Low Gun (Gun Down) Or High Gun (Gun Up) That Is The Question?
For Sporting and F.I.T.A.S.C. Clay’s.
It was during my time at the2014 Nad Al Sheba Sporting Clays Championships in Dubai, where as a resident expat that could not 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 the very first article of my coaching series “Only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”.
To perfect the mount takes time and practice; at least 2,500 repetitive movements before it becomes “Muscle Memory”.
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.
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 “PreMounted-Gun Up”.
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. Pointless! She would be better to have the gun PreMounted with the barrels set just under the anticipated flight path and use the 3P’s to achieve success.
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 her 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 PreMounted 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 Thought For A Shooters Sunday 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.
Original article ©Keith Coyle 2014 & 2018.
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