Recently there's been some online dialogue about overcomplicating things. In the early chapters of a shooter’s development, it’s understandable to be “adding”…adding methods…changing equipment…etc. This is an exciting time for a new shooter and some reasonable experimenting should be encouraged…maybe a new gun purchase here and there…new chokes…new lenses…new ammunition? In the beginning, fun and entertainment trump complicated.
However…as time passes and more and more shot goes down range, eventually, missing gets more and more of our attention. Which leads to some examining. We begin looking at our mechanics, our gun management and methods. What’s working…what’s not? Instead of being told where we missed, 1) why, exactly, did we just miss? And 2) why, exactly, did the target just break?
Which brings us to this question. How can we raise our scores…and our skill level…if we don’t know the answers to those 2 questions? Learning and mending what isn’t working is becoming the priority. We’re getting down to specifics.
That’s why, in my experienced opinion, the task of advancing our skill level eventually becomes one of “subtracting.” First find, and then eliminate what’s not working. This subtracting process, weeding out the errors and methods that consistently lead to missing, moves us closer and closer to a much more dependable shooting formula. I say dependable because a formula that breaks “a” target isn’t good enough for those of us who compete. When executed correctly, our formula has to break the target every time, all the time. With a score card behind us…or during a dedicated practice session…our shooting “reliability” cannot be optional or a sometimes deal. Not when score and skill advancement are on the line.
The truth is, consistently good shooting is a “learned” skill…with no mystery in it at all. It’s not easy by any means, but it is not complicated either. Skill advancement will remain an ongoing challenge until we know, specifically, what we are doing and why. Top shooters already know that. Target after target, they will plan, prepare, then execute correctly. Count on it…their high X count is no accident!! A learned skill.
Eventually…through trial and error or with a bit of help…the successful shooting formula (step-by-step list) can be sensibly reduced to what I call the non-negotiable basics…the fundamentals. I say non-negotiable because when those basics are compromised, that’s when the missing starts. Not because I say so. But because set-up and swing errors can be easily seen…24/7/365. The missing that follows is predictable and inevitable.
For example…if I had to choose what I believe to be one of the most common errors with a basic, it would be our “muzzle hold point”…our MHP. Why? Because that MHP, when set correctly, allows the swing to start correctly. If, however, the swing does not start correctly, why would the swing end correctly? Choosing the wrong MHP has already set the stage for a miss…and the target hasn’t been called for yet! This swing, by starting poorly, will require a lot of correcting before the trigger pull to get the X! And those corrections will be time-consuming. That’s extra time that our clay targets (Trap / Skeet / Sporting Clays) don’t often give us! With all those corrections going on mid-swing, it would be foolish to believe we could count on that swing to deliver more X’s.
Establishing the right bird/barrel relationship…early in the swing…puts our swing on the path to an X. Or not…affected by how well we set our MHP. Intercepting the target…merging with it early…creates swing consistency…then dependability. Yes…the shooting method has to be the right one as well…but the method won’t help much if the gun is chasing the bird and out of control…all because our MHP was in error.
As suggested earlier, compromising a set up and/or a swing basic openly invites missing. Always has…always will. Proper preparation sets up the X swing.
By knowing specifically why you miss…why you hit…takes the mystery out of your shooting. That’s when everything gets a lot simpler…and more rewarding.