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Tech Talk


This page contains technical information that can help you with many aspects of your game. We'll cover equipment selection, care and feeding of your gun, shooting tips, and other esoteric items. The data below is loosely organized so take your time!


David has written and published an article for Skeet Shooting Review (July 2008) and Sporting Clays Magazine (September 2008). Click here to read it!


David also contributed commentary for the following article: Mastering the March Hare


Links to Tech Talk Sections
Your Equipment Shotgun Action Types Choke and Shot Size Selections
Know Your Dominant Eye Common Shooting Methods  
Skeet Shooting Tips Trap Shooting Tips  

Your Equipment

Shotguns are distinguished from other types of firearms by the ammunition used. Other types of firearms fire a single projectile whereas a shotgun fires multiple projectiles (sometimes as many as 1,100) called shot. This shot begins to spread into what is known as the shot pattern as soon as it leaves the muzzle of the gun. Most guns have a constriction at the end of the barrel called a choke that can control the size, density, and speed of spread of the shot pattern. Many shotguns have interchangeable chokes allowing the shooter to choose the appropriate amount of constriction based on the target.

When choosing a shotgun there are many factors to research before committing your hard earned dollars to a purchase. Things such as action type, barrel length, gun fit and length of pull, gauge, choke selections, and cost must be considered carefully. The right gun with the right fit can make or break your game so take your time and get plenty of advice. If you have any questions, drop a note to David at ddobsonpvb@aol.com for help.

And speaking of proper gun fit, once you have bought your dream gun, get it fitted correctly by an artisan who specializes in this process. Nothing points as sweetly as a properly fitted shotgun, and your new gun needs to shoot exactly where you look. Bare in mind, gunfit is only as good as your mechanics and fundamentals. Form is everything, so do yourself a big favor and take yourself and your new gun to see my good friend, Todd Nelson (www.gunfitter.com), as he is simply one of the finest gunfitters and form experts in the United States today. It will be worth the trip, and YOU will hit many more birds than you ever thought possible!

Shotgun Action Types

Break Action - Over and Under

A double-barrelled shotgun with one barrel placed over the other. The American version of the standard British game shooting gun. Shells are loaded by "breaking" open the gun and manually removing and replacing the shells in each barrel. The Browning Citori 525 Golden Clays is an example of this action type.

Break Action - Side by Side

A double-barrelled shotgun with the barrels sitting side by side horizontally. In Great Britain, the standard game shooting gun. Shells are loaded by "breaking" open the gun and manually removing and replacing the shells in each barrel. The Beretta Guibileo II is an example of this action type.

Pump Action

A single-barrelled shotgun where shells are