“PROPER PLANNING & PREPARATION”.
In the last article I described the 5 commonly recognized methods or systems of how to apply forward allowance (or lead) to a moving target when using a sporting shotgun and at the end of the article I promised to reveal to you the closely guarded secret Sixth system that will turn you into the envy of your shooting Friends & Buddies. So! Bolt all the doors close the curtains and nail crooked pieces of wood across the windows and I will tell you of the mystical “3 P’s”.
This system, if applied in the correct way, is fool proof and I am so confident in its ability to give you the power to hit any target consistently, I will offer you a life time “Money Back Guarantee!”
What are these 3 P’s I hear you ask, well it’s the formula I use for getting a pupil to focus on what is the most important element in making a successful shot and that is to use their natural ability to simply “Point” and override the brains conscious desire to make them “Aim”.
When shooting, our competitive nature subconsciously demands we generate success, this means seeing the target break, so the first thing the majority of shooters start to focus on and think about is “How Much Lead Do I Need To Give The Target’, which is in fact the very last thing we should think about as it’s the end of the process, not the beginning or even the middle!
So when we step up to the plate or enter the shooting cage what should we concentrate on first?
Well it’s the first “P” of the system, this is to look for and find the correct visual “Pick Up Point”, the place on the flight path where our eyes first focus on the target as a solid object, so we can “Pick It Up’
The next “P” in the system is to simply point the barrels straight at the target once it’s released and to stay in contact with it on its flight path with a moving gun, so we “Point At It”
Now having made accurate contact with the target, the final “P” in the system, that is required for you to complete the shot, is just to accelerate the barrel movement ahead of the target, so we “Pull Away”.
You are now armed with the 3 P’s formula, so, all that is required for you to do when you call for the next target is to solely concentrate on saying this phrase in your mind as you carry out the movement, you must not, I repeat , must not, think about breaking the target, just the 3 P’s:
Pick It Up………….Point At It…………………. Pull Away………
Don’t attempt to shorten the words, it will break the rhythm, just say it as you do it, if it’s a quick or slow moving target just say the phrase at the same speed, just focus on this and nothing else and the target will automatically break, I guarantee it!.
Concentrating your mind on this simple phrase will override the on board computers (The Brain) demand for you to break the target and will allow you to concentrate on creating the perfect technique, which will then always result in success.
The true advantage of this system is that by making accurate contact with the target, it gives the Brain a base point from which to make a judgment. So if you miss, the onboard computer will automatically now know where you missed and will be able to tell you to either increase or decrease the distance in front you pulled away.
As one of my Coaching mentors, the late Chris Craddock used to say; “For many shooters, What’s Missed is a Mystery and What’s Hit is History”, meaning that many shooters never truly understand the reason for their miss or actually understand why they hit it.
Well using the “3P’s’ will take the mystery out of the missing and will ensure you have the ability to hit whatever you point your barrels at and know how you did it. So next time you find yourself missing and not knowing why, give the “3P’s’ a try!
When planning the series “Only perfect practice makes perfect’ I intended to cover in this fourth article the correct technique and the reasons for shooting “Gun Down’ and the advantages it gives the Clay Shooter particularly in the disciplines of Sporting Clays and Skeet.
Little did I know then how relevant it was to become especially after I had been a spectator and an observer at the Dubai Nad Al Sheba, Sporting Clays Championships.
PROPER PLANNING & PREPARATION.
It was during my time at the Nad Al Sheba Sporting Clays Championships, where as an expat that cannot have his own guns in his possession in the UAE I was relegated to the role of observer, it became very evident to me that a considerable number of the competitors were unable to effectively shoot “Gun Down”, which was a requirement of the F.I.T.S.C. Sporting rules that the competition was shot under.
This to me was amazing and on talking to some of these shooters it was clear that many did not understand the principles and correct techniques required to shoot from a gun down starting position at a moving target. Many could not even basically mount the Gun correctly and by the time they had got the gun in their face and in line with their eye, the target was either long gone out of range or had landed.
