All the articles in this series on the Basics – your shooting foundation – are dedicated to Mr. Bob Lockett, Paragon Senior Instructor.
It might have seemed strange to start this series of articles on the Basics with steps on the Mental Game. The Mental Game usually comes after the Physical side of things are well established. With the focus on what it really takes to improve your shotgunning performance, I thought the Mental approach to that improvement should at least be considered during the initial steps to achieving your higher scores using the proven Paragon method.
With that in mind, let’s move on.
It may seem like a long time ago for many of you reading this, but for some of us, we remember the very early days of Sporting Clays in America. Remember the USSCA? While the fun factor was off the charts, testosterone quickly found its way into the shooting box. With a NASCAR mindset of “Who’s your Daddy?”…competition was fierce from day one. Exactly like today, it was all about the high score.
And what shooting methods did we use? Damned if I know…nor did anyone else for that matter. With targets in the air, shooter competition was brutal. Honestly and accurately, one could say, sheer determination was the method we were all using to find a better way. Say pull – turn it loose – see what happens. That was pretty much it, Folks. And using our God-given “hand/eye coordination” (HEC) we broke targets. Tons of them…well, sometimes.
With high score deciding who was the best shooter that day – breaking targets sometimes just wasn’t meeting expectations. Many of us went through the long and expensive chapter of changing equipment to raise scores – which it always did – temporarily…then back to sometimes. Truth is, that changing equipment thing for higher scores is still alive and well today. And – right on schedule – so is sometimes. So, how do we get past breaking targets some of the time? Glad you asked. Because breaking targets consistently takes a lot more than just raw HEC.
To move your game and your scores up – realistically, measurably and consistently – it takes set-up and swing “structure” to assemble the precision you must have to break more targets.
This structure is composed of the Basics. I refer to these Basics as being non-negotiable. Why? Compromise one of those Basics – right there is your inconsistency – which cancels the necessary precision – which cancels your consistency. XO OX XO OX. That logic is absolute, a truth, and unfortunately accurate. Let’s talk about the first of the “set-up” Basics which are discussed at length in my first and third books, Take Your Best Shot, 3rd Edition and Beyond the Target.
Step One of these Basics is choosing your BreakPoint (BP). This is PRECISELY where you are going to break this target – on time and consistently. Why is your BP so important? It starts the pre-shot set-up “process.” The BP you choose also establishes the following: 1) The “best place” on the target flight path for you to break this target; 2) where to set your feet and hips to enable your body to move fluidly with the target; 3) an evaluation of the target speed, line, distance and BP to help you choose the correct shooting method for this presentation; and 4) where to correctly set your muzzle “hold point,” so no time with the target will be lost when the trap machine releases.
Sound a bit complicated? Trust me, it’s not. With a little concentration, these learned steps all fall into place very quickly.
Is this first step and the ones to follow really necessary? Not if you are happy breaking targets sometimes. But if you are serious about building consistency and dependability into your game, the steps are ABSOLUTELY necessary. Yeah, we can bend a few rules here and there based on shooter preferences – but skip one? Right there, my friend is the huge risk of creating the inconsistencies that cause those frustrating random misses.
Shotgunners don’t usually think of the word “control” in their shooting. But they should. It is NOT the “be careful don’t miss” kind of MIND control – but the PHYSICAL control that builds repeatable precision into every set-up and every swing. It’s that control – that deliberate focused process – that creates the CONSISTENCY so many shooters desperately want. Which begs this question. How can you get consistency on the target if you are INCONSISTENT with your pre-shot set-up?
“Is your shotgun a precision scalpel, or is it a garden hose?”
Bob Lockett, Paragon Senior Instructor
And it all starts at the very beginning in your choosing the precise BP correctly. It’s where so many are too casual in their set-up routine and when these mistakes – inconsistencies – are made that targets are lost before the gun is even loaded.
Please consider 2 points here.
1. A target’s “flight path” can be broken into thirds. During the first third, the target will have more speed. During the last third, the speed is decreasing which will cause a target to “break the flight line” or trajectory. These first-third and last-third target flight changes can create problems – forcing you to deal with multiple presentation issues – resulting in you saying naughty things. This leaves you with the middle-third of the flight path, which, more often than not, is where you wish to break the bird, i.e., your “sweet spot.”
2. The “show pair” of targets is also known as the “tuition birds.” You had best learn all there is to know about each target. Only with extreme precision can you determine where your BP should be. For example, such precision often means ONE particular leaf on ONE particular branch on ONE particular tree in the background. After the shot, (let’s say you missed – yeah, of course, hypothetically) should that BP need adjusting, knowing precisely where your first BP was allows you to make the correct adjustments. From O to X with 1 shell!
This is where a competent Instructor will prove to be invaluable in assisting and accelerating your understanding of where your BP should be and why.
“If you fail to prepare,
you’re prepared to fail.
There’s really no mystery in any of this. The entire process BEGINS and ENDS with a controlled, deliberate set-up using a precise BP, which then puts your feet and muzzles in the correct position for a clean, error-free, VERY predictable outcome – XX XX XX XX. Or you may invite the Miss Fairy to visit if you fail to consistently set a PRECISE BP on each and every shot. Any inconsistency in your routine will make it very easy to miss. Count on it. It’s all in your capable hands.
Initially choosing your correct BreakPoint –the “sweet spot” for you and your swing –
starts this absolutely necessary process of assembling consistency, dependability, and repeatability into your game.
In the next article, we’ll continue to discuss the next step in the series – “The Foundation.” I hope you’ll join us for each Chapter.
Until then, be safe and we hope to see you out on the course.
Dan Schindler is one of only 50 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, Skeet, Trap & 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! Dan teaches locally at River Bend Sportsmans Resort in Inman, SC.
Shooters from around the world read Dan's books 2, 3, 4 or more times and refer back to them often. These three EXCELLENT books - Take Your Best Shot, To The Target and Beyond The Target take the MYSTERY out of missing targets so you can shoot more CONSISTENTLY! Order Books!
Newest Release...Take Your Best Shot (Book I), 3rd Edition isTHE Gold Standard Primer for shooters of ALL skill levels...
Solid, valuable, concise informationthat has helped thousands of shooters shoot more consistently with higher scores. It provides the steps and succinctly lays out the fundamentals required for good shooting. This book is used by recreational and competitive shooters...high school and college shooting teams from around the world.
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.
"Take Your Best Shot is the best clay and wingshooting shooting primer on the market that I have ever seen. The brilliance of its simplicity aids in getting across the correct messages for successful shooting for ANY clay/wingshooting shooter, let alone a new shooter. As a master instructor, founder/Head Coach of the Jacksonville University Shooting Team (a national championship program), and JU faculty member, Take Your Best Shot is standard reading for ALL of our varsity shooters. Dan has managed to capture the basics beautifully, and he has placed them in an easy, simple-to-follow, witty presentation. My students love the book and read it time and again. Highly recommend, no matter what your level of shooting experience and expertise."
These 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 at 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.