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OK All,

Here's what I learned at my lesson yesterday.  What it boiled down to is that everything you learned to be a good rifle or pistol shooter translates over to shotgun: keeping the eyes open during the shot, relaxed stance, leading the gun with the eyes, etc.  My  biggest impediment turned out to be accepting that I can shoot clays instinctively.  All the stuff I had read about leads and sight pictures, blah, blah, blah, all turned out to be total crap.  It was great to meet an instructor who told me in essence: "It's OK to let go of all that."  I've spent 15 years thinking that instinctive shotgun shooting was a crutch and tried to suppress it with 3rd party dogma.  I'll be glad when I can finally dispense with all of it.  DEVIL BEGONE!!!  


1.  Gun fit.  Get your gun fitted by a competent *professional*, not just any yahoo at a gun store or off the trap line.  The key is having unobstructed vision over the rib.  If your eye is even partially blocked, the eye opposite your gun mount takes over and...you miss.

2.  Eyes.  Try to use both eyes for shooting.  (Don't ask me what to do if you're cross-dominant - I can find out though.   Brian?)  

3.  Foot position (I had this TOTALLY wrong)  -  Your feet need to be placed in a position where you will visually start to *pick up* the bird - this is the start of your gun mount.  The point is for your body to be relaxed and uncontorted for a proper gun mount.  Make no mistake, the mount is EVERYTHING.  If you're in a pretzel during the mount, your mount will be a mess.  

Note:  I had previously been instructed to be in the position where I was going to shoot the bird, then rotate back to see the bird.  While for extended trajectories, you need to adjust for *shooting* position, the *seeing/mounting* position is dominant.  Think 80/20 Rule.  Starting from the shooting position and coiling back to see the bird is just wrong, wrong, wrong.  Demonstrably wrong.  

4.  Gun mount - you need to feel the stock hit your cheek every time - in the same place.  It's the same as getting good stockweld to shoot a rifle.

Principle: The "mount" is really only a pivot of the gun.  Just like pistol shooting your goal is economy of motion.  The point of starting with the gun low is unobstructed vision.  It's just one more way of moving your focus totally onto the clay.  

Physics: Orient yourself to naturally pick up the clay visually - on the skeet range the visual pickup point is about 15' from the opening on the house.  Mount your gun.  The barrel should be pointing along the flight path of the bird.  (If it's not, your muzzle will porpoise as you try to pick up the bird.)  Your cheek is firmly on the stock.  The butt is firmly on your shoulder.  Now, push the gun forward and release the tension on your shoulder - maybe an inch, max.  Keeping the front hand fixed, pivot the butt of the gun down so that the top of the buttplate is at your armpit.  To mount, rotate the stock into your cheek and pull back.  That's it!  Simple.  Pivot, Pull, Fire.

5.  Look at the birdie!  100% of your attention has to be on the bird and nothing else.  Even shooting pairs, ALL of your attention is on the first bird - no peeking. (This is tougher than it sounds.)  Just like the "double-tap," pairs are two INDIVIDUAL shots.  I go so far as to mount the gun twice.  Do what makes you happy, but take TWO shots.

6.  Tracking - Your eyes lead the gun.  When you call pull, your eyes will be looking in the port of the house for the bird.  The gun will naturally follow your eyes.  Never, ever look at the gun.  Not before the shot, not during, not after.  The bird is the functional equivalent to the front sight on your pistol.  If it's not in focus - you're cooked.  This visual discipline is key to calling the shot.  I think the top guys can even follow the wad.

7.  Straightway Technique:  Look at the bird and shoot it.  No tricks.

8.  Crosser Technique:  Look slightly ahead of the bird and shoot it.  What this *looks* like is up to you.  Nobody can tell you what this looks like.  We're all different.  To get started, try focusing on the very leading edge of the bird:  it's a good starting point.

Regarding 7 and 8:  When you have troubles, a good coach will tell you to deliberately miss the bird or just shoot off parts of it.  "Shoot the bottom of the bird.  Shoot the top.  Shoot ahead.  Shoot behind.  Now shoot it dead center."  In 45 minutes, my instructor had me literally shooting *sections* of the bird away.  (We used a tight choke.)  It was SO cool.

