For the small ad-hoc audience that has gathered, Mr. Bart’s trap gun is the give-away. A ShotKam video camera is projecting from the bottom barrel. At first glance, the device resembles a tactical gun light. In fact, it’s packed with a proprietary accelerometer-regulated actuation system that begins recording prior, during and after the shot for a compact 30-second video of your performance. Afterwards, simply plug the camera into a USB port of a computer via the included cable and watch the high-def flick of your clays shot or wingshooting kill.
We’re at Prince Georges County Trap & Skeet Center in Glenn Dale, Maryland to evaluate the possibilities of combining traditional and innovative technologies as they apply to clays-shooting instruction.
Mr. Bart is the namesake of the DVD “3 Shot Trapshooting with Jack Bart.” In it, he explains and demonstrates a methodology for succeeding at trap with only three basic shots. He posits that Post 1 and 2 require shooting at the left edge of the target, even if it veers to the right. Post 3 is a straight 12 o’clock shot. For Posts 4 and 5, you shoot at the target’s right edge, regardless of the direction it flies. He also discusses hold points, both laterally and horizontally, with the intent of eliminating excessive gun movement — a nagging culprit behind missed birds.
Instructional DVDs for the shotgun sports have been with us for decades. Bruce Scott, owner of Sunrise Productions, has pioneered point-of-impact videos with his famous “Eye-Cam.” Although extremely helpful, the Eye-Cam perspective was impossible to replicate for ordinary clays shooters until the ShotKam arrived on the scene in 2012.
Intermixing the use of “3 Shot Trapshooting with Jack Bart” and the ShotKam represents the marriage of old-school DVDs with state-of-the-art innovation. By installing a ShotKam on Mr. Bart’s shotgun, we intended to zoom in with near-microscopic quality on the clay shots detailed in “3 Shot Trapshooting with Jack Bart."
As with all instructional, clays-shooting DVDs, putting the knowledge to practice can pose a significant hurdle. Even though the DVDs illustrate barrel-target relationships, for example, executing those shots can be downright confounding in the field. Variables such as gun mount, gun fit and eye dominance thwart your best efforts. Supplementing your DVD sessions with the ShotKam videos could open a window to solutions you never considered. Case in point: after constantly missing a target, how many times have you told a helpful friend “I didn’t know I was shooting over them.”
Here on the trap field, the question now loomed: Will our experiment work?
For David Stewart, inventor of the ShotKam and company owner, the answer was a foregone conclusion.
He is the change agent who stands poised to take shotgunning instructions a quantum leap forward. The strongest appeal today for the ShotKam is with enthusiasts such as Mr. Bart who enjoy evaluating new teaching tools. Mr. Bart’s influence can ripple through the community and build support for trailblazing products thanks to a daily schedule crammed with lessons, stock fittings and personalized shotgun sales from his base of operations, Bart’s Sports World in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
Still, the key to widespread adoption of advanced digital tools comes down to ease of use. The challenge for Mr. Stewart, therefore, lay in his ability to package weapons-grade technology into a consumer breakthrough that’s intuitive, helpful and dependable.
To fully grasp the magnitude of Mr. Stewart’s undertaking look no further than a 2011 study from Best Buy’s Geek Squad, which revealed 28 percent of men ask for assistance with a new gadget only as a last resort. Guys just won’t admit they can’t understand the operating manual or product — cussing, brooding or blaming their new purchase for not working. Sound familiar?
In devising the ShotKam, Mr. Stewart relied on an engineering background applied to computers and fighter jets. He designed laser targeting and ranging systems for the F18. Inspiration for the ShotKam, however, came from his family some two years ago.
As Mr. Stewart explains, “I was with my son at the range and he’s instinctively a good shot, but he had two friends getting ready for duck season who were struggling. I wanted to do something in video because of the kid’s visual learning experiences with video games."
Turning the idea into a product presented the challenge of engineering a video camera that could withstand the violent environment of a shotgun. The demanding specifications for the ShotKam would require the seamless integration of a digital accelerometer, video camera, laser and point-of-aim systems that could sustain 1,000 g-forces with each and every shot. Nonetheless, by October 2011 Mr. Stewart had built a working prototype.
After six months of field testing in what Mr. Stewart believed was the most challenging environment – waterfowling in Florida marshes — the ShotKam went into production and sales began in May 2012.
Out of the box, the first thing you do is install the ShotKam on the barrel and reckon the integrated laser to accurately align the camera reticle with the beads.
Once in the field, turn on the ShotKam with a single press of a button. The accelerometer signals the camera to turn on and off when a breech-loaded shotgun is either open or locked. This actuation system prevents the ShotKam from constantly running, and instead limits recordings to the brief moments around the shot itself.
The recoil-activated camera stays on for 30 seconds — sufficient to complete a clays-target shot. (Waterfowlers can adjust the settings for longer durations.) The video clip is transferred to a buffer where it’s stored on a removable memory card; then the camera goes to sleep until the accelerometer recognizes that the shotgun is being loaded. Likewise, closing the bolt of a semi-auto instigates the same recoil-prompt videoing.
All the camera settings, including the reticle, are adjustable through the software interface on your PC or Mac. The rechargeable battery lasts up to three hours on a shooting range or five hours for hunting applications. The video is high-definition 1280 x 720 pixels at 60 frames per second. MPEG compression is used to allow retention of maximum detail and each MPEG frame can be viewed as a stand-alone picture. Conversion and compression to any other video format is supported by all standard video systems. Weighing 7 ounces, the ShotKam’s housing and mounting brackets are aircraft grade aluminum. Neoprene rubber pads inside the mounting brackets protect the finish of the shotgun barrels. That the ShotKam is also waterproof speaks to its suitability for duck and goose hunting.
The recorded videos reside in the “100_KAM” folder inside the “DCIM” folder, which should be familiar to owners of digital cameras. The ShotKam videos are compatible with any standard video software. Each video is separate and designated as Shot 1, Shot 2 and so on. Report and true pairs are recorded as a single clip. Frame-by-frame viewing is possible. Playback is ¼ speed.
We started with camera placement on the barrel. The manual recommends 3 to 12 inches from the muzzle. At first, the camera was mounted forward until Mr. Bart realized that the extra 7 ounces affected gun swing. Moving it back fixed the problem.
“The stability of the camera was excellent,” said Mr. Bart. “There was no shaking or bouncing.”
Ultimately, the only significant issue with the ShotKam lay with Windows 8. We didn’t realize the ShotKam software required Java, which wasn’t on our laptop for security reasons, causing playback glitches. We dug up an older laptop running Windows XP and the videos ran great.
“The videos show your inconsistencies in gun movement,” he said, as we watched the clips. “It literally shows you what’s happening in the gun-target relationship. It really is a great visual aid for gun fit and patterning. It does what it’s supposed to do."
The 16-gigabyte version of the ShotKam is priced at $649 and will store more than 500 shots. The 64-gigabyte model sells for $849 and you can shoot clays all day with it. The ShotKam is available on the company’s web site. Mr. Stewart assured us that ShotKam’s 30-day, money-back guarantee and one-year warranty will be honored without question.
Irwin Greenstein is the Publisher of Shotgun Life. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Videos - Jack Bart’s 3 Shot Trapshooting approach using the ShotKam
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