Jun 13, 2020 | By: Daniel Schindler, Master Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap and Wingshooting Instructor
The very first target we broke sealed the deal. Gimme another shell! Lots of people shoot for the camaraderie, without considering why we missed or why the bird broke. We hit it. Shooting for the sake of entertainment needs no explaining or defending. So please…no one here is lessening the fun factor in our sport. For some, that’s enough, and rightfully so. But not everyone. Many of us want to break MORE targets and that puts us in a whole new ballgame with different rules.
An X appears on the score card but “how” that X appeared
is all too often overlooked.
After long months pass, maybe years(?), and countless rounds have gone downrange: XOXOXXOX. 5 out of 8. Our shooting buddies congratulate us, extend that celebratory fist bump of approval, leaving us believing we are definitely improving. While comforting, this reassurance can be misleading, a belief based on inconsistent, unpredictable outcomes that invariably slow down and then silently stop what little advancement we made…or thought we made? Why? Because an “accidental” break CAN BE more detrimental to long term success than a miss.
Say what Dan? Isn’t breaking targets what this game is all about? If this is about fun and entertainment, then yes, it is. If it’s about raising your shooting skills and scores, then no, it’s not. Why? Because targets broken by accident with inconsistent swings create the illusion of improvement. Yes, an inconsistent swing can create XX XX XX on a score card. But not consistently. If we applaud ourselves based solely on an X, that X only leaves us with, “Swing again…it’ll break!” Right? And when it doesn’t break? Repeat the same swing? XO OX XO? Something’s not right and it isn’t your choke.
We’ve been told, and we understandably believe—breaking targets means we are getting better. Right? Here’s why you do not want to fall into that deep hole of believing an X means you are improving. If building consistency and putting more X’s on your score card is the goal, an X or O on the scoresheet is nothing more than an outcome. When real, measurable improvement is the goal, what caused that X or O matters more. A lot more! This is where we begin to see why we miss andwhy we break the target. Our having the ability to either CORRECT or REPEAT that PROCESS—to create an X ON PURPOSE—is the differentiator between a good score or a mediocre score.
This brings us to a pearl that we should all take to heart…WHY that target broke or was missed took place before the trigger was pulled, not after. What happens with that shot string—after it leaves the muzzle by 1,000th of an inch—we have no control over whatsoever. None. Meaning the CAUSE of the X or O took place in the shooting box—behind the muzzle—BEFORE the trigger pull—not out yonder. To raise a skill level—to raise a score—gun management (gun control)—is where our attention should be, not on outcomes.
This Newsletter article is asking you to consider something we all recognize but seldom discuss: the mystery behind missing AND hitting targets. X or O, WHY did that happen?
If you want to know why you are missing targets,
it’s not the gun, choke or load.
The answer is in your swing
Make a mistake in writing and it will be obvious to the reader. Make a mistake with a musical instrument and everyone will hear it. Make a mistake in a recipe and bread won’t rise. Now—make a mistake with a shotgun and X! Hallelujah brother! Now, reload and make the same or another mistake. O. This is the anomaly, the oddity in the clay target sports. We can make mistakes and break targets. Sometimes. And when those X’s occur, they leave us with the illusion that we are improving when we are not.
When a shooter sets out to improve in earnest, the priority becomes learning not what just happened but WHY that happened. O and X, errors must be seen so they can be quickly corrected. From an O to an X with the very next shell. If the swing was correct, it too must be seen so it can be repeated. X. X. X. X. Deliberately, each and every time.
To start—and continue the improvement cycle—requires constant focus—NOT ON OUTCOMES—but on perfecting the basics, the individual set-up, and swing Tasks. Competent shooting is a skill and real shooting progress requires putting your attention in the right place—on the Basics—every shell—every target—every swing. That’s where consistency and dependable X’s come from.
Speaking of outcome thinking, here’s an example as told by Robert Roesch, Paragon Professional Instructor…
"Ican remember vividly, as a youngster with my Dad, 20ga Remington 870 in hand, ready for opening day of Dove season. I’m camouflaged behind the brush and weeds overlooking that fresh-cut silage field anxiously anticipating the afternoon feeding to begin. Here they come! I feel the recoil. Nuthin’. Dang. Here they come again. Bang, bang, nuthin’. Dad’s not so gentle coaching from behind, “Boy you gotta shoot where that bird’s gonna be, not where he is. Put that shot where he’s goin’.” As my muzzle started moving out to a lead…admittedly very timidly…trust was gained with every feather that flew and dove the came to the ground. What was the real difference that day? Failure initiated learning what needed to be done. The improvement came from failure, frustration, and more than a little embarrassment. Thank you dear Dad for HOW you approached this…you taught me HOW to hit, not just WHERE I missed…and that made all the difference."
That many believe something
is no evidence of the Truth.
And finally, to those who tell us to look at the target harder and harder and “trust” the shot—trust what? Our instincts? Our God-given hand/eye coordination? If this worked as we’re being told it does, we’d all be shooting perfect scores! Folks—what’s missing in your game is the structure—the non-negotiable, basic steps that lead to smooth gun control—precision. Consistently good shooting is not a result, it’s a shot-by-shot, target-by-target process. There’s a very specific system of steps at work here that one must have to advance one’s skills. And BTW…that Truth applies across the board to every skill, regardless of endeavor.
To create real improvement—to build a skill—can only come from learning and executing the techniques—correctly—how to set up and then manage the swing. Paragon methods accomplish those objectives successfully 24/7/365.
Thanks for spending time here with Robert and myself. Be safe and we look forward to seeing 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."
Mark Engen, DVM 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.