Review: Eley X-Shot Scoring App, Paper Targets

Connect and compete—Eley X-Shot expands competitions worldwide via smartphone.

by
posted on April 10, 2024
Elex X Shot 1
A new app from ammo maker Eley scores targets and will permit real-time competition with others anywhere in the world.
Photo by Art Merrill

“Shoot from the comfort of your home club, and compete across the world, with the reassurance of consistent scoring,” Eley X-Shot promises. Eley X-Shot, from longtime British ammunition maker Eley, uses smartphones and free software to score targets and allow shooters and clubs anywhere in the world to connect and compete. Shooters can also use the app to record and track their own performance.

Eley X-Shot with rifle
Eley’s new X-shot system uses a mobile app designed to work with specific printed targets matched to the software. While the Eley X-shot scoring app is free to use, the targets cost between $20-$60, depending on the amount purchased.

 

Eley X-Shot is a software application program for iOS and Android smartphones designed to work with special printed paper target sheets as used in rimfire benchrest competition. To get started, download the app from Google Play or Apple Store and register online with an email address and a password.

The app is blessedly uncomplicated and intuitive. You have three choices to begin: “Score Targets,” which activates your smartphone’s camera for the app to score targets, “Order New Targets” or “Log in.” Logging in takes you to your dashboard, where three more choices await. “View Targets” and “My Performance” displays the targets and scores saved previously. “Competition Modes” is not yet activated by Eley at this writing, but when it is, the user can challenge another Eley X-Shot user to an online match or organize a full formal online competition. Eley anticipates having this feature functional by summer 2024.

GETTING ON PAPER

Of course, the app is no good without the paper target sheets, which are available from Eley’s e-commerce partner, Killough Shooting Sports for $20 per 25 or $60 per 100, plus $15 shipping. Each 16½ x 11½-inch target sheet has 25 individual circular targets, with “sighter” targets distributed around the edges. Target width is 1½ inches and has rings that score five through 10X. Obviously, the rings are much smaller in width than the .225-inch diameter .22 Long Rifle bullet, but the target is still scored by “best edge scoring,” wherein the score is the edge of the bullet hole breaking the highest-numbered ring. In competition, the shooter fires one shot at each target for a highest possible score of 250-25X. (Note that 25 rounds is exactly one-half box of an ordinary 50-round count box of .22 rimfire ammunition. Coincidence?)

UPLOAD, SCORE, TRACK

After shooting, the competitor opens the Eley X-Shot app in his or her smartphone and takes one photo of the entire target sheet. The app then scores all the individual targets and displays the combined score on the smartphone; if the app finds the score of an individual target questionable, it highlights that individual target and score in red on the smartphone screen. The shooter (or scorer) then has the option of manually correcting the app’s scoring. For accurate scoring, it’s important to photograph the target from straight-on and against a dark background; the recognition software apparently needs the high contrast of black bullet hole against lighter target paper to read the scan reliably.

Eley X-Shot app on smartphone
Eley X-Shot’s first scoring of 132-3X almost perfectly matched the deliberate scoring of 131-2X done by hand. The red “9” indicates the app was unsure about that target score; tapping on it permits changing that score.

 

Eley also recommends photographing the target on a black background that extends beyond the edges of the target paper—again, to aid the recognition software. When satisfied, the shooter/scorer uploads it to Eley’s Competition Dashboard by tapping on “SAVE.” If the user experiences any problem with the software not properly reading the target, tapping the “iHelp” icon at the bottom of the screen will display hints to obtain a good scan.

Target information uploaded by tapping “SAVE” becomes accessible to multiple users, e.g., other clubs or shooters engaged in competition with the shooter. It also remains available to the shooter to track personal performance. You can track scores, of course, but the user can also shoot practice targets to track and evaluate performance, or as an aid to troubleshooting problems with technique, firearm or equipment.

