, can have a notable effect on the physical and mental aspects of daily living. Athletes – including clay shooters – will typically require more sleep than the general public due to the increased stress on their bodies from their chosen sports.

      While clay shooting may not have the same physical stresses as the likes of football or rugby, the mental stresses are significant. Next time you come home from shooting, think how mentally drained you are.

      You may not have physically moved much throughout the day but your brain has been working tirelessly to calculate the speed of clays, their trajectory, their distance, listening for the trap, the anticipation. Doing this over and over, especially with the added pressure of a competition shoot, can be physically exhausting even though it shouldn’t be. Just as your muscles need to recover after significant physical exertion, your brain also needs to recover from the mental stresses of your chosen activity.

      Twenty-minute naps at the shooting ground might not be such a bad idea

      Factors that can influence your quality of sleep

      • Artificial lights: especially, phones, laptops and TV

      • Eating big meals just before bed

      • Uncomfortable mattresses

      • Noise

      • Caffeine from coffee and soft drinks

      • Excessive drinking of alcohol

      • Exercising too late before bed

      All these factors can influence your sleep quality to some degree but everyone is different. Think about how long you slept last night, how you felt when you woke up. Did you feel refreshed and energised? Think about what was different about your quality of sleep. Eventually you will find what works best for you.

      In terms of performance, sleep can have a tremendous effect on alertness – an obvious and important skill of any shooter. The more alert you are, the quicker you will be able to calculate the actions of each stage of the shooting process. Some people try to encourage this alertness through the consumption of team or coffee. In some instances, this can be beneficial but if we consume caffeine to account for the fact we haven’t had enough sleep, then the effects can be detrimental rather than beneficial.

      Missing a shot could be due to lack of sleep in the run up to the competition, so don’t let anxiety prevent you from getting an hour of shut-eye!

      Multiple studies, including those by Mah et al. (2011), found that by taking subjects who felt their alertness was affected by sleep deprivation and asking them to simply extend their sleep duration over a period of just six days, they saw substantial improvements in their alertness. It was also found that during competition periods, if athletes set aside a time for napping or simply relaxation a significant majority saw improvements in their performance. Albeit catching a quick 20-minute nap at your local clay shoot may be difficult – unless you sleep with ear protectors on – you may find that simply returning to a less noisy section can be of some benefit.

      Some obvious effects of sleep deprivation is tiredness and fatigue: you become sluggish in your movements, you don’t quite have the same muscular endurance as usual and your strength will probably be affected. In shooting terms, you may find that you’re slower to raise your gun, you may find that your shoulders, arms and neck feel weaker or that they are straining more to perform their usual functions.

      All of these points may only have small impact on each aspect of your shooting but accumulatively they can have a notable effect on shooting performance. So how can we avoid these effects of sleep deprivation? An easy answer would be to simply sleep more. Sometimes this is all that is required but more often it isn’t that simple. Just because you have had six hours of sleep does not mean that you have had six hours of good and, therefore, beneficial sleep.

      This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      Without proper rest, you might not be fulfilling your potential in competition – Ethan Lowry explains the effects of a poor sleep pattern

      Not only is sleep important for us physically but our mental health is equally reliant on it

      Sleep is a biological phenomenon. We have studied it for decades and while we understand a great deal about it and its effects on the human body, there is an even greater part of it that eludes us. Most of us enjoy going to bed, feeling ... See more
      See more on line
      Losing sleep over losing scores?
    • Ed Lyons resolves a more unique version of double vision

      When her head was on the stock and she was looking for a high bird, the one eye couldn’t work in tandem with the other and hence two images were seen

      One of the great things about my role as a SportsVision Optometrist is that it gives me the opportunity to meet many different people, all of whom have a common love for shooting. Some clients have no visual issues but want to come to see me as part of their pre-season checklist, and the psychological boost knowing their eyesight and eye health is 100 per cent can be a valuable commodity to a seasoned competitor and the total beginner. Others have pretty simple issues and straightforward solutions, for example, changing someone out of monthly reusable contact lenses and prescribing high quality daily disposables for shooting in competitions.

      Contact lenses can get dirty over time, as lipids and proteins can be laid down on the lens surface even with scrupulous cleaning. The lens can also get damaged by handling, especially with rough hands or long nails. This can contribute to a reduction in the optical clarity the wearer perceives.

      While not all prescriptions can be catered for in daily disposable lenses, the parameters are growing year on year so more people than ever can wear them successfully. Not only will a nice clean fresh lens give better vision, they tend to be thinner, allow more oxygen through and be more comfortable.

      All that being said, while simple cases make for a relatively easy clinical session, it’s always nice to get a challenge.

      A relatively new shooter from Norfolk emailed me last year about her rather unique visual situation. When shooting teal, high crossers or driven, she saw two clays. In normal eyes, seeing two clays is often a symptom of looking at the barrel. If visual fixation is entirely on the target, one may perceive two barrels. This is entirely normal and nothing to be concerned about, and despite what some may purport, it does not indicate an eye dominance problem.

      Chris has invested a lot in his shooting recently and has improved

      To follow this requires understanding Physiological Diplopia. Also known as Phys Dip, it is “a normal phenomenon in which objects not within the area of fixation are seen as double.” Our eyes can only point accurately at one target, other objects, either in front or behind, will appear double – though in everyday life we ignore this doubled image.

      You can try this yourself at home by pointing at a clock on a wall or a light switch. Look at your finger, and the distant image should split apart, look back at the light switch and you should be aware of two fingers. Interestingly, and this is important for all two eyed shooters, the image on the left is the one that the eye on the right sees, and vice versa. However, with this case, the symptoms only happened when she was looking upwards.

