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Sporting Clays Tips from 2015

March 2015 Sporting Clays Tip

The Secret

What if I told you I had the "secret" to advanced shooting skills-an irrefutable truth. Before you say, "Yeah, sure you do Dan," take a minute to consider this.

The road to advancement has to 2 toll booths. No one advances without paying the 2 tolls.

The 1st toll is that we search and find what needs changing in our game. We must first learn-specifically-what is holding us back, causing our inconsistencies and current plateau. Until we learn what to change, we have no choice but to continue what we are doing-the same way we always do it-hoping for better results from ourselves. Sound right? Nope............

February 2015 Sporting Clays Tip

The Rules of Engagement

Can we talk about instruction for a few minutes?

On being self-taught, there's no problem with that as long as one remembers,...... "The problem with being self-taught usually begins with the teacher." For those who tire of the self-taught route, before calling an Instructor to inquire about fees, scheduling and such, here are a few suggestions from someone who's many times been both a student and teacher............

January 2015 Sporting Clays Tip

The Myth Of Superior Talent

Here's a fair question. Do you believe a person who trains harder and longer can perform at a level higher than a more talented individual? Statistics repeatedly show talent is highly overrated, and the answer to the question is yes.

After working with many, many students across the US and abroad, it's hard to count all the times I've witnessed incredible talent in the shooting box............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2014

December 2014 Sporting Clays Tip

How Many Birds In A Pair?

Welcome and thank you for stopping by, we always appreciate your being here. I am currently engaged in writing Book III. For 2015, I have selected what I believe are some of the best TIPS from years past. Each Tip contains, useful, practical advice that really can make your swing and performances more consistent, along with promising you higher scores. Be safe and I sincerely look forward to meeting you out on the course.

Well, 2, of course. Right? That depends. If we're counting, 2 is the right number. And that's why, when 2 shells go into the gun, the trouble begins.

2 birds and 2 shells equals 2 shots. Sounds right. But here's the problem. When the first trap fires, your eyes lock on one bird. When you pull the trigger one shell fires. You then move your eyes to the one remaining bird. When you pull the trigger, one shell fires. Regardless of how many traps fire, or quail take wing, one bird requires one shell, one shot...............

November 2014 Tip

The More I Prepare, The Luckier I get...

This month's Tip is about a word I like very much: familiarity. When it comes to competition, pressure and scoring, familiarity can be a powerful tool in our shooting. Familiarity does a lot more than just instill confidence when we need it most. Familiarity has a wonderfully calming affect in the shooting box when we're assaulted by the stressful emotions that go with competing.

Familiarity comes from repetition. If you could pick one thing to do, more than anything else to help you be better prepared for competition, it would be this: compete more. A lot more............

October 2014 Tip

How to Compete and Finish Standing Up, Part VI

Tip 6 of a 6 Part Series

This month's Tip and the last in our series, approaches the 3rd of the 3 skill sets, Performance skills. There exists a "mindset" in the tournament shooting box that can help us effectively manage distractions, motivate us, help us reach a peak performance. That I know of, there isn't a simple sentence that describes how to create this mindset for everyone—different people, different approaches to problems in the box. But, I'm proposing, maybe we can narrow this down a little with few suggestions.

First, while a calm, cool, focused and determined approach sounds great, we can't forget that we will be relying on our gun management skills and our scoring skills to bolster our performance............

September 2014 Tip

How to Compete and Finish Standing Up, Part V

Tip 5 of a 6 Part Series

This is my attempt at a fair and balanced report on the swing-through shooting method which I see being used in many competitions. Having returned from another major shoot, I've again witnessed how this method so slyly seduces shooters, only to lead them to frustration and disappointment.

When executed properly, the swing-through method's biggest advantages are: 1) it easily creates sufficient lead and 2) it generates follow-through. So the method can and does deliver X's. Gratifying X's. Enticing X's. The method that encourages us to "do it again." Shooters who use and struggle with swing-through are almost mesmerized by the sweet feel of the swing and the X–then (same target) mystified by the same (?) swing and 0. What caused the miss? Swing-through requires excellent timing on the trigger pull. Miss that timing–even a little–lost bird............

August 2014 Tip

How to Compete and Finish Standing Up, Part IV

Tip 4 of a 6 Part Series

We American Sporting Clays shooters have come a long way since the sport landed on our shores more than 35 years ago. And so have our target setters. The significant attendance numbers at tournaments reflect the level of trust the shooters place in the target setter(s). They are a real asset to not only the match we're headed too, but to the shooting industry as well.

As a whole, target presentations are advancing ever so slightly ahead of our abilities as shooters to keep up. And that's as it should be. And, trap machines are evolving as well, giving you know who even more advantages.

What does all this mean to us shooters? Well, a couple of things............

July 2014 Tip

How to Compete and Finish Standing Up, Part III

Tip 3 of a 6 Part Series

So I'm standing there in the tournament box with a decent long run underway. 1st pair, XX. Second pair, 0X. What concerned me most wasn't the miss (now behind me) but that the sight picture on that lost bird looked right. I was very surprised when it didn't break and now I had to figure out what went wrong, and quickly. Unsure. Third pair,.......00. Mumbling heard in the box. That's what happens when you're thinking about a previous miss and call for your pair. Last pair,.....XX. Finished with a 91. Should'a been,.....well, never mind.

