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Target Hit Indicator System (T.H.I.S.)

Posted on April 20, 2016

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Who doesn’t want to find a way to have a gadget make them a better spotter?  With T.H.I.S. you will know if your banging steel, a less experienced spotter will be able to detect hits easily, and in many situations you won’t even need optics to know if you had an impact on target (but it can’t tell you by how much if you are missing).

T.H.I.S. seems to be based on the cornerstone of the philosophy “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  I say this because it is using tried and true RF technology that has been in the camera world for well over twenty years.  With some creative sensor design and some smart packaging/mounting T.H.I.S. provides a wireless target flash indicator at a fraction of the competitions pricing.

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As you can see a simple Velcro piece on the bracket is all that is needed to get reliable reading on target hits. This is a 2/3 IDPA 3/8” AR500 target at 870 yards tested out with a 308win

Now does the T.H.I.S. have different colors for different targets, flash light sequences that would be seen in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  Absolutely Not!  T.H.I.S.  is a no frills simple and effective flasher system that anyone can set up in minutes and start banging steel and see flashing lights when there are impacts.

Flasher and receiver:

It is a simple and solid design.  There are no strange batteries, no odd charging adapters, nor is it a completely sealed unit that cannot be serviced.  Just make sure it has good batteries, turn them on and they are ready to go.  It is a standard flasher and for most shooters the batteries should last all day quite easily.

Transmitter and hit sensor:

The transmitter and hit sensor keep in line with being a solid and simple design.  T.H.I.S. made a slick bracket to attach to a bolt on a hanging target or you could be like me and use some Velcro.  We tried both methods and either the bolt on or the Velcro method did just as well as far as detecting hits.  Compared to some other RF trigger systems T.H.I.S. uses standard batteries while some other designs out there use batteries that are typically found on home security door sensors.

Performance:

T.H.I.S. did just about as well as any other hit indicators I have used.  I am including comparison of the $500+ flasher systems out on the market.  The T.H.I.S. flasher/receiver needs to be about 50ft or closer from the transmitter for reliable triggering.  The range of T.H.I.S. is about half the distance of other systems using the same RF technology but as stated before T.H.I.S. uses standard batteries compared to the other systems that use a less commonplace power source, so a tradeoff between range and convenience of power may have been made.

As you can see a simple Velcro piece on the bracket is all that is needed to get reliable reading on target hits. This is a 2/3 IDPA 3/8” AR500 target at 870 yards tested out with a 308win

As you can see a simple Velcro piece on the bracket is all that is needed to get reliable reading on target hits. This is a 2/3 IDPA 3/8” AR500 target at 870 yards tested out with a 308win

The flasher is a standard flasher and we have tested it out past 1200 yards in the Las Vegas desert with success.  That means with mirage, bright light, and other nasty environmental conditions we could see the T.H.I.S. at over 1200 yards.  Even the most inexperienced spotter could see the hit indicator at over 800 yards without optics.  That’s right for $150 you can get a flasher where you don’t even need glass and a spotter can call hit’s for you.

The transmitter and sensor worked well for the most part.  One of our sessions we had some issues with lack of flashing when the target was hit.  These issues may have been due to how it was mounted, or that the flasher was right around the magic 50ft mark.  I would have really liked to have been able to adjust sensitivity on the impact sensor, but honestly once you played with the system a little bit you quickly realize the best way to mount the sensor to ensure consistent hits.   The only time we couldn’t get reliable target flash  hit indications was when we grazed the target or if we had a big heavy piece of steel really far away(read:  lots of target mass and not much bullet energy to move the steel).

The goods:

  • You don’t need a computer, or the codes to launch the space shuttle to change frequencies.   If you have several of these systems in close proximity it is as simple and four DIP switches on the transmitter and receiver to either tie them together or keep them separate.
  • It is about as plug and play as you can get.
  • The cost is well within reason for something that you are putting near what you are shooting.  If you do happen to shoot it with a bad wind call it isn’t going to break the bank.
Here you can see where some bullet fragments from the “hostage taker” target shown above found its way to the sensor on the back of the hostage target. I pulled out some very small pieces of jacket material from the Velcro, and you can see the housing is cracked.

Here you can see where some bullet fragments from the “hostage taker” target shown above found its way to the sensor on the back of the hostage target. I pulled out some very small pieces of jacket material from the Velcro, and you can see the housing is cracked.

The not so goods:

  • Range between transmitter and flasher is not as far as I would have hoped for.   Ideally I would have liked to have 100 feet of distance to give plenty of wiggle room, however the distance is perfectly reasonable for its purpose.
  • Build quality is not very stout.  The units are all plastic and if you toss it in the back of the truck you might break one of the plastic connections.
  • Sensor sensitivity is non-adjustable and not as sensitive as I would like it.  Additionally the T.H.I.S. detector appears to be a single axis sensor, which means it is more sensitive on vibrations or a shock in one direction over another.  I used the T.H.I.S. and another system on the same target at the same time.  The other more sensitive system that I know has two different sensors picked up hits that were grazing blows on the edge of the target, while T.H.I.S. did not pick up those hits.

Overall:

If you don’t need any fancy LED flashers with different colors, mil spec torture proof, and you want to save some money on flashers to put towards your optics and rifles, then this is the kit to get.  Replacement parts are very reasonable, so even if you kill something it isn’t expensive to get the system back up and running.  The system works reliably, however you will want to test out sensor placement to ensure it is picking up all the hits.   If you are running matches, at the price point of T.H.I.S. these units are cheap insurance to resolve the entire “That was an impact!” shenanigans made by some participants.   If you are shooting in a venue when mirage makes it virtually impossible to reliably detect impacts out past 800 yards, T.H.I.S. is the way to go.

Target Hit Indicator System (T.H.I.S.) Update 07/03/16

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After our initial tests of T.H.I.S. we decided to put the systems into service at our matches. Unfortunately we had some issues right from the start. We did use the sensor brackets bolted which seemed like the best method however we couldn’t get the systems to reliably trigger. Initially it was chalked up to poor mounting of the sensor, and then we thought it was sensor orientation. Later after closer inspection and bench testing we found that the flashers themselves needed about 4 or more seconds to re-flash. That explained the lack of flashing on follow up shots we experienced. After some searching an inexpensive camera flash was found that has a reflash time of approximately 1.0 to 1.5 seconds, so that performance requirement can be rectified for under $20USD.

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The June match during setup we tried to put the batteries in the sensors planning on only using the T.H.I.S. systems for single hit targets to work around the slow reflash rate. It appeared that the battery leads snapped inside the unit so we aborted using the T.H.I.S. sensors at two locations. After the match I tore apart the sensors to see if I could fix the broken battery leads. I found that the the metal connection simply slid out of the plastic housing resulting in the battery leads not touching the battery. In addition it looked as if the batteries themselves could wiggle in the enclosure and under the vibration of a bullet strike on steel the batteries could dislodge resulting in no power for the transmitter to be triggered by the sensor. To rectify these possible design flaws I glued the leads in place in the housing, and I used some velcro and foam to lodge the batteries and connectors firmly in place. The system have been tested in the field at one match and these small retrofits appear to have fixed the apparent design flaws. The most abuse we gave a sensor that has had the retrofits was at just over 600 yards with about 200 triggers and it held up just fine.

So… In a nutshell, for even a local PRS match, the T.H.I.S. is inadequate in reflash speed due to a sub par flasher (even compared to the $50 Caldwell system), the impact sensor is not built stout enough to handle the vibrations from being attached to a steel target getting approximately 100 impacts in a 6 hour period.

-Greg Piet, Sin City Precision member

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