We all know that the Shotgun was originally designed as a hunting weapon that relied on our instinctive skills of split second reaction and our ability to point without conscious thought to shoot at and hit a moving target, either in the air or on the ground.
That is why there are no sights on a shotgun because it is not meant to be aimed as when out hunting there is no time to aim, just point and shoot.
It is also physically impossible, when hunting in the field, to either walk or stand for any length of time with the gun already mounted up to the face and held in the shoulder and it would also considerably restrict our ability to move our arms, rotate our upper body and to point effectively.
These are the reasons why shooting a Shotgun from the Gun down position is by far the most efficient and natural method to use when shooting moving targets that cross our view, fly directly at us, quarter away, run along the ground and even when lifting up from the ground in front of us and flying away.
So, to shoot from gun down what are the techniques required to do this?
Well, the first and most important of these is the ability to mount the Gun consistently up to the face without conscious thought in the correct way.
This is the bedrock of all good shooting and as is covered in my very first article of the series. To perfect the mount takes time and practice; at least 2,500 repetitive movements before it becomes “Muscle Memory” (See my demonstration photos in article 1).
Image (left) - The great Robert Churchill showing how to mount a shotgun for shooting in the field.
Once this is achieved then we need to start looking at other elements such as; how low down do I start the gun?
At what angle should I have the barrels?
Where is the correct start point for my barrels on the flight path?
And how much movement should I generate to enable me to make contact with and then pull away from the target?
Of course the answer to all of these questions depends on the target you are about to shoot.
The objective of shooting gun down is to generate one single movement that allows the barrels to converge on to the target in a flat diagonal approach by coming up from underneath its flight path, making contact with it at exactly the same time as the gun comes into the face and the stock locks into the shoulder pocket.
Image (right) - This is Stuart Clarke one of the UKs most successful Sporting Clay shots, you will see his stance is relaxed and upright with his weight resting over the front foot, his barrels are set at the right elevation to approach the target from underneath, his eyes are focused on the pickup point and his gun start point is set a little further out on the targets flight line.
I see so many shooters start with their gun held out of the shoulder at a level and in a position that has no relevance to the target they are about to shoot. As soon as they call pull they just throw the gun up to the shoulder with a pivoting incorrect mount, which drops the muzzles, so they are now off the line of the bird and all this before they have even seen the target appear.
Then they have to lift the barrels back up to the flight line and chase after the bird in an effort to catch it and get ahead with a mounted gun.
So they have created three moves instead of a single efficient one, in fact it would be far better and far more successful for them to shoot “Pre-Mounted-Gun Up”.
Image (left) - I hope this Lady will forgive me but this is a classic case of very poor preparation, the gun is held completely in the reverse way to shoot gun down, the butt is already in her shoulder barrels pointing at the ground with no relevance to the height and angle of the target she is about to shoot.
She would be better to have the gun Pre-Mounted with the barrels set just under the anticipated flight path and use the 3P’s to achieve success.
Image (right) - Unlike this Lady shooter who has planned her preparation perfectly to shoot a right to left climbing crossing bird.
The gun is held slightly away from the body allowing her arms to move freely and lift the gun, the muzzles are held at an angle that allows them to come up from underneath the Line, she has her eyes set at the Visual Pick Up point, and the barrels are set further out along the flight path (to the Left of here eyes)so that the target, despite its speed, never gets in front of the moving gun forcing her to chase and catch up.
She will make one easy fluid movement that will bring the gun into her face at exactly the same time as the barrels make contact with the target and the natural swing generated by her movement with automatically take the barrels ahead of the target the right distance as she squeezes the trigger.
Many shooters believe that they don’t have enough time to shoot gun down. In fact it’s completely the reverse; shooting gun down for Sporting & Skeet creates time for the shot to be taken, because it is physically a far easier movement than shooting with the gun Pre-Mounted into the shoulder. It also allows full use of our peripheral Vision enabling the brain to judge speed and distance more accurately.
