After discussing the other fundamentals for shotgun shooting, it’s time to put it all together with movement.
How you move with the target is what leads to a successful shot.
First, remember your position, mount, and how to see the target. It’s important when getting into position to keep your body oriented toward the target path. Position your lower body towards the direction the clay is flying, not where it is coming from. This way, you are turning towards a neutral position to fire a shot.
Once the target enters the eye hold area and your eyes focus on the target, you’ll begin to swing the gun along the target’s path. Your movement should come from turning your hips, keeping your torso, arms, head, and shoulders unchanged. If you try to swing the gun with your upper body, you’ll risk losing proper mount.
U.S. Olympic Trap Shooter Corey Cogdell puts it all together in Firearm Science:
When shooting a moving target, you’ll need to shoot a distance in front of it. This is called “lead” or “forward allowance”.
Lead will be different for every shot and every shooter. Some targets may require more lead than others or barely any lead at all. Others will require you to shoot high or low and left or right. Lead is affected by the target’s path of movement, speed, and distance from the shooter. Understanding correct lead takes time and only comes with experience and lots of practice.
There are three major lead systems used by clay shooters: maintained, swing-through, and pull away.
Maintained lead means the gun starts moving and stays in front of the target at all times. The shooter will adjust the amount of lead as needed and then move at the same speed as the target until the shot is fired.
Swing-through lead means the gun starts behind the target and is accelerated along the flight path until it passes the target, the shooter finds the correct lead, and the shot is fired.
Pull-away lead is when the gun is pointed directly at the target as it moves across the flight path. The shooter will then pull the gun away until the correct lead is found and the shot is taken.
You may find that one method works better for you than the others. Or you may choose to use one of the three methods depending on the target’s flight path. Choosing a lead system is completely up to the shooter’s preference.
So you’ve perfected your movement, found your lead, and fired the shot. You’re done right? Not so fast.
Follow through is one of the most important aspects for a successful shot. This means once you shoot, continue the movement of your gun for a brief moment. Like swinging a tennis racquet or baseball bat, you don’t want to stop the movement as soon as the ball is hit. Same goes for clay shooting. If you have missed the shot, simply follow the clay with the shotgun until it hits the ground. If it’s hit, you can follow the largest piece of broken clay or just continue the natural motion of the swing.
Learning how to correctly and consistently apply all the fundamentals discussed in this series will require much practice over time. Get with an instructor to develop your skills and practice, practice, practice! Remember: keep your eye on the target, your head on the gun, follow through, and most importantly, have fun!
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.