Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Shotgun 101: Vision

Shotgun 101: Vision

In this series, I’ll be going over the basics of shotgun shooting to help you prepare for your own journey to the sporting clays course. We’ve already reviewed proper shotgun position and mount, now let’s talk about vision...

Shotgun Vision

Sight picture with a shotgun is particularly different than that of a pistol or rifle. Not only with the type of sights, but for the fact that your target it now moving.

If you’re familiar with sight alignment of a pistol, you’re aware it’s standard to have a front sight and rear sight, and aligning them correctly will give you proper sight picture. However on your shotgun, you’ll notice a bead at the end of the barrel. This serves as your front sight and your eye will act as your rear sight (Note: some shotguns also have a bead in the middle of the barrel; however, chances are the shotgun you’ll learn on won’t have this).

Whether you’re right or left eye dominate, the eye you’ll use to focus on the target must be on the side your gun is mounted. For many, one’s dominate eye is the same as their dominate hand. However if they are opposite, you are what is called “cross-dominate”. Regardless of dominance, you’ll want to do one of two things: train yourself to use your non-dominate eye, or shoot with your non-dominate hand. It’s best to get with an instructor to help practice either of these techniques and to avoid creating bad habits.

For the purpose of this post, let’s assume your dominate eye and dominate hand are on the same side.

Using your dominate eye, look straight down the barrel. You’ll want your eye to be aligned with the front sight bead. But, here comes the tricky part: Always keep your eye on the target. When shotgun shooting, you must look at the clay target and its path of movement at all times. If you look at the bead, you’ll lose focus on the target and likely miss.

Before taking your shot, keep your sight on the eye hold area. This area is where you will first see the clay as a clear, whole target. This designated area is between where the clay is released and where you will hit it. Most people see their eye hold area with both eyes open.

Before you shoot, get into position and mount the gun. For beginners, I recommend mounting the gun before the clay is released (you will learn different techniques as you become more advanced). When the clay is released, it will come into view as it moves into your eye hold area. Once you see the clay and understand its direction of movement, focus on the target and its path using your dominate eye. Remember, keep your eyes on the target the entire time and try not to look at the bead at the end of the barrel. 

There are different techniques regarding how to follow the target path, when to shoot, and where to hit the clay as it moves. Stay tuned for my next post to learn more about that!


This series is a brief overview of shotgun shooting fundamentals. I suggest taking a lesson from a certified instructor at your local club or range, or signing up for the NRA’s Basics of Shotgun Shooting Course.

Comments On This Article