Fasten your seatbelt. The following rules of gun mount and movement may, on the surface, seem foreign, perhaps even radical. But so is breaking targets without any conscious perception of lead. If you have not yet accepted the fact that the path to consistency in sporting clays lies in keeping your eye on the target and letting your subconscious apply lead, then the following nuggets may be of little use to you.
If however, you have drunk the Churchill cool-aid then you understand that instinctive shotgunning is a sport of hand-eye- coordination and that sharp visual focus on the target will guide your hands and gun to break the target. If you are a shotgunner that could use a little help with your mount and movement to the target, these radical rules may be the final missing pieces of the puzzle. Before we dive into The Four Radical Rules of MOVEMENT, let’s understand the purpose of the gun mount.
Contrary to popular belief, the purpose of a good gun mount is NOT to get the gun to the shoulder. The purpose of a good gun mount is to:
… Naturally align the shotgun barrel with your dominant eye prior to executing the shot, and
… Allow your dominant eye to acquire and maintain visual focus on the target through the break point.
With these essential truths as a backdrop, The 4 Radical Rules of Movement may not seem as radical:
Rule #1 – Mount to the Cheek, not the shoulder. If your gun fits, and your mount is consistent, your dominant eye will properly align over the center of the rib each time the comb of the stock makes contact with the cheek. As a result, the gun will shoot where you are looking. If you mount your gun to your shoulder first, instead of bringing the gun all the way to the cheek, you now have to bring your head down to the gun before executing the shot. Shooters that mount to the shoulder and then bring their heads down to the comb put themselves at a significant disadvantage.
I often hear shooters attribute a miss to the fact that they didn’t have their head on the gun. The reality is that shooters don’t miss because they fail to bring their head down to the gun; they miss because they fail to bring the gun to the cheek. In mounting to the shoulder first, and lowering the head to the comb, the shooter will tend to rollover the stock placing the dominant eye outside the centerline of the rib. By mounting to the shoulder, the shooter completely interrupts the flow of the mount and limits the ability of the hands and arms to move the gun to the target.
Mounting to the shoulder first will tend to breed inconsistency simply because the butt of the stock will come to rest at a variety of locations on the shoulder depending on the elevation and flight line of the target. This often results in a different cheek-stock weld and eye-barrel alignment each time the shooter moves and mounts to a target.
If you mount to the cheek, allowing the shoulder to naturally come forward to meet the butt of the gun, you’ll be assured of proper eye-barrel alignment across the broad spectrum of sporting clays targets. For trap- like targets, when pre-mounting your gun is preferable, bring the gun to your cheek first, and then slide it back into your shoulder before calling for the target. This way, when you execute the shot, you know that you have maintained proper eye-barrel alignment.
Rule #2 – The weight of the gun should rest in the hands. As with most hand-eye coordination sports, the eyes should lead the hands. If all the weight of the gun is in the hands, the shotgun is then very responsive to the corrections made by the small muscles of the hands and arms in reaction to impulses sent by the brain. I often see shooters over-using their trigger-hand, overpowering the lead or pointing hand causing the barrel to dip as the shooter inserts the gun onto the target line. Both hands should control the weight of the gun and the gun movement equally. One hand should not overpower the other. If the gun is “nested” or rested in the shoulder, gun movement is more dependant on the less responsive large muscles of the body. When engaging trap-like targets with very little lateral movement, nesting the butt of the gun in the shoulder for accuracy and stability is an advantage but shifting most of the weight to the hands instead of the shoulder will help you respond more instinctively to these types of targets.
Rule #3 – Movement of the gun must be synchronized with the target. Synchronizing the movement of the gun barrel with the target allows the eye to focus clearly on the target just prior to and through the breakpoint. It is this synchronized movement with the target that allows you to apply sharp visual focus. When the gun is moving erratically or at a faster speed than the target, the movement of the gun barrel tends to pull the eye off of the target by distracting visual focus. I see many D and C Class shooters that swing through almost ever y target. While swing- through works well on targets with a consistent target line, it often fails with more technical or transitioning targets. Movement that is synchronized with the target prior to and through the breakpoint will greatly enhance visual focus and enable your eye to pick-up the nuances of transitioning targets.
Rule #4 – The longer “the ride”, the more likely the miss. The moment that the comb of the stock reaches your cheek, the quality of the visual information reaching your brain begins to degrade. The longer the stock is at your cheek, the more likely it is that you will miss the target. The bottom line is, you will never be able to see a target as well with the gun in your cheek because your vision is partially occluded by the gun barrel. I call this interval between the time the stock reaches your cheek and the time you pull the trigger “the occlusion interval”. The longer the occlusion interval, the more likely it is that something is going to go wrong. The longer the occlusion interval on a given target, the more likely it is that your visual focus will diffuse and you will become consciously aware of the barrel. A shot should be executed such that three key events occur in very rapid succession: 1) your visual focus on the target reaches a crescendo, 2) the gun makes contact with the cheek and 3) the trigger is activated. Or, as Gary Greenway, a mentor of mine and former NSCA Chief Instructor likes to say, “Lock on, Lock up and Deliver”: Visually “Lock-on” to the target, “Lock-up” the comb into the cheek and “Deliver” the shot. Your mount and movement to the target should be timed such that you can “Lock-on, Lock-up and Deliver” at the preplanned breakpoint. The trigger event, the moment you pull the trigger, is the moment at which your focus on the target reaches a crescendo and the comb of the stock meets the cheek.
Perfecting your gun mount and movement will be the most time-consuming of any aspect of your game. Naturally, it is also the aspect for which many shooters look for shortcuts. But there aren’t any shortcuts. I have spent countless hours on the skeet field on stations 3, 4 and 5 working on my mount… and it still needs work.
Let the weight of the gun rest in your hands and synchronize your gun movement with the target. Mount to the cheek for better eye-barrel alignment and pull the trigger the moment the comb reaches your cheek and you achieve sharp visual focus on the target.
Get radical and get more Xs on the scorecard.