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Ask The Instructor: Focus In Front

Question: When I miss, I usually miss behind, especially on crossing targets. Recently, I have been trying to focus my eyes on a spot in front of the target, and it seems to help. Does this make sense?

Answer: I think you will find that your “new technique” is fraught with inconsistencies. When you call pull, your most important job is to feed the brain high-definition target information. To successfully and consistently intercept a moving target, regardless of the object being intercepted, you must apply acute visual focus on the target immediately prior to, and through, the moment of interception. Simply “looking” at targets with your peripheral vision or applying soft focus is insufficient. When it comes to successfully and consistently breaking clay targets, you must acquire the target with your peripheral vision, then intercept the target by applying acute focus, technically referred to as “fovial focus.”

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “see the rings.” Many of my students tell me, “I can’t always see the rings.” While you can’t always see the rings on a clay target due to speed or distance, seeing detail on the target should always be your goal. If you can’t see specific detail on the target, you should focus on an area no bigger than half of the target. Seeing the rings, the dome or the rim of a target, or even just the front half of a target, ensures you are feeding the brain a sufficient level of target detail to put the muzzle in the right place to break the target.

The most common cause of a miss is insufficient visual focus on the target just prior to and through the break point. Sometimes, this can be a lack of visual intensity. In other instances, it may be a softening of focus in an effort to see the barrel-target relationship or, as you suggest, an intentional shifting of the eyes to a spot in front of the target. While your peripheral vision is critical to the initial visual acquisition of a target, applying acute focus on the target just prior to and through the break point is the critical ingredient to breaking a target.

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