In another example, anonymous missed the first bird of his first report pair, a blistering outbound midi on a deceptive angle. 0X. A bit flustered and TRULY motivated, second pair, he bore down on that midi with ferocious determination. Smacked it. HARD! Detonated that target! NO visible pieces. Nicely done. While thoroughly congratulating himself, he happened to notice the 2nd target now well (as in long) past his breakpoint and disappearing into the sunset. X0. Not all errors are swing related............

June 2014 Tip

How to Compete and Finish Standing Up Using "MO", Part II

Tip 2 of a 6 Part Series

Welcome back to Part II of our Series where we're discussing the ups and downs of competing.

So much of what we do – or don't do in competition – is to be expected. There's no judgment in that. It may not be the right or best thing to do but it's common and therefore pretty much normal – if there is such a thing. But one thing's for sure – we are in good company when we misjudge or make mistakes.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you, a competition round can be a rough ride. No one – at least no one I know of – enjoys missing targets. Many of us show up on our first station with a U-Haul of expectations............

May 2014 Tip

How to Compete and Finish Standing Up, Part I

Tip 1 of a 6 Part Series

Beginning this month, I thought maybe we could do a series of Tips on this subject. I'm confident you've heard at least a hundred different recipes on how to handle match targets and pressures. During this series, I will do my best to discuss some of the more common situations that come up regularly when we participate in competition. Nothing fancy or complicated, just the meat and potato stuff that happens to all of us – how to cope – how to overcome – how to finish with our dignity intact. The topics and suggestions may not be sexy or even exciting – but will be practical – and, I believe, can help you put more X's on your score sheet.

I may say this again during the series but definitely want to make sure I say it out loud at least once. Every word of what follows – in each and every Tip – comes directly from first hand experience............

April 2014 Tip

The Hunger Factor

If I may, I'd like to share with you a few thoughts about "Performance Skills." But before I do, allow me let me to explain what we at Paragon believe are the 3 basic skill sets in the clay target sports. First comes "Gun Management" skills. This includes learning how to set up on the target correctly before the call and, secondly, learning to build a consistent, error-free, reliable swing. These are the non-negotiable basics, the required foundational skill upon which the next 2 skills must, and will, depend on.

The next and second set of skills is called "Scoring Skills." With a repeatable, trustworthy swing now available, our shooter can safely turn his attention to the target presentations in front of him. What type of presentation is each target? Where is the "ideal" breakpoint for each? Based on that breakpoint, which shooting method is "best" for each target? Which bird first?............

March 2014 Tip

Instruction – Money Well Spent?

I am incredibly blessed that my life has granted me a career in a sport that I love earnestly and deeply. Sporting Clays has given back to me far more than most. I am no different from you in that I too am walking the long learning path towards answers and understandings. I've been on this path for some time now and, in my Tips, respectfully offer for your consideration what I've learned along the way.

Speaking candidly about what I've learned, it is my personal and professional opinion that Sporting Clays instruction in the U.S., on the whole, leaves much to be desired. I've fought and argued for higher teaching standards, one of those actions being the establishment of the Paragon Center for Instructor Study (C.I.S.) Instructor Certification classes............

February 2014 Tip

A Simple Truth

Just recently I wrote a Tip on choke selection, placing confidence in our choke ahead of what might or might not be the "best" choke selection for this target presentation. When it comes to our ammunition selection, I propose that some shooters still cling to myths rather than truths............

January 2014 Tip

A Look back At The Year 2013

Greetings everyone and Happy New Year. Nice to have you here. Please forgive my tardiness, business out of the state required my attention.

Last year was a very busy year for Paragon teachers, many blessings came our way. All who came to Paragon instruction in 2013, as did those in prior years, learned the value of putting structure in their shooting; confirming that instinct alone limits one's shooting progress............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2013

December 2013 Tip

Turn Off Your Clock Before Shooting

We Teachers in the clay target sports get to observe both common and uncommon events in the shooting box. This is about a relatively common event, meaning this may be happening in your shooting............

November 2013 Tip

To Dot or Not

In some cases, which can be all too common, basically, the eyes lie. In these cases, what is seen is the shooter's perception but not reality. We're talking about "eye dominance" issues here, the mischievous gremlin in the shooting sports – rifle, pistol and shotgun. Said very simply, in our sport – target set-up strategies, shooting methods, swing execution – all go out the window if the muzzle is not pointed where our shooter thinks it is, believes it is and darn well knows it is – when it isn't. Not even close............

October 2013 Tip

All Choked Up

This is a quick, roll-up-your-sleeves, common sense commentary on choke selection – what really does work in the shooting box – and why. No doubt there’s at least 500 trillion opinionated words on this subject, in books, magazines, on the net and on you tube. Here are the cliff notes............

September 2013 Tip

Is There A Map To The X?

I've just completed a long series of lessons this month, confirming and re-confirming the value of what we teach at Paragon - and why we teach it. There's a good possibility you may have seen some of this in an earlier Tip. I respectfully hope so. This is so important, so essential to your shooting, I humbly present it again for your consideration.

