Descending Targets (aka Loopers)
Targets that are descending at the breakpoint can be tricky. Descending targets are those targets that are dropping, losing speed or falling off of a straight-line trajectory at the breakpoint. Many shooters attempt to break this target as if it were a standard presentation with a straight-line trajectory. In most cases, this is a fatal mistake. Let’s say we have a “flat line” or straight-trajectory crossing target. Pull away or sustained lead are sound techniques for breaking this presentation. However, if the target is draining speed and starting to descend at the breakpoint and we treat it as a flat-line crossing target that is maintaining speed, we are likely occlude (block) the target with our barrel and shoot over the top of the target. Covering up or “occluding” a target with the barrel of your shotgun causes you to disconnect from the target visually. While there are some targets, like the outgoing/rising teal and the incoming overhead driven target, which we are forced to cover up to successfully break, we can avoid occluding most other targets by employing an “intercept” or “cutoff” technique. The three most common reasons a shooter occludes a target is: 1) lack of commitment to the breakpoint, 2) a failure to observe and understand what the target is doing at the breakpoint, and 3) poor or inappropriate technique for the given target. The result is typically a miss high and behind the target.
The first step toward establishing the correct shot plan is to: 1) Establish and landmark the breakpoint for the target, and 2) observe the behavior of the target at the breakpoint. The information you gain from these initial planning steps is critical to a solid shot plan. Is the target descending or changing speed and direction at the breakpoint? What is the line and speed of the target at the breakpoint? If a target is descending at the breakpoint, consider shortening up your stroke. In other words, move your hold point closer to the planned breakpoint and lower your muzzle angle a bit so that you can avoid occluding the target. In so doing, the angle at which your muzzle approaches the break point will be at a slightly upward angle. Approaching the breakpoint of this descending target with a slightly shorter stroke and at a slight upward angle will help you avoid occluding the target at the breakpoint. Committing to the breakpoint and decisive execution is critical to the success of this move. Moving the gun in a straight line from hold point to breakpoint is equally critical. If you lack commitment to your breakpoint, you will “stretch” your shot execution beyond the planned breakpoint and end up shooting over the target. You may encounter the same result if you fail to maintain a straight line of approach into your breakpoint. In the video below, also notice that the target is allowed to “collapse” at the breakpoint. In other words, the gun reaches the breakpoint before the target, pauses briefly and allows the targets to arrive at the breakpoint just prior to shot execution.
“Cutoff and Collapse”
While most shooters adopt sustained lead or pullaway as their “default” method, Intercept and collapse is a valuable technique for certain target types such as targets descending or transitioning at the breakpoint.