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The day I learnt to shoot…

For someone who has never held a gun before, the idea of “learning to shoot” seemed like a good idea at the time! Now sat in the classroom, listening to gun safety, the difference between cartridges and gun handling, I start to realise there’s a lot to learn before heading out onto the field.

Having recently started working with Southdown Gun Club on their social media and marketing, we thought it would be good to take part and shoot so that I could be more involved in the sport. Simon Arbuckle, Head Coach at Southdown is giving me my first shooting lesson and I’m nervous and excited in equal measures.

The first part of my lesson is mainly about how to be safe, confident and in control when shooting. It’s important for me to know the basics before I try it out for real, and I learn that it’s all about treating the gun with respect. Alongside this, I am told that I will eventually stop ‘thinking’ about everything I have learnt, and instead will start ‘feeling’ the process, so it will all become a lot easier. Let’s see!

Today I will be using a Zoli Kronos 20 bore left-handed gun (Simon would have chosen the Zoli Bella for me, but unfortunately it wasn’t left handed). Trust me to be an awkward left-hander – let’s hope this wouldn’t be my first hurdle…

I was lucky to have a warm, sunny October day, so I couldn’t blame any lack of skill on the weather – instead, we set up on the skeet range and practiced what I had learnt in the classroom; my stance, loading the gun correctly, and then a new one for me – simply following the clay with the gun to get a feel for how fast and high the clay would come out.

My first shot came next and although I missed, it was good to finally go through the motions for real. The recoil was a surprise, but not as powerful as I expected, and as I lowered the gun I was ready to try again. Simon tried to make me tell him what I had done wrong with each missed shot so that I could learn and improve each time. On my third shot, I hit my first clay and it was a really satisfying feeling – everything I’d put into practice had worked (although it didn’t last long since I took another seven or eight tries to hit my next clay!)

There is a lot to remember when you first start; the correct way to load the gun, ensuring your position is comfortable and making sure you are looking in the right place for the clay…I mean STARING – “spectators look, shooters stare,” as Simon corrects me. With each shot, the process became more natural and all of the things I had to remember started to happen in one fluid motion – I was finally beginning to feel instead of think!

Overall, I managed to only hit 3 targets out of 25. If I’m honest, I thought I would have hit more, but Simon assures me that if he had taken me to the have-a-go area, I would have smashed them all. He tells me he is not teaching me to hit the clays, he is teaching me to shoot properly, so it’s much more important for me to learn the rightway to shoot. Once I’ve mastered the basics, we can progress from there. Watch this space…!