Thursday, June 23, 2011

ChronoGeek, Part 1

Today was the RO Match at the USPSA Area 1 tournament --- Albany Rifle and Pistol Club; Shedd, Oregon.

(Actually, it started yesterday but the Chronograph was not yet operational. The equipment had not yet arrived.)

A bit of explanation here. I'm claiming the title of ChronoGeek because it's my blog, and I can do that. But I'm not the CronoDude. That would be Loren (whose name I invariably mis-spell, so I'm not going to worry about it). Loren has been officiating at IPSC/USPSA matches for literally Decades, and many of those tasks he shard with his wife, Sherrie. (Loren lost Sherrie to Cancer a year ago last December, and since I have lost Sandie last November, we have a lot to talk about. He's good company, and I admire his skills.)

We decided that Loren would handle all things related to the CE Chronograph ... actually, two chronographs arrayed in tandem in a light-box ) and I would just be the shooter.

As it turned out, I'm not only doing the shooting, but I'm also pulling bullets from the 8-round "sampler pack" and weighing them so we have 1/2 of the equation for determining Power Factor.

Loren records the bullet weight before I fire the competitor's ammunition from his/her firearm, and the new-version CE chronograph hardware/software determines the power factor. This is a great improvement on previous chronograph versions, and it simplifies our task of determining whether the competitors makes Major Power, or even meets the Minimum Floor for Minor Power (especially in Production Division, where everyone is deemed to be shooting Minor Power regardless of the caliber and PF of the actual load.)

This morning we met at the range at 7am, SHARP! The two new Chronograph arrays had arrived from Competition Electronic (CE), as promised.

It took 3 hours for Loren to assemble the dual-chrono array in the light-box, and even then he couldn't get it to work. Apparently one of the sensors was not registering the 'exit' incident, so it could not compare the velocity recorded by the first chronograph.

As it turns out, Loren had a 'older' (but compatible) sensor array, so he replaced the malfunctioning sensor with a proven working sensor, and we finally ended up with a tandem array with working sensors which could be mutually verifying. It was almost noon when we could begin actually chronographing the sample loads collected the previous day, and during the Thursday shoot.

In the meantime, I was busy pulling bullets from each ammunition sample, and recording the bullet weights.

I discovered that being the "Designated Shooter" at the Chrono Stage is a dream job. I would have done this for no pay at all! (Actually, I did; although the MD bought lunch for all the RO's, we don't get paid unless we are from "out of town", in which case the Match Director pays for our housing. I live 20 minutes from the ARPC range, so I donated my time and mileage in return for a free lunch, and the opportunity to shoot the firearms of over 300 competitors, plus 50 match-staff .. using their guns and their ammunition!

Talk about a Dream Job!

Tomorrow, we find ourselves beyond the R.O. Match and working with paying customers. Loren and I have had this one day to work up our routine, and by the end of the day we were running shooters through the Chrono stage with fair efficiency.

There were only a few incidents to blight our enjoyment.

If the first ... oh, I don't know --- about 100 competitors including the match staff .. we had to disappoint two shooters when their ammunition didn't support their declared "Major Power" status. I hate it when that happens. It's like DQ-ing a shooter, except it happens more frequently. Major bummer, for them and for us. We always want everybody to make Major Power if that's what they need; unfortunately, either because of using factory ammunition, or because of different climatic conditions between their home range and 'this' range, it doesn't always happen.

The other Major Disappointment of the day was the last shooter that we Chronographed. We had only a few shooters who hadn't had their ammunition chronographed, so we pulled them off the last stage of their day and ran them through the Chrono Stage. This shooter was still waiting to shoot the last stage of his first match day, but agreed to go through the chronography experience anyway, just so Loren and I could close down the stage and go home.

The first shot I fired through his Open gun was weird; when I tried to pull the trigger; it wouldn't move. I had to put a LOT of pressure on the trigger to get it to fire; it was extremely resistant to ANY movement of the trigger.

The second round, I tried 3 times before I could get the trigger to move. I commented to the shooter: "What's with this trigger, how can you shoot with it? It must be at least an 8 pound trigger, and I have to really work to get it to break!"

He said: "I don't have any problems with the trigger, it's not that tough".

So I pulled the trigger on the third round ... and the left-side of his ambidextrous safety fell off.

Oh, he made Major Power, okay. But his gun was broken and he still had to shoot his last stage of the first day. Plus come back the next day and shoot another half-dozen stages.

I really hope he's a very good gunsmith, AND that he has extra parts. Because the left-side of his ambidextrous safety looked well and truly broken, both to me and to Loren.

maybe he was lucky. If he had shot that gun on the last stage, he would have zeroed the stage. Nothing we did would have accounted for the breakage; it was just bad luck.

At least this way, he has the overnight opportunity to find and install replacement parts.

I hope he can manage it.

We'll let you know tomorrow how this works out ... if we can track the shooter.