Ask The Instructor: Barrel Draggers

Question: I tend to ride the target a lot. I seem to always pull the trigger later than I want to and later than I plan to. How can I fix that?

You have identified one of the key principles in successful clay target shooting: commitment to break point. A clay target changes speed and direction from the time it exits the trap to the moment it hits the ground. A quartering target, for example, undergoes significant “personality changes” throughout its flight path. A quartering target thrown from a trap located 25 yards to the right of a shooting stand and thrown at a 45-degree angle in front of the shooter changes from crossing to quartering to curling/descending. During preshot planning, you must identify a specific point along the target’s flight path where you intend to kill it. If you set up to engage the target as a crossing target but delay execution of your shot, you will likely produce too much gun speed and miss in front of the target. If you decide to break this target where it is quartering but delay execution, you might miss over the top of the target, as gravity pulls the clay toward the ground. Simply put, if you don’t execute your shot where you plan to, you are engaging a target that might be quite different in character than the one you initially planned to break. Always select, landmark and commit to your break points. Picking a terrain feature to mark your break point is a great way to reinforce where you intend to end the shot. A strong commitment to your break points is essential to consistency in execution and the ability to run a station. There are only two options for sporting clays shooters: Be a “barrel dragger” or be decisive and committed.

Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at

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