      It turned out she had ocular surgery on a weak eye muscle many years ago, which fixed her everyday double vision, but when her head was on the stock and she was looking for a high bird, the one eye couldn’t work in tandem with the other, and hence two images were seen. This also happened in non-shooting situations such as looking for a book on a high shelf.

      Chris Willett’s new Pilla lenses have been made to his requirements

      It can be pretty easy to fix double vision that is consistent by using prisms – as we touched on in last months article. Prisms are usually made within the lens, and as such come into effect throughout. The issue we have is that if we use a corrective prism in her glasses to sort the double vision on up gaze, it could then induce double vision in every other point of gaze.

      Fortunately, there are prisms available that can be cut and stuck on to a lens to work where we want them to, so I ordered a series of Fresnels and booked the client to come back to see me when they and her new prescription Randolph Edge glasses had arrived. I always ask my clients to bring their gun, mainly so we can calculate the best centres for their lenses, and here it was especially important for the fitting of the Fresnel lens.

      It has only been five weeks since the lens was fitted and she reported back that she had hit her personal best at her local shooting ground’s competition.

      Vexed by varifocals

      If you’re visiting a sports optometrist like Ed Lyons, arrange to take your shotgun with you so they can check the glasses align correctly with your eye

      Inside each eye, we have a lens that helps us to focus, much like the zoom function on a camera. As we get older, this lens begins to lose its elasticity and efficiency. We first tend to notice this when we have difficulty with small print, finding ourselves having to hold things a bit further away or moving reading material into the light.

      It is now common place to wear varifocal glasses to combat this in everyday life. A set of varifocal spectacles has a distance prescription at the top and in the straight ahead position, then an intermediate and near zone further down towards the bottom of the lens. As such, the visual effect a varifocal gives the user depends upon where they look within it and also their head posture. Most varifocals suffer from some distortion towards the edge so as you can imagine, putting ones’ cheek to a stock and looking for a target that is slightly off-centre can lead to a blurry picture.

      Varifocals have to be carefully managed and the prescription change needs to be in a specific place or it could play hell with your shooting

      So if we wish to see both the targets in the distance and the scorecard but not suffer the distortion of a varifocal, what can we try? Bifocal is a simpler solution than a varifocal as there are only two power zones within the lens thus no peripheral distortion.

      At the back end of last year, Chris Willett, a Sporting shooter from Kent, messaged me regarding this issue. He was seeing the top rim of his Oakleys when shooting high birds and was finding the lack of near focus frustrating so he decided to make the journey up to Wolverhampton so we could address the issue.

      It is important to get the position of the bifocal correct: too low and it will be hard to find, too high and it will be in the line of sight. The pictures show the measuring process with Chris’s gun mounted, and looking straight ahead. Happy with the measurements and the frame choice, Chris made his way back and we started creating his lenses.

      This was an occasion where we didn’t get it right first time, as the bifocal segment came out too high. I emailed Chris the picture shown and the lens was remade with a lower segment. He was so chuffed we made another set in 26ED in the lovely Pilla 580 Carbon design.

      This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      Ed Lyons resolves a more unique version of double vision

      When her head was on the stock and she was looking for a high bird, the one eye couldn’t work in tandem with the other and hence two images were seen

      One of the great things about my role as a SportsVision Optometrist is that it gives me the opportunity to meet many different people, all of whom have a common love for shooting. Some clients have no visual issues but want to come to see me as part of their ... See more
      See more on line
      Are you seeing double?
    • Keeping an eye on the health of your eyes can be easy if the problem is visible. Ed Lyons looks at one of the less subtle problems that can occur

      Ed Lyons looks at some areas that might not just affect your shooting performance but your eye health

      I regularly get asked about ways to stop glasses from steaming up, and this can be a significant issue in the winter months as cold air and warm faces can lead to condensation.

      Correct selection and fitting of eyewear is the starting point and it is not always best to go for the most curved frame, especially for those generous of face, as this can reduce airflow. Adjusting the nosepiece or the bridge to push the glasses a little further from the face can be helpful, but sometimes even this doesn’t fix the problem.

      There are lots of over-the-counter products available that you can use to spray on or wipe the lenses of your glasses – motorcycle products from Muc-Off have been good and I have found Rodenstock’s antifog wipes to be effective, though there appears to be supply issues with these currently. One of my clients, Jeremy Baker, was finding this to be a regular issue so I experimented with venting his lenses to promote air exchange. It is still early days but the prototype looks good and initial feedback is positive.

      I also wanted to discuss some other areas that might not just affect your shooting performance but your eye health.

      Lumps and bumps

      Being in the sun all day at shooting grounds can expose your skin to harsh light that can cause all sorts of health issues

      As we have seen in previous articles, sometimes a client may come for an assessment to improve their sight, but we can opportunistically detect other general health issues that take priority.

      Shown in the picture, a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a skin cancer. There are two main types: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. BCC is a non-melanoma cancer, and accounts for over 80 per cent of all skin cancer, where normal incidence in the population is less than 1 per cent in the UK. BCC are sometimes referred to as rodent ulcers.

      The most common cause of BCC is too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or, nowadays, sun beds. BCCs can occur anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face, head, neck and ears. It is also possible for a basal cell carcinoma to develop where burns, scars or ulcers have damaged the skin. They are more common in men than women and mainly affect fair skinned adults.

