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Shooting Tips From Pros


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Sport Action-Skeet Shooting

Shooters, they're hiding in the blinds, obscured by the trees and quietly standing tall in open fields. From 80 yards overhead, it drops almost in front of you. Briefly you catch sight of an orange disc before squeezing the trigger. Skeet and trap shooting are emerging from the woods to novices from all walks of life, thus creating part-time shooters. Another addiction is born. The challenge and fun of following a clay target, only five inches in diameter, has brought corporate executives out of the boardroom and into the fields. Even golf addicts swap their 7-iron for a long barrel, Beretta automatic rifle.

"Pull!" commanded Sandy Mize. A few seconds later a clay pigeon crosses from right to left about 40 yards out. She follows its’ path with her finger then it drops to the berm. “Pull. " This time with her Beretta tucked neatly into her shoulder and her cheekbone on the stock, her eyes follow the same path her muzzle inches left and she squeezes the trigger. She nicks the backside of the flying disc.

"Keep your eye on the target and by the time your eye reaches the sight, the target is there. Then pull the trigger, " Bill McGuire, National Shooting Champion, advises Mize.

McGuire comes out to “The Willows" in Tunica, Mississippi about every six months offering expert tips and techniques to novices as well as experienced shooters.

According to Mike Mize, Hunting Guide and NSCA Level III Instructor, “The key to good shotgun shooting is allowing the sub-conscious mind to calculate lead and gun speed. After you choose your stance and gun hold method is to let the conscious mind do the one thing. This is to focus as hard and clearly as possible on the target. This allows your eyes to feed your sub-conscious brain the speed, distance and angle of the target. "

Baseball is a great example of how this works. If you're at bat and the pitcher throws you a pitch you do not have time to calculate consciously that the ball is going 87 mph and will arrive at the plate in approximately .50 seconds slightly high and tight. All you can do is focus on the ball and trust your instincts. Also you do not look at the bat, it is there in your sub-conscious or as a blur but the ball is what you see clearly.

"In shotgun shooting the barrel of the gun is your bat. Some people say they don't see the barrel at all. I think we all see it in our sub-conscious or as a blur. But the most important thing is that you see the target clearly, " said Mize.

After you shoot a while you are sure to hear the familiar words “you stopped your gun swing". The natural reaction is to push the gun at the last second to avoid the stopping of the gun and to create follow through. That is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Stopping the gun swing is almost always due to trying to see the lead. That is trying to consciously see the distance between your gun barrel and the target. To do this you have to switch your focus from the target to the barrel. You have taken your eye off the moving object, the target, and switched your focus to a stationary object, the barrel. This will stop or slow down the swing of the shotgun. An example of this is if I tell you to point (with your finger) at a bus driving down the road, as long as you look at the bus your finger will keep moving. When I tell you to now look at your finger, it will stop. You are looking at a stationary object. “Focus on the target".

"Once someone comes out and tries it, they're hooked, " says Mize. “Guys who play golf think nothing of dropping their clubs and picking up a rifle and the next thing you know they're a part-time shooter. "

"Pull, don't aim. Follow the bird with your eye and allow the shotgun to move with you, " advises Mike Brooks, instructor and coach with Andy Dolton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center. Brooks spent 17 years with the Greene County Sheriff's Department.

Brooks has been with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center for seven years and is the Outdoor Education Supervisor. He teaches and coaches students of all ages and levels of experience. “Here we train the conservation specialist, act as a support role for agents and offer certification programs for instructors and the NRA and ATA. " Brooks is one of 14 certified instructors in the world who can train other instructors in addition to the public.

"There are three fundamentals I teach in basic shooting. One is position of the hands on the gun. Two, your eye should be focused on the target. And three, acquire proper lead time. "

"In addition to stance, you need to know which is your dominant eye and ensure the gun is suited for them, " said Brooks. “There's nothing more satisfying than watching someone who has never held a gun before, break a clay target. "

When students go out to the range, an instructor will be will them to observe the stance, shot stream (as they are shooting), and proper gun control, then offer tips to each person. As a coach, they will be able to tell you why something is happening.

It is important to focus on one fundamental at a time, such as stance and proper positioning of the weapon. “You want to put 60 percent of your weight on your front leg and keep your knee slightly bent. Keep your feet no more than shoulder-width apart and most importantly don't rock from foot to foot when moving the rifle or shotgun. You also want to only move from the waist up, turning to follow the bird, " advices Brooks.

Oftentimes when someone has a bad habit, it only takes practice to correct this habit and form new, better ones. For example, women (and some men) tend to want to lean back at the waist when shooting. This is wrong. Again, keep 60 percent of your weight on the left foot, the lead foot, if you are right handed, or visa-versa.

Brooks advices to follow through after you pull the trigger. Don't stop moving your gun, follow-through after the shot. You will be able to see the target shatter (providing you hit it) with peripheral vision.

Brooks observed a 75-year old man who had been hunting his entire life and assumed he was right-eye dominant. He came by the shooting range and when Brooks watched him, he noticed something only a trained instructor or coach would notice. Although the man was right-handed, he was left-eye dominant. By demonstrating with a simple eye test, Brooks was able to ascertain a dilemma the man had and didn't even know this was affecting his hunting skills.

"We interrupt the vision and force the weaker eye to take over, align the shotgun and it's instantaneous, " explained Brooks.

Seventeen percent of women are cross-dominant. This is more common in women than in men. This means a woman can be right-handed and yet is left-eye dominant.

Most guns are built with the average man in mind: for men between 5'8 and 6’. This creates a problem for women where the stock is too long, or too short and the comb of the stock is too low for women. Brooks recalls one manufacturer that makes model with a taller stock for women, Browning.

For lead-time, this will depend on the angle at which you are facing the chutes. Think of the lower numbers on a clock, if you are standing at say the eight o'clock (8) position and the bird comes from the chute behind you, you only want a one-finger lead. This means you want the barrel of the gun to be one width of your finger in front of the clay bird. You also want to shoot as the bird is going up, not coming down.

If you are standing in the six o'clock position and the bird shoots out from your left, you will want a two-finger lead before you pull the trigger.

Again, it's worth mentioning that you want to have faith and think of the gun as an extension of your arm. Keep your eye on the target. When it (the target) reaches to where your arm and gun are extended, then you will pull the trigger and continue follow-through with the barrel. And you will have success!

When skeet shooting you will want to shoot the first target coming from the left first as it is rising, then you will have a few seconds only in which to slightly move the barrel and fire at the second clay bird. In this sport, it's all in the timing.

And practice, practice, practice.

Written by Loretta Lynn, publisher, author, photographer and feature writer; and


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