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A Brief Rant On Mounting Shotguns

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April 12, 2012

A Brief Rant On Mounting Shotguns

By Phil Bourjaily

Last weekend I took a National Sporting Clays Association class for my Level I instructor certification. It was a wonderful experience, I learned a ton, and I’ll be writing a column about it in the magazine in the future.

However, since this blog space is supposed to contain “rantings and ravings” let me take the only complaint I have about the class and run with it. We did not learn to teach students how to shoot from a low-gun, unmounted start. Sporting Clays--once called “Hunter’s Clays”--used to be about hunting practice, just as skeet (another game that has abandoned the low-gun start) was. American sporting clays rules now allow a premounted gun as in trap and skeet. Unless you shoot international skeet or FITASC which do require a low-gun, there is no need to learn how to mount a shotgun.

Obviously if, like me, you shoot clay target games primarily as hunting practice, you can shoot with a low gun if you feel like it, and I do for skeet and sporting clays. The problem is, learning to mount a shotgun efficiently often takes teaching.

The first time I had a shooting lesson I had just turned 40 and had been hunting for a long time. The instructor watched me mount the gun, shook his head in a sad but kindly manner, and started me over from the ground up. He taught me how to move the muzzle to the target as I raised the gun to my face and shoot as the butt touched my shoulder. It’s a very efficient way to shoot birds, and I am grateful for that lesson, which made me a much better shot on game. My concern is that fewer and fewer people will receive such lessons if all the emphasis among shooting instructors is teaching sporting clays.

One of the best things about sporting clays has been that it has popularized shooting instruction, but now, because of the change in the rules of the game, those instructors no longer teach one of the most important skills of field shooting.

Comments (19)

Top Rated
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from hal herring wrote 2 years 1 week ago

I shoot a whippy little (very old) leFevre 16 sxs for my main bird gun. Recently, I was shooting trap with it for practice. I noticed something that I should have noticed long long ago, because it has been happening for years. Every time I missed the clay on shorter shots, I banged my face with the stock on a line between my upper teeth and my cheek bone. It was consistent, every miss, the same place hurt. Every hit, no pain, no bang. I'm convinced that if I had a coach standing to my right, he or she would be able to tell me exactly how I am messing up my mount. So, this is a long wind way of saying, I agree, and I still think clays are practice for the field, even though they are wonderful fun and serious sport in their own right.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 1 week ago

I've been fortunate enough to have shot with some world class shooters, and a prior U.S. Olympic trainer. I was taught both ways to mount a shotgun and it made a world of difference in my game, from 19's and 20's to 23's and 24's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 1 week ago

A helluva good point. Why make any sport "easier"? The challenge of scoring (or in this case connecting) is what makes it fun. So you just make it easier to score and it's more fun? Maybe, but not for long. Why don't we just move all the NFL goal posts twenty yards closer to midfield? We'd see a lot more scores. Then maybe we can just make the whole field twenty yards long. That would produce a LOT of scoring. So much so, that no one would care any more. Of course, with increasing the challenge there is a point of diminishing returns (although I appreciate the finesse involved, soccer doesn't have enough scoring to keep my attention). It's a dumb world we live in and getting dumbed down more and more every day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 2 years 1 week ago

When I shoot clays, it is rule that you must have gun unmounted and at your waist to simulate real world hunting such as duck, pheasant, rabbit, etc... We also practice with our backs to the clays and will turn upon the clay being released, this really helps alot. I don't want to hear about the dangers of it either we do it and enjoy it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Dcast, if the line is clear of other shooters, I don't see how it could be that dangerous. However, if others are on the line ... well, I wouldn't be shooting at that club and I'm no safety freak either.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Well, you just gave me a lesson! Thanks! I also generally try to start with the gun at my waist each time, particularly when I'm alone using my one-step trap. You kind of have to start with the gun down while throwing birds with that thing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dalebob61 wrote 2 years 1 week ago

I know this is a little late, but this sounds like a teaching moment segment for your show. Teaching young shotgunners, (and old ones alike), proper gun mounting and shooting techniques. It would be fun to see yours and Mr. Petzal's skills displayed (screwups included) and could help make us all a little bit smarter in the process.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 2 years 1 week ago

