Article 10 – 2014
Question: I am reasonably new to clay shooting and I am keen to start shooting competition. Most of the clubs I will probably shoot at can be windy and can get very cold with lots of rain. Have you any advice for shooting in bad weather? I was told that the only way to compete well in windy weather is to shoot fast. Is that good suggestion?
Bruce Gutteridge, Ararat VIC
Answer: I admit that throughout my shooting career I was never one to enjoy competing in inclement weather. I grew up not far from you at Ballarat in the Central Highlands and I did learn very early that sooner or later you will get wet or suffer the wind and cold so it is well worth preparing for it.
You need to be careful about making any technical changes when competing in bad weather. Your “sight picture” that you rely on when shooting any type of clay target under the pressure of competition regardless of the discipline does not have an adjustment for bad weather. This “picture” is stored in your brain after countless successful shots and cannot be changed in the wind and rain. One of the greatest myths in clay target shooting is that you need to shoot faster in the wind to have an advantage over the target. It is exactly the wrong assumption. All that shooting deliberately faster will do is to make you shoot further behind and under most targets. Your brain has all the knowledge of lead, timing and correct technique, but when you intentionally try and change this because of the weather a disaster is normally waiting just around the corner. Ultimately what I am trying to tell you is to try and shoot the same at all times. Accept that gusts of wind will lower your accuracy, but it will lower everybody else’s also. Extreme wind may require a slightly wider stance, but this is fraught with danger as it will alter your gun mount and smoothness of swing to the target. High winds only advantage competitors that are generally grossly overweight as the wind won’t push them around as much. Sad, but true. It is simple physics. Adding a high carbohydrate diet to your training program to add a few kilograms for the winter months is poor advice also I am afraid.
By far the best preparation for bad weather is dressing appropriately. Spend a few dollars on some long sleeve thermal tops and pants. Outdoor camping shops have the best range. Wear an inner pair of thin socks under some thick woolen ones and buy a pair of flat sole waterproof walking boots. Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a woolen beanie or at the very least a peaked cap that should also help keep the rain off your face. If you must wear shooting glasses either through poor eyesight or simply the rules of your game then wear some blinders to stop the wind and water getting under the lenses. In extreme cold I resisted shooting gloves, but mainly due to the fact I wanted to avoid my teammates tormenting me on my appearance. There are plenty of days I think they would have been advantageous.
One of the best investments you can add to your shooting kit is a set of totally waterproof (not shower proof) wet weather outfits. Golf shops generally offer the best quality and range of wet weather gear. Try and find a top that has no collar as a large collar will inhibit your gun mount.
The essential element in all clothes that you use to keep out the wind and rain is the thickness of the material. Thinner is better, but may come with a price. Big heavy jumpers and jackets will totally alter your guns feel on your shoulder by artificially altering its perceived length of pull. For many years all of my guns were fitted with a 3mm spacer between the pad and the stock that I removed for the winter months and simply added it back in summer. If your gun feels different after you have layered on heaps of cold weather clothes it will probably shoot differently. Many times for no other reasons your scores may suffer due to your mental approach, but this is a major part of the game. Be prepared for all weather and don’t let it become a factor in your performance. Bad weather is generally the same for everyone so don’t use it as an excuse.