by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Do you want to learn how to photograph airguns?
Before we begin, I noticed on one of the forums that several airgunners were discussing how to take photos of their airguns. From the discussion, I could tell that this is a difficult for them. It was for me, too, back when I started writing The Airgun Letter. It took me several years to learn how to take these specialized pictures, and once digital cameras came along, I had a smaller second learning curve. Taking product and detailed photos is a very specialized branch of photography that is about as far from portraits and landscapes as it’s possible to get. I don’t mind passing along what I know to you, if there is interest, so please let me know if you would like to learn how to take technical and product photos.

Now, let’s resume our discussion of 10-meter pistol shooting by talking about light, shooting glasses and how the targets are scored

How the target is lit is very important to all kinds of target shooting, not just 10-meter. You need a bright target against which your sight picture can appear sharp and black. It’s essential that you see daylight on both sides of the front sight post, because a tiny error there will throw off your shot at the target much more than if your sights move to one side of the bullseye.

Although it is difficult to comprehend, the top sight picture will throw your shot wider to the left than the bottom sight picture. The spacing on both sides of the front post must be identical. To see it, you need a well-lit target.

Real shooting glasses
Real shooting glasses have only one glass lens, on the side of the shooting eye. They may have glass on the other side, but no prescription, because the shooter doesn’t use that eye to shoot. The frames are very adjustable, so the glasses can be fitted to the shooter’s face exactly.

Shooting glasses have an extremely adjustable frame on which all manner of optical shooting aids can be mounted. White blinder on the right (on left when glasses are worn) flips up for better vision when not shooting.

The shooting eye
The shooting eye has a lens ground to the shooters prescription for distance vision. It typically focuses from 18″ to infinity, but follows the shooter’s prescription. If the shooter wants no prescription, the glass can be clear. There is also an adjustable diopter over the lens that the shooter adjusts for the lighting at the range where the match is shot. The goal is to use as little light as needed to see the sight picture and the bullseye in sharp contrast. Because the light is reduced, the shooter’s eye acts like a camera lens and adjusts the depth of field (range of distances at which objects appear in focus) to the maximum. That’s what keeps both the sight picture and the bullseye in sharp focus, but the shooter wants the front sight to be in the sharpest focus, because it’s what he focuses on.

Iris on master eye adjusts from small…

…to very large.

The other eye
The other eye is covered with a flexible plastic blinder, so the shooter can keep both eyes open but only see through the shooting eye. Both black and white colors are available. I chose white to allow more light to get to that eye, which helps the other eye focus more sharply. The blinders are in front and on the side, so the eye is isolated from most of the light coming in. They’re made to flip up easily when you need to see to walk or to find something on your shooting table.

The benefits of shooting glasses
Shooting glasses really focus your attention on the target. They also cancel distractions from your non-shooting side. The thing they do best is sharpen the sight picture. I found they added about 10 points to my score when I was shooting at the 520/600 level.

How to score a target
There are two scoring systems in 10-meter pistol shooting: the American NRA system and the international ISSF system, which is harder. In the NRA system, a hit counts by the highest scoring ring the pellet touches. Because we use only wadcutter pellets, this is normally easy to see. Nevertheless, a magnifying scoring gauge will expand the hole to true .177 size, which is slightly larger than the hole left by the pellet. If you shoot matches in the United States, you’ll be scored this way.

This gauge is inserted in the hole, where it magnifies the relationship to nearby scoring rings.

International scoring
The scoring used by the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) is more stringent than NRA scoring, because they require the pellet to break through the scoring ring to get the higher score. Though that may seem like a trivial matter, it can subtract 2-3 points per match. At major international matches, the pellets are scored by sound rather than by gauge. Three sensitive sound transducers are positioned around the bullseye and they register the time of the tearing of the target from the pellet passing through. Then they triangulate a center position (where the center of the pellet had to be to produce the sound) and draw a pellet-sized ring around that center. That’s overlaid on the image of a 10-meter pistol target and the score is automatically entered into a database. The shooter has a video monitor at his or her shooting position that displays the image of the shot. Only one shot at a time is displayed.

Final 10 shots
At the end of every major international match, the top-scoring shooters (8 shooters in the Olympics) have a 10-shot shoot-off to determine their standings in the match. For these 10 shots, each scoring ring is given an additional set of decimal points up to 0.9. So the best possible shot will be scored 10.9. How much additional the shot gets is determined by how much of the scoring ring it cuts, which is where the sound transducers really come into play.

The 10 shot is solid and not in question. In a decimal scoring round, it would be about a 10.3. The 9, located at 10 o’clock, is also a solid hit in both NRA and ISSF scoring. But the shot at 6 o’clock is doubtful. By eye we would score it as an 8. but if that were my shot in an NRA-sanctioned match, I would ask for a re-score. With a scoring magnifier, that might be a 9. The magnifier shows the full diameter of the pellet, which is ever-so-slightly larger than the hole it leaves. The magnifier reveals whether the pellet that left this hole really did touch the 9-ring. In ISSF scoring, it is clearly an 8.

When the hole is magnified, the relationship to the nearby ring can be seen clearly. Frosted ring is the pellet and this one, which is not the same one shown on the target above, is out.