      A basal cell carcinoma can feel like nothing initially, but is worth getting checked out if you have any worries

      Those with the highest risk of developing a basal cell carcinoma are:

      - People with freckles or with pale skin and blond or red hair.
      - Those who have had a lot of exposure to the sun, such as people with outdoor hobbies or who work out of doors, and people who have lived in sunny climates.
      - People who use sun beds.
      - People who have previously had a basal cell carcinoma.
      Most BCCs are painless. People often first become aware of them as a scab that bleeds sometimes and does not heal completely. Some are superficial and look like a scaly red flat mark: others have a pearl-like rim surrounding a central crater. If left for years, the latter type can eventually erode the skin causing an ulcer – hence the name rodent ulcer. Other basal cell carcinomas are quite lumpy, with one or more shiny nodules crossed by small but easily seen blood vessels.

      When assessing a patient, sometimes the diagnosis is obvious from its appearance. If further investigation is necessary a small area of the abnormal skin (a biopsy) or all of the lesion (an excision biopsy) may be cut out and examined under a microscope for testing and  confirmation.

      Fortunately BCCs can be cured in almost every case, though treatment becomes complicated if they have been neglected for a long time, or if they are in an awkward place, such as near the eye, nose or ear. Seldom, if ever, do they spread to other parts of the body. But if you have any lumps, bumps or nodules, go to your local GP sooner rather than later.

      Jeremy’s Experience

      Jeremy Baker recently had vents added into his Pilla lenses and the benefits are showing

      I’ve been shooting for five years now, and for the past four years I have shot competitions all over the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. I started with a cheap pair of shooting glasses and then bought a set of Pilla Outlaws, and I was finding results were on the up with help from Ed Solomons coaching but I wanted to put all my ducks in a line to be sure I could be the best I could be.

      I booked a consultation with Ed Lyons at his Wolverhampton practice after long consideration as it was a large investment but I wanted to be sure of all aspects of my shooting.

      I was finding longer midi targets slightly blurred but everything else seemed well. The consultation is incredibly thorough covering all aspects of vision linked to shooting targets, and it transpired I needed a prescription so opted for an insert to my Pilla system.

      Though my vision was sharper, I couldn’t get on with the insert as I found it was grabbing my attention when shooting, so Ed offered me a solution of the 580 Sport system from Pilla.

      He took a my insert back and countered the cost against the new glasses. Since then I have offered Ed challenges and he has quickly supplied options to aid my vision in competition situations, one of which was how to reduce the lenses fogging up in cold weather. I now have a five lens 580 Sport with specially vented lenses that I have total faith in.

      This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      Keeping an eye on the health of your eyes can be easy if the problem is visible. Ed Lyons looks at one of the less subtle problems that can occur

      Ed Lyons looks at some areas that might not just affect your shooting performance but your eye health

      I regularly get asked about ways to stop glasses from steaming up, and this can be a significant issue in the winter months as cold air and warm faces can lead to condensation.

      Correct selection and fitting of ... See more
      See more on line
      Looking healthy: Shooting performance and health problems
    • Vic Harker recounts Beretta’s long and illustrious history, culminating in the Italian gunmaker’s Olympics victory at Rio back in 2016

      The great gun designer, Tullio Marengoni

      Beretta is a historic gunmaking dynasty with origins that go back centuries. To the clay shooters, however, the company’s over-and-under shotguns are of the greatest interest as they continue to figure in their sport at every level of competition – and their constant development is a fascinating story.

      The clay revolution

      Long before clay shooting was devised, Beretta was making shotguns. But by the 1930s, the family was looking across the Atlantic and considering how best to match the success that Browning was enjoying with its new over-and-under. In terms of design for Beretta, as with many other gunmakers, it presented a problem, largely in the matter of how to lock the Superposed barrels to the action.

      John Browning had taken a shotgun and fitted the form of under-bolting, designed for side-by-side guns, to the underside of the bottom barrel. In terms of durability, barrels pivoting on a full-width hinge pin, with a locking bolt moving forward under the breech face, was more than strong enough, and Browning had looked no further than that. The extensions to the underside of the bottom barrel, which gunmakers call ‘lumps‘, were also machined and fitted right through the floor of the action body. A bolt-and-braces design indeed, but to Italian eyes it created an action they perceived as rather ugly.

      Beretta looked for something more svelte and elegant, but at the same time it did not wish to copy the British Boss or Woodward guns. Always looking to keep costs within bounds, the company wanted something easier to manufacture than an expensive-to-make combination of draws and wedges that most of the London makers had adopted.

      Meanwhile, Beretta’s best designer, the great Tullio Marengoni, was carrying out some experiments that, to begin with, terrified his employers. He was experimenting with guns without any form of bolting and was simply tying the barrels and action together with rope to stop them being blown apart when loaded with powerful charges. He finally concluded that the forces generated in these explosions actually drove the barrels and action together, and a type of locking system that reinforced this phenomenon was required.

      Marengoni finally devised a cross-bolt located above the bottom barrel that closed over locking lugs integral to the barrel’s monobloc. Replaceable shoulders, also integral to the monobloc, met with reciprocating shoulders each side of the action’s breech face in order to reinforce this arrangement.

      The SO series

      Beretta SO5

      Beretta’s Sovroposto SO Sidelock was launched in the mid 1930s and the firm’s catalogue emphasised the great strength of its action, uncompromised by having to machine slots in the action’s bottom plate to accommodate barrel lumps locking through them, as in the case of the Browning.

      As a gun for hunting and clay shooting, the Beretta SO5 was a great success. Its sidelock action exuded a certain glamour that drew customers from many countries to Beretta’s gates for the custom fitting and special engraving that could be provided at extra cost.