There are many clay target shooters and instructors in the U.S. who still cling to shooting instinctively. While we at Paragon are not of that mind-set, up to a point, we agree there is justification for this. But we also firmly believe, a set-up and swing without structure – specific set-up and swing steps – simply cannot be trusted to be right every time you need it to be. On the very same target, when the set-up and/or swing changes from shot to shot – intentionally or unintentionally – the results cannot be consistent............

August 2013 Tip

Are Your Shells Costing You Targets?

Welcome back. Have I mentioned it's been raining here? Noah went by and said to say hello.

It is so tiring to be on the range and hear the old myths being repeated – opinions that just ain't so. To begin this month's Tip – let's set up a simple standard for comparison purposes. The standard is a) what actually works best, b) with zero compromise of reliability, and c) delivers the most advantages to the shooter in the box............

July 2013 Tip

One In A Row?

No surprise to anyone here, I'm sure, it seems the # 1 question among shooters is "Why am I so inconsistent? Why do I shoot an 84 on the course on Wednesday, and a 75 on the exact same course on Saturday?"

I'm asked, and discuss this question almost daily. I believe the answer is more logical than mysterious. As an example and my perspective on this, let's start with our shooter standing in the box, about to attempt the A bird, 10 times, all singles. The A bird – a 35 yard crossing target off a short tower – is not overly difficult and the final score looks like this: XXXXXXXXXX – out with 10. Today is Wednesday and our shooter is understandably pleased with this, right up until............

June 2013 Tip

Bye Bye Birdie

Hi folks. Please forgive my tardiness. I've just completed a long teaching circle that started in WA state and concluded in NY. Great people, wonderful experiences.

It seems target presentations create a multitude of responses from us as shooters. Apprehension, fear, joy, familiarity, confusion, tension and the list goes on............

May 2013 Sporting Clays Tip

Hard Focus On The Target?

I read a very well written article recently about visual bird / barrel relationships. Just how hard should we be looking at that target? Should we be seeing rings and edges, the leading front edge?

First, let's establish that we should be looking at the target as opposed to looking at the muzzle or the bead. Doing so will predictably slow the muzzle, an ill-timed and unwanted deceleration of the muzzle during the swing. Typically, we want our gun to initiate acceleration slowly (under control) and build speed to match the target in flight. Muzzle harmony with the target - matching the target line and speed - is crucially important. That's why we must be looking at the bird............

April 2013 Sporting Clays Tip

The Truth, The Whole Truth and....

Teaching an Instructor Certification class, I heard one Candidate say, "The truth can be a bit harsh sometimes." Rick Smith, an Instructor Candidate at that time and now a Level III Instructor responded, "It's like medicine. It tastes bad but it's good for you." Well said and I've used the phrase many times............

March 2013 Sporting Clays Tip

How To Make Learning Hard - Part II

Last month we talked about how we can unintentionally make learning more difficult. Giving up some success in the box for what we "hope" will bring us more success,........? Not so easy. But necessary. Once our game hits that plateau or our scores are falling well short of what we know we can do, it is time to examine our game. If we're serious about improving, "change" has to come. Because what we have; what we are doing; just isn't working............

February 2013 Sporting Clays Tip

How To Make Learning Hard - Part I

Being as busy as I am, in every way a blessing and a privilege, I have just as many opportunities to listen and observe as my students do. So much of what I put in print, both here in TIPS and my magazine articles, comes straight off the shooting grounds. What better place?............

January 2013 Sporting Clays Tip

Building Skills,... Motivation Is Your Hammer

First, welcome and Happy New Year everyone. Sorry I'm late,.....still recovering from the flu.

2012 was a great year. Paragon Instructor Candidates proudly earned their certifications. Our students, putting away old myths and misconceptions, stepped back into the box better prepared, and much more confident............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2012

December 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

Commitment Versus Involvement

"How can I run the first 3 pairs and then drop the last pair Dan"

Good question. And the answer of course will depend on the shooter and the situation. But there is 1 answer that works in most cases. It's called commitment versus involvement............

November 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

An Indispensable Scoring Tool

There are set-up basics (pre-shot skills) - swing basics (gun management skills) - and scoring basics (performance skills). All are interlocked, very much dependent on the other to building our Sporting Clays (& Trap & Skeet) game on a platform of consistency and confidence.

What follows is a favorite topic of mine, previously discussed multiple times from various perspectives, but cannot be stated too many times............

October 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

Preparation and Expectation

How many times have we been here? Match day has arrived. It's a local fun shoot, our local Club Championship, possibly a well-attended multi-day tournament. Arriving at the club we see all the familiar faces, and hope to finish ahead of most of them on the score board at the end of the day............

September 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

The Rules of Engagement

Can we talk about instruction for a few minutes?

On being self-taught, there's no problem with that as long as one remembers,...... "The problem with being self-taught usually begins with the teacher." For those who tire of the self-taught route, before calling an Instructor to inquire about fees, scheduling and such, here are a few suggestions from someone who's many times been both a student and teacher............

August 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

The Fear or Faith Approach

How many of us are exasperated and discouraged by our consistently shooting lower scores in competition than in our social or practice rounds? It seems competition stirs up this volatile mixture of urgency, expectations and consequences for every shot. It's the same target we shot earlier this week............

