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Article 11 – 2023 (December)

Australian Shooter Magazine

Question and Answers

Article 11 – 2023 (December)

Question:  I have never quite understood where I should be looking when I call for the target to be released. I shoot a variety of clay target events that include Sporting, Trap and even Skeet and seeing the target leave as it starts its flight path seems to be my weakness. Any advice would be appreciated.

Beau Hammil, Doncaster VIC

Answer:  Beau, I have to assume you have good vision and have healthy eyes with no major issues. I also will assume you have had your eye dominance tested and are using your shotgun from the correct shoulder or have made the appropriate modifications if your dominant eye does not match your left or right “handiness”. A correct set of shooting frames is also highly recommended if you are forced to shoot with a prescription, I would strongly recommend a set of appropriate shooting glasses and to be honest, even if you don’t need corrective lenses simply get some frames for safety reasons. On these assumptions we can proceed.

I rate target acquisition as one of the most important fundamentals to master in the shooting sports. You can have the greatest shotgun in the world, the best technique, the most popular ammunition, but if you are not seeing the target correctly everything else is useless to you.

It is irrelevant what discipline of shotgun shooting you are participating in, the sooner you can lock your eyes on the target the better. In events like Trap or Skeet this is critical, but even in many of the fast Sporting Clay shots, that require quicker reflexes and instinctual shots, then where you position your eyes before you call will often determine the final result.

As a general rule there are two schools of thought on how you should set your eyes just prior to calling for the target in any form of shotgun shooting that requires a fast response.

The traditional point of view is that you should “softly focus” your eyes into the target acquisition area, just out over or even under the end of your barrel, so that your for-vision can still reference a sight picture between your barrel and the target when it eventually appears. Once the target in in the air your peripheral vision will first of all identify the flash of the target leaving and then your vision will very quickly go from a soft to a hard focus thus locking your eyes onto the target until the desired point in the sky where you want to pull the trigger to break it.

Many shooters use this method and don’t even know they are doing it and in many circumstances the fact that they don’t even know they are doing it can be quite advantageous. The less things floating around in your head the better is my take on this however there are many competitors out there that just need to know how everything works to perform at their best so the following method may be better for them if it can be perfected.

The second and more recent tactic is to train to keep your eye perfectly still for a period of at least two seconds before calling for the target to be released. It goes against the traditional technique as it brings your vision somewhat closer to the end of the barrel and holds your eye perfectly still “looking” at a blade of grass, a rock, a part of a cloud or a particular part of a tree branch. It can be any material object that holds your concentration and eye perfectly still and stops your eye moving back and forward constantly in the hundredths of seconds before calling for the target. Once you have control of your eye and have been able to keep it totally still there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that it will identify a moving object (the target) much faster and with a lot more accuracy. This modern day approach is often referred to as the “Quiet Eye” technique and has been used with great success in many other sports and is quickly working its way through the shotgun sports. Once again there a quite a few athletes that I know that use this technique with great success, but in actual fact they don’t really even know they are doing it. The internet has many articles on this technique and I highly recommend some further research into it.

Identifying your target is an area of coaching that is often overlooked. When people ask for a shooting lesson, coaches often concentrate on gun fit and technique because these two material things are easy to fix. To improve someone’s ability to see the target and then have them move the barrel quickly and above all smoothly from the acquisition to the breaking point is quite another skill that requires a level of knowledge and experience to explain. My experience as a coach tells me that most people perform this task adequately, but many, if not most, could improve on it.

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