The question of how far down the gun mount should start, as I mentioned earlier, depends on the target itself. A simple guideline for this is, the further the target is away, you to need to generate a bigger movement to be able to make contact, so the gun start is low down, the closer the target is you only need a smaller movement, so the gun is only a short way down. Think of it in Golfing terms, if you are on the Tee making a long drive you take the club head as far back as you can to generate a big movement that hits the ball as a far as possible, if you are chipping on to the green you only take the club head back far enough for a Small Swing, it’s the same principal.
The key factor about shooting gun down is to keep the gun out of the face and shoulder until the barrels make contact with the bird which is the moment you should squeeze the trigger and shoot. If you delay in taking the shot once the gun hits your shoulder and you keep the gun in your face riding the target, trying to make sure of the lead, your swing movement slows down and you end up missing behind. Also it is vital that you should start the mount, moving and pointing the gun the moment your eye locks on to the target, this keeps you synchronized with the speed of the target and allows you to stay on the line even if the bird changes direction.
You must “Participate” not “Spectate”, watching the target move without pointing at it and leaving the mount till the last second will leave you rushing the shot and unable to judge target speed and line accurately, resulting in a Miss!
”Participate’ don’t “Spectate”
The next thing we need to consider is where the muzzle start point should be on the targets flight path.
A simple guide is;
The barrels should always be set further out along the line ahead of the eyes and the visual pick up point. This means your brain can start pointing your front hand forefinger at the target the moment the eyes receive the information, enabling your barrels to come up and make contact with it. This positioning takes a little practice to get right, as if the start point is too far out it will bring your barrels up ahead of the bird resulting in either a miss in front or you stopping the gun to wait for the target to catch up, which will mean a miss behind. If your gun start point is closer to the trap house than your eyes or set in direct line with them , the barrels will always end up trailing and being behind the target which means you never make contact with it and that’s another probable Miss!.
There are several other factors that need to be taken into account when shooting gun down, the main ones, other than distance, that dictate the type of movement we need to make are; the angle of the targets flight path and the size of the “Window of Opportunity” we have to shoot the target in, such as Station 8 on the Skeet field. These I will talk about in the next article and how we apply Shooting Gun Down at specific targets such as Arcing Battues, High Tower Birds and Ground Running Rabbits
Having hopefully now read this article can I encourage you to go out on the range and practice, you need to experiment with new techniques and learn how to incorporate them into your own chosen method.
All shooting instructors have their own way of teaching. Mine is simply to teach a style of shooting which makes sense to the people who are going to use it. Most important is the need for every pupil to understand what he is doing and why he is doing it. It is pointless if you don’t know exactly why you hit or missed a target. People who are waiting to take their turn on a stand at a clay shoot will often give many conflicting opinions about a shot, but it is the man or woman with the gun who should know exactly where the shot has gone in relation to the target. I, therefore, believe that shooting should be kept at its very simplest so that it is possible for the shooter to understand what it is all about. After all, there is nothing terribly complicated about shooting; people make it more difficult for themselves by not understanding the basics first. These basics are the reasons behind what is done and how it is done – and there is a reason for everything.
The most common fault in Wing & Clay Shooting is that of not getting in front of a target. All shooters have enough common sense to realise that they must be in front of the target to actually hit it. As I have explained in an earlier article lead (or forward allowance) is what has to be achieved with consistency, so any advice that you might hear to the effect that a given target requires a specific distance in front should be completely ignored. It might appear to the person giving the advice that the distance he shot in front is what is required, but as we all see, read and approach a target in a different way; there is little point in heeding such advice. It all basically comes down to you. If you practice and master your own technique the breaking of the target will look after itself. The pulling of the trigger to hit the target becomes the simplest part; it’s just the 3P’s!
Remember, Good Shooting & Safe Shooting Are No Accident!
Best wishes... Keith