A coach or shotgun instructor can show you the basics of correct mounting but there are a lot of minute variations that are for a variety of shooters. Shotguns mostly are sold with certain stock configurations, length of pull, drop, etc etc. unless you have the cash for a custom fit gun. When I mount my gun it is a subconcious act in other words I really don't think about it because it has become an automatic movement. I don't think I need to have an instructor tell me I am doing it wrong this late in the game. I am on the far side of 60. My eyes are not as good as they were 40 years ago but I can still hit a lot more than what I miss.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Michigan Gunner wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Having an unmounted gun is a sure sign that the "Gamers"
are having their way. These folks want to run up their scores. Most aren't that interested in hunting pratice.
If it's easier with an unmounted gun, that's what they want. It happend with Trap and Skeet. If fact, similar things happen in all the shooting sport if you let them.
You wind up with high dollar "Race Guns" that aren't good for anything but playing the game. So, unless you have a class for stock guns, the sport falters do to the cost of the equipment. I saw it happen in my area with Center Fire Bench Rest matches.

MG

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 1 week ago

O'Boy, do I have thoughts on this subject!

-Allowing a mounted gun in trap, skeet, and sporting clays killed wing shooting IMHO. Some folks will do anything to get two extra birds without working for them.

-Sporting Clays went snakesh*t. I find the whole game ludicrous. How shooting at mini’s at 35-yds represents field shooting is beyond me, as running around a sport clays course with a cart loaded with 700 rounds of various shotshells and three individual shotguns.

...And I've just begun my rant!!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JCB wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Part of the problem with sporting clays is that the targets have become so much more difficult, technical, and having short "windows" that not pre-mounting the gun becomes a disadvantage in tournaments. I agree with Phil that the sporting clays should simulate game shooting with a low gun. It should also go back to the original way of having a mix of targets at each station. Such as left right then a right left and then a true pair. What ever happened to following pairs and delayed pairs? All I ever see now is report pairs and true pairs all the same on each station.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 6 days ago

Some excellent points made here. Phil, I think dalebob61 has a fantastic suggestion for a show segment. Properly mounting a shotgun is obviously an important and integral part of shooting one, but so many of us average shooters mess it up on a regular basis (yeah, unfortunately, I am a prime offender). A visual reminder from one of our most popular shotgun experts would be widely appreciated by your viewers.

And I agree with those who say sporting clay course designers have strayed from the original intent of "hunting clays" due primarily from demand of regular sc shooters. We all know guys and some gals who shot sc several times a month. And as with any sport, those who do it more, become more proficient at it. Folks who can shoot better than the average bear are constantly demanding more and more difficult shots to keep their interest up. That is all well and good, but many of us cannot afford the time (and money, as a 100 shot round of sc is typically more expensive than 4 25-shot rounds of skeet or trap) to shoot sc that ofen. And the vastly increased difficulty at each station makes the experience less enjoyable, sometimes to the point of frustration. It also tends to lend a slightly elitist air to the whole game.

Then, to get back to your original point, Phil, the game changes because of the non-field related degree of difficulty. And the main reason for the sport being created is lost and a whole segment of the shooting public is left in the clay dust. Unfortunately, I don't see any solution, because courses must respond to the demand of frequent sc shooters in order to maintain their interest and keep them spending those dollars.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BarkeyVA wrote 2 years 6 days ago

A club near where I live has a wobble trap set up with 5 stations even with the trap. They shoot a single and two report pairs at each station. Shooting low gun, it is good practice for upland birds over pointing dogs. Before dove season we shoot low gun sporting clays but concentrate on those stations that better simulate flying doves (high crossing shots, incomers, etc.) Low gun skeet is fun and helps my shooting in general. It has been years since I last shot trap because to me it is not any fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from KansasHunter wrote 2 years 6 days ago

