What is the obsession with lead when it comes to shooting clay targets, and why is it the priority of the majority of shooters?
Unless someone is a mathematical genius and not only able to work out the speed of an individual’s gun-mount, body movement and varying eyesight but also the speed of shot at distance through a certain choke, I cannot understand how they are able to calculate this distance so accurately. The truth is they can’t.
Calculated distance Simple demo on left to right target
Some of the distances you hear mentioned on a shoot are truly ridiculous, to the point that if this predicted distance and expert advice were followed the clay in question would probably still be in the trap as the shot is fired. If a shooter misses a target, their first thought is that they were behind — or this is what they are told. But in reality there are so many reasons as to why a target is missed.
Picking up and pulling away from a right to left crossing target.
Lead and what a shooter sees as “lead”, is a personal thing, it is also the end product of a shot. Every shooters eyesight is different, the way they shoot may be different, their gun speed maybe different, there are many variables. By thinking lead first, you are effectively using a shotgun as a measuring tool. How many shooters reading this article have been told that they stop their gun, but have never been told why? Most Guns on being told that they stop a gun move their gun faster or they are encouraged to give targets more lead. If you move too fast you will lose all control and end up rushing; so all technique will go out the window.
If you end up giving the target more lead because the reason for you stopping the gun hasn’t been explained, two things will happen. First, you could give the clay more lead, continue to stop the gun but luckily get your timing right and end up breaking the target despite of what you do, not because of it! Second, you could stick to the standard, give the target however many feet, keep watching the target and start missing in front. You will still think you are behind and so off you go farther and farther until the wheels fall off completely.
To shoot well you must keep your gun moving. The reason shooters stop their gun is because they suddenly look at it at the point of pulling the trigger. This is known as checking your swing and should be avoided. As soon as you look at your gun at the vital moment, your gun will stop stone dead. You will inevitably end up missing behind, but you can also pull your gun off-line because you no longer have any momentum in the movement of your gun. What you have seen lead-wise may have been correct prior to pulling the trigger, but it will be cancelled out as your gun slows and stops.
It is like any ball game. If you look at your tennis racket/baseball bat as you are about to hit the ball it goes wrong. You don’t run around a tennis court staring at your racket, and you certainly don’t look at your hands when you are trying to catch a ball. You are aware of where your hands, bat or racket are in your peripheral vision but your focus stays on the ball.
By being told to give a target lead in “whatever” distance, you are being cheated into breaking the target. The key is that you are able to get yourself there. Shooting Clay’s is not a guessing game. The feeling you get when you know a clay is about to break comes when you have correctly read the target yourself. It is not about throwing a gun out to what you have been told, luckily connecting and thinking to yourself “how did I do that?” You cannot stand there looking at a target and think, “I think that needs 10ft”. All that will happen is you will go to what you feel is the finished product and cheat the shot. This will bring no consistency to your shooting.