So, there you go.  Lesson #1.  

All this is courtesy of Dan Mitchell, Claysmoker Extraordinaire, of Mitchell's Clay Target Sports in Banks, OR.  I highly, highly recommend his instruction.  He is super talented, very casual, and a very nice guy.  It's the best $50 I've ever spent.  

(Edited by EricW at 5:37 pm on Dec. 30, 2001)

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Good stuff Eric.

I would add one thing to the mount technique. Always insure that you bring the shotgun to your eyes. Do not drop the head to get the cheek weld. Raise the shooting shoulder and keep the head still. This also works great for getting that first shot off faster at the 3-gun match. I pull the trigger on steel (reasonably close) as soon as my cheek touches the stock. If the mount is correct and I'm looking in the right place (the center of the popper, not the whole popper), the steel falls.

The statement the "mount is everything" is is very true.

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Good post! A couple things popped into my shotgun head.

You might experiment with this one - it's more of a "concept" than a hard and fast rule: Don't move your gun until you can SEE the target - clearly. Basically, it means don't move "on the blur."

A technical clarification on the "Gun mount." While some teach the "Pivot," it's not bad to consider another method, especially if you plan to "leave the Skeet field" at some point. You can get away with the Pivot on a Skeet field, where the flight path of the bird is predictable and basically does not vary. On a sporting or FITASC course, however, a more subtle, albeit more difficult method to learn is usually preferred. I don't have a cool name for it; but the movement describes a "push/point/raise." A critical aspect of the Sporting mount is that the gun/tip of the muzzle is a "part" of the shot as well as the mount. (You might think about that one for a second.)

The most important concept of the "perfect mount" is that the muzzle does not raise above or go lower than where it started during the entire mounting stroke. This is not easy to learn, or do, because it's not a natural movement. In theory, at the start of the mount, the muzzle of the gun should be positioned on or slightly below the anticipated flight path of the bird. Then, as the bird is confirmed and the gun begins to move and mount, the ENTIRE gun moves forward FIRST, and after the initial forward movement, the rear of the gun moves upward toward its final position on the shoulder. It's easier to imagine if you think of your two hands doing different functions (even though, because they are both attached to the gun, they both must move in exact relationship with each other). Think of your lead (forward) hand moving out and then back, and while your rear hand is just following along with this movement, it's also doing its own movement - raising the rear of the gun upwards. Or, in other words, the upward movement of the rear hand must be combined with the forward and rearward movement of the lead hand in order to keep the bead/muzzle level during the mount. (If only the rear hand moves during the mount, it is impossible to accomplish this. Try it by mounting on a spot on the wall to appreciate this.) Many instructors teach starting the stock of the gun under the armpit in order to force the proper initial movement.

The best Sporting shooters spend years perfecting this mount, not unlike the time we put into the draw. Begin by picking a spot on the wall, about shoulder height. Start with the gun shouldered and aimed at the spot, then slowly lower the gun to the unmounted position, ending with the buttstock slightly back under your armpit - while attempting to keep the bead on the target the entire time. Then reverse the procedure, starting with the bead on the target and attempting to keep it there all the time as you slowly mount the gun. Do it slowly so you can observe the relationship of the muzzle to the target at all times. This is not a natural movement, and must be practiced with clear intent and continuous awareness to be learned correctly.

Once you get the hang of the static movement, incorporate the "move" into the mount. Tape, or make some kind of line, about six or eight feet long, on the wall in front of you. Stand about six to ten feet from your line and begin with your gun, unmounted, at one end. Then, attempting to keep your muzzle/bead on the line all the time, mount the gun as you pivot along your line, so the gun is fully mounted by the time it reaches the end of the line. Practice going left, then right - forever. Then tape the line at various angles, practicing mounting up and down the line, all the while keeping you muzzle on the line.