I am a student in the Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management Major at Kansas State University and we just had a Sporting Clays class where we learned about NSCA and FITASC at Flint Oak Hunting Resort. We were able to shoot both types of sporting clays and we all can now become certified NSCA referees. It was a blast and great experience for all of us. I did observe that I broke more clays while shooting from the unmounted position than from the pre-mounted position. I feel this was because I was raised upland bird hunting in Western Kansas and it is more instinctive for me to shoot after bringing my gun up than from a pre-mounted position.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 2 years 6 days ago

Many excellant thougths on this topic, I do hope they use the suggestion to make this a topic on the Gun Nuts tv segment. I shoot both skeet and sc unmounted, to heck with what the registered shooters want to do ! The folks I take to the sc course are encouraged to do the same as we are there to become better in the field.
I shoot a few tournaments ( hunter class ) and it doesn't bother me to shoot with class shooters that start mounted.
Just curious where is the might sayfu on this topic ?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 6 days ago

I recall I discussion with a *hot* registered SC Shooter on just what the difference was between fast pair, following pair, fast following pair, and report pair, and not to yell at the trap'er. I was the ref for his squad.
After the discussion I added maybe our club shoot was way below his level. He might do better elsewhere.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 6 days ago

While I do not necessarily agree with the rule change at sporting regarding the use of a pre-mounted gun, it is the shooter's perogative whether or not they choose to use a pre-mounted gun or to call for the target with a low gun.
My sporting experience started in the early '90's with a Browning 325 which had a 14 3/4" LOP and a low gun start was mandated in the rules. I'm 5' 8" and wear wear 32" sleeves, needless to say, I had to learn the right way to mount a gun if I was ever to get this thing mounted correctly everytime.
If shooting instructors do not teach this in a shotgunning skills class, the students are getting about 50% of their money's worth, 'cause if the mount ain't right, you can bet the shot won't be right either.
Rant on Phil, I'm with you on this one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 2 years 5 days ago

Hey Phil,
I don't know if you asked the fella giving you the instructor class but maybe ( for some silly reason ) this is something that level 2 or 3 instructors cover ?
A good instructor would ask what the focus of the student is ( or the student should say ), if hunting then the mount has to be a critical focus point of instruction. If just sporting then move on with a pre mounted gun perspective.
Good rant Phil, keep it up !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 4 days ago

And I thought that this article was going to be about taxidermy! :)

Shotgun sports have drifted away from simulated hunting. If you want to rise to the top of the clays "leader board" you will use specialized shotguns and develop highly refined shooting and sighting skills.

Although clays certainly start faster than real birds, they don't get up as a surprise, don't make a startling noise, you don't need to determine their sex before shooting, and they don't fly behind a tree and directly away from you never showing themselves again. Sometimes real birds are easier to hit than clays, sometimes much tougher.

Mounting your gun from a low mount position is the only way to come close to performing well under the above conditions. You won't win any clays trophies, but it'll do more to get you birds.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Michigan Gunner wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Having an unmounted gun is a sure sign that the "Gamers"
are having their way. These folks want to run up their scores. Most aren't that interested in hunting pratice.
If it's easier with an unmounted gun, that's what they want. It happend with Trap and Skeet. If fact, similar things happen in all the shooting sport if you let them.
You wind up with high dollar "Race Guns" that aren't good for anything but playing the game. So, unless you have a class for stock guns, the sport falters do to the cost of the equipment. I saw it happen in my area with Center Fire Bench Rest matches.

MG

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 2 years 1 week ago

I shoot a whippy little (very old) leFevre 16 sxs for my main bird gun. Recently, I was shooting trap with it for practice. I noticed something that I should have noticed long long ago, because it has been happening for years. Every time I missed the clay on shorter shots, I banged my face with the stock on a line between my upper teeth and my cheek bone. It was consistent, every miss, the same place hurt. Every hit, no pain, no bang. I'm convinced that if I had a coach standing to my right, he or she would be able to tell me exactly how I am messing up my mount. So, this is a long wind way of saying, I agree, and I still think clays are practice for the field, even though they are wonderful fun and serious sport in their own right.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 1 week ago

O'Boy, do I have thoughts on this subject!

