Last week I had my latest shooting lesson with Southdown’s Head Coach (and CPSA Coach of the Year), Simon Arbuckle. We headed straight down the lane to try some of the sporting stands – and as these get changed frequently, I was looking forward to trying some new targets. It was a very windy day, which made me a bit nervous as I knew it would affect the clays, but hey, you’ve got to work with the weather throws at you!
I got straight into it, starting with a right to left target about 40 yards away. I loaded up the gun alongside a little lesson to note, that interestingly the bottom barrel – the one I was using – has less recoil as it is absorbed straight down into the stock. It makes no difference to your sight however, as the height difference is so minimal your eyes can’t tell which barrel the shot is being fired from.
True to my previous form, it took me a while to warm up – I was pulling ahead of the targets, stopping the gun when taking the shot rather than flowing smoothly through the movement, and rushing far too much. Simon tells me that if you get a rushing feeling, something is wrong with your set up, whether its your feet, eyes or gun. My feet seemed to be ok so we focused on making sure I was really staring at the clay – I had to remember the saying from my first lesson; “don’t look, STARE!” It’s important to always focus on the positive when you are telling yourself something, for example, always try and say, “look at the clay” not “DON’T look at the gun,” because you’re brain will just hear the words “look at the gun,” which isn’t very helpful if that’s what you are trying to avoid!
A good trick I’ve found is to follow the clay with your index finger before taking a shot with the gun, as you can really see the true trajectory of the clay. I have a habit of pre-empting which direction/speed it is going, and this helped me to realise that actually (especially with this particular target) it wasn’t falling where I was expecting it to. Then when I actually came to load the gun and go for it, I was able to hit the clay. Obviously this doesn’t work with competition shooters who only have the chance to view each target once…but I’ve got a little way to go before that becomes a problem!
After nailing the first target, we moved on to a distant target on the other side of the lane – the wind had a real effect and I just couldn’t seem to get it right. I also think I have been used to shooting targets travelling in the opposite direction (right to left), so this time with the clay coming from behind my gun (left to right) I was thrown. Many failed attempts later, we decided to give up on that one – it just wasn’t the target for me!
Finally we moved on to a bit of a different target, travelling from closer to the stand away from the shooter into the distance. There was only a small window of opportunity to hit the target and my gun only required a really small movement to follow the clay. After a few failed attempts (my usual pre-emptive brain kicking in), I managed to smash this one every time. Targets like this have taught me that it’s not always about waiting, double checking or hesitating too much. I was locking on to the clay early, and as soon as it was where I wanted it to be…I took the shot! In the end, it’s finding the right balance between not rushing too much and not waiting around too long. A difficult thing to execute and one that’s made me realise I’ve still got a lot to learn!