June 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

On A Journey Or Attending An Event?

I believe being a writer incurs an obligation to your readers. The writing should deliver on its promise to be educational, entertaining, reporting or possibly some of each. Over the many years of putting my opinions in print, I knew, try as I might, this day's messages might not appeal to every reader............

May 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

Let It Be,......

From last month's Tip: "Yes, you can move your attention away from the negativity and distractions, provided you first begin to pay attention and listen to the self-talk. Become an observer, a third party listening to the "self-talk" conversation. Maybe even reconsider the conclusion you just came to? Only then can we talk about how to deliberately move 100% of our attention onto the target in front of us."............

April 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

And You're Thinking That Because...?

This is the 2nd TIP in a short series to introduce some of the basics of the mental approach to shooting. I believe this training is critically important, once the shooting basics begin to come online consistently. I add that condition because extensive effort poured into the mental aspects of shooting simply won't be able to make up for for a swing that lacks precision, is inconsistent and, at best, semi-reliable. A good swing and a good mental approach work together beautifully-provided both are working. Training for both simultaneously is a splendid combination, recommended highly............

March 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

Time For A New Compass Heading?

I recently said in my article that at times I feel like a dinosaur out here. That's true. The Editor of Sporting Clays magazine thought enough of my work to publish over 115 of my articles, every single one I submitted. Thank you George. That's a lot of my personal thoughts and opinions, more than 207,000 words to be exact.

So I think, collectively, a whole bunch of writers have now covered a lot of our game sufficiently............

February 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

The Myth Of Superior Talent

Here's a fair question. Do you believe a person who trains harder and longer can perform at a level higher than a more talented individual? Statistics repeatedly show talent is highly overrated, and the answer to the question is yes.

After working with many, many students across the US and abroad, it's hard to count all the times I've witnessed incredible talent in the shooting box............

January 2012 Sporting Clays Tip

P.O.I.? Assuming Could Be Costing You Targets!

As we're starting a new year and the tournament season is a few short months away, I thought now would be a good time to look at this in preparation for the season ahead. This is about making sure our gun - choke and barrel - are patterning where they're supposed to. Please don't assume they are. Gun manufacturers do a good job with this - but not always............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2011

December 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

The Non-Negotiables

No doubt, do something long enough and some things become obvious. This is about my number 1 observation in every formal lesson I give, formal meaning the lesson objective is advancing student knowledge and skill development.

Possibly you read some of my articles over the summer of 2011? I felt particularly good about those articles............

November 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Let's Talk About Goals

In this instance, I think the "disclaimer" should come first because folks enjoy our great sport for different reasons. For many shooters, sporting clays is more a social event, a relaxed round of clays with friends. Skill improvement would of course be nice, but weekly training sessions aren't likely on the priority list. Perfectly understandable. I think the social approach is pretty much where we all started, didn't we?............

October 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Snapshots Are For Photography!

Once the preliminaries are finished in the clubhouse, I'm more comfortable with what lies ahead because I've gotten to know my client and I'm mentally preparing a lesson format that I believe will best meets his or her goals. Arriving on station, I prefer to watch a few shots before giving any advice. How would I know what needs attention if I don't watch first? After 4 to 6 shells, I've learned a lot about my shooter............

September 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Prime Time

Coupling long years of experience and skill development with advancing age creates the evolution of a wise and formidable competitor.

Forgive me but I've long been loyal, outspoken, and at times a maniac in support of the underdog. My rough count showed 21 of the 59 Master class shooters at the 2011 Turkey Shoot at the Meadows in GA - are classified as Veterans. 6 of those Veterans scored in the top half of all Master class............

August 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Thanks, But No Thanks Dan...

When it comes to my personal shooting, I am a pragmatist. Pragmatists are less concerned with shotgun aesthetics and why things work - just as long as they do work - all the time. That’s important to us because we tend to be a bit more "score" conscious. Long past "fads & notions" we’re more attentive to what really does help us put more X’s on our score sheet. Gun fit, gun selection, gun weight, gun balance, lens color, shell selection - all are optimized for one very specific purpose: to run this Station, and the next............

July 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

The Long & Painful Detour

Being a right-brain, artistic soul can also be a curse. It seems I can't touch anything mechanical without it exploding, burning up or just falling apart, never to be assembled again without pieces left over. A rock is a mechanical, engineering genius next to me.

That's why I get so frustrated when I attempt to use a new TV remote, reset the confused DVD player, or use my camera and other mechanical gadgetry. Way - way too many buttons and controls............

June 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

The First Move

Last month we talked about Just Enough, a way of saying we don't want too much or too little gun speed. Establishing a good relationship between the bird and muzzle early in the swing creates the much needed precision to build our X count.

Only occasionally do I have a student with too little gun speed. That is to say, most folks are swinging their gun too fast. This month's Tip revolves around a good way to find the right pace so we can lock up that bird / barrel relationship not late but early............

May 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Just Enough

During one of my lessons last week, my student answered my question in a very good way. I thought I would share his answer with you.

I prefer not to reach for my gun during a lesson unless I believe something of real value will come out of the shooting demonstration. And, I’ve learned that almost all of the time, my student actually will pick up on what I am trying to demonstrate and carry those images into the box as he or she resumes the shooting. Set up and executed properly at the right time, a good demonstration can be of real value in a lesson. This was one of those times............