      The SO’s heyday as a clay gun lasted from the 1950s until the beginning of the 1980s. In 1956, Liano Rosini, an Italian Trap shooter who had already won two medals in world championships, captured the gold medal at the Olympics in Melbourne. In 1972, Angelo Scalzone, a colourful and flamboyant shooter from Naples, claimed the Olympic gold medal with a record score of 199ex-200.

      Carlo Beretta spoke of his shooters as his Formula One team, and its many successes brought medals and created sales for the SO sidelock. But while the SO had been successful and added to Beretta’s prestige as a gunmaker, it never represented the volume sales John Browning’s much-lower priced gun achieved.

      Innovative gunmaking

      By the 1950s, manufacturing costs in Europe were rising steeply and some gunmakers turned to manufacturers in other parts of the world with more favourable currencies. Browning’s alliance with Miroku, beginning in the 1960s, was one solution. Beretta, however, was determined to maintain its industry in its own country. This meant devising a less expensive model – and Beretta’s solution was revolutionary.

      Traditional gunmaking, even up to the present day, involves making all the component parts first, including the barrels, to the point where they can all be fitted together in an unfinished state. The gun is then disassembled and the parts finished. The action is engraved and hardened, along with the internal parts, the barrels are blacked and finally the gun is reassembled.

      From the best artisan gunmakers results can be outstanding, but their high prices reflect this. Beretta, instead, created a process described as ”making in the black.” Each of the gun’s components would be made, finished and assembled just once.

      To achieve this, each part would have to be machined more accurately than before, as only the absolute minimum of final fitting was possible. This could only be achieved with the most accurate and, therefore, most sophisticated machinery. The capital investment would be huge, but Beretta calculated that the cost savings in manufacture would be such as to provide an exceptionally well-made and finished gun at a competitive price. These courageous and resourceful Italians were proved correct, and clay shooters were soon using competitively priced guns boasting excellent mechanical function, reliability and handling.

      Facing the competition

      1972 Olympic gold medallist Angelo Scalzone with Ugo Gussalli Beretta and Silvano Basagni

      Competition improves the breed, and this is as true of shotguns as it is of racehorses. Daniele Perazzi’s MX8 Trap gun, with a detachable mechanism, raised the bar considerably. From the moment clay shooters first saw the MX8 they knew it was the future, and so did Beretta. Ennio Mattarelli did not win the 1968 Olympic Games with Perazzi’s MX8, for which it was built, but he won the World Championship in 1969 with this new drop-lock gun. To the serious competitive shooter its appeal was obvious, the detachable trigger with flat springs providing the best trigger pulls possible. And it was easily repaired or, even more quickly, replaced with a spare. It is not only mechanically efficient, it also represents an insurance policy. Being first in the market with this type of gun gave Perazzi an advantage, and without any patents to circumnavigate it had a clear field to produce the best design possible.

      Beretta persisted for a while to equip its sponsored shooters with the SO Sidelock, but it was increasingly expensive and lacked the Perazzi’s obvious advantages. In 1992, Beretta finally capitulated, and the ASE90, its first drop-lock gun, was launched. Much of the gun was produced in Beretta’s custom shop and while they were well made and adopted by Beretta’s sponsored shooters, it lacked the popular appeal of the Perazzi.

      An Olympic feat of gunmaking

      This gun was followed by the DT10, much more of a volume-production gun. Tougher, less expensive and more reliable, it was successful but still didn’t dent the MX8’s appeal. That it had failed to do so was demonstrated at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where 14 out of the 15 first-placed shooters in the Trap event used a Perazzi.

      If the history of Beretta demonstrates anything, it is the company’s resilience and tenacity, together with its capacity to react positively to setbacks.

      The response to the 2008 wipeout in the Trap event in Beijing was the DT11. I was at its European launch in Cyprus in November 2011 and a senior company manager, Carlo Ferlito, made no bones about the Tokyo debacle. He said: “We have lost a lot of business in the premium-grade target gun market to a company whose names begins with ‘P’ and ends with ‘I’.”

      Josip Glasnovic, of Croatia, secured gold in the Trap at Rio 2016 using a DT11

      As I remarked in a report I wrote for Clay Shooting in January 2012, Beretta didn’t launch the DT11 project with a clean sheet of paper, but it is undoubtedly the company’s most fully developed purpose-built target gun to date. While the iconic cross-bolted locking system was still in place, the action body was 3mm wider and 39 grams heavier. I shot a 76cm-barrelled Trap gun at some OT targets, and for me it was the best handling Beretta ever. The 2012 London Olympics was only months away but, nevertheless, DT11 shooters still picked up a gold, silver and bronze medal. It was the beginning of the great comeback.

      In Rio this year the results were more emphatic. In the Trap event, DT11 shooters Josip Glasnovic and Giovanni Pellielo captured gold and silver medals. The Ladies event saw Catherine Skinner and Natalie Rooney also secure the first two medal placings. In Double Trap, another silver medal went to Marco Innocenti. In the Ladies Skeet, DT11 shooters Chiara Cainero and the legendary Kimberly Rhode won silver and bronze. In the Men’s Skeet event there was another gold medal for Gabriele Rossetti and a bronze claimed by Ahmed Al Rashidi.

      It could be said that this was merely a big company with huge resources getting its act together after a serious blip. Even if this was the case, it has been to the benefit of the clay-target shooting fraternity. Rivalry between companies is important – it stimulates inventiveness that can result in excellence. This has been the case for the DT11 and already its greatest competitor has responded with a new gun. And guess what? The action body is 3mm wider and 40 grams heavier.

