Saturday, January 10, 2009

Time for New Eyes

2008 was one of those watershed years. I turned 50. You feel it most in your eyes. It gets harder to see that front sight well enough despite all the tricks you'd been using up to that point. I dropped an average of 15 points and really had to reevaluate things. Fortunately, one quickly finds out while bantering in the pits that a lot of other people have the same issue.

So on the the shooting eyes makeover. The contact lenses to correct astigmatism plus Bob Jones lens inserts weren't cutting it anymore. My shooting position and technique have actually been getting better. My wind calling is getting better too but I do need to find more ranges to shoot at on a regular basis that have real cross winds at 600 yards. My offhand technique in particular is on the up and I'm very pleased, holding and breaking 10's is coming a lot easier. Even my sling technique has improved.

But the blink-to-blink movement of the contact lenses was still making it so my shot groups orbited the X-ring instead of going into it. The guns and ammo were capable. The tiny movement as the soft lenses move was just making it so that it looks the same but the physical alignment is different. I didn't make my goals at the CMP Western and Creedmoor Cup in 2008. Got my share of medals? Yes. Shot to my competitive potential? No way. But I learned enough to know what had to come next.

So back to California and a phone call to my optometrist to set up an extended visit to talk about my eyes options. We talked all the options ranging from glasses to laser surgery. We talked about the need to have a system flexible enough to work with both As-Issued rifles like the M-1 Garand, Springfield and Carbine as well as the AR-15 Service Rifles, each gun has a different sight radius. Turned out that laser work would correct astigmatism but the optimization of focus would still require a lens. The decision was better to put off eye surgery and go with a solution that puts everthing into an eyeglass lens. And the technology for that was pretty neat. It's a progressive lens cut with an arc that allows for image quality retention with some tilting. The lens is mounted in a specialized Jaggi shooting glass frame which allows it to be repositioned at will on the firing line including locating the lens at the correct position in the progressive cut for the specific rifle's sight radius being used. And by tilting down a smidge still be able to clearly confirm the number board. (I do so hate cross firing.)

Experiments so far have been good. I got the glasses just in time to shot the regional matches at Twentynine Palms a month later and the 15 points lost in 2008 came back right off the bat. I'm back to shooting my averages. Continued experimentation practicing with a .22LR indoors shows I can focus even more on the front sight in offhand and that's good stuff. Have only had one chance to practice with an As-Issued M-1 using the lens in prone; but a significantly increased number of holes are definitely happening inside the X-ring.

So we'll see what the 2009 season brings. I'm looking forward to getting back on track woking on cleaning my rapid fire stages.