April 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

What You Don't See Can Cost You

Sorry - I'm late getting this TIP on line so forgive me if I don't have the exact, very recent issue of Sporting Clays magazine in front of me. There was an article regarding "hard (visual) focus on the target," by one of the regular contributing writers.

I read that article with special interest because - at Paragon - we wholeheartedly agree with the author and most of the article's contents. For a very long time - I was taught, and I taught - a hard visual focus on the bird............

March 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Please Don't Let This Happen To You!

I just got a call from one of my students who lives on the Western side of the US. She had just returned from the gun club and was badly shaken.

She and a few of her friends decided to shoot a round together at the club. One of her friends, let's call her Cathy (not her real name), asked her husband to come along and shoot with them, which he did. Cathy likes shooting her 20 gauge but shoots her 12 gauge better. The group of 6 left, Cathy bringing her 20 gauge............

February 2011 Sporting Clays Tip


There are many important elements to the Paragon Instructor certification class and I'd like to share with you one of the most important. You being the shooter reading this, possibly considering instruction.

Obviously, the instructor candidates in the class share a desire "to help." That's one of the reasons why they come to this class, to learn how to assist you competently when called upon. On day 1 of the class - the candidates are inclined to believe (once trained) that they can............

January 2011 Sporting Clays Tip

Taking The Next Step

Happy New Year Everyone.

Since our sport's gone into it's usual short hibernation this time of the year, I thought we could spend a minute thinking about the upcoming season.

Folks in general seem to approach the upcoming season with the same hope they had at this time the year before. There's nothing wrong with good intentions mind you but what are we changing in our approach to this season?............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2010

December 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

Gun Mount and Swing - 1 Motion - Not 2

Please place one hand under your gun's receiver - balancing the barrel on one side, stock on the other. Now gently push the stock UP and watch what happens to the muzzle. It, of course, goes DOWN. During your gun mount - this is exactly what happens if your trigger hand goes UP faster than the fore-end hand in charge of the swing. In slow motion - if the trigger hand snatches the gun to the face - the muzzle does a "dirt dive." ............

November 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

Breakpoints - Building a Strategy

Once we decide to get serious about building a complete shooting game, we quickly begin to learn just how many different ways there are to present targets.

Once a target leaves the machine, there are usually multiple breakpoints available to us. Which one is best? That depends on many, many different factors. Shooting style is one example, an important consideration when choosing a breakpoint that favors that style. A fast shooter might pick an earlier breakpoint - a more methodical shooter would likely shoot this same target a bit later............

October 2010 Sporting Clays Tip


000000. As the empty shells pile up in the trashcan beside the shooting box, do you ever feel "lost?" Can’t find the problem? Why isn’t that target breaking? Here’s what I believe is the # 1 most common problem and cause of missing. Chances are very good this particular detail could well be the starting point, the primary reason why your scores and performances may be sputtering. In Latin, it’s called "anxious-erratica." I’m pretty sure that means "lost birds senor."............

September 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

What's In Your Shooting Toolbox?

Learning a new skill can be fun. And it should be. And once all the equipment has been purchased - ready or not - it's finally time to step into the box and meet the clay target. While no doubt exciting - it may be a bit humbling as well. Not only do the targets provide all the challenge we want and more, we quickly learn the target doesn't always break just because we want it to

Don't get me wrong - I applaud determination. But I also know that repetition in the box without the basics - without proper technique - is practice built more on hope than a well thought out plan............

August 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

To Be Perfectly Clear

Being a pragmatic person, I am usually more inclined to look at things from a practical perspective. What follows is something that I've learned is best for me. YMMV. Here's what I've discovered.

I have a drawer full of shooting glasses, some dating all the way back to 1979. If you need a particular color, call me.

When I am teaching in really bright sunlight, I greatly appreciate my Randolph Engineering CMT's............

July 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

Recoil Doesn't B'..B'..B'..B'..B'..Bother Me One B'..B'..Bit!

OK, I understand this,.......sort of. Many folks put shotgun aesthetics at the top of their list. No arguments from me. A beautiful shotgun is a joy to behold, a masterpiece of craftsmanship, function and form, making it a delight to hold. Few "tools" deliver anywhere near this level of pride of ownership. I own one for upland hunting. So I do understand,......right up until all those "dynamite" loads take a trap, skeet or sporting clays shooter down with flinching, head lifting, debilitating neck and shoulder problems............

June 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

Excuse me,.... I think you dropped this.

Sunday evenings and Mondays can be busy answering calls and emails from my students around the US. Typically, we're discussing this week-end's tournament - play by play - and results. Listening, I hear a Field by Field account of what happened and why.

It is worthwhile to do a post-game review of stations - provided we don't get caught up in replaying certain misses too many times and reinforcing those particular images - which we really don't want to do............

May 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

Shifting Into Granny Gear

Excessive gun speed, swinging the gun too fast is all too common in my lessons. It's the opposite of gun control. Russ Vowell called it, "blazing barrels." There are a hundred reasons for this, mostly having to do with wanting to break the target-with a fierce determination. Going too fast though has a price

After the first 5 minutes of the lesson on the course, we've got 0000 and a well-intentioned swing out of control. To slow my student's swing down, drastically, I ask if he's ever driven a tractor. Ever heard of granny gear? He says yes. Granny gear speed is a crawl..............

