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Article 10 – 2023 (November)

Australian Shooter Magazine

Question and Answers

Article 10 – 2023 (November)

Question:  I often hear people say that shotgun shooting is ninety percent mental and only ten percent technical? How true is that statement in your opinion?

Lin Chu, Darwin NT 

Answer:  I have heard plenty of people over the years go as far as saying the sport is ninety-nine percent mental. In my opinion that is a little over the top for the average shotgun shooter, but it could be very realistic at the higher end of the sport.

Of all of the shooting disciplines shotgun shooting is certainly the most instinctual, but that doesn’t mean that just any shotgun and technique will get you to the top of the sport. If you don’t have a grasp of the basic fundamentals and have equipment that shoots straight then it won’t matter how tough you are mentally you just aren’t going to get there.

I would suggest when you are starting out in the sport then the ratio for hitting targets even semi-consistently could be ten percent mental and ninety percent technical. It is the same as the sport of golf in my opinion. Anybody can randomly putt a ball in the hole every now and then from five metres away, but to do it ninety per cent of the time under pressure becomes practically impossible for a rank amateur more than fifty percent of the time. Just like shooting a perfect dead centre bullseye on the Pistol or Rifle Range. You will hit absolute perfection once in a while, but just because you did it once don’t expect to do it all the time.

I find that many of the great shotgun shooters are just like this. They go through the right technical procedures like clockwork. The same stance, same mount, placing their head on the stock in exactly the same position, they wait for the same amount of time before calling for the target to be released and eventually once they have seen the clay in the air they do exactly the same movement to the target time and time again. But here’s the thing! There isn’t one correct stance for everyone, there is not one particular way to mount the shotgun to your shoulder, no two people place their head on the stock in exactly the same manner and certainly there in not one identical place in the sky where you have to break the target no matter what discipline you are shooting. The single most important factor that you must accomplish is that you must do it your way identically every single time.

If you develop a routine mastering your technique and have the ultimate amount of faith and belief that you can break the target then more than likely you probably will. If you have any doubt that what you are about to do may not result in a hit then you are a big chance of missing. There is an age old saying in sport;

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you are correct”.

What this simple phrase is telling us is in the sport of shotgun shooting is that if you have the belief in yourself that you are about to break the next target thrown into the sky then as long as you have a reasonable grasp of the fundamentals and your shotgun is actually shooting straight then you are a huge chance to succeed.

Getting back to your original question about what percentage in the sport is mental it clearly depends what level you are talking about.

The six finalists at any Olympic Games in either discipline are all accomplished shooters with techniques and equipment that has been tried and tested for years. So, what separates them all? One word. Belief. This one word accounts for most of the success at this level. There is really no difference between any of the shotguns, ammunition and even though all the athletes may technically look like they are doing things differently pretty much all the basic technical fundamentals are being covered. It comes down to the person that really believes that during the next fifty minutes of an ultra-high pressure Olympic “Final” that they are going to hit everything that is going to be thrown into the sky and if they honestly believe that if for some reason a miss occurs, it was merely an “act of god” and that unfortunate incident won’t happen again any time soon, then generally, they are right. In this set of circumstances, the mental component of the game becomes way closer to one hundred percent than ninety.

A famous footwear company years ago coined the logo “Just do it”. I believe the marketing company executive that thought of this simple philosophy would have made a great clay target shooter.

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