      This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      Vic Harker recounts Beretta’s long and illustrious history, culminating in the Italian gunmaker’s Olympics victory at Rio back in 2016

      The great gun designer, Tullio Marengoni

      Beretta is a historic gunmaking dynasty with origins that go back centuries. To the clay shooters, however, the company’s over-and-under shotguns are of the greatest interest as they continue to figure in their sport at every level of competition – and their constant development is a ... See more
      See more on line
      The Beretta Story
    • In this second installment of our three-part Persistence of Vision series, Ed Lyons looks at the options available should we wish to enhance our vision, whether we choose glasses, contact lenses, laser treatment or other forms of surgery

      Having sharp, acute vision can only help our shooting as we will acquire targets faster and more accurately, and a more relaxed visual system will aid concentration and reduce mental fatigue

      Shooting is one of the most visually intensive sports out there. Typically, we see the clay come off the trap arm in three phases: a blur as it is under power and simply moving too quickly for our eyes to resolve, a streak where it can appear to have a ‘comet tail’, and then (hopefully) a clear, distinct target.

      As discussed in the last issue, having sharp, acute vision can only help our shooting as we will acquire targets faster and more accurately, and a more relaxed visual system will aid concentration and reduce mental fatigue. It is worth remembering that 20/20 vision isn’t all that great – it simply means that someone can see a target at 20 feet that has been designed to be seen at that distance. For those who are serious about improving their performance, we need to explore how to improve on this. So, what are our options and the pros and cons of each method of correction?

      Shooting glasses

      Glasses can slip, fog up and be generally irritating but they are mandatory when competing in registered shoots. Fortunately, the better brands tackle many of the aforementioned issues, and a well-fitting set can be comfortable, easy to maintain and enable a quick change of lenses. Pilla, Randolph Engineering, Decot and Castellani, to name but a few, have a comprehensive range of styles for various forms of shooting and there are tint filtrations to suit pretty much everyone.

      If we have to wear glasses, we might as well try to gain an advantage from them.

      A well-chosen set of colours can really assist in target acquisition by providing definition to the edges of the intended target. While this could be an article all by itself, tint selection is very much down to the individual and what works for one is not necessarily the best choice for another. Some people’s visual systems work really well with orange, red, yellow and clear lenses; others, like myself, need cooler colours with a denser tint in order for their eyes to feel comfortable. What is important in all cases is to enhance the target and separate it from the background under varying light conditions.

      Although they have significant advantages, prescription lenses can be an expensive option

      In my experience, three lenses are enough for most clay and game shooters, with one for poor light, one for bright light and one for ‘general conditions’. However, it’s not uncommon for clients to visit me with 20 lenses or more! There can be a fine balance between having the confidence in your kit to deal with every light condition and background you may face and becoming a fiddler, which can take you out of the zone.

      For those that wear corrective spectacles, most designs will allow prescription lens technology, either in the form of direct glazing or as an insert that clips into the rear of the frame. With inserts, some shooters can become aware of reflections due to looking through the four lens surfaces (the front and back of each lens). This can be partially overcome by adding a high quality anti-reflection coating to the insert lens and using an anti-fog wipe on cold days. However, it is worth noting that cheap AR coats can scratch and degrade quickly.

      The alternative to inserts is to glaze the entire lens, and the vast majority of prescription levels and colours can be dealt with now – even bifocals to assist with scoring and reading. Naturally, this option will be more expensive as the entire lens must be replaced if and when the prescription shifts or the outer lens becomes damaged, whereas re-glazing an insert will be less costly.

      The two most important factors to consider when buying prescription shooting glasses are the centration measurements and the lens quality. When we have the gun to the shoulder, our visual point is often much higher up in the frame than in our regular glasses, so the ‘sweet spot’ of the lens should be slightly elevated. It is also imperative that our pupil distance has been accurately taken, as errors here can lead to distortion and, in some cases, double vision. It’s always baffling when someone is happy to spend £500 or more on tinted outer shields but balks at £100 for a quality prescription lens, when it’s this part that actually helps them to see.

      Accidents can and do happen, so a good set of shooting glasses can save your sight as well as enhance your score. The image below is a picture of my mum’s glasses after she was struck by a piece of clay on station 7 when finishing a round of Skeet. It’s a sobering reminder that if she had been only wearing her contact lenses, she would very likely have lost her vision.

      Contact lenses

      The protective aspect of shooting glasses can sometimes have its value dramatically proven

      Contact lenses have developed hugely over the last few years and the advent of new materials, prescriptions and cleaning solutions mean that the majority of individuals who may need glasses can be successfully fitted with lenses. Contacts, when fitted well, can be stable and comfortable and can enhance our peripheral vision by up to 15 per cent compared with prescription glasses alone. However, poorly fitted or maintained lenses can lead to gritty eyes, inconsistent vision and, critically, sight-threatening infections such as microbial keratitis. It is therefore of paramount importance to attend for regular lens checks. Rigid Gas Permeables (RGPs) are without doubt the best lenses around – they are small, hard lenses that last for approximately one year, although I did have a client who was wearing some vintage hard lenses from 1987 that he kept on his bedside table at night!

      RGPs are produced bespoke to fit the exact shape of the cornea and give unparalleled clarity of vision – there are almost limitless prescription options that can be made. They are arguably the safest lenses out there too, with studies showing less incidence of inflammation and infection compared to softs.

      Unfortunately there is an adaptation period and they can be uncomfortable for the first few weeks as the eyes adapt. People are becoming significantly less patient and it is for this reason, coupled with the care needed to clean and maintain them, that I fit only one client in 1,000 with these particular lenses. The majority choose the easy option of softs. A pair of RGPs can cost £200 to £500 so can be costly to replace if a lens gets broken or lost, although there are insurance packages that can help to cover the cost.