PATIENCE FIRST

The first time I used Eley X-Shot, I photographed an un-shot target as a test and uploaded it to the Competition Dashboard. Tapping on “View Targets” and “My Performance” rendered only blank screens. I discovered that, the first time it’s used, uploading data takes some time before it can be accessed. The same happened with “Order new targets,” as it took about a full minute to download the Killough Shooting Sports website. For subsequent uses, however, all information displayed within seconds. If you have a similar problem of unresponsiveness at the first usage, be patient—close the app and come back to it later. I waited a full day.

APP AND MANUAL SCORING

To evaluate the app’s ability to score accurately, I punched .22 caliber holes with a cartridge case in the 25 targets on a sheet so that I could more precisely control test scoring than by shooting the targets, and included several “misses.” Many holes I snuggled up close against scoring rings to see at what point the app would question the scoring. The actual score I punched totaled 131-2X.

I placed black construction paper behind the holes before photographing and uploading the target photo to Eley’s Competition Dashboard. On the first run (with the photo taken in the shade), the app scored the target a near perfect 132-3X with “98.5% Confidence.” Photographing and uploading the target sheet three more times (in direct sunlight) yielded this.

  • 126-4X 93.5% Confidence
  • 126-2X 96.5% Confidence
  • 126-2X 95.4% Confidence
Eley X-Shot target
Left: Punching holes in a target sheet rendered a total score of 131-2X. Some were placed very close to scoring rings in a deliberate test of the app’s accuracy. Right: Raw paper target.

 

Next, I punched random holes in the “sighters” area around the borders and uploaded the target sheet again to check that the app would not score them. It did not. I then uploaded a third photo of the target sheet with daylight shining through the holes to check the app’s response. The exercise showed the dark background really is needed, as the app scored the target 118-2X with “95.8% Confidence.”

Eley wisely included the capability to manually correct individual target scores—it will preclude much frustration from competitors. As remarkable as the software is, it obviously isn’t going to work faultlessly with every shooter’s photo technique or light condition. Using the “finger-spread” method of enlarging screen images familiar to smartphone users, I could closely examine each individual target to see how the algorithm “saw” and placed the hit. Tapping on the scoring image target in question opens a dialog box that allows manually changing that target’s score.

Eley X-Shot target display
Enlarging the target display shows how the algorithm “sees” the target. Here, a “best edge score” breaking target number eight’s five-ring the app scored as a miss/zero. The same error occurs in target number three above it. Both are user-correctable.

 

The conclusion from this brief evaluation is that to get the most accurate scoring from the app, it appears one should photograph with the target sheet out of direct sunlight, and on a dark background that extends several inches beyond the edges of the target sheet. And the competitor must also still manually score the target sheet to ensure a correct score.

WHERE NEXT?

Beyond formal competition, Eley X-Shot is a vehicle to challenge friends and other shooters anywhere on the planet to engage in formal or informal competition and to compare notes and exchange information on ammunition and firearm performance, as well as marksmanship. Later this year, Eley will have available for purchase cameras and associated equipment so that remote competitors can view shooter scores as they happen, shot-to-shot, in real-time.

One may ask where this might be headed in the not-too-distant future. Will cloud storage replace our data books even as Eley X-Shot breathes modern new life into old school postal matchstyle remote competitions? When might other organizations or businesses follow Eley’s lead with their own versions? Might international competitions eventually all be conducted remotely without the need for travel? Will smaller, individual clubs develop respected international competitions without need of expensive support and sponsorships?

“Eley X-Shot will truly revolutionize the competition environment in a way never experienced through simplicity, beauty, and the magic of global connectivity,” Eley marketing material reads. Kumbaya, Brother. Wherever it all leads, Eley gets the kudos for being at the forefront of innovating digital technology to benefit not just the individual shooter, but to benefit and expand the competitive shooting sports worldwide. Learn more at eleyxshot.com. Additionally, you can purchase Eley X-Shot targets at the Killough Shooting Sports website.

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