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Ask The Instructor: Occlusion

Question: I’m having a terrible time with transitioning targets that are falling or descending at the break point. I feel like I am seeing the barrel. Do you have a suggestion of how to remove the barrel from the sight picture and improve the focus on the target?

Answer: A very common cause of a miss is “spoiling the line” — when the shooter’s gun gets between the shooting eye and the target. In these cases, the gun blocks, or occludes, the shooter’s view of the target through the break point. This can easily happen with a target that is transitioning (changing speed and/or direction) at the break point. The visual connection between the non-shooting eye and the target through the break point often leaves the shooter a bit confused as to why the target didn’t break, because the shooter feels as if he was visually connected to the target through the break point. In fact, he was.

He was just seeing the target with the wrong eye.

For some targets, like a driven target (incoming overhead) or an outgoing teal target, the shooter is forced to insert behind and move through the target to break it. In almost all other cases, however, you should avoid placing the barrel between the shooting eye and the target before or through the break point, thus “spoiling the line.”

So, how do you avoid spoiling the line on a target that is transitioning at the break point? The most common remedy is to move your hold point a bit closer to the break point and a bit further away (or offset) from the target line so that your move to the break point is at an angle to the target line. This is commonly known as an “intercept,” “direct intercept” or “cutoff.” This offset angle of approach to the break point makes it less likely that you will occlude the target before reaching the break point. With this technique, ensure your movement from hold point to break point is a straight line. Curling or looping the muzzle into the breakpoint can cause the barrel to occlude the target. The intercept technique is a valuable tool for any target that is transitioning at the break point.

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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