      Inserts can occasionally steam up in cold
      conditions and may get greasy when
      changing the outer coloured lens

      Monthly and Fortnightly Soft and Toric lenses are popular for ease of use and adaptation. These sorts of lenses go from around £5 to £30 per month. Silicone hydrogel lenses transformed lens wear as they became more comfortable, and even those with relatively dry eyes can now wear lenses to some degree as they retain more moisture, resist deposits and are more breathable than older designs.

      There are many other materials available and most prescriptions are covered, although there can be compromises for those with astigmatism (an irregularly shaped cornea or lens). In order to correct the astigmatism, a lens has to sit in exactly the right position.
      This can work well when the head is in primary gaze, looking straight forward, but once the cheek is on the stock and a more irregular head position is used, the lens can rotate.

      Such lens rotations cause distortion of round, fast-moving objects, so it is very problematic for clay shooters. If the other eye has a clearer picture, this can also induce an eye dominance issue as the off-eye tries to help out. This was an issue we dealt with when Kath Bright came to see me. We felt any soft lens design was always likely to move, so opted to go into a set of full prescription shooting glasses. As anyone who has seen Kath shoot will know, it seems to have worked out pretty well. Daily disposables are probably now the most common – these lenses should be worn once and then discarded. They are thin, breathable, comfortable and will hardly ever get dirty so they certainly can’t be beaten for convenience.

      Laser treatment and clear lens exchange

      There are many options available should you choose laser eye treatment

      Surgical options for visual correction are now more affordable and more widely available than ever, so let’s take a look at the most common procedures on offer. Laser eye surgery involves the precise reshaping of the cornea, the transparent window that covers the coloured part of the eye. For eye treatment to be as permanent as possible, it must take place beneath the thin, protective outer layer. This layer is moved aside using either a microkeratome (tiny blade) or ‘laser knife’ in order to let the laser do its reshaping work.
      It is worth noting, however, that if the patient’s eyes tended to change before surgery, they may need another procedure afterwards to tackle the new prescription.

      Two related laser eye surgery procedures are LASIK and LASEK. With LASIK, a flap is created in the outer window of the eye known as the cornea. The flap is lifted, the laser is applied to the inner layers of the cornea and the flap is replaced. In contrast, with LASEK the laser is applied to the surface of the cornea to correct the prescription. As a result, those with thinner corneas are typically advised to undergo LASEK. Other patients for whom LASEK is often recommended include those with irregular corneal shape – that pesky astigmatism again! There have always been concerns about LASIK because of its tendency to induce aberrations including starbursts, ghosting, halos, double vision and a number of other post-operative complications.

      A more advanced (and expensive) method is Wavefront. Wavefront guided treatment replaces the ‘one treatment fits all’ model with a procedure that is tailored to the precise optics of the eye. While standard laser eye surgery (without Wavefront guidance) gives very high-quality results for the majority of patients, many people’s eyes are not ‘standard’.

      The goal is to achieve a more optically perfect eye. In older patients, however, dispersion and scatter from microscopic particles play a major role and may outweigh any Wavefront benefit. Therefore, patients expecting so-called ‘super vision’ from such procedures may be disappointed. Still, surgeons claim patients are generally more satisfied with this technique than with previous methods, and touch up work can be done later to correct any residual errors.

      Laser surgery is now much better than in its early days and far fewer people have problems post-surgery. But for the small proportion of people that do experience side effects, these can be very severe. For those who are unsuitable for laser surgery, or have other complications arising from surgery for eye floaters, clear lens exchange is another option. This is exactly the same procedure as having a cataract operation, where the human lens is dissolved, removed and replaced with a synthetic implant. While not always as predictable, it is a commonly performed operation and the results are often excellent.

      Occasionally, a refractive surgeon may try to do their client a favour by making an adjustment to the correction that allows them to read without glasses – this generally applies only to the over 45s who will be going into presbyopia. For shooting, avoid this at all costs and request to get both eyes treated for distance only. Monovision (one eye distance, one eye reading) and varifocal implants will compromise distance vision and can again cause eye dominance problems. I have had two clients already this year who ended up with their shooting eye set for reading, and the off eye for distance, with predictably confusing results. If I were to ditch my trusty RGP lenses, Wavefront Laser is the procedure I would go for but I would find the most experienced and expensive surgeon going. After all, we only have one pair of eyes, and it makes sense to look after them.

      This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      In this second installment of our three-part Persistence of Vision series, Ed Lyons looks at the options available should we wish to enhance our vision, whether we choose glasses, contact lenses, laser treatment or other forms of surgery

      Having sharp, acute vision can only help our shooting as we will acquire targets faster and more accurately, and a more relaxed visual system will aid ... See more
      See more on line
      Persistence of Vision Pt 2: Visual Enhances
    • What’s in the box? Richard Atkins asks: Do you know your boxlock from your sidelock or sideplate?

      The Yildiz Pro is a refined and well-built boxlock action that also has a remarkably competitive
      price tag of £2,250

      While many shooters aspire to own a ‘better’ gun than they started clay shooting with – probably one with an established brand name and a cult following – it is common to start with something less exotic and, more importantly, less expensive.

      So what is it that separates the budget guns from those perceived to be better? There are differences of course, but they may not be the ones that the typical buyer thinks about when making their purchase.

      A key feature of any shotgun is the quality of the trigger pulls. I’m frequently surprised by how many shooters don’t fully understand this (as can readily be seen by comments made on social media sites).

