I guarantee one of the first questions that a client coming on their first lesson asks me is what chokes and cartridges are the best combination for Sporting Clays?
There seems to be a general belief that there is some magic formula—some combination of the two—that can compensate for gaps in their skills and that guarantees they will break enough targets to put them on the winners rostrum.
The bottom line is that if you do not have an established method/technique that will consistently place your shot pattern on a converging flight line with the target for them to collide; you are not going to be successful.
So before we turn to buying “Gadgets or Gizmo’s” that will make us Champions overnight, we must have correctly developed our own personal skills and established a method of shooting that is consistent and efficient.
Let’s just go back in time and look at why “Adjustable Chokes” were invented, up to this point if you wanted to shoot the three disciplines of Trap, Skeet and Sporting you had to have 3 separate Guns all with set choking, so when the “Gizmo” of adjustable chokes came along you only needed to buy one gun, and in my day that gun only came with the standard 5 chokes, Skeet, ¼ (Improved) ½ (Modified) 3/4s (Improved modified) and Full.
So when I went off to shoot a registered 100 bird sporting competition I put a ¼ and ½ choke in my barrels and packed my bag up with my “RC 2 Blue “ ounce 8’s and forgot about everything else.
I followed the advice of one of the UK’s great sporting shots of that time, “A.J. Smoker Smith’, who said; that as he was not a clever man, he needed to keep things as simple as possible, he didn’t want to get to a stand and start worrying about what chokes and cartridges he had to use on a particular target, he just wanted to step up look for the place he saw the targets come into view, look where they were going and where he was going to break them! Then put his hand in his pocket grab two shells load his gun, call pull and break the targets. Simple as that! And by golly it worked.
The only time I changed my chokes was when I shot F.I.T.A.S.C., and I went to a Half and three Quarters and used RC 3 7.5s, 1 & 1/8 ounce loads
These day’s shooters seem to want to make it all too technical believing that big load, fast speed shells and super titanium, gold plated, diamond laser, cut to millionth tolerances “Mega Blow Em Up!”Chokes are all that’s needed, plus a mobile laser range finder to work out the “Lead” Oh! And let’s not forget the “Dayglow High Vis” bright, 4’ long Red or Green Super bead on the end of the barrels! Which achieves nothing but drawing your eye off the target and making Rifle shooters happy?
However knowledge about how your gun’s chokes and your preferred cartridges perform certainly helps, it may give you an edge but is not the “be and end all” of consistently breaking targets.
I have recently seen a Gadget that you stick to your stock and has a prong that touches you lip (or goes up your nose) to ensure you have mounted the stock to the right place, for goodness sake, what you need to do is firstly make sure your gunmount technique is correct and then all you need to do is practice it in the mirror and after 2,500 repetitive movements it will be ingrained in your muscle memory. As said before there is no shortcut to success, it just takes lots and lots of lovely practice!
The truth is its only perfect practice that makes perfect! Bad practice just makes things worse and you can invest considerable amounts of money in compounding bad technique and inconsistency.
Few things are more satisfying than a perfect shot. The skill required is a product of sound basic techniques, perfect practice and smoothly honed reactions but these don’t come overnight. First you must know what it is you need to practice; only then can you do something about it. In shooting, as in other Endeavour’s, ignorance prevents progress.
So the bottom line is don’t rely on a “Gadjet or Gizmo” to break the target rely on your own ability and remember "It’s the Knowledge and Confidence in our own skills, that dispels the fear of failure!" and will eventually put you on the winners rostrum.
DEFINITION OF THE WORD SKILL
A skill is a technique that can be repeated consistently under pressure.
When out Clay shooting, sometimes people are way too hooked up on “Getting A Score”, too focused on “The Winning!
Sometimes pressure needs to be taken off to enable techniques to become skills, so they can then be done instinctively when under pressure, if you concentrate on creating the “Perfect Technique” this will result in the “Perfect Shot!”, so if every shot is perfect then the end result is inevitable!
Keith Coyle 2018.