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Article 2 – 2021 (March)

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 1 – 2021 (February)

Question:   I have been very interested in your comments about how high a shotgun should shoot in relation to each activity you use it for. My father always taught me to look dead flat along the barrel and that would be perfect, but I notice many times you don’t support that theory. I mainly use my shotgun in the field but have recently had a few rounds of Sporting Clays and really loved it. Is such a flat shooting shotgun adequate for both uses?

Peter Quinn, Echuca VIC


Answer: I guess the answer lies in your definition of adequate? It is a topic we have touched on in various ways over the years many times. As you would be aware, I am a huge advocate of knowing where the point of impact and/or the point of aim percentage is of your shotgun regardless of what you are using it for. I stress you do this not only to prove how high or low above your aiming point you are shotgun is shooting, but also to reinforce that you are not missing your target left or right of your aiming point due to a variety of reasons, but often the amount of cast in the comb in the stock of your shotgun. I have discussed how to pattern your shotgun on numerous occasions so I am assuming you know how to do this, therefore I will make the assumption that the cast is correct and it’s only the height above and below the aiming point you are asking about.

The configuration your father has taught you to shoot with, if I understand correctly, has your eye dead flat along the rib/barrel of your shotgun which should in theory have you shooting a shot pattern throwing a distribution of pellets half above and half below your aiming point. This is known as a 50/50 percentage point of aim with a point of impact of zero mm at all distances until gravity starts to pull the shot towards earth.

Is this adequate? You will still break targets with this configuration and in a hunting scenario where you may have to shoot as game that is dropping quickly it may even be considered advantageous. Here is the problem. Not all targets and game drops towards the earth as you are taking aim at it. On a Sporting Clays range you often get fast rising targets that will require you take quick reflex shots and a shotgun that shoots this flat (provided your head stays in a constant firm position on the stock) will require that you swing through the target line and fire the shot “blind”. By this I mean the target will have to have disappeared from your sight picture in order for you to break the target with the right amount of horizontal lead. If you have to break your target by making it vanish when you pull the trigger your shotgun is shooting too low. You are relying on luck. You can quickly alter this point of aim by simply not putting your head down as hard on the stock therefore allowing you to “see” some of the rib of the shotgun and of course this will make it shoot higher. Would I advocate this technique? No chance. You need to develop a technique that allows you to be consistent in how you place your head and its firmness on the stock. No doubt there are target/hunting presentations where you will want your head down on the stock very firm such as a target under your feet that is dropping, but these require small adjustments not major.

A great deal of the worlds best Sporting Clay shooters have no clue where their shotguns shoot by their own admission. They find a configuration that works for them and let their experience on judging distance, lead and then simply let the technical characteristics required to break each type of target they are faced with do the rest. I am sure many great hunters do the same. In short there is no right or wrong answer, but if you are setting any shotgun up on a pattern board regardless of what you are going to use it for make sure it first of all throws a relatively straight shot pattern and my advice would be to have it throw a shot pattern somewhere between sixty to seventy percent of its pellets are above its aiming point because it is easier to shoot further under a target you can see rather than further over something that has disappeared under your barrel.

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