-Allowing a mounted gun in trap, skeet, and sporting clays killed wing shooting IMHO. Some folks will do anything to get two extra birds without working for them.

-Sporting Clays went snakesh*t. I find the whole game ludicrous. How shooting at mini’s at 35-yds represents field shooting is beyond me, as running around a sport clays course with a cart loaded with 700 rounds of various shotshells and three individual shotguns.

...And I've just begun my rant!!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from JCB wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Part of the problem with sporting clays is that the targets have become so much more difficult, technical, and having short "windows" that not pre-mounting the gun becomes a disadvantage in tournaments. I agree with Phil that the sporting clays should simulate game shooting with a low gun. It should also go back to the original way of having a mix of targets at each station. Such as left right then a right left and then a true pair. What ever happened to following pairs and delayed pairs? All I ever see now is report pairs and true pairs all the same on each station.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 4 days ago

And I thought that this article was going to be about taxidermy! :)

Shotgun sports have drifted away from simulated hunting. If you want to rise to the top of the clays "leader board" you will use specialized shotguns and develop highly refined shooting and sighting skills.

Although clays certainly start faster than real birds, they don't get up as a surprise, don't make a startling noise, you don't need to determine their sex before shooting, and they don't fly behind a tree and directly away from you never showing themselves again. Sometimes real birds are easier to hit than clays, sometimes much tougher.

Mounting your gun from a low mount position is the only way to come close to performing well under the above conditions. You won't win any clays trophies, but it'll do more to get you birds.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 2 years 1 week ago

I've been fortunate enough to have shot with some world class shooters, and a prior U.S. Olympic trainer. I was taught both ways to mount a shotgun and it made a world of difference in my game, from 19's and 20's to 23's and 24's.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 1 week ago

A helluva good point. Why make any sport "easier"? The challenge of scoring (or in this case connecting) is what makes it fun. So you just make it easier to score and it's more fun? Maybe, but not for long. Why don't we just move all the NFL goal posts twenty yards closer to midfield? We'd see a lot more scores. Then maybe we can just make the whole field twenty yards long. That would produce a LOT of scoring. So much so, that no one would care any more. Of course, with increasing the challenge there is a point of diminishing returns (although I appreciate the finesse involved, soccer doesn't have enough scoring to keep my attention). It's a dumb world we live in and getting dumbed down more and more every day.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 2 years 1 week ago

When I shoot clays, it is rule that you must have gun unmounted and at your waist to simulate real world hunting such as duck, pheasant, rabbit, etc... We also practice with our backs to the clays and will turn upon the clay being released, this really helps alot. I don't want to hear about the dangers of it either we do it and enjoy it.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Dcast, if the line is clear of other shooters, I don't see how it could be that dangerous. However, if others are on the line ... well, I wouldn't be shooting at that club and I'm no safety freak either.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 2 years 1 week ago

Well, you just gave me a lesson! Thanks! I also generally try to start with the gun at my waist each time, particularly when I'm alone using my one-step trap. You kind of have to start with the gun down while throwing birds with that thing.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dalebob61 wrote 2 years 1 week ago

I know this is a little late, but this sounds like a teaching moment segment for your show. Teaching young shotgunners, (and old ones alike), proper gun mounting and shooting techniques. It would be fun to see yours and Mr. Petzal's skills displayed (screwups included) and could help make us all a little bit smarter in the process.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 2 years 1 week ago

A coach or shotgun instructor can show you the basics of correct mounting but there are a lot of minute variations that are for a variety of shooters. Shotguns mostly are sold with certain stock configurations, length of pull, drop, etc etc. unless you have the cash for a custom fit gun. When I mount my gun it is a subconcious act in other words I really don't think about it because it has become an automatic movement. I don't think I need to have an instructor tell me I am doing it wrong this late in the game. I am on the far side of 60. My eyes are not as good as they were 40 years ago but I can still hit a lot more than what I miss.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longbeard wrote 2 years 6 days ago

Some excellent points made here. Phil, I think dalebob61 has a fantastic suggestion for a show segment. Properly mounting a shotgun is obviously an important and integral part of shooting one, but so many of us average shooters mess it up on a regular basis (yeah, unfortunately, I am a prime offender). A visual reminder from one of our most popular shotgun experts would be widely appreciated by your viewers.

