Optimum Shotgun Performance Shooting School: Good to Know


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The Perfect Stance

The perfect stance is more important than people believe. Weight should be on the front foot. Your feet should be no farther apart than your armpits-any wider and you can't move well with the gun. The back foot should be to the side not placed behind the front foot. Drawing an imaginary line from the back heel through to the front toe should set you up to hit the target at that point (the break zone). Your weight must be on the ball of your front foot. This makes the gun come up easily into your face and makes the gun go where you are looking.

Looking at the photograph, you can easily see that weight displacement determines the line of your natural swing. With the weight on the back foot a good consistent gun mount is impossible, and in order to maintain balance, your natural swing line is now a rainbow not a straight line. Your weight must be on your front foot and your spine should be bent slightly forward, but not too far. This will make the gun come up perfectly into your face and become the extension of your eye that you need. The back hand guides the gun to your face. Too much back hand and the muzzles will seesaw and not make the same consistent move.

You also can see in the photo that when the target is below your nose, you need to put more weight out over your toes. Curve your spine a little more. This keeps the swing arc pivoting on only the front foot, and because the spine is curved more forward the swing arc is now down on the line of the target. If the target were much lower the spine would curve more forward and the swing arc would come lower still, but the weight must be kept on the front foot in order for the swing to continue in a straight line.

When the weight shifts to the back foot everything goes wrong. You no longer have 1 balance point, you have 2. This causes a subconscious weight change every time you swing the gun which makes consistency impossible. It would be like driving a car with all the wheels out of balance. When the body does anything but pivot on one point, gun speed and line are affected in a negative way. The shooter is often not aware of it because the movement he senses is the movement of his body shifting its weight from one foot to the other, not the gun mirroring the target line and speed. The only shot that should be taken with the nose not over the front toes(weight on the back foot), is the high incoming or driven bird shot. Note how with the weight on the rear foot the spine naturally curves back, the gun muzzles come up, and the gun can swing past vertical and balance can be maintained.

In order for the swing to be consistent, the body must remain in balance. If at any time during the swing the body looses balance, one of two decisions will be made by the subconscious mind-

1. Keep swinging with the bird and fall down or
2. Keep my balance and stand up, by letting the gun either stop or come off line with the target.
#2 will always happen. A person's balance mechanism is their strongest instinct. The shooter who remains in perfect balance through the shot can move the gun precisely and consistently regardless of target line or speed.

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One Eye or Two Eyes Open?

I've been hunting over 20 years and have always kept one eye closed when shooting a shotgun, and have been a pretty good shot. I got interested in sporting clays and at first did good with the one eye closed, but a friend told me to try to shoot with both eyes open, but when I attempted this it did no good and my scores got worse. Should I shoot with one eye open as I have for 20+ years or do you think it would be worth my time trying to learn to shoot with both eyes open.

There is no right answer. This helps huh. Is it better to shoot with 2 eyes open? The answer is definitely YES. The targets will look larger, closer and moving more slowly. Is it going to look completely different when you shoot. YES. Remember, that your eyes are used to working together, so that you can walk or drive a car. If you will think of shooting your shotgun like driving your car and merge into the lead with the gun, you won't have to be so concerned about the barrel. If you are looking at the barrel of the gun, you are not looking at the target and focusing totally on it. That will put you behind the target. There is a 3/10 of a second delay between when the eye sees the lead and the brain tells the body to pull the trigger, that will also put you behind the target. Try focusing really hard on the front of the target and bringing the gun up in front of the target and as it touches your cheek, pull the trigger. A way to practice this, as it is a learned thing, is to find something small to focus on-such as the light switch or the edge of a picture frame. Look at it and count to 10. Start to train your eyes to stay focussed on something small in a large area. That's what you have to do when you are shooting. Finding a small 4" disk in the sky and focus on it.

My question to you is, are you willing to take the time to retrain your brain on the pictures? I had to do the same thing years ago. I'm left eyed and shoot right handed. I went from 1 eye shooting to both eyes open. It took some time, but it really helped my shooting. It will be frustrating for awhile, but after you have seen the picture a few times it will get easier. It will make the targets look slower and larger. Just trust the gun a little more, as it is going to go where your eyes are looking. Hope this helps. Let us know.

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Right-handed and Left Eye Dominant

I am a right-handed shooter with a dominant left eye. I never knew this until an instructor told me. Before, I was told this my father-in-law had labeled me as a natural shooter because I was doing great, even outscoring him, a clays shooter of 30+ years. Now, I'm lucky to get 18 out of 50 and I find that the dot on my glasses is very annoying. Help! (Tom Malone)

I too am left eyed and right handed. It does not bother me and I am usually able to score right up there with the right eyed and right handed folks. I too wore a patch over my entire left eye to shoot--buy you can't walk around and the targets look like they are smaller, farther away and going really fast. The best solution is not worry so much about it as you say you were shooting really well before. Eye dominance means that one eye focuses first and leads the other eye to focus. The eyes work together to focus on whatever you are looking at.

Try trusting your natural ability to bring the gun up in the front of the target and shoot when the gun gets to your face. The way the eyes works is like this---Look beyond the flight path of the target-focus on something ( a bush, a tree anything, but you must keep your eyes still). Let the target come into your view, then start moving the gun the same speed as the target and insert the barrel in front of the target. Shoot as soon as the gun gets to your face. If the gun comes to the face and the shot is not taken, the eyes will go to the thing that is moving the fastest in the picture and that is the gun.

The only time eye dominance comes into the equation is when you don't fire and your eyes go back to the barrel and this causes confusion to the brain. Trust your ability and your instincts as they are always correct. Just think how you drive a car and merge into the traffic with 2 eyes so why close one with a shotgun. You don't look at the front of the car to get there you look where you are going. Look at the front of the target, as that is where it is going and put the gun in that lead window and pull the trigger. Did you know that if you don't tell yourself to look at the front of the target, your eyes will naturally go to the back. So where is the gun going to go. To the back. Try it on the clays range just see where your eyes will go naturally. Always look at the front. The goal is to make these little 4" disks look bigger, not smaller. Don't worry about the eyes so much, focus on the target. Just look at it and shoot it.

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