Skip to main content

Article 7 – 2016

man smiling while holding orange clay pigeon

Question: I have just started shooting a little trap, skeet and even sporting clays. I enjoy them all, but I am having some issues. In trap I am missing the sharp angled targets, but I don’t seem to have the same problems with these harder shots in Skeet and Sporting Clays. I was told I am not leading the targets far enough in trap and that I should try and shoot about a metre in front of the really sharp angled trap targets. Presently my expert shooting friend tells me that I am only shooting a half metre in front of the clays. Is there a way to explain how I should double my lead?

Alan Doyle, Brisbane QLD


Answer: Alan before you do anything else make sure you send me the email address of your “expert shooting friend” as I have never met anyone that can distinguish actual lead to that degree of detail on a trap target. If he is that good I want to submit his name to be the next National Shotgun Coach.

Lead in clay target shooting is purely in the eyes of the person holding the shotgun and pulling the trigger. Everyone perceives it differently, but in trap shooting there really is only one type of lead used, which is commonly referred to as the “swing through” method. In doing this a competitor identifies the flight line of the clay target and moves the shotgun from behind and underneath through the targets trajectory. As the barrel catches the target the trigger is pulled. The time it takes for the brain and eyes to all work together coupled with the speed of the barrel moving through the target gives the lead required. This all takes place in tenths of a second and no clear and concise mathematical lead is calculated. Lead is purely performed by barrel speed and timing. To say you are a half metre in front of the target instead of a full metre may merely mean that you need to swing the barrel faster thus giving you greater lead. There are many factors that need to be taken into account here, but the barrels starting position in relation to the trap house when the target is called to be released will be the greatest factor. If I was constantly shooting behind angled targets I would find a way to move the barrels faster and the most common way to do this is by starting the barrels lower to the trap house thus generating more gun speed. This is why Olympic Trap competitors hold the gun lower to the trap house than DTL/American Trap competitors who don’t need quite the same amount of barrel speed due to the vastly slower targets.

Many shots in Sporting Clays and nearly all Skeet targets are shot with what is called “sustained lead” which means a more calculated distance is maintained by the barrel in front of the target for a period of time before the trigger is pulled. This type of lead can only be used when there is enough time for all of these factors to be combined. Trap shooting simply does not have the type of target that requires this method.

The final method of lead is called the “pull away” method where the barrel is held closely to the target for some time and just prior to the shot being executed the barrel is accelerated or pushed in front of target therefore giving the required lead. Many hunters prefer this method, but it is certainly not used exclusively as many game birds need to be shot on a shooters reflexes, which would almost always require the swing through method of lead.

I hope this helps answer your question, but it is impossible to be definitive in a response unless I see you actually fire at the target. There could easily be other reasons for your missed shots particularly if your gun stock is not the correct height which may mean you have the correct lead, but are missing the target by continually shooting above or below the targets flight line.

Article 6 (Olympic Appeal) – 2016 Previous Article Article 8 – 2016 Next Article