April 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

100 Times Better

Last month we took a look at "the hard part." In that discussion, I mentioned the "1" change. Let's talk about that a bit further.

First, it's human nature to be in a hurry to get somewhere. I get that. Guilty myself. But in skill development, it just doesn't work that way. Ain't goin' to happen. Like it or not, learning a new language, a new software program, shooting skills, let's face it, some time and effort will have to be invested. So we head out to the range, fully determined to accomplish something good today. Here's how..............

March 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

100 Times Better

When people ask what I do and I explain, their eyes light up and they say "Wow,"..... or "Cool,"..... or something to that affect. Understandably, this reaction overlooks the everyday challenges of being a Coach. Standing inside the clubhouse, 2,000 miles from home with my disgruntled students looking out the window as the snow piles up and the wind howls, is nobody's idea of a good time. Tomorrow's forecast is the same and day 3 is their flight home. This we can't control.

Fortunately, there are some things we can control..............

February 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

The Three Steps of a Lesson

A good teacher/instructor can't just be a lecturer. There's more to good teaching than just dispensing advice and information. When you register for a private lesson or a class with your friendly, local instructor, it is reasonable to expect your "mentor for the day" to be organized, look the part, and be truly attentive to what you have to say. It is also fair to anticipate that your instructor will take the time to ask why you are here today. He or she will listen to your specific questions and concerns - then tailor your lesson around those topics. Isn't that why you signed up in the first place? Yes it is..............

January 2010 Sporting Clays Tip

Ascending The Peak Takes Risk

That I do work with a lot of students in a year's time grants me an experienced opinion. And I am privileged to be included in each and every lesson. With one exception (Gunny) - I have never learned more from anyone than my students.

So I find it interesting to watch how many shooters are romanced and seduced by all the tangibles. Holding it in your hands, surely there's something magical about it, surely there can be no doubt - this is THE one that will work better than any other. And it may. But down the road, many find this revelation: look not at what you have or where you are – but to step-by-step, consistent improvements..............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2009

December 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

The Jerk

Think about it. Balance a shotgun on a pin. Move the back end and the front end moves. Hold that thought please.

First - I ask that we mentally focus on a specific block of time - when your gun starts moving - all the way to the trigger pull. During that specific block of time -- using the second hand on your watch - notice how long 2 seconds is. Now 3 seconds. Now 4. Can we agree that this block of "swing and shot time" usually takes place somewhere between 2 to 4 seconds and - quite often - sooner? Seems right..............

November 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

The Learning Curve - Long or Short?

Where do our shooting skills come from? How are they developed and acquired?

With each trip to the course, each of us is building an inventory, or database, of muscle movements and sight pictures necessary to successfully complete a particular shot. At Paragon we call that,.....Familiarity. It is a mental inventory or database of sight pictures and swing movements - based on the target presentation in front of us. A presentation we will see again. And again..............

October 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

2 Critical Components To A Successful Training Session

It's not uncommon to load up our gear, head to the range, stand in the first box and ask ourselves, "What do I want to work on today?" Consider a more productive approach.

To get us on the same page - 2 definitions: "Practice" is more about reinforcing and strengthening a skill already learned. "Training" is all about learning and building an undeveloped skill..............

September 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Here's Your Paddle. Upstream or Down?

Seriously now, take about 10 long seconds and do this. Slow down and think about what it feels like to paddle a canoe upstream. Against the current. Go ahead. Please. I'll wait. 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi, 4.........................

OK, it's nice to be on the water and the view is beautiful but if you're going to make it back to the cabin before dark, the paddling takes some work. Right?..............

August 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Is Your Swing Invisible?

Any of this sound familiar? You lifted your head. You should be shooting a tighter choke. Less choke. You missed behind. Over. Too much in front. You haven't been practicing enough. You should have shot #8's here. You need to slow down. Swing faster. You need to trust yourself more. Give the target more. Less. And the list goes on..............

July 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Hip Lock

This gets overlooked so much it justifies why we should take a minute to review. While there are some times when this isn't all that critical, there are more times when it is.

Please stand up and extend your arms out to each side, parallel to the floor. Gently turn your body clockwise - now counter-clockwise. No surprise - your body rotates - but only to a point and then comes to a stop..............

June 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Are You Shooting In The Dark?

No doubt, shotgun shooting is an art, not a science. Swing pace and rhythm, timing of the trigger pull, eye-hand coordination, triangulating compound leads, these would indeed be hard to measure and quantify. Logic does not always apply and slide rule calculations to explain what happened will likely be impossible..............

May 2009 Sporting Clays Tip


First, let me say that I don't like missing a target any more than you do. Watching a target sail to it's final resting place intact and untouched is always a bit unnerving and too often gives rise to thoughts of some personal shortcoming. Not my idea of fun and I doubt yours as well.

Most commonly, I see this phenomenon when I am teaching. Missed targets are the catalyst for a host of negative emotions and reactions from my student, none of which by the way are conducive to breaking the next..............

