It would be charitable to say, “they” were not amused.  Melted the wax from my wings and everything, “they” did.  The Catapult Gods are an unforgiving lot.  But we’ll get to all that.  There are the first two shots to talk about before that boom gets lowered.

The weather promised to make Friday afternoon quite the excellent little shooting session, what with the wind down below two knots, the sun at our backs, and the sky a bright, bright blue.   It was the sort of day I’ve been dreaming about these last few weeks. We even had our good friend and neighbor, Richard Rough, along for company.  It sure looked like it was going to be a productive field test.

Shot number one was a real Jim-Dandy.  It left the machine without the slightest trace of tail waggle and burrowed into that perfect sky with one of the cleanest launches I’ve seen.  The naked eye can only track Firefly’s flying bolts out to maybe 200 yards, not even halfway to the apex of their parabola.  This heavier bolt, with it’s greater length and forward  shifted center of gravity, was performing brilliantly.  Click for vid:  20120907145206(1) .     It clocked in at 330 feet per second, and I suspect that is  largely because I had just changed the serving on the string.  This means that this 521 gram projectile developed 1944 foot pounds of muzzle energy, which is about 175 pounds higher than we were getting before with the 400 gram bolt.  For a machine of this type, that’s a hefty chunk of horse power under the hood. When we got our laser readings on the distance they showed that this shot had traveled a confirmed 837 yards.   With a bolt this heavy, that is at the higher end of the range envelope I was hoping for.  Also the bolt penetrated to a depth of twelve inches into the packed dirt, rather than the eleven inches it had on our last trip out to this particular field.  I figured the extra 121 grams of projectile weight were at work here.  Things were going great!

….Too bad I was about to fuck it all up.

Things started to go south with shot number two.   We decided that someone should run the engine in the truck while I cocked Firefly with the electric winch.  This would allow us to charge the winch battery and shoot indefinitely.  Or at least until we ran out of gas, and that wasn’t likely as I’d just filled up the dual tanks.

(Good thinking little catapult maker.  It sure sounds like you’ve thought of everything!)

As it was, the action of having someone run the truck engine was enough of a disturbance to my fragile powers of concentration that I neglected to put the winch into drive mode, and experienced an embarrassing  slipping of it’s clutch for way longer than I should have.   Such is the sensitivity of my nature for making a bungle of things, I remember wincing at the thought that the cameras were recording all this slovenliness.   I mention this oversight only by way of backdrop for what happened next.

After finally getting the winch into gear and completing the firing procedure, shot number two showed a mildly disappointing velocity of 312 fps.   Click for vid:   20120907150230.    Why so large a difference in the two speeds?  ……My fussy little target-master was getting his anal on.

This is not what the doctor ordered.  Not what he ordered at all.  God knows what this was going to do to our precious group size.  (Later, shot number two was found 40 yards short of shot number one, although in a nice straight line with it.) Clearly, this was not the sort of gilt-edged precision I was hoping for.  Shooting off my twelve matched bolts into a nice tight cluster at almost half a mile just wasn’t going to be that easy.   Not easy at all, by the look of it!   (Can you hear the mania creeping in?)  And then in ways worse than imagined,  I managed to implement  that prediction with astonishing efficiency.  “Easy” was about to be a doomed option.

Somehow during the final stage of the firing procedure for shot number three I broke the usual sequence of first loading the bolt and then pulling the safety pin, in favor of first pulling the pin, and then abruptly having the machine dry fire itself before I could correct the situation.

Firefly was quick to tell me, she didn’t like that.

Clearly, the contact angles on the catch and trigger need to be adjusted.  But no need to place the blame there.  Whatever the reasons, I managed to perform a dry fire of my precious baby.  A very big No-No.  Many thousands of demerits will be accrued over this one.  Without the payload of that heavy bolt to dampen the snap of the bowstring at the end of the power stroke, it was more than the port limb could bear.  As limb breaks go, this one was fairly boring.  More of a rupture really, than a break .  The tension strap worked admirably, and, as if to add some measure of order to this minor catastrophe, the splinters dropped neatly into a waste paper bin I’d been using to hold the spare bolts.   Still, it was all very stupid.  So stupid!

However,   I learned a long time ago that if you fall off the catapult, you just dust yourself off and climb right back on. The Mk. X limbs await.  As do a reconfigured trigger lever and rigorous new training regimen.

Ain’t aggression wonderful?  Often it’s just what’s needed to climb out of that hole you very carefully dug, and then fell into.

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