Wednesday, March 2, 2011

IPSC Training: Getting A Timer

Recently I mentioned that training with a timer was something that I do. Those much more informed than I, have suggested it, and it is of course intuitive. A vital part of the sport is speed, how do you improve your speed if you don't know where you should improve? But timers are pricey, and hey, they aren't always so great. They are cumbersome, they can't calculate hit factors, they don't replay your course of fire, they don't save a history and they love to record echoes or secondary shots. What alternatives are there?

Well this got me thinking; what software options are available? More specifically, what iPhone/iPod Touch options are available? I don't have an iPhone, but I decided to get one of the new iPod Touch's if the software was compelling enough. Why, you might ask, given that the cost would be greater than a timer? Well there are the added benefits of the camera, video capability, internet access, and a whole host of other stuff. So I did the usual; hit the internet and started to research all the software. The features I wanted, were essentially what I could get with a traditional timer, anything else would be a bonus. Turns out there are some bonuses, and some drawbacks.

I selected, and purchased two packages, which I will briefly review here. They are the IPSC Timer, which costs $4.99, and the IPSC Shot Timer PRO, which costs $9.99.

The IPSC Timer is a very nice package. The setup is simple. Basically you set the random timer delay, and choose between major or minor hit factor, and you are ready. You simply hit the start button and you will hear a beep after a random period of time. Thereafter your shots are recorded. You will be able to view your draw time, your splits and your reload times. The downside is that, like a normal timer, it will record echoes and other secondary shots, coming from adjoined ranges.

The big bonus with this software is the scoring capability. I don't know about everybody else, but league nights, with a clipboard is just bollocks. You never really review your score, nor compare your hit factors with other contestants. Another point is that knowing your hit factor helps you to either improve your accuracy or speed up. I, for one, know my accuracy is above average, but my speed is well below average. This would be obvious to me if I had the hit factors to compare to. The same can be said of matches. Sure, we get a copy of each stage, and some of us may calculate the hit factors later, but you rarely have instant results. 

Anyway, back to the software. Scoring is as simple as adding your hits per target, including No Shoots, Mikes etc. The software does the calculation once you add your time. The beauty of the score calculator is that it can be used independently of the timer. So you slip your iPhone/iPod Touch into your cargo pants, and after you complete a course of fire, you take it out and score your round. Voila. For the calculator alone it is worth the $4.99.

Next up is the IPSC Shot Timer PRO. The package is more expensive. It offers the wonderful idea of an algorithm that identifies the "uniqueness" of the sound of individual guns. You have to record a shot from your handgun first, in order to create a profile. Thereafter, theoretically at least, it will only record your shots and not secondary shots or echoes. I found that it works very well, as long as nobody else is shooting the same gun, or something that has a similar sound signature. Also, once you have a profile, it is only good for that range and bay. Indoors is different to outdoors, which is different to bay choice. It is best to always set up a new profile, and even then, it isn't perfect, but it is not too bad either. 

The package, however, also has some nice bonuses. It will provide the usual shot timer, showing you your draw times, splits and reloads, but you can also save the course of fire, and replay it. This allows you to see how you performed. Also, it has a PAR timer feature, which is great for dry fire training. Let's say you have the enviable draw of 3 seconds, and you would like to bring it down. You set the random beep, to give yourself time to take up your stance. Then you select a PAR time, say 2 seconds. You then get a start beep and an end beep. You practise over and over until you get to within the alloted time. The same can be done with your magazine reloads.

Another nice feature, although I haven't tested it yet, is the Slave feature. Apparently the timer will start on the beep from another timer, say the RO's timer. This allows you to record the course of fire too, which you can use to double check the RO; theoretically. It is just a pity that it doesn't have the scoring capability that the former package does, otherwise it is an outright winner. So for me it ends up being a bit of both. The first package has the scoring capability and a basic timer. The latter has a better timer, and the added benefits of a PAR timer and Slave mode.
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