      Things are relatively straightforward for the game shooter choosing their side-by-side. Although there are plenty of variations to be found, most side-by-side shotguns are either boxlock or sidelock actions. Boxlocks are usually based on the simple but robust Anson & Deeley design, which allows strong, competent guns to be built at affordable prices. Sidelocks often follow the London seven-pin or nine-pin designs, but the gunsmiths’ ingenuity means there are other derivative designs to be found too.

      Taking these two action types – which also exist in over-and-under guns – there are features that make them differ in performance and price. The essential difference is that boxlocks are simple and sidelocks are fairly complex. But why so? What is the point of making a complex action when a simple, much cheaper option exists?

      The Yildiz Pro bases its action design on the Boss action, and its trigger pulls proved light and crisp when on test

      It would take a good book to explore this question fully, but we only need consider the essentials here. In its simplicity, the boxlock action can be made quite crudely and cheaply. At this level, where there is no financial leeway for finely machined and hand-fitted parts, boxlock actions provide serviceable, robust and usually very reliable actions. But the cheapest lack both refinement and some features included with more expensive types.

      While all manufacturers today provide the basic safety we all demand, the most obvious weak point in the cheapest boxlock actions is the quality of their trigger pulls (or lack thereof).

      There are, unfortunately, plenty of shooters who do not fully appreciate the difference between the sometimes long and heavy trigger pulls of cheap guns and the much more user-friendly trigger pulls of an expensive and refined action.

      Through many years testing a wide range of guns, including all types of shotgun (and much else besides, from match air pistols and air rifles to handguns and fullbore rifles), I have encountered trigger pulls of all types. As a result, I’m acutely aware of the difference good trigger pulls can make. I offer this advice to anyone setting out to buy a shotgun, whether for clay shooting or game: once you’ve established a basic gun fit to attract your interest in a gun, ask for some snap caps so you can try its trigger pulls. If your early attempts to fire the gun leave you wondering if the safety catch is still applied, then that gun may not be for you.

      Make or break

      The beautiful Beretta SO 10 is an exquisitely built sidelock and offers trigger pull qualities that cannot be bettered, but at a cost of £50,000 plus

      Heavy trigger pulls can easily make or break shooting performance. A long and heavy trigger release, with too much drag, can be ruinous because it makes it impossible to time your shots as you should. Sadly, I still meet shooters who don’t seem to realise this and who carry on unaware of the cause of their erratic results from one day to another, and it can often feel as though the clays are made from aluminium some days, or else wearing flak jackets.

      The primary problem is that too much weight is required to release the trigger. If your gun can produce the ‘safety catch still on’ feeling, chances are you will often pull your barrels off-line at the crucial moment, with obvious results. But not everyone affected realises that this is happening to them. Having someone stand behind you while you shoot a few crossing clays will soon show if it is happening to you.

      Not all budget guns have such poor trigger pulls, but few have particularly good ones. I bought one of the first ATA SP over-and-under guns sold in the UK. The trigger pulls were usable but, as I wrote in my review at the time, were heavier than my preference. A modest amount of money spent with my local gunsmith made the trigger pulls much nicer – still not in the realms of a Beretta SO, Blaser F3, Perazzi or Zoli Z gun, but it was a fraction of the price you’d pay for those. The work made a budget gun into something more than that, and my gunsmith put in the time to set things correctly – a service that no budget maker can include for the price.

      Of course, there’s a limit to how much trigger pulls can be improved on a budget gun. Nonetheless, as boxlock guns are by far the majority, it’s as well to become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses. There are key reasons why budget guns tend to have less refined trigger pulls, and they all stem from one obvious factor: cost.

      Although not externally evident, the design of budget guns is necessarily more basic than that of their more expensive counterparts. The materials used will usually differ too. Today, there are several new methods of producing the intricate parts of a shotgun, such as MIM and Investment Castings, which are now widely used for gun components like the receiver body and most action internals.

      Both of these methods allow parts such as tumblers (‘hammers’), sears, trigger bars, sear lifters and recoil blocks to be used almost straight out of the cast or mould. Some parts require only a light tumbling in a polishing medium, while others may need light linishing on one or two faces, but crucially they do not require the time-consuming and expensive process of being machined through multiple procedures from a piece of high-grade steel. A single part that once cost many pounds can now be produced for a fraction of the cost.

      The differences between budget gun actions and those of higher-grade guns should be clear from these images. The Lanber Sporting Lux is a sound, basic design typical of guns around the £1,000 mark

      The designs of these actions are simplified too, so they can be quickly built to give reliable performance without hours of hand fitting by a craftsman.

      To ensure reliable and, above all, safe functioning, it is usually necessary to make the engagement points of the sear and bent deeper than is strictly necessary. When no one is tasked with the time-consuming work involved in fitting and polishing the sear/bent engagement you get with more expensive guns, the only way to ensure a safe trigger release is to err on the side of a deeper engagement and heavier pull release weight. This cannot be done any other way, and it still produces a safe and reliable gun for a budget price. However, you only need to read a few comments on shooting forums to see that there are people who sadly don’t understand this.

      To fully appreciate what I have tried to explain here, look at the photographs in this article, which show just how small the degree of engagement between the sear and bent can be. That this tiny engagement is all that holds back the tumblers that are released to discharge the cartridge may surprise some gun owners (even some experienced ones).

      A fine balance has to be reached between a gun that will not discharge accidentally when it is jarred or dropped, and one that has an acceptable trigger release. In my experience, only a few shooters today realise just how tiny the material contact point is that decides whether the gun fires or not.