To expedite the learning, think of the Sporting axiom - Move, mount, and shoot. The point is - most start the mount as soon as they see the bird, or the blur (i.e., mount, move, shoot). Instead, wait to start the MOUNT until after you start the gun's movement along the target's flight path. This forces the proper movement and incorporates the mount into the shot, thereby minimizing overall movement. Basically, the longer you track a bird with a mounted gun, the more likely you are to miss (because you will tend to "measure" the lead, or eventually look toward the gun).

Successful Sporting or FITASC shooting is all about smooth and precise, aggressive yet controlled movements. Watch an accomplished Sporting shooter on a Skeet field and you'll see poetry in motion - very little gun/tracking movement. The gun simply moves directly to where it needs to go (to break the target) with a minimum of fuss. There is no swinging, hacking, or tracking all over the place. That is the secret of breaking hard targets - minimal tracking or "aiming" time. Given of course, that you ALWAYS LOOK RIGHT AT THE TARGET.


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Thanks Brian!  Great stuff on the mount!  

I'm just shooting skeet right now to tool up my game.  I've been "duffing" for way too long and want to get past that before I go back out and shoot sporting.  

I actually went to class using a similar mounting technique to the one you described, but I was very sloppy.  I think Dan deliberately changed my mount to give me a simple, clean mount to use for right now.  Also, I think he was trying to get my head *out* of the game just by giving me something different to do.  (We spent a substantial amount of time doing the Tin Cup "Turn your hat backwards, put the tee behind your ear, put your change in your other pocket, now shoot it" bit.)

You and Dan must be communicating telepathically b/c he gave me virtually an identical drill to do as "homework."   :)


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Here's some online shotgunning resources I thought I'd share.

Some great stuff from the OSP Shooting School courtesy of Gil and Vicki Ash:


Richard Fauld's online "Masterclass"


Some Technical Shotgun Stuff - some of which is actually interesting  



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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 8 years later...

BE, someone mentioned this tip to me to help with the move, mount, shoot.

If you drop a minimag flashlight in your barrel, you can see exactly where the gun is pointing while you practice your mount technique.

I thought about that, but never tried it. I think it would make learning the mount more confusing. Especially the earlier part of the movement during the mount.

When learning the mount, where the barrel is actually pointing is not that important. What is important is your brain knowing the position or relationship of the top, end of the barrel, and a line from your eye to the target. (I'll use the word "bead" to make it easier to visualize - but know that you NEVER want to look at or even toward the bead.)

Ideally, during the entire time of the mount, if you draw a line from your eye to the target, you want the bead to be on that line or just slightly below it.

If your gun fits you properly, when the butt hits your cheek and you fire, the barrel will be pointed at the target. And during the enitre time of the mount, your get the info your brain needs to automatically adjust the lead by the bead's position peripherally noted along the line from your eye to the target.

Or in other words, you want the bead to track the line, not where the barrel is pointed.


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  • 7 months later...

Shot my second round of sporting clays the other day. It was pretty windy so the birds were flying fast, dipping and rising as the wind changed. What FUN! I will try and make the monthly match.

I need to do some dry fire practice with the info supplied from above. Thanks for the post.

BTW: The nice thing; start at 9, finish by 11. No setup and take down to speak of!

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  • 2 years later...

I still consider myself a beginner, but:

Station one- I line up on the left front edge of the house and hold about a foot above the roof

Station two- halfway between mid point and left edge of roof

Station three-dead center of roof

Station four-about a food in from right edge of roof

Station five-a foot to the right of the right edge of roof.

Im right handed and find it easier to swing left, than right. YMMV practice, practice and practice

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Naka do you and mhoosier shoot at the same place? If so good advice if not remember that not all skeet houses are built the same. Just something to think about when using them as reference points. Most of the time I try to use the window of the house as a reference point. Keeping in mind that the windows are different sizes and the bird doesn't always come out of the center of the window.

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No I don't shoot at the same place. In trap, I believe there are distances, velocities and angle of flight windows that the target has to be thrown in, especially for an ATA registered shoot. I'm just throwing out there so he had a place to start and see what works best for him

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