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Shotgun Shooting Tip: Slow Your Hands Down, Stop Missing Behind

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March 06, 2013

Shotgun Shooting Tip: Slow Your Hands Down, Stop Missing Behind

By Phil Bourjaily

The basic advice “Head on the stock, eye on the rock” covers the two most essential rules of hitting a flying target with a shotgun.

Moving the gun in time with the target is the often overlooked third essential.
 
Moving the gun too fast when shooting a shotgun is a mysterious and frustrating cause of misses. Slowing your hands down can be a magical cure.

I was reminded again of the importance of matching the speed of your hands to the speed of the target the other day. We started high school trap practice for the season and one of the kids who showed up had never fired a gun before.

Since he had no bad habits I was able to start him with a good stance, holding the gun the right way on the side of his dominant eye. The kid was an athlete, so he understood the importance of looking at the target, not the gun (I often ask kids, “Did you ever play baseball? What would happen if you looked at the bat instead of the ball?”), but he kept missing. The gun would lurch to the target, then stop and he would miss behind.

Then I said “Try moving your hands half as fast.”

He centered the next target and every one after that.

If you move the gun a lot faster than the bird, your eye goes to the gun. (I don’t know why, but it’s something eyes do)  As soon as your eye goes to it, the gun stops moving (again, I don’t know why, but it stops). You miss behind. Usually you then try to compensate by moving the gun even faster to get ahead of the bird, when you should try slowing down.

Move the gun at the speed of the target and it’s easier to keep your eye on the bird. I could have said to the kid “move the gun in time with the target” but he had just picked up a shotgun for the first time. I figured “move the gun at half that speed” would be easier for him to do. It was.

Shooting a shotgun is really very simple.

Comments (12)

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from peppeli wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

Thanks Phil for giving a new, legit, excuse for missing - "My hands are just too quick."

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kansasjeff wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

To Phil,

One of the hardest things as a teacher is to impart your knowledge in a way that relates to the learner. Hats off to you Sir.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

That also holds true for all game animal that run. Most people are in too much of a hurry and usully miss behind.it is also one of the reasons why shooters stop their swing altogether to reaquire the target

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from z41 wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

My wife always said the same thing. :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cb bob wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Thanks Phil, that's something to think about before you step into the box. Before I do, I say to my self: Head down, wait for the target, see the target, swing smooth, hit the target. I do that at each station so I'm not thinking about anything but the next shot. I'll have to change it to "swing smooth and slow".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Good tip Phil!

I was having that problem this year, what I want to know is does having a shorter barreled shotgun exacerbate the hand/swing speed issue and can you teach yourself to compensate?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

VAsportsman --- It could be a problem for you. I know I have a harder time shooting shorter, lighter guns at targets but in my case I think it's because I am accustomed to letting the momentum of heavier guns do some of the work for me. Spend lots of time on the skeet field shooting your short gun and I'm sure you'll build the right habits.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Thanks for the post. Shooting tips are always welcome!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TED FORD wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

This is great Phil,thanks.Now how about a little help mastering the double haul so I can shoot a clouser 65-70ft into a 20knot wind at a tailing redfish.I would be forever grateful.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Great tip..speed of the swing is important. I see a lot of guys that trap shoot especially want to bust the targer right out of the house. Some are incredibly fast, but the margin of error is very small when you fast swing the barrel. The barrel is in the zone, but for a fraction of a sec.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Casey Walker wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

When I was in college I met one of my best friends and he and his dad got me into bird hunting. His dad give me the best advise I had ever received for fast crossing shots like teal and flushed grouse and pheasants. He told me to "Paint the target". He went on to explain to think of the gun as a paint brush and to start my trigger squeeze as I came to the back of the bird and finish it at its bill. It slowed down my swing and I started dropping a lot more birds.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Here is a big problem that creates the fast barrel swing on live birds. Gunner sees, or flushes bird, and rushes the stock to their shoulder (should be to cheek), and then the mounted gun is far behind the bird. The barrel then has to be rushed to catch up with the target. The barrel/gun should be smoothly swinging with the flight of the bird as the gun is mounted. Then when the gun comes to cheek you can smoothly move the barrel to the front of the bird, and fire. I listened to a licensed instructor tell his students that a barrel that is mounted behind the bird....all distance behind the bird is lost time getting the barrel to the bird.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from peppeli wrote 1 year 6 weeks ago

Thanks Phil for giving a new, legit, excuse for missing - "My hands are just too quick."

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kansasjeff wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

To Phil,

One of the hardest things as a teacher is to impart your knowledge in a way that relates to the learner. Hats off to you Sir.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from deadeyedick wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

That also holds true for all game animal that run. Most people are in too much of a hurry and usully miss behind.it is also one of the reasons why shooters stop their swing altogether to reaquire the target

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from z41 wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

My wife always said the same thing. :)

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from cb bob wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Thanks Phil, that's something to think about before you step into the box. Before I do, I say to my self: Head down, wait for the target, see the target, swing smooth, hit the target. I do that at each station so I'm not thinking about anything but the next shot. I'll have to change it to "swing smooth and slow".

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from vasportsman wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Good tip Phil!

I was having that problem this year, what I want to know is does having a shorter barreled shotgun exacerbate the hand/swing speed issue and can you teach yourself to compensate?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philbourjaily wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

VAsportsman --- It could be a problem for you. I know I have a harder time shooting shorter, lighter guns at targets but in my case I think it's because I am accustomed to letting the momentum of heavier guns do some of the work for me. Spend lots of time on the skeet field shooting your short gun and I'm sure you'll build the right habits.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Thanks for the post. Shooting tips are always welcome!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from TED FORD wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

This is great Phil,thanks.Now how about a little help mastering the double haul so I can shoot a clouser 65-70ft into a 20knot wind at a tailing redfish.I would be forever grateful.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Great tip..speed of the swing is important. I see a lot of guys that trap shoot especially want to bust the targer right out of the house. Some are incredibly fast, but the margin of error is very small when you fast swing the barrel. The barrel is in the zone, but for a fraction of a sec.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Casey Walker wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

When I was in college I met one of my best friends and he and his dad got me into bird hunting. His dad give me the best advise I had ever received for fast crossing shots like teal and flushed grouse and pheasants. He told me to "Paint the target". He went on to explain to think of the gun as a paint brush and to start my trigger squeeze as I came to the back of the bird and finish it at its bill. It slowed down my swing and I started dropping a lot more birds.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from clinchknot wrote 1 year 5 weeks ago

Here is a big problem that creates the fast barrel swing on live birds. Gunner sees, or flushes bird, and rushes the stock to their shoulder (should be to cheek), and then the mounted gun is far behind the bird. The barrel then has to be rushed to catch up with the target. The barrel/gun should be smoothly swinging with the flight of the bird as the gun is mounted. Then when the gun comes to cheek you can smoothly move the barrel to the front of the bird, and fire. I listened to a licensed instructor tell his students that a barrel that is mounted behind the bird....all distance behind the bird is lost time getting the barrel to the bird.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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