And I agree with those who say sporting clay course designers have strayed from the original intent of "hunting clays" due primarily from demand of regular sc shooters. We all know guys and some gals who shot sc several times a month. And as with any sport, those who do it more, become more proficient at it. Folks who can shoot better than the average bear are constantly demanding more and more difficult shots to keep their interest up. That is all well and good, but many of us cannot afford the time (and money, as a 100 shot round of sc is typically more expensive than 4 25-shot rounds of skeet or trap) to shoot sc that ofen. And the vastly increased difficulty at each station makes the experience less enjoyable, sometimes to the point of frustration. It also tends to lend a slightly elitist air to the whole game.

Then, to get back to your original point, Phil, the game changes because of the non-field related degree of difficulty. And the main reason for the sport being created is lost and a whole segment of the shooting public is left in the clay dust. Unfortunately, I don't see any solution, because courses must respond to the demand of frequent sc shooters in order to maintain their interest and keep them spending those dollars.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from BarkeyVA wrote 2 years 6 days ago

A club near where I live has a wobble trap set up with 5 stations even with the trap. They shoot a single and two report pairs at each station. Shooting low gun, it is good practice for upland birds over pointing dogs. Before dove season we shoot low gun sporting clays but concentrate on those stations that better simulate flying doves (high crossing shots, incomers, etc.) Low gun skeet is fun and helps my shooting in general. It has been years since I last shot trap because to me it is not any fun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from KansasHunter wrote 2 years 6 days ago

I am a student in the Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management Major at Kansas State University and we just had a Sporting Clays class where we learned about NSCA and FITASC at Flint Oak Hunting Resort. We were able to shoot both types of sporting clays and we all can now become certified NSCA referees. It was a blast and great experience for all of us. I did observe that I broke more clays while shooting from the unmounted position than from the pre-mounted position. I feel this was because I was raised upland bird hunting in Western Kansas and it is more instinctive for me to shoot after bringing my gun up than from a pre-mounted position.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 2 years 6 days ago

Many excellant thougths on this topic, I do hope they use the suggestion to make this a topic on the Gun Nuts tv segment. I shoot both skeet and sc unmounted, to heck with what the registered shooters want to do ! The folks I take to the sc course are encouraged to do the same as we are there to become better in the field.
I shoot a few tournaments ( hunter class ) and it doesn't bother me to shoot with class shooters that start mounted.
Just curious where is the might sayfu on this topic ?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 2 years 6 days ago

I recall I discussion with a *hot* registered SC Shooter on just what the difference was between fast pair, following pair, fast following pair, and report pair, and not to yell at the trap'er. I was the ref for his squad.
After the discussion I added maybe our club shoot was way below his level. He might do better elsewhere.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RES1956 wrote 2 years 6 days ago

While I do not necessarily agree with the rule change at sporting regarding the use of a pre-mounted gun, it is the shooter's perogative whether or not they choose to use a pre-mounted gun or to call for the target with a low gun.
My sporting experience started in the early '90's with a Browning 325 which had a 14 3/4" LOP and a low gun start was mandated in the rules. I'm 5' 8" and wear wear 32" sleeves, needless to say, I had to learn the right way to mount a gun if I was ever to get this thing mounted correctly everytime.
If shooting instructors do not teach this in a shotgunning skills class, the students are getting about 50% of their money's worth, 'cause if the mount ain't right, you can bet the shot won't be right either.
Rant on Phil, I'm with you on this one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from springerman3 wrote 2 years 5 days ago

Hey Phil,
I don't know if you asked the fella giving you the instructor class but maybe ( for some silly reason ) this is something that level 2 or 3 instructors cover ?
A good instructor would ask what the focus of the student is ( or the student should say ), if hunting then the mount has to be a critical focus point of instruction. If just sporting then move on with a pre mounted gun perspective.
Good rant Phil, keep it up !!

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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