Bourjaily: It's All About Tempo

Shooting instructors Gil and Vicki Ash brought their traveling OSP school to town last week (that's Gil, working with a student in the picture), and once again I got to hear the Ashes harp on the importance of tempo to good shooting. Matching the speed of the gun to the speed of the target is an under-emphasized, critical aspect of shooting a shotgun. Hardly anyone swings too slowly. Much more often, we move the gun too fast and outrun the target, whether it's a clay or a live bird. The Ashes like to use the analogy of merging onto a freeway. When your car is moving at the same speed as the traffic, the speeding cars seem to be moving in slow motion. When your gun moves at the same speed as the target, the birds actually appear to fly slower.

Tempo is especially important on quartering targets. Too many people, myself included, want to swing away at quartering birds as if they were crossers and the result is a miss in front. I watched Ash work with Jim, an AA class shooter, on short, quartering birds, the kind that look simple and leave you scratching your head when you miss.

Gil let Jim miss a few, then said, "You're moving the gun too fast. Make your move to the target softer. You can't start fast and slow down. You have to start slow." Just like that, Jim started center punching birds, as if it were the easiest shot in the world. And it is, if you move the gun in time with the target.

I am looking forward to slowing down and crushing my nemesis, High 2 on the skeet field, and curing a few of those mystery misses on quartering roosters in the field this fall as well.