The Goal

The Goal

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Using SCATT to Improve Your Training

In my last post I talked a little bit about the idea that fullbore shooters should train more and practice less. Since about 2008, I've used dryfiring and SCATT as a major part of my training schedule, firing as many as 2500 shots on a SCATT in a season. I'm pretty sure that it has helped with my technique, but also with my ability to hold a position for a decent amount of time. It is a useful tool to enhance your training, but people do have some odd ideas about it or at least unrealistic expectations of what it can do for them. It's a great tool, but mindlessly banging away at it without some critical thinking isn't really making the best use of your time (although it may be better than not training at all.)

I've jotted down a few guidelines to help you use SCATT effectively during your training:
  • SAFETY FIRST. Double check your rifle is unloaded before starting. Keep all ammunition locked away when using any shooter training system
  • SCATT is good for training in muscle memory, identifying errors in technique and making comparisons between different bits of kit
  • SCATT is less good when trying to disentangle the problems with someone's technique when they have lots of separate faults
  • Go into each SCATT training session with an aim in mind and give training sessions your full attention
  • Do lots of SCATT and do it regularly
  • Use the same target (e.g. ICFRA 1000x) consistently to allow for meaningful comparisons to be made, but do not think of SCATT as a v-bull machine
I've found the major benefit of SCATT to be the ability to train for little or no cost all year round. In my view it is good for reinforcing good technique through constant repetition and the visual feedback that it gives you. It can also be useful for identifying and then addressing specific areas of technique, which the trace shape and various data can help to identify. In particular, it is great for allowing you to make a good comparison between different techniques, positions or bits of kit without having to spend a prohibitive amount of time and money on live firing (more on this in another post later.)

I have found SCATT a bit less than useful when working with beginners or people who have several errors in their technique. It just seems to be very hard to disentangle the effects of the various problems and diagnose the precise nature of the issue. In many cases all you can say is that they're not holding the rifle very still and trigger discipline is poor. Using SCATT to try and build sight picture and positional awareness seems to be time better spent with beginners.

It can be very easy to get the SCATT out with a view to just aimlessly clicking away with no real goal in mind and then to lose interest and not focus on technique. Repetition of an action many times burns the technique into your muscle memory in such a way that you can reproduce that action without thinking about it. If you lose focus on the right technique and errors start to creep in then that is the technique that you'll execute when you're under stress (e.g. During a competition.) Going into each training session with an aim in mind, even if it is just to fire 30 really great shots will help to reduce how often this happens. Sometimes you will have a session planned and inertia will set in. At this point: Stop; go read  Susie Cornfield's book on Her Majesty The Queen's Prize; watch the Karate Kid; do something which will increase your motivation to train. Do not continue to fire away with bad technique.

I've heard SCATTs compared to having treadmills, rowing machines etc... at home. Bought and then left to moulder quietly in a corner until the owner flogs them on eBay in embarrassment at how little they got used. Don't be that person! Shooter training systems can cost anything from GBP700 to GBP1200 and it's a terrible waste to buy one and leave it in the corner. Use it at least once a week and get your money's worth. To assist with this you really need to have all of your shooting gear and the SCATT somewhere handy so it only takes a couple of minutes to set up and get going (except the rifle. Please keep that locked up securely when not in use, the police take exception to it being left stood in the corner by the front door. At least in the UK and NZ they do.) Regular use will keep that muscle memory ticking over so when the start of the season comes around, you're ready to start hitting the vees when others are still trying to remember which way round their sling goes and work out why everything feels so awkward.

On a final note, it's worthwhile using the same target for all of your shoots so you can use the numbers to make meaningful comparisons. I use the ICFRA 1000x target. That said, don't confuse the ability to shoot a 50.10 on a SCATT with shooting a 50.10 on a real target. SCATT is a useful training tool, but it isn't a perfect model for how things work in the real world.

SCATT training. Note that I have not centred the group as I'm not trying to use SCATT to get a score. Image edited to minimise the amount of whitespace

* Please note that SCATT is just the specific brand of shooter trainer system that I happen to use, the RIKA and Noptel systems are also apparently very good, and I will use the term "SCATT training" for any dry firing augmented by the use of a similar shooter training system.

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