Jan 25, 2020 | By: Daniel Schindler, Master Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap and Wingshooting Instructor
XOOXXO on the same easy B bird. Carol asks, “Why do I do THAT all the time?” When asked what she was seeing over her barrel, she replied, “I’m not sure, but I thought my swing looked good.” That’s not a clue, that’s the answer to her question.
On the shooting ground,
we would do well to distinguish between
our perceptions and reality.
While Sporting Clays is not complex, there are non-negotiable basics. One of which is this – it takes a lot more than seeing the rings on a moving target and trusting our instinct to break it consistently. Did you say non-negotiable? Well, it’s only non-negotiable if your goal is XXXXXX repeatedly.
To gain shooting consistency and improvement – to better understand why we are missing and why the target broke – we read, watch, listen, buy new guns, gadgets and accessories, we change chokes and shells – and the beat goes on. Some actually do grind their way into minor improvement.
Around 2005, I had an epiphany. It hit me, literally, like a blinding flash of the obvious. To be consistently successful in Sporting Clays, I ascertained two things that MUST happen.
First, the shooter must know what to do before going into the box by analyzing the target presentation(s). If you can’t visualize the correct set-up and swing steps in your mind, you will likely struggle on this Station.
Second, and equally important, the shooter must be able to execute and then precisely repeat all the correct steps each and every time.
Understandably, like so many others, Carol’s goal was to become more consistent. Standing behind Carol I was able to see what she couldn’t – the cause of her inconsistency – AKA her frustrating and unpredictable missing. What Carol didn’t know was that none of her 6 swings were the same. Her visual perception of what was taking place in her swing did not match reality.
While our perceptions are forming our beliefs
the truths wait unseen for our discovery.
Here – on the very same target – is where our perception of a consistent swing can yield an inconsistent result. The unwanted, typically unseen culprit is random gun movement (RGM) which is relentlessly stealing targets from us.
The target is launched. For very good reasons we believe what we see is correct. However, is our perception reality? Target in the air, do we see all that we should be seeing?
Pre-shot show bird, the eyes provide feedback on the target location, distance, line, and speed. Gun loaded, the trap machine fires. Are you seeing reality, the “actual” barrel/bird relationship(BBR) from the beginning of the swing to the trigger pull? We’re not talking about lead here. This is about visually focusing – precisely – on the CLEARLY seen “space” (BBR) between that very subtle, blurry visual image of the muzzle and the image of the bird.
Let’s talk about seeing that BBR or space – the straight skinny on perception vs. reality. If you’ve visited a store selling wildlife prints, maybe you’ve seen the picture of a hidden wolf deep in the forest. Staring at the picture, at first, you don’t see it. All you see is a dizzying patchwork of multiple colors mixed into, well, a mess. Where’s the Wolf? The person standing beside you says, “I can see the Wolf. Can you?” And then – uncannily, mysteriously – a Wolf appears, ears up, hair bristling, staring intently right at you. Unless you knew for what to look, you would have missed it. Point being, the Wolf has always been there in your shooting. The Wolf IS the barrel/bird relationship (BBR).The Wolf has, is, and always will be with you on every shot.
Many, many shooters never see the Wolf, because they are not looking for the space between the muzzle and target. Please note that I did not say, “see the muzzle,” OR “see the target.” Once the bird is in the air, the eyes cannot be dancing back and forth trying to focus between the muzzle and the target. IN THE BEGINNING AND MIDDLE OF YOUR SWING, seeing the BBR allows you to clearly see the Wolf, the all-important connection between bird and muzzle. Here, we want to REPITITOUSLY SEE AND PRESERVE this all-important bird/barrel ALIGNMENT. It’s a NON-NEGOTIABLE CORNERSTONE of long target runs. XXXXXXXX.
Carol said, “I think I’m using pull away.” She said “think” because she saw no BBR and had not perceived the Wolf which was the actual relationship between her muzzle and target. With no visual cues – how would Carol know if her gun precisely pulled away from the target (XXXXXX) – or if she pulled away from some place “around” the target resulting in unseen random gun movement (XOXOOX)?
Clearly seeing this alignment (BBR reality) lets the shooter 1) see any swing errors so they can be corrected quickly (from O to X with 1 shell) and, 2) see how and why the target broke so the same swing can be repeated correctly. XXXXXX.
For the first time – target and muzzle in perfect harmony - Carol focused on that space all the way to the break point. Tightly focused on her BBR, she was no longer blind during her swing, relying on instinct alone. With each shot planned – visually imaged ahead of time – her swing precision on the target became predictably consistent. Visually confirming the correct bird/barrel relationship before the trigger pull…XXXXXX. She was now deadly consistent.
Such consistency is absolutely no accident nor is it the result of a shooter’s class standing. Learn to see the Wolf and eliminate the mystery surrounding X’s and O’s on your way to becoming a true Master of the game.
X consistency and dependability…
Only if your eyes see the reality
between your muzzle and the target.
That’s how to build a swing you can trust.
These precise sight pictures – required for guiding the gun correctly – can be mentally stored and then successfully repeated on the next target and similar target presentations down the road.
A special thanks to Bob Lockett, Paragon Senior Instructor, for a joint effort on this article.
Let’s all vote for warmer weather. Cheers…and I hope to see you and the Wolf 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.
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