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Old 10-19-2015, 12:39 PM
Agrivere Agrivere is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 17
Default Problems in Talladega - An Open Letter to Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson
Chief Operating Officer
Civilian Marksmanship Program
1401 Commerce Blvd.
Anniston, AL 36207

Dear Mark,

I’m writing this letter to you to illuminate the recent issues during the 600 yard stage of the Alabama State Highpower Championship, which took place this past weekend (October 17, 2015) at the CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park. As I’m sure you’re aware by now, the 600 yard stage at this match was a disaster. Multiple times during the 600 yard stage the KTS Electronic Target System failed to record shots, recorded shots in the wrong location, and shifted the “center” of the target during strings of fire.

The results were in fact so bad that the Match Director had to throw out the entire set of 600 yard scores to determine the awards for the match. While I’m sure some competitors were able to complete the string of fire without encountering any issues with the target system, I’m not aware of any.

The point of my letter is not to debate or discuss the infallibility of the electronic target system, as we have done that many times in the past. I will, however, share a few of my observations. During this stage, 30 competitors each fired 20 shots – a total of 600 shots for record. Based on what I see in the results, 48 of those shots were recorded as misses. Fourteen of those recorded zeros were on the scorecards of High Master classified shooters, and 29 by Master classified shooters. Those results are so statistically improbable that no other conclusion can be logically reached – the KTS Target System failed spectacularly.

I will briefly share what I personally observed during my string of fire. Approximately 8-10 minutes into my relay (Relay 2, which fired first at 600), my target failed to record a shot. I called that shot as a high 10, and my verifier, who was watching through his spotting scope, watched the bullet trace enter the target at a point consistent with my shot call. Nothing came up on the monitor, so we waited until we could get a line official over (in this case it was Top who came by), and he asked me to fire a verification shot. I checked the wind again, and fired an X. My verifier was instructed to record that missing shot as a miss.

As we came to learn, this exact same thing happened to six of us at the exact same time. From target 15 to target 21 (I was on target 20), all six of us had shots fail to record at roughly the exact same time. By the time the line officials got to all of us, the target system was again working, and as far as I’m aware all of the “verification” shots were properly recorded, so we all were forced to record misses.

As I stated earlier, the point of my letter is not to discuss the infallibility of the KTS Electronic Target System. I’m quite aware that the CMP considers the result I observed with my own eyes to be impossible. It must have been a gust of wind that I did not account for. Or maybe my bullet spun apart on the way to the target, and never actually reached the target. Or maybe I just suck. At this point the explanations and conjectures are immaterial, because you no longer have just a target problem, you have a serious customer relations problem.

I will say again, at this point whether or not the KTS Electronic Target System is accurate and reliable is immaterial, because a large (and quickly growing) number of shooters have become convinced that these targets are unreliable. Whether or not you want to believe me, when the Match Director of a State Championship Match feels it is necessary to throw out the scores from the 600 yard line entirely, it should be clear that there is a problem.

One might wonder why would I choose to post a public letter, rather than speaking to you and other relevant people directly and in private? As you’re aware, other shooters have already tried that route, and not only has nothing been done, their concerns have so far as I can tell not been taken seriously. When you consider how much money and time competitors expend to attend matches, I also feel I owe it to my fellow competitors to share these experiences with them, so they can make prudent decisions on which matches they want to attend.

The other reason I am taking the time to write this letter is because I believe strongly in the CMP’s mission. Teddy Roosevelt wrote over 100 years ago “We should encourage rifle practice among schoolboys, and indeed among all classes, as well as in the military services by every means in our power.” I believe this is even more true today than it was back when it originally written.

The CMP Talladega Marksmanship Park has the potential to be the crowning achievement of the CMP. It is a beautiful park, and it is a joy to shoot there. It is obvious, however, that the reliability of the targets must be beyond question. Telling shooters that “No challenge thus far in Norway has ever been won by a competitor” when no challenge is possible (at least not at Talladega) is disingenuous and self-serving.

Whether or not the problems with the electronic target system are real or perceived, it is my opinion that this issue must be addressed. Whether our opinions are based on fact or based on our own flawed perceptions is of no consequence. If we, as shooters, believe there are problems, then they are real.

I have ideas of my own on how these issues can be addressed, and I’ll be happy to share them with you if you want to discuss them. The first thing that has to happen, however, is for the CMP to realize there is a problem. Until the CMP recognizes the problem, nothing can be fixed.

I sincerely do want to help in any way that I can, and I hope the CMP will take whatever steps are necessary to make the Talladega Marksmanship Park and the KTS Electronic Targets perform the way we all hope they will. Until then, I will encourage my fellow shooters to stay far away from this range for any purpose other than practice, as the Electronic Target System is not ready for prime time.