April 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Worth The Weight

Sorry. Couldn't help myself with that title.

Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn't ask me which shotgun to purchase. Nice to be asked.

Shotgun quality costs and better quality costs more. So a moment or two pondering what you like and what you will use your shotgun for makes good sense. There are already a zillion words in print on the pros and cons of the over/under versus semi-auto's, so let's review two other considerations often overlooked, and one I feel crucial to we sporting clays shooters..............

February 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Shooting Methods - Wise Choices - 3 of 4

We're here again, talking about shooting methods. We've previously covered Maintained Lead and Swing-Through. This month we'll cover Churchill, an old and controversial shooting method.

Few have been able to accurately describe this method and how it works. But it does work and it has its advantages..............

January 2009 Sporting Clays Tip

Shooting Methods - Wise Choices - 2 of 4

Happy New Year everyone!!

Last month we discussed the first of the 4 primary shooting methods: Maintained Lead. This month I thought we could talk about Swing Through. While more than a few good shooters favor swing-through as a base method, I personally see it as a specialized shooting method.

Let's look at its primary weakness. And it's strength..............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2008

December 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

Shooting Methods - Wise Choices - 1 of 4

Last month we talked about the advisability of you having more than one shooting method available when facing so many sporting clays target presentations. I thought, over the next few months, each month we could focus on one method, why and where you might want to use it.

Before we begin, I'd like to say that this is a hotly debated topic. Many will argue that this method or that method is best for a particular presentation. Will that method work on that presentation? Sure! Consistently?..............

November 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

Choose Wisely.........

As you would expect, I field a lot of questions about shooting methods. Which is best, where and why. 30 years of sporting and watching literally millions of targets from behind the trigger has taught me this.

No one shooting method is best for all targets. The wide diversity of target presentations in sporting clays strongly suggests we have more than one shooting method in our skill inventory..............

October 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

Skill Level & Performance - A Candid Look

I hear this frequently when my student first calls to inquire about taking lessons with me at his club or River Bend. My caller is (understandably?) disappointed over breaking fewer of his or her targets than the group's 70% or 80%, maybe a 90%.

When I ask how long he's been in sporting clays, the answer is usually less than a year or two. We can all relate, it's human nature to compare ourselves to those ahead of us, sometimes forgetting they've been shooting 4, 8, maybe 15 years or more..............

September 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

T & T

Have you noticed how the really good ones make it look so easy? Gymnasts, skateboarders, cyclists, runners, shooters - the ones in the lead - all have an easy, rhythmic stride or stroke.

Too many shooters approach the shot anxiously, the swing is much too fast and the shot is launched, more with hope than confidence. Their tempo - the first T - is too fast, putting the gun out of control..............

August 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

The Secret

What if I told you I had the "secret" to advanced shooting skills-an irrefutable truth. Before you say, "Yeah, sure you do Dan," take a minute to consider this.

The road to advancement has to 2 toll booths. No one advances without paying the 2 tolls.

The 1st toll is that we search and find what needs changing in our game. We must first learn-specifically-what is holding us back, causing our inconsistencies and current plateau. Until we learn what to change, we have no choice but to continue what we are doing-the same way we always do it-hoping for better results from ourselves..............

July 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

What You Don't See Is What You Get

Sporting clays is the ultimate test, pitting ourselves against targets down gullies and through trees at countless unknown speeds, angles and distances. We spend thousands of dollars on equipment, books, videos and training all to master basic, rudimentary skills. Some shooters do, and they have the skills to show for it. But why is it that skills don't always match scores?..............

June 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

Where Is My Flashlight?

In late 2007 I made some important changes to my shooting. That meant I was putting my attention on those changes during practice. Early this year I was still working diligently on those changes, even during my tournaments. As a result of that, my attention riveted on specific parts of my shooting, I slipped and made errors I don't usually make.

One match station in particular had a long, fast, right-to-left crosser through the trees that was causing everyone problems. Hiding in plain sight was a breakpoint on our far left where the target coasted gently into the grass at about 40 yards..............

May 2008 Sporting Clays Tip


Preparing for competition ahead of time puts your mind at ease, knowing that what you need will be there when you need it. That includes your attention, which you can now put on the target in front of you, unnecessary distractions eliminated because you prepared ahead of time. Here's a short list of things I ask my students to do as they prepare for competition..............

April 2008 Sporting Clays Tip


What is POI? It's Point of Impact and there are multiple ways to look at POI. The first is the nature of your barrels to shoot straight and a second refers to proper gun fit.

Do your barrels actually send the shotstring on a straight line to the target? From a bench rest, as you would a rifle, does your shotstring hit the bulls-eye dead on, with 50% distribution on the top, bottom, left and right? Or is it slightly high, low or off center? If score is a priority in your game, this is an important piece of information. You barrels should be shooting dead on..............

March 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

Gun UP vs. Gun DOWN

The fastest way to take random gun movement (RGM) out of your swing is to pre-mount your gun. As sporting clays shooters - when shooting gun up - it's important that we not forget to raise our head and relax the shoulders. Head up allows us to see - and shoulders down keeps much needed body movement in the swing. Gun up works in sporting clays..............

