March 28th, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action — Commence Fire

If you own a modern smart-phone, you have a shooting coach in your pocket. What we mean is that the video-recording capability of your smart phone can help improve your shooting. Have you ever watched yourself shooting, under match conditions? Well you may be shocked (and surprised) by what you see. Video reveals all. If you are flinching, you’ll see it. If you’re not returning your rifle to the same place on the rests after each shot, you’ll see it. If you are not maintaining a consistent cheek weld from shot to shot, you’ll see it.

If you are a serious competitive shooter (or aspire to be one), you should take a camera to the range next time you practice. Have a friend film you while you are shooting in “match-like conditions”, i.e. with time limits and a specific course of fire. After the filming session, review the video carefully.

Our IT guy, JayChris, has improved his shooting skills by filming his practice sessions and watching for gun-handling errors or other mistakes. Recently Jay won the F-Open division at the TCSA (Rattlesnake) match. Jay says his progress has been aided by video analysis:

“Video-tape yourself in match conditions (or under mock match conditions when practicing). I have video from my first season of shooting at a long range match some years ago. I can compare that to video shot in 2014. Going back to year one, I could see how much moving around I was doing. The video camera is a useful tool. I video myself every so often at the practice range, just to make sure I’m consistent. When reviewing the video, I’ve caught myself dropping a shot right after re-settling into a new position where I didn’t even notice I was doing it while shooting.”

Video analysis has helped our IT Guy, JayChris, shoot better and make fewer mistakes.
JayChris Video

Watch Your Position on Video
Jay continues: “Watching myself and other shooters on video has shown me how important it is to establish a comfortable shooting position. I used to move all over the place between shots. I spent some time getting a feel for a position where I could eject and load without breaking my cheek/shoulder weld, and that I could hold through a 20-shot string. It’s probably not as super critical as sling shooting positions, but I think it makes a big difference. It also helps ensure that your view through the scope remains the same. If you have parallax, changing your cheek weld has consequences. This includes making sure your rifle is set on the bags at a comfortable height — too high or too low and you are straining yourself and adding muscle tension into the equation.”

Use Video To Analyze Mistakes After Matches
Video can help you identify inconsistent holds and gun-handling mistakes. A video review can be part of the regular “post-mortem” you should do after every match. Bryan Litz says: “After each match, carefully analyze how you lost points and make a plan to improve. Beginning shooters will lose a lot of points to fundamental things like sight alignment and trigger control. At every step along the way, always ask yourself why you’re losing points and address the issues.”

Video can help you spot problems (such as inconsistent head position or bad trigger technique) that cost you points. We had one friend who was complaining about “mysterious horizontal” at matches. A post-match video session revealed that he was yanking the trigger to the side, rather than pulling straight back. He then consciously worked on his trigger control and his scores improved noticeably.

Video Equipment — What You Need
If you own a digital point-and-shoot camera made within the last four years, chances are you can shoot video. It may not be HD video, but it will suffice for the task of analyzing your shooting technique. Apple iPhones and iPads (and some Android phones) can take excellent video as well, but you’ll have to figure out a mounting system if you’re out by yourself. If you don’t currently own any device that can shoot video, consider one of the choices below. You can get a great camera for under $250.00 these days. The selections below all feature wide-angle capability, so you can position the camera close to the shooter. That’s important when shooting at crowded ranges. The Panasonic Lumix ZS20 has built-in GPS functionality, so you can tag your photos/videos with latitude and longitude.

One tip — you do NOT need to record at 1920×1080 Full HD resolution. It’s nice that some of the latest cameras (including the GoPro) offer this resolution, but 1920×1080 files will be HUGE, and older computers may have trouble playing back the video. For your range movies (to be viewed on a computer), we suggest you record at 720p HD.

Recommended Cameras with Video Capability

Permalink Shooting Skills, Tech Tip 2 Comments »
November 15th, 2013

DIY Big-Screen Target Cam System with High-Gain Antenna

target cam systemForum Member Okey developed a cool, low-budget, long-range target cam system that displays target views on a large, flat-screen TV. Initial testing shows the system works very well. The TV monitor is installed in a Shooting Shack that allows year-round shooting, even in cold weather. The big monitor allows shooters to easily see their groups from any shooting position in the shack.

Okey tells us: “Here’s a system my buddy and I put together. He is the brains behind it. I had the charge card. This is a home-made wireless target cam for long range shooting. It runs off a motorcycle or car battery. It uses a plain old camcorder camera, and a 2.4 GHz wireless digital link. The goal was to design something that has at least a 1000-yard range with good battery life. The transmitter puts out less than a watt, and runs on 12 volts. The camera runs on 7 volts, so there’s an on-board voltage regulator. The system draws a little less than one amp, so battery life estimate is simply the amp-hour rating of the battery. Everything was done to permit fairly rough handling, but it’s obviously not bullet-proof. It will last until somebody puts a 6mm hole in it.”

target cam system

target cam system

Back at the shack, there’s a high-gain receiving antenna, the receiver, and a wall-mounted flat TV. Okey notes: “Since the transmitter is fairly low power, we needed lots of antenna gain. We cobbled the system together and tested it at 100 yards before the conversion to DC power. It had lots of headroom, and should perform well without adding any more antenna gain. The system has worked well at 600 yards, with a reliable signal and good image. Look below for the image of the targets at 600 yards. We had the image zoomed to eight sheets of paper and could still see the hits.”

target cam system

Recommended Equipment Sources
The 700mW 2.4 GHz A/V transmitter and receiver were sourced from Combo price for both transmitter and receiver was a reasonable $179.00 (NOTE: it is $159.99 ON SALE right now, November 2013). The 2.4 gHZ, 24 dBi antenna cost only $57.99 from

target cam systemtarget cam system

Permalink New Product, Tech Tip 10 Comments »
June 5th, 2008

Lights, Action, Camera — Thanks to Adorama

The short videos we have produced for this site have been very popular, and readers have requested more (and better) video offerings. Thanks to Adorama, a large camera and optics retailer, we will be getting a new Canon FS10 video camera. With the new Canon we will be able to shoot higher resolution videos, with better colors, and much improved audio quality.

The Canon FS10 is part of Canon’s new line-up of Flash-memory video cameras. There are no tapes to fuss with, and you don’t have to worry about internal hard drives or DVD systems. The new Canons record to Flash memory cards so there are no moving parts. This has numerous benefits. Flash-based cameras are less sensitive to shock and vibration and the camera can start recording almost instantly. Importantly, with Flash memory, batteries last much longer since there are no electric motors to run. And the FS10 can record up to 5 hours of video on an 8 Gig SDHC memory card.

After looking at a wide variety of camcorders, we chose the Canon FS10 because it has a number of important features. First, of course, is the Flash memory. Second it has a “microphone in” jack. Using an external microphone will help us reduce background noise when filming interviews or shooting sessions at the range. Third, the camera offers internal image stabilization, and a built-in movie light. Both those features will produce better quality in low light situations. sells the Canon FS10 (item CAFS10) for $419.95, with FREE shipping.

The model FS10 records in standard definition both 4:3 and 16:9 (wide) aspect ratios. We considered Canon’s new High Definition camcorders but these cost twice as much and the AVCHD video files they produce are not yet compatible with most video editing software. Also true High Definition video files are “overkill” for the web — they need to be highly compressed for web use. However, if you’re looking to playback your videos on a High Definition television then Canon’s HD option makes sense. We recommend the Canon VIXIA HF10 for those who want High Definition output. It’s available for $819.95 at

Adorama has provided a Canon FS10 to in return for promotional considerations.

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