Sincerely,

J. Scott Quarles
CMP #209046
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Old 10-19-2015, 01:07 PM
Mike Decherd Mike Decherd is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Georgia
Posts: 6
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Well Said Scott.

Mark and Don,
If there is I can do to help it would be my pleasure to do so.

Mike Decherd
CMP #125730
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Old 10-19-2015, 02:15 PM
613jmm 613jmm is offline
 
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Location: Jacksonville, NC
Posts: 1,222
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I am wondering why the problem would only show up during the 600 yard stage.

The Marine Corps has used the same or very similar system for the better part of a decade, if not a bit longer, and I don't recall hearing of any problems, aside from the time when the forest fires nearly took the range out.
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  #4  
Old 10-19-2015, 02:53 PM
Mark Johnson Mark Johnson is offline
CMP Chief Operating Officer
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 531
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We take every complaint as serious and I am in the process of investigating the events that took place in the match at this time. Unfortunately I was not in town for the conduct of the match on Saturday. A park staff meeting is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon to discuss all events.

At this time we plan to offer a complete free re-shoot of the match in the near future. We will also supply each competitor with a voucher for their ammo used in the conduct of the match. Shooter's expenses beyond the ammo will be evaluated by me on a case by case basis per shooter request. I am not happy with the result of the match and feel we can provide a better match experience.

Our plan is to have KTS re-write some programming to show hits outside the scoring surface of the target and frame hits. Currently these hits do not show on the competitor's screen during the match only on our software. We also plan to install clean cardboard on the back of each target before the match so we can verify each shot that passes through the target if need be, no mystery shots. We have avoided doing this hoping shooters would trust the technology but you and others have raised enough doubt we will operate this way going forward. In the future when a frame hit, outside the scoring surface hit, or clean miss is shown on the monitor, the competitor then questions, an RO is involved immediately, the verifying shot is taken, the verifying shot records, we can then look at the end of the match to further verify the shot passed through the cardboard backer or not. The cardboard backer will act as "carbon paper" proof for the electronic target. If the shot is not in the cardboard and / or is not recorded as a cross fire then it is a clean miss. The cardboard backer "carbon paper" is how we tested the targets before purchasing.

Couple of things that were left out of your commentary... The 600 yard string with all the missing shots happened during a 12 to 15 mile an hour crosswind. In addition to the crosswind, many competitors did not have a spotting scope to read the wind at 600 yards. Most missing shots were shown in our system to be frames hits but this does not show up on the screen to the competitor which is our fault and leaves many questions in the competitors mind.

All of this is not the competitors fault it is our fault. We have done a poor job transitioning the shooters to electronic target systems simply due to our confidence in the system post our testing. We will step back and take the competitor through the same learning curve we went through.

We did observe a slow data upload on target 17 and pulled all data log information from the target for KTS to review and diagnose the problem. The electronic target system is not infallible but we are narrowing the variables...
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Old 10-19-2015, 03:50 PM
Agrivere Agrivere is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
Posts: 17
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Mark,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and I think your response is more than appropriate. If I jumped the gun with my original letter, than I certainly want to apologize, but as shooters we have been frustrated with this situation, and felt it was time to bring these issues out into the open. I have spoken about these concerns with many other shooters, so while I have distilled these thoughts into a singer letter which is mine, they are representative of what many other shooters have told me.

I think the use of a cardboard backer is the most sensible approach I can think of. The holes in paper do not lie, and in short order we will determine which issues are due to shooter error and which are due to failures of the target system. Perhaps we will find that all of these errors are shooter errors, though I will admit to being more than a little skeptical of that. I suspect we will find that while many of these issues are and were shooter errors, many were not, and with this additional data KTS can begin to fix any problems that are found.

I appreciate the offer of a free re-shoot of the match and vouchers for ammo, though for me personally this is not an important concern. I'm more concerned with getting this system right, and it sounds like you are too.

One small comment regarding the wind during the 600 yard stage at this match. At no point while I was there did I observe anything close to a 15 MPH crosswind. There was a gusting, fishtailing wind from behind the shooters, which most of the time blew from right to left at 5-10 MPH, though at times it switched to blow from left to right. Without a spotting scope that wind would have been essentially impossible to read, as the flags were swirling and did not reliably indicate what the wind was doing. With a spotting scope, however, the wind (at least during my relay, which fired first) was extremely easy to read simply by watching the very easy to see mirage. I did not obviously shoot during the 2nd relay so it's harder to comment on the wind during that relay, but during my relay I never had to go past 1 minute of right windage or 1/2 minute of left windage, depending on how the wind had switched.

