Mounting a digital camera to your shotgun can help you achieve greater success.
While the ‘GunPro’type of head-, capor helmet-mounted digital cameras are now relatively common, the purpose-built video camera for shotgun shooting is locally rather rare. Possibly our growing numbers of committed shotgunners are not as yet aware of the definite advantages such can confer upon the user.
Ask any beginner or even an experienced shooter and they will tell you how hard it is to ascertain where you are going wrong. All too often we walk away from a shot without a clue as to how we missed, both on clays and birds. The only clay where you can get confirmation of where you are erring is the rabbit, as its normally earthbound journey does allow for the pattern to kick up a mini dust storm (usually behind and/ or over the top). It takes a really experienced coach to tell you what corrective action is needed. There just has to be a ready market for a gadget that would show you how or why you are missing various targets.
THE FIRST OF ITS KIND
Some years ago a Scottish engineer, David Stewart, an expert in weapons sighting systems invented a digital video camera small enough to attach under the barrels of a shotgun and light enough not to unduly influence the gun’s balance. Because of the high G-forces during recoil, as much as 1 000G, the product had to be robust (patented shock absorption ensures steady video recording) and at the same time, complete waterproofing was deemed necessary.
Production of the ShotKam commenced in 2012 and since then there have been several upgrades, the latest model being
the SK2018, a remarkably versatile instrument. It is small (120mmx30mm) and weighs just 150 grams (5.3oz). Yes, at $649.00 (+/- R9 750, add duty and VAT) it is not exactly cheap, but if a group of shooters get together and cooperate it is not unattainable.
Once fitted to your gun it is switched on by pushing the clear plastic rear cover inwards slightly, a small green bulb lights up and stays on until switched off, also with a small push. Next it must be aligned, which takes a smartphone with a free app and is easy to do, though it needs someone to aim the gun while another aligns the reticule cross to the aiming point.
A most impressive feature is that it readily goes into a ‘sleep’ mode with battery charge savings and closing the gun’s action, or operating the breech block in the case of a semi-auto. The internal accelerometer detects this action and wakes the instrument; after shooting it goes bye-byes again.
Every shot is recorded in full HD (1080p) at 100 frames/sec and the video is saved at one third actual speed. The microprocessor buffers previous videos and stitches it to the live video during recoil. It usually records for two seconds before the shot and one second after, though this is adjustable. Its slow-motion playback is designed to copy how the human eye sees the moving target. It also has built-in Wi-Fi for downloading to Apple or android devices for instant replay in the field. The blurb says ‘an easy to use tool that gives the instant feedback needed to understand why a target is missed. The barrel-mounted ShotKam captures seamless video during the recoil and is so intelligent that it can detect every gun movement’.
Also remember that recoil commences the instant the cartridge ignites, before the shot charge even exits the barrel. Strangely the level of magnification is not mentioned, though it must be in the order of 5x as the targets are clearly seen.
The 12ga mounting bracket plus 3/32” Allen key (brackets for 20ga guns are available on order), a 64GB micro SD card which can store 2 000 videos, USB cables for downloading and recharging and some spares all come in a very sturdy and well-padded internally black plastic carry box.
PUTTING IT TO THE TEST
Peter Millan, who imported this example, a SK2016, a couple of years ago very kindly lent it to me and, as I don’t have a smartphone, fitted and aligned the instrument as well. I found that the weight made my Beretta Ultralight only slightly muzzleheavy (it is best to locate the camera about halfway between the fore-end tip and the muzzles). If anything it made the swing a trifle steadier. One problem immediately surfaced – I was trained to always remount in between shots, consequently the gun leaves my shoulder immediately after firing and depending upon how fast I did this, it sometimes cuts off the video prematurely. I tried to follow through more, but ingrained habits...
Taking the gun home, first I had to google https://videolan. org/vlc/download-windows. html and download this to my laptop. Taking off the rear cap of the camera and downloading the video via the USB cable was easy and I could then start assessing the results. You can even see the shot cloud in some videos and the moment of impact with the clay, or of course the shot cloud’s path as it misses the target. So I began to see my faults and I’ve got them all – riding the bird, stopping the »
The Tactacam TA gun cameras have special lenses which bring the images in closer, increasing the apparent distance.
g p– g thankfully not all at once. But on a reasonably far-out high crossing bird that had been giving me trouble I discovered that I missed repeatedly in front. Giving it too much deference!
We agreed that one feature – a laser sight – which though visible indoors was barely so in the open air daylight, and sporting shotgun shooting rarely occurs either indoors or at night. It is not aligned with the front sight bead either, possibly it could be used for practising gun mount. Another facet gives me some pause – although the rechargeable lithium-ion battery is said to be good for at least 5.5 hours recording, its life is reported as being +/- 3 years and replacing it requires sending the camera back to the factory in the USA and the cost is $40 – in my experience all rechargeable batteries have a limited life. OTHER OPTIONS
Going onto the web and googling ‘ shotgun video cameras’ unearthed the Tactacam TA gun cameras. At about half the price of the ShotKam, it is well worth considering. The TA 5.0 is listed $ . , . y $249.99. Locally Animal Gear advertises the 4.0 at R4 979, they could surely get the 5.0 or 3.0 versions. All have special lenses which bring the images in closer – most camera lenses have the effect of increasing the apparent distance. In addition the 5.0 has an 8x zoom lens and the 4.0 a 5x. They require manual switching on and off between stands or targets. The Tactacam TA 4.0 are water resistant and have a low light sensor. Weight is a very light 1.6 ounces (45.2 grams, without the battery). It comes supplied with USB cables for downloading data and for recharging batteries, plus a camera bag and a custom mount.
The Tachyon 2018 Gun Cam has full HD-60fps recording and playback to Mac, PCs, IOS and
g, , - ing with a single tap, on and off button operation. Mounts for all gauge shotguns from 12ga to .410 bore are available. It is both shock and weather resistant. The high frame rate is said to show the shot strings and patterns better. All for $299.99 with the usual USB cables and user booklet.
The next three video cams all have no crosshair reticule. So that while they will record your hits and misses, their usefulness in correcting handling faults is strictly limited.
The Tactacam Solo is $199.99, with a 3x zoom and the blurb says that ‘20 yards no longer looks like 100 yards’. There is no Wi-Fi or live streaming connectivity. Otherwise there’s not much detail to be had.
The Ablebro X38 shotgun camera is advertised at $79.89, weighing 2.88ounces (81.65 grams) without the battery which isn’t supplied (and lithium-ion batteries aren’t cheap). A highresolution 120° lens, with a 32G TF card with a three minute loop and a built-in vibrating motor which gives one touch operation. It is just 60mm long.
The Outdoor Wild HD1080P is also affordable at $87.17, and it has 720p or 1080p available, built-in lithium-ion battery with a three to four hour life, and vibration motor with three minutes loop for every recording. The memory TF card is also not included though USB cables, user manual, bike helmet, wrist and gun mounts are. It is compatible with Windows 2000/ XP/Vista /7 and Mac.
It is critical to have a high frame rate as with anything less than 100fps, lifting the head at the moment of firing and other split-second movements are likely to not be recorded, and so missed.
Peter Millan has written-up a very comprehensive and wellwritten product review on the ShotKam. To view it just Google The Problem of Interpreting Lead/ShotKam.
The ideal camera location on the barrel with respect to the muzzles.
Notice the well-padded interior of the carry case.
The ShotKam comes in a sturdy plastic case.
ABOVE AND LEFT: The camera is compact, lightweight and unobtrusive.
The rear cap is removed to show the memory card, USB port and the lights.