All shooters want to shoot better. If a shooter says otherwise, he is telling a tall tale. Since perfect doesn’t exist, clay shooters are always trying to come up with their next goal. Maybe your next achievement is to break your highest score on FITASC, maybe it’s to move to a different class. But for many shooters, a handful of shooting mistakes create frustration in the field or on the range. I have helped shooters at all skill levels gain proficiency by eliminating mistakes and by helping each shooter trust their instincts, learn to be present, and stay focused.
Here are 10 shooting tips for you to consider. This may help you to develop your mechanical skills during practice and performance. Again, in order to peak your performance, you must be competent in your mechanical game, but also your mental game. Focus on these tips first and then move onto the mental stuff.
Tip #1 – In all shooting, practice safety first. Always wear hearing and eye protection. Keep your gun unloaded and the action visibly open until you’re ready to shoot. Once you are finished shooting, make sure the gun is once again empty and the action is open. Always keep the gun’s muzzle pointed down range.
Tip #2 – Practice swinging and mounting an unloaded gun to your face in front of a mirror. Make sure you stand erect. Do not lower your face to the gun or tilt your head. Lift the gun straight up using a short concise motion. Be sure to use both hands equally, as though they were connected by a steel rod. Mount the gun precisely from the same starting position each time. Always mount to the same place on your face each time. Mount the gun to the face not the shoulder. Do ten swing/mounts each day.
Tip #3 – When shooting (or practicing your swing/mounts), position your feet so that a line extending from your rear heel to your leading foot points to where you will break the target. Keep your stance relatively narrow. This position encourages a smooth swing and a good follow through.
Tip #4 – Learn to first swing the gun and then mount it. If we mount the gun as we swing to the target, the mount takes no time. Allow your pointing instincts to take over your swing. As your eyes become sharply focused on the target, finish the gun mount and shoot the instant the target is in sharp focus.
Tip #5 – When pointing your gun, focus on the target and not the gun barrel or bead. Point, don’t aim. Aiming slows your swing and causes you to shoot behind. Since a shot string is 10-14′ long, use it to your advantage by pointing slightly more in front of a target. If you miss crossing targets, you are probably shooting behind. Try to “miss” in front by doubling your lead, and if still missing, try doubling the lead again.
Tip #6 – Gun fit is important. Have your gun fitted so it shoots where you look. This test requires that you first have a consistent, well practiced gun mount. To test for gun fit, set up a pattern board at 16 yards. Fire several consecutive shots by mounting and shooting at a center dot without aiming, but by merely pointing at the target. If the highest pattern density is off center, take the target and your gun to a competent gun fitter for adjustment.
Tip #7 – When shooting simultaneous (true) pairs, decide ahead of time which target you will break. Generally, shoot the behind or lower target first, unless one target is quick to disappear behind cover or is decidedly more difficult. Shooting the lower target first allows gun recoil to bring you automatically to the upper target. Shooting the back target first allows your swing to continue smoothly to the front target.
Tip #8 – When you’re experiencing a missing streak, change something. Change one of your postures. Double your lead. Or, give yourself less think time by moving your gun hold point and target view point closer to the break point. Pull the trigger the instant the gun is mounted to your face and the target is in focus.
Tip #9 – Use low recoil target loads for practice. Shotshells containing 7/8-1 oz shot are adequate for practice. The lessened amount of shot with more powder gives these shells high velocity, low recoil, and excellent pattern integrity. Many tournament shooters prefer these light loads even under tough tournament shooting conditions.
Tip #10 – Regular practice improves scores. However, when practice no longer improves your hitting ability, take a lesson from a certified NSCA instructor. A competent instructor can diagnose specific shooting problems and improve your proficiency. The dollars paid to a competent instructor are quickly returned in better scores and saved ammunition.
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