February 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

Involvement vs Commitment

I commonly hear stories of my student shooting a station very well, or a course very well, and suddenly concentration is gone. Result: 00 or worse. It is frustrating and usually occurs without notice. Why does this happen?

First, it's simply a matter of our attention moving somewhere else, away from the task in front of us. It can happen when we are distracted, or when we take a target or pair for granted. Our attention moves or our focus intensity slips..............

January 2008 Sporting Clays Tip

All Time, # 1 Best Shooting Method?

As you would expect, the "best" shooting method is and always has been a hotly debated topic. Shooters who frequent the tournament circuit are always looking for that "1 thing" that might give them more X's, hence the "best" shooting method invariably rises to the top of the discussion checklist.

So who's teaching the "best" shooting method out here? Why I am of course..............

Sporting Clays Tips from 2007

December 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

Ballistics That Don't Lie

There are basically 3 ballistics in rifle, pistol and shotgun shooting. 1) Internal ballistics, or what takes place inside the chamber and barrel; 2) external ballistics, what takes place during the shot string flight; and 3) terminal ballistics, what happens when the shot string impacts the target.

It was a sunny, crisp day at Upper Nisqually Gun Club in Eatonville WA..............

November 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

Old Mo

Surely you've noticed. On game day, the rivals clash on the field as we watch. It won't be long before one team gets momentum on their side. This can also apply to a player in tennis, golf and shooting. More than just an energy, momentum can be a force. In football and basketball, when a team really gets some momentum underway, the opposing coach will usually call a time out.

So developing some personal momentum would be an asset to your game.

Because it's not a perfect world and each of us has our share of problems..............

October 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

A Little Medicine

As Rick Smith says, "It tastes bad but it's good for you"

Because I see this counterproductive habit everywhere, I feel it deserves our attention. How many times have you seen a shooter get upset over a miss? There are two reasons for getting upset, one valid, one not. Let's first talk about the one that's valid..............

September 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

How Many Birds In A Pair?

Well, 2, of course. Right? That depends. If we're counting, 2 is the right number. And that's why, when 2 shells go into the gun, the trouble begins.

2 birds and 2 shells equals 2 shots. Sounds right. But here's the problem. When the first trap fires, your eyes lock on one bird. When you pull the trigger one shell fires. You then move your eyes to the one remaining bird. When you pull the trigger, one shell fires. Regardless of how many traps fire, or quail take wing, one bird requires one shell, one shot...............

August 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

Have You Lost Your Gun?

Though I can't really say this is common, it does happen enough times during my lessons that I feel it's worth mentioning here. And, it does happen at all skill levels.

Here, student and I are primarily working on getting his set-up correct before each shot. Doing so correctly eliminates wasted time and wasted gun movements...............

July 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

Swing Momentum

Here's another small step in our set-up that's often forgotten, then costs us a target. Or more.

Before the target leaves the trap, hopefully your muzzle is very still, motionless before you call for the bird. When the trap fires, your muzzle begins to move. It slowly accelerates, building speed to match the target's speed and possibly accelerating even further to create forward allowance. So it's fair to say as the muzzle picks up speed, the swing is building momentum coming into the breakpoint and the trigger pull...............

June 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

Just A Little Pearl

Here, we're talking about your Focal Point in your set-up, step 4 after step 1) Break Point, 2) Foot Position, and 3) Muzzle Hold Point.

Focal Point is where you place your eyes to see the target, before you call for the bird. Establishing that location and then looking there ensures you will see the bird without wasting time hunting for it...............

May 2007 Sporting Clays Tip


All of you who know what self-talk is, raise your hand. That's right, it's that little voice in our head,...carrying on a dialogue with us. More specifically, that voice is you,...speaking to yourself. All too often, that little voice is saying something negative. It's chastising us, maybe even criticizing. While self-talk can be positive and uplifting, many times the dialogue is negative and can be harmful to our performance in the shooting box.

How many times have you been missing targets and heard that voice punishing you?...............

April 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

RECOIL - Consider The Consequences

It was a bright, sunny day in early 2006 and my practice session was going exceptionally well. Looking into the sky I was startled to see a very large, black, shadowy mass,...which disappeared when I closed my left eye. I stopped shooting and called my eye doctor...............

March 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

Why Slower Is Better

While certainly not easy by any means, sporting clays is not a complex sport. But we can make it harder than it really is. If you were to ask me to give you one tip that could drastically improve your performance in the box, starting tomorrow, it would be this.

"Blazing barrels" is a term I heard used by Russ Vowell, a well known and highly respected Level III instructor. The term refers to excessive gun speed, hence this appropriate name for a swing that's out of control...............

February 2007 Sporting Clays Tip


Teal shots are not overly difficult, and, like every other shot, they require planning. The shooting method you choose on a teal should be determined by the breakpoint you choose.

Plan first, then execute decisively: going up, at the top or going down...............

January 2007 Sporting Clays Tip

An Easy Solution to Higher Scores

Try as we might to score X's, those O's do add up on the score sheet.

We constantly battle misses with equipment, strategies, equipment, practice, tournaments, physical and mental preparation. And still, at times, it seems the misses are winning. We just can't get our scores up to where we believe they should be. Here's one way you can - quickly.

This won't dazzle you with any state-of-the-art technological advancements...............

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