While I am hardly the best shooter on the range at any given day, since October of last year I have fired 2,340 shots for record at many different matches and at many different venues, and during that time I have never fired a complete miss, on or off paper. While the winds on Saturday were tricky at times, compared to other ranges and other matches I've shot they weren't anything special or unusual.

Regardless, I certainly appreciate the steps you are taking, and I look forward to doing what I can to help make the CMP Marksmanship Park a great place to shoot!

Best regards,

Scott Quarles
CMP #209046
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  #6  
Old 10-21-2015, 04:02 PM
tjpa0002 tjpa0002 is offline
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: San Ramon, California
Posts: 330
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The OP and Mark's response are why the CMP is a class organization! Once a problem (real or perceived) is acknowledged, then systematic study of the issue and eventual solutions can be obtained.

Kudos again to all involved to make this right.
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Old 10-21-2015, 08:17 PM
Zut Zut is offline
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Alpharetta, GA
Posts: 107
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Mark, I seem to remember an announcement made during the awards ceremony at the Inaugural Garand Match that CMP was going to be representing KTS as it's authorized North American sales agent. If this is still the plan, it is even more important that all the "bugs" be worked out of the system prior to actively marketing it to other organizations and ranges. Both of my experiences shooting matches at Talladega have been great. The KTS system scored me pretty much on-call every shot. It is a fantastic system when it works properly.

I have many years experience selling and servicing complex industrial process equipment. No matter how well designed and built these systems are, there is always a huge "X" factor involved when it comes to installation, set-up, operation and maintenance. 90% of our problems seem to originate from poor grounding and shielding of signal carrying leads. Radio frequency interference from RF emitters such as "walkie talkie" type handheld radios can get conducted into a poorly shielded cables and play havoc at the computer end. Sensors such as your acoustic pick-ups can "drift" due to age and changes in temperature. I am sure that KTS has designed compensation into their control and data logging software, but your range staff may find they need to re-calibrate each firing position on a more frequent basis.

We seem to have a collection of shooters up at River Bend Gun Club in Dawsonville, GA who have specialized expertise in instrumentation, signal processing and data collection and processing. We can't make any money shooting, so we have to due this stuff to earn a living! We are all vested in CMP's success and would be more than willing to help you guys out. KTS won't be completely objective, due to their financial interest. If CMP would like a "second opinion" on some of the range issues, shoot me a PM. I can put together team of 3-4 guys to come down and look things over. If you let us study the system, shoot a little and harass Leon, it will be no charge...
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Old 10-22-2015, 08:40 AM
RVN 69-70 RVN 69-70 is offline
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 1,775
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zut View Post
Mark, I seem to remember an announcement made during the awards ceremony at the Inaugural Garand Match that CMP was going to be representing KTS as it's authorized North American sales agent. If this is still the plan, it is even more important that all the "bugs" be worked out of the system prior to actively marketing it to other organizations and ranges. Both of my experiences shooting matches at Talladega have been great. The KTS system scored me pretty much on-call every shot. It is a fantastic system when it works properly.

I have many years experience selling and servicing complex industrial process equipment. No matter how well designed and built these systems are, there is always a huge "X" factor involved when it comes to installation, set-up, operation and maintenance. 90% of our problems seem to originate from poor grounding and shielding of signal carrying leads. Radio frequency interference from RF emitters such as "walkie talkie" type handheld radios can get conducted into a poorly shielded cables and play havoc at the computer end. Sensors such as your acoustic pick-ups can "drift" due to age and changes in temperature. I am sure that KTS has designed compensation into their control and data logging software, but your range staff may find they need to re-calibrate each firing position on a more frequent basis.

We seem to have a collection of shooters up at River Bend Gun Club in Dawsonville, GA who have specialized expertise in instrumentation, signal processing and data collection and processing. We can't make any money shooting, so we have to due this stuff to earn a living! We are all vested in CMP's success and would be more than willing to help you guys out. KTS won't be completely objective, due to their financial interest. If CMP would like a "second opinion" on some of the range issues, shoot me a PM. I can put together team of 3-4 guys to come down and look things over. If you let us study the system, shoot a little and harass Leon, it will be no charge...
Now THAT is an 'X'......IMHO.....
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SGT US ARMY RA - RVN 69-70,
8th Field Hospital - Nha Trang
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Old 10-22-2015, 05:06 PM
Heavy Junk Operator Heavy Junk Operator is offline
 
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I like the harass Leon part.
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  #10  
Old 11-03-2015, 12:35 PM
Mark Johnson Mark Johnson is offline
CMP Chief Operating Officer
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 531
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Just finished up extensive testing of targets at Talladega. We found some data clogging on the lifter mechanisms caused by a bad voltage relay we feel got zapped by lightning before we installed additional grounding. We also found some data clogging in the software due to all target lines competing with each other to send data reporting.
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