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Article 3 – 2019 (April)

people posing and smiling with shotguns

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 3 – 2019 (April)


Question: I am relatively new to clay target shooting, but have been shooting rifles all my life in one form or another. I haven’t had any coaching, but was curious what you believe are the most important couple of fundamentals that I should be focusing on before I proceed with some professional help. When I first shot clays as a schoolboy the techniques we were taught seem odd as compared to what I am seeing my local range. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Jacob Farrugia, Sunshine VIC


Answer: I would think the fundamentals for any sport are the starting point on the road to success so well done for trying to sort that out first. I have no idea what level you are trying to reach or what discipline of clay target shooting you are pursuing, but start by getting the right equipment. If you are shooting trap, buy a trap gun, if it’s Sporting Clays or Skeet then buy a shotgun that is suitable. Any decent gun shop will be able to set you on the right path. Once you have the right firearm (and I will assume it will be fitted correctly) then you can concentrate on the basic technical fundamentals.

Above all else I consider your gun mount to your shoulder and into the shotgun’s firing position to be the most important fundamental. I say this because this will ultimately determine where your eyes are placed when you are pulling the trigger aiming at your target. If you have mounted the gun in such a way where your head is firmly on the stock of the gun and you are looking out through the centre of your eyes then you are half way home. If you can clearly see what you are looking at whilst your head is looking perfectly down the centre of the barrel then you are on your way to hitting a lot of clay targets. If you cant clearly see your target then you can have the greatest shotgun, most expensive ammunition, best fitting shooting jacket etc etc, but it is not going to help you one bit. Learn how to mount your gun with your eyes parallel to the horizon and you can make a multitude of other technical errors, but still break clays. You can’t hit what you can’t see.

Stance and balance is next. There are many variances of stance, but as a very basic rule when mounting the gun pointing at 12 o’clock, assuming you are right handed, then have your left foot pointing at 1 o’clock and your right foot at 2 o’clock. If you are left handed point the right foot at 11 o’clock and the left at 10 o’clock. Have your heels about 30 centimetres apart. This is a very general guide, but it is a good start.

As a beginner you will be tempted to transfer all your weight over your front foot to cater for the shotgun’s recoil. You may try to do this by simply bending your front knee, but this will cause you issues later on as you progress. If you are of a small stature and really need to cater for recoil then simply lean forward over your front leg with a normal stance. Seventy-five percent of your body weight on your leading leg is plenty as a beginner. In time you won’t feel the need to do this and you will find that enough weight will be transferred forward by simply mounting the gun to your shoulder. Balance is a huge part of shooting clay targets successfully and consistently. Over compensating for recoil is an enemy of high scores in the long term.

Practicing your technique at home in front of a mirror (dry mounting) cannot be emphasised enough. A couple of hundred dry mounts a day will soon get you into the instinctual habit of getting the shotgun in its correct starting position without you having to manually feed yourself instructions on the range. Once you can do this without thinking about it then there is no substitute for practice. Trust yourself with the fundamentals and good scores will follow.

Good luck with it.

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