arlier this year I attended an interesting skeet tournament at the beautiful Dallas Gun Club in Lewisville, Texas. It was interesting beyond a normal skeet shoot due to the fact it was more than just a test of a competitor’s skill. It was also a testing ground. Being tested for the first time under real–life conditions were three new voice–activated clay–releasing devices.
These new devices were brought to the shoot by Cliff Moller of Briley Mfg., the Houston–based company famous for their aftermarket shotgun–related products. The object of the test was to evaluate the systems in a shooting environment, as well as gather information on performance and opinions from shooters to help toward improving and refining the systems.
The main premise of the test had as much to do with consistency as with cost. Gun clubs today have to operate as lean as possible to keep their doors open. Throwing targets for a tournament or league takes coordination, planning and financial wherewithal. In addition, the level of consistent target throws and timely pulls a shooter gets is an important factor in a successful shoot. The three players in this test were the iPull system (a Briley/Dar joint venture), the Elfipa system and the Briley High–Tech Voice Release Pickle or “Wand” (when you see the photo below you will know why it’s nicknamed “The Wand”).
Tournament shooters can be pretty particular about the pulls they get during a round. Not all gun clubs are able to provide trained, qualified referees at their shoots, and there are times when the quality and consistency of the pulls a shooter gets depends solely on a person who is not well–experienced with the pull cord. Scores and averages can suffer. It is hoped the new target–release devices will help greatly in allowing small and large clubs to provide a higher level of consistency of pulls at a reasonable cost to the club.
Voice–release systems are very consistent and should result in a much fairer way of shooting competitions. The Olympics have been using them for many years. Having stated that, they are not perfect. It is impossible to program computer chips for every conceivable call and still filter out squad chatter and shotgun sounds bouncing off walls, etc. The more sensitive we make microphones to allow them to detect low–volume or squeaky calls, the more inadvertent target releases we can end up with.
However impressive the new technology is, it is important for shooters to do their part by increasing their volume and developing voice–release friendly calls. Poor calls can result in no bird out of the house. A pull that may appear to have a slight delay can happen if your call starts out low and halfway through increases in volume. This might occur because the microphone did not hear the beginning of the call and picked up only the last part. The good news is if this does happen, it is usually such a slight delay it frequently goes unnoticed by shooters. It is to your advantage to develop a consistent voice–release friendly call to try to keep your shooting as consistent as possible.
The Briley iPull
The iPull is much like other popular wireless devices, only it is programmed to remember the sequence of targets at each station. The system is actually intended for sporting clays, where it is mounted high enough in the cage to provide close proximity to the shooter’s call. In the test, the iPull was mounted on a small metal stand in front of the shooter at each station. There were stands at each of the eight stations, and only the transmitter traveled from station to station.
The computer in the transmitter knows what birds to throw. For option birds, a button marked “OPT” is pressed to repeat the target. The unique thing about this system is, on broken birds you need not press any buttons because it is also “listening” for the sound of the shot. If the shooter does not shoot at a broken bird, the system will automatically repeat the same bird on the shooter’s next call.
This wireless voice–release system, a new product from Italy, is much like the iPull, in that the computer in the transmitter remembers the sequence of targets at each station. The transmitter sits on a permanent stand, and the entire stand is moved with the squad as they progress from station to station.
This device, like the iPull, is programmed to throw four basic sequences: High, Low, Doubles for Stations 1, 2, 6 and 7; High, Low for Stations 3, 4 and 5; High for High–Eight; Low for Low–Eight. On option or broken birds, you press the button for the sequence you are in. For instance, if you are shooting a station that shows High, Low and Doubles and you get a broken bird, you just press the “HLD” button and the system will repeat the bird and remember where it was in the sequence.
Briley’s High–Tech Voice Release Pickle
This was the simplest device to operate. It looks like the same yellow pull–cord “pickle” that has been around for 70 years. A microphone protrudes out of the front, and some electronics are inside. The puller simply presses the button on the control and places the microphone near the shooter (i.e., under the shooter’s rib cage or elbow, under his shotgun stock, etc.). When the shooter calls, the bird is released.
Voice–release systems are convenient, easy–to–use and consistent. If your gun club is interested in upgrading to voice–release sytems, you may want to contact these dealers for information on these devices.
iPull, Elfipa and Briley High–Tech Voice–Release Pickle Systems.
Autopuller Voice–Activated Release System.
Canterbury Voice–Release Systems.
Northwest Shooters Supply
Canterbury Voice–Release Systems and Ventriloquist Voice–Release System.
Ventriloquist Voice–Release System.
Canterbury Voice–Release Systems and Canterbury Target Mizer Token Systems.
Ventriloquist Voice–Release System.
The devices were given some tough conditions to perform under. The days were cool, clear and sunny, but the wind was definitely an annoyance. The Elfipa and iPull systems seemed to do fairly well on the first day during the practice rounds. The second day was another story. From what I could see, it looked like ambient noise from the blustery wind blowing past the microphones was playing havoc with the target pulls. The solution, at least temporarily, was to wrap the microphones with some acoustic foam. It all worked somewhat better then.
Shooters will need to develop a target call with more volume and a lower pitch when voice–release systems are used. Some shooters were having a little fun at the test by calling once with their standard call and, when nothing happened, calling again with a louder call or with a stronger, lower tone, all the while holding the gun in their ready position at the hold point. Some of the secondary calls were pretty comical.
The “Wand,” even in the high winds, appeared to work quite well. Ambient squad noises such as you commonly hear when the rest of the squad attempts to pump up the man on the pad did appear to launch more targets than were actually called for at times with the Elfipa and iPull devices, but the “Wand” seemed to have few problems. Squads need to be quieter with their off–pad talking when voice releases are being used.
This real–time testing demonstrated what current technology is capable of. Although the technology did not have a stellar performance on this occasion, it is the future of all the games as far as the economy and consistency are concerned. How many clubs will embrace this technological advancement remains to be seen. One question is: “How can clubs afford such systems?”
Cliff Moller explained, “When a gun club has made the decision to install one of these systems in their facility, Briley will offer them the option of purchasing or leasing the system. The advantages of leasing are we can offer a service agreement to maintain the machines at the same time. This and other benefits help make the initial and ongoing costs more palatable to clubs.”
Will this replace referees? In my opinion, it will not, cannot. There will always be a need for a trained individual on the fields to manage lost–bird disagreements, rules interpretations and so on. These devices provide repeatable, consistent releases of targets, but they are not intended to replace referees.
The systems need to be tested more and modified after each test to gain efficiency and reduce costs. What I have learned recently is these new devices already had some improvements incorporated into them. “The Wand,” for instance, is now capable of being operated as a voice or manual release at the request of the shooter. It takes a mere second or two to make the change. The iPull can be changed to handle voice or manual releases with the swipe of a special card purchased at the clubhouse before the shooter starts his/her round. You request either Voice or Manual release when you buy your card. The Elfipa is being modified to work on a remote speaker enabler. Like “The Wand,” the speaker will be disconnected until the shooter closes his or her gun. This takes it out of open–mic mode and allows you to adjust the sensitivity.
For more information on any of these target–release systems, call Briley Mfg. at (800) 331–5718 or visit www.briley.com.