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Article 4 – 2023 (May)

Australian Shooter Magazine

Question and Answers

Article 4 – 2023 (May)

Question: I need some serious help on an issue I seemed to have developed with my vision when I shoot clays. I like to shoot all the target disciplines if I can get the chance and I guess I have had varying degrees of success at achieving reasonable scores over the years. I am now sixty-five years old and the problem I am having is that I seem to have lost the ability to smoothly mount the shotgun to my shoulder and wait a few seconds for my eyes to settle before calling “pull”. The only way I can shoot a decent score in any event these days is to just throw the shotgun to the shoulder and call the moment the stock hits my face. Is this normal? I am at the point of giving up.

Pete Davis, Virginia SA 

Answer: It’s a great question that sadly has no definitive answer in my opinion, but as a coach I have had a fair bit of exposure to competitors that have gone down the same path as yourself.

I will start by saying this. There are very few things that should be considered “normal” amongst the world’s elite shooters when it comes to vision. Everyone seems to do things slightly different.

For many people, regardless of what discipline of clay target shooting they compete in, once their shotgun is closed and it is placed in the “ready” position, which can be either on or off the shoulder depending on the event that you are shooting in, the tendency is to wait a few seconds for your eyes to settle before asking for the target to be released. Just how long you wait can vary on many variables from how much time you legally can pause for such as the time restrictions you may be faced with if  you are competing under the Olympic rules or simply how much strength is required to hold a four kilogram steady before fatigue starts to become a factor. I would suggest most competitors wait between two to four seconds from this “ready” position, but the real reason to keep steady is to ensure your eyes are positioned in the correct position to clearly identify the target when it is released from the clay target thrower. This ideal position will vary from discipline to discipline and of course from individual to individual.

What you are doing now is not uncommon. Many people find that as they get older it becomes harder to maintain this “soft” focus position for too long because the longer they wait they are finding that their eyes are being drawn back to the end of the barrel and within no time you are looking at a big red front sight instead of looking out in the area beyond where the target is going to be released from.

Focusing clearly on the end of the barrel is a real issue for beginners or anyone that has been brought up shooting an open sight rifle or pistol. All shotgun shooters need to know where the end of their barrel is, but they don’t need to see it clearly as their vision should be locked onto the object they are trying to hit as it is being propelled through the sky.

There are certainly eye exercises you can try to help train your failing peripheral vision and I would recommend you speak to a decent optician for help if you are deadly serious on improving your shotgun shooting, but I am wondering if it is as simple as your eye sight starting to fail as opposed to you simply getting a little older and not being able to have the fast reflexes to react to the speed of the target as you once did?

The method you are describing to shoot your targets these days is nearly a technique where your weight is propelled forward as you mount the shotgun and I would like to bet your barrel is still in motion as you call for the target. A moving barrel technique is certainly a bona fide way that many great competitors have used over the years and if you are not seeing the targets clearly then this technique promotes very fast barrel movements which can help overcome some of these problems. Personally, I only get people to try this technique as a last resort, but I have seen some great results from people that can master this method of shooting. My main concern for anyone trying this is that under pressure there is a tendency to start swinging the barrels faster as your heart rate rises.

Before you sell your shotguns speak to your optician and I am sure he will point you in the right direction.

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