“With one exception, I’m not a connoisseur of anything. The exception? Recognizing a deliberate, precise shotgun swing with a good cadence. Random Gun Movement (RGM)? There won’t be any. It never matters who’s under the hat and pulling the trigger. That swing will generate X’s.
We normally think of this kind of swing coming from someone with superior athleticism or natural-born talent and mind you, it very occasionally gets handed down that way. More commonly, the kind of shotgun swing you and I want comes directly from nowhere else but meticulous preparation.
Ever go to a golf driving range? I call it Whack-A-Ball. Testosterone City. Muscles are flexed and clubs are viciously slashed at ball after ball. Hey Rick, d’ja see how far that one went? It’s all management can do to keep the misguided balls on the property. Entertaining? Perhaps. A good deal for the range, selling dopamine hits by the bucketsful? Of course. Worthwhile practice for scoring in the game of golf? Not so much.”
Very understandably, many shooters believe “practice” is all about loading up the cart, pulling the trigger endlessly while working hard to break targets. At the end this practice session, the impression is…with all the targets I broke today, obviously, I must be improving.
Can we look at that impression from another direction? As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.” That’s right, yes? Well…actually, no, it isn’t. Said a better way. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” The difference being? The former is all about shooting. The latter is all about repeating and reinforcing the correct set-up and swing basics to improve shooting “form.” The difference here is major and extremely important to the individuals who have decided…actually made a commitment…to improving their game.
Unguided, unfocused practice (?) simply reinforces our unintentional and mostly unnoticed swing errors, which can break targets, sometimes. All too often, those accidental, “sometimes” breaks create the “illusion” of improvement. I say illusion because breaking targets with an inconsistent swing can’t improve a shooter’s game, in the shooting box or on the score card.
If one of the primary goals of practice is to gain more consistency, then breaking targets sometimes isn’t consistent. Please forgive my pointing out the obvious here but, once again… while our working our way through an entire flat of shells on a hot summer day may feel like practicing…let’s ask ourselves honestly, what exactly was being practiced? Specifically?
If shooting improvement is the real goal, a much more detailed approach to a practice session is Step One. Before the first shell goes in the chamber, the target presentation should be chosen carefully…as in, what presentation is giving you grief? Once in the box, each and every target will need a planned, detailed, pre-shot “set-up” and shot strategy before the gun closes. Then, when the trap machine fires, what shooting “method” will be applied to the A bird? And then the B bird? And let’s not forget the swing. Start to finish, X or O? Because what happened behind the muzzle during the swing, that’s where X or O takes place, not out there at 40 yards!
As I’ve often mentioned before, rifle and handgun shooters all know…before and especially right at the trigger pull…if you want to hit your target…precision is non-negotiable. Precision is King. Equally and every bit as important, a precise set-up AND swing applies to shotgunning in Skeet, Trap and Sporting Clays. Skip the good stance and set-up on the target…the swing is already compromised and the trap hasn’t fired yet. Compromise the swing further with these and other errors…before and during the swing…there goes precision out the window. OO. Lost pair Sir! With those unintentional and unseen errors, unfortunately and predictably, there’s more missing ahead.
Skill-building in any endeavor requires focus and attention to details. This applies to sports, music, business and the list goes on. These are the exact same details that must hold our attention in a dedicated practice session. The whole point of a practice session is to take what we don't do very well and learn to do it better…and more consistently. Here is where focus, patience and tenacity will be rewarded.
For those of you who are thinking I’m overcomplicating all this…believing “Just trust yourself and the target will break”…try ditching all the fundamentals and still be consistent. OXOOXO. No doubt a less formal approach to a practice session can be fun and lead to some broken birds. In this case, I'm wondering what our shooter would say at the end of a practice day if asked, "What did you learn today?"
Practice round paid for at the register, loading our gear into the truck, the most important question we have to ask ourselves is this. “What part of my game is better now than it was 2 hours ago?” If you know the answer, congratulations, good on you, you had a productive practice session.
Thanks for visiting with us. Be safe and I hope to see you out on the course.
Dan Schindler is one of only 60 worldwide members of the Guild of Shooting Instructors (UK) and is one of the most highly respected Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructors in the US. Dan is an NSCA Level III Instructor (since 1995) and founded the Paragon School of Sporting with one goal in mind. Whether it be for the advanced competitor or providing the basics to the entry-level shooter, Paragon provides the simplest, most practical and most effective Instruction, Coaching and Mental Training for the Sporting Clays & Wingshooting enthusiast. Dan Schindler helps shooters alleviate a lot of their frustration by taking the mystery out of breaking targets, calling their own misses, and make their own corrections. Lessons are fun, enlightening and our clients learn to shoot better in minutes!
Yes, Dan's books help you take the MYSTERY out of missing targets and help you quickly learn steps to shoot more CONSISTENTLY! Order Dan's 3 books NOW!
Newest Release...Take Your Best Shot (Book I), 3rd Edition isTHE Gold Standard Primer...
and is all about the fundamentals, a requirement for good shooting. This book is used by high school and college shooting teams, recreational and competitive shooters from around the world. Solid, valuable, concise information that has helped thousands of shooters shoot more consistently with higher scores.
To The Target (Book II) Builds on the steps outlined in Book I. Emphasises Gun Management skills when the trap fires, creating a consistent, reliable, trustworthy swing.
Beyond the Target (Book III) is for shooters of all levels, filled with valuable information, clay target truths. Entertaining and a culmination of 3 decades of Dan's life's work as a teacher, competitor, published writer, and much more.
A few Facebook comments on Dan Schindler's and Dan's Books:
Mark Engen,DVMThese three books are a must-read for all clay target shooters. They are clear, concise, logical instructions on how to shoot clay targets and how to improve your scores. Taking a lesson from Dan would be very advantageous & help hasten the learning process. He has been my instructor for 15 years. With each lesson, I always come away amazed how much I have learned & how my scores improve. He also emphasizes how important it is to practice regularly & stay with his advice & recommendations to really learn new skills to improve your scores. He has helped me tremendously & I highly recommend him.
Don N Lisha SanteGot my three-book set. Read Take Your Best Shot (Book I) and can’t put book II down. Can’t wait to apply all I’ve learned tomorrow now that the rains gone.
Steve PowersI got my copy about a month ago. I’ve read it twice, cover to cover & reviewed the sequence of steps multiple times. Good Book.
Jim ButlerI've read my copies twice now and it has absolutely picked up my game. Joined a sporting clays league this spring. Increased my top score by 7. Thought them to be expensive at first, but now find them extremely valuable now. Thank You !!!
David ParksReceived mine yesterday and have one chapter left to read. Can’t wait to get to the range and practice the new techniques I have learned. Now I feel like I have a system to work with instead of shoot and hope.
"Called the number on their website, ( leary of ordering through Facebook posts) and Mr. Schlinder himself answered the phone. One of the most pleasant people I have ever talked to about anything. Whenever I get a chance to get down his way, I am going to get in touch with him to shoot. Got my books this weekend, read the first one and it reminded me of the basics. Just started on the second one, going to keep reading them over and over. The best reading you have for shooting clays.