      Another factor that influences trigger weight, especially with gun parts made by fast, modern methods, is that the materials used are not the same as when parts are machined from selected blocks of solid steel sheets or forgings. Quite high forces are encountered at the contact points between sear and bent each time the trigger is pulled. This intense pressure wears the engagement faces over time, and much faster on some materials than others. The end result is that many budget guns cannot safely have their trigger pulls lightened to match those of a superior grade of gun, because the engagement tips will wear more quickly, or even break off, resulting in a greater chance of inadvertent discharge.

      Sidelock features

      Sidelock actions are much more complex than any boxlock. Instead of a set of parts housed within a framework (or ‘box’) at the rear of the receiver, sidelock guns have two complete and quite separate actions, one on each side of the receiver body. These are set into the receiver and, although they may have cross bolts joining them, can be easily removed for cleaning, adjustment or repair.

      The sidelock design allows a very precise geometry for the engagement and disengagement of sears and bents, providing some of the most exquisite trigger pulls to be found on any shotgun. It’s also usual for the design to include ‘intercepting sears’. Should a gun with this feature suffer a jar or shock that causes the sear to disengage from the bent, the intercepting sear will prevent the tumbler striking the firing pin unless the trigger has also been pulled. This prevents accidental discharge.

      As with most things, there are variations. Some makers offer budget sidelocks, which may not have the refinement to include the intercepting safety sears. Better a well-made boxlock than a cheap sidelock. But done well, sidelocks offer the opportunity for very good trigger pulls with optimum safety.

      A side-plated gun is not a sidelock

      Without going into more details, it should suffice to point out that, although they look very similar, a side-plated gun is not a sidelock. It is in fact just a standard boxlock action to which side plates have been added. If done well, this can add strength to the stock where it joins the receiver. But if less well done it may do the opposite. The prime advantage of side plates is to provide a lot more room for the engraver to show off his or her art.

      Zoli’s Z gun is a good example of a detachable trigger mechanism. It falls between the Yildiz Pro and the Beretta SO 10, with a price tag in the region of £8,500 to £14,000 according to exact model

      Detachable trigger units

      A common feature among several makers of high-grade competition clay target shotguns is the detachable trigger. This is what the ‘DT’ in Beretta DT10 and DT11 refers to. These are a hybrid action in which a more refined boxlock design is housed within its own, separate frame that can be inserted and removed from the receiver body. This tends to make guns a little thicker in the hand of the pistol grip, as the receiver must have a framework for the action/trigger unit to lock into.

      Actions of this type are more refined than conventional boxlocks and invariably have excellent trigger pulls. Being removable, they can be cleaned, adjusted and repaired almost as easily as a sidelock.

      Safety sears and bents

      Some of the better boxlock designs and, as far as I am aware, most detachable trigger guns, have safety sears and bents that replicate the duty performed by intercepting sears in the sidelock. In its simplest form, this is achieved by having a second, much deeper bent cut into the tumbler, with the normal sear being spring loaded. Should the tumbler drop because of jarring, the sprung sear engages with the bigger secondary bent behind the primary bent. The geometry of the sear/bent relationship is such that the second or ‘safety’ sear is not engaged when the trigger has been pulled as intended.

      Summary

      These are the primary action types in basic outline. Perhaps they will help make a more informed choice with any future buys. And, just maybe, those who think there is no good reason why two similar-looking guns, but with one twice the price, will have a little more understanding as to why the actions are not the same. Similar factors affect other components but that is for another day.

      This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Clay Shooting magazine. For more great content like this, subscribe today at our secure online store www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk
      What’s in the box? Richard Atkins asks: Do you know your boxlock from your sidelock or sideplate?

      The Yildiz Pro is a refined and well-built boxlock action that also has a remarkably competitive
      price tag of £2,250

      While many shooters aspire to own a ‘better’ gun than they started clay shooting with – probably one with an established brand name and a cult following – it is common to start with something less exotic and, more importantly, less ... See more
      See more on line
      The essential guide to boxlocks, sidelocks and sideplates
    • Eley Hawk, Browning and more will be sponsoring this year’s Classic, so hurry up and get your tickets today!

      Iconic British cartridge brand Eley Hawk have confirmed that they will support the Clay Shooting Classic Sporting this year, signing up to become the official cartridge sponsor.

      They join Browning and AimCam to bolster the already impressive prize find, including cash prizes right down to 8th place in classes and categories. Everyone is in with a chance of taking something home – get your entry in now by downloading the entry form here, or calling Southdown Gun Club on 01903 877555 to book over the phone.

      Eley Hawk have been producing the finest quality cartridges since 1828 and have been one of the elite names in shooting ever since. They will be providing 15,000 cartridges, with winners of classes and categories down to 3rd place at the Classic taking some home (in voucher form!) The Classic is one of the best-loved competitions in the calendar, with top shooters from George Digweed to Mark Winser making an appearance in previous years – and is being revamped for 2018 with a brand new format.
      The Clay Shooting Classic Sporting is under 4 weeks away – call Southdown on 01903 877555 now to secure a timeslot, they’re filling up fast!
      Eley Hawk, Browning and more will be sponsoring this year’s Classic, so hurry up and get your tickets today!

      Iconic British cartridge brand Eley Hawk have confirmed that they will support the Clay Shooting Classic Sporting this year, signing up to become the official cartridge sponsor.

      They join Browning and AimCam to bolster the already impressive prize find, including cash prizes right down to 8th place in classes and categories. Everyone is in with a chance of taking ... See more
      See more on line
      Eley Hawk join the roster of Clay Shooting Classic sponsors