Shotgun Shooting Tip: 'Trust Your Feelings'

use the force
Learning to trust your eyes and hands is a very important part of successful shotgunning. It's also important for blowing up the Death Star.StarWars.com

“Trust” was the word that kept coming up two weekends ago when I helped with a shooting clinic for adults.

Learning to trust your eyes and hands is a very important part of successful shotgunning.

Our students had a range of experience and I think I talked about trust with all of them. Two in particular stood out: Dan the Rifleman was a very experienced rifle and pistol shooter who struggled with a shotgun. We worked on crossing targets, where you have to take your eyes off the gun and keep them on the target.

You could watch his muzzle start and stop as he chased the birds, which is a sure sign that his eyes were going back and forth from the target to the gun. Forget the gun, I told him. Look at the target and your eyes will send your hands to right place. It made him visibly uncomfortable to try that, but he did.

Even after he I helped him break the crossers he had so much trouble with, he seemed agitated. “It feels wrong to shoot without checking my aim,” he said. By the time we finished, I told him he had to let go and shoot, and he was starting to believe. But, it didn’t make him happy. It’s hard to break a lifetime habit of focusing on the front sight in an afternoon.

Moral here is: “Trust but verify” may work in arms control, but it’s a bad way to shoot a shotgun.

Kelly the Librarian turned out to be my prize pupil. She had never fired a gun before. I explained to her, as I always do with beginners, that shotgun shells contain hundreds of pellets so you don’t have to be precise because you’re not trying to hit the target with a single bullet. A lot of people don’t understand that when they start shooting shotguns.

I showed her how to hold the gun, how she had to keep her eye on the target and head on the stock, after she broke some straightaways, we tried crossers. I mentioned trusting instead of aiming. I asked if she had ever seen "Star Wars."

“I’m a huge Star Wars fan,” she said. “I was thinking about that when you were talking to Dan.”

“Trust your feelings,” I quoted. She did, and there was no stopping her. She broke left hand crossers, right hand crossers, and one target while closing her eyes before she pulled the trigger – one of my favorite drills for teaching people not to look back at the gun – all because she trusted her eyes and hands.