Skip to main content

Article 2 – 2018 (March)

people posing and smiling with shotguns

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 2 – 2018 (March)


Question: I have always struggled with the concept of “lead” when referring to clay target shooting. Recently I have tried my hand at some Sporting Clays and on the long crossing targets everyone tells me “I need to lead the target more”. I was brought up as a rifle shooter where leading a target doesn’t really apply. Is there a way to explain the concept of lead to me?

James Hoffman, Gosford NSW


Answer: Leading a target, or lack of it, is probably the biggest cause of missing in our sport. Whether it is in Sporting Clays, Trap, Skeet or hunting in the field the concept of lead, shooting where the target is going to be instead of where it currently is, tends to bring more people undone than any other single factor. In this short column I will try to summarise the basic ways you can apply lead to shoot that illusive crossing target.

Let us say for argument sake the target is crossing in front of you at a distance of 35 metres, which is a pretty normal range to shoot a Sporting Clays target. Let us also make the assumption your shotgun fits, you have the correct choke and also adequate ammunition to break the target consistently.

One of the first ways that many people learn the concept of lead is what is called the swing through method. Here the barrels come from behind the target at a greater speed than the target is travelling. The trigger is pulled when the barrel passes the target and because of the greater speed of the barrel lead is applied. In Trap shooting this technique is universally accepted as a fundamental rule.

Sustained lead is your next option. Here the barrel is held at a pre-determined distance in front of the target with both the barrel and target moving at the same speed. When the opportune time presents itself the trigger is pulled with a breaking target hopefully being achieved. In Skeet shooting this is by far the most common technique used.

Pull away lead is a very handy technique to master also. This means the barrel and the target are held together for a part of the targets flight path and at the right moment the barrel is accelerated in front of the target to obtain the correct lead.

Reducing lead takes a bit more skill. Here the barrel is held a long way in front of the target with the barrel still moving, but slower than the target. When the target finally gets in range the trigger is pulled, but again still well in front of the target.

Spot shooting lead requires very consistent targets with a pre determined flight path. Here the shooter knows in advance that the target will cross a point in the skyline at some stage of its trajectory. The shooter simply shoots at an object in the targets flight line. If the trigger is pulled at the correct time then the shot load and the target will cross. This may sound very risky, but virtually every Double Trap shooter in the world used this technique to shoot the first target of their pair.

These are your main five options and to be honest to be competent Sporting Clays competitor a knowledge of all techniques can be very beneficial. My personal preference of a thirty-five metre-crossing target would be to use the sustained lead technique.

Hopefully this will give you something to try the next time you are at the range. Once you have built the correct “sight picture” you will be amazed how quickly your brain will store that knowledge and reproduce it for you if you let it.

Good luck.

Questions to:

Article 1 – 2018 (February) Previous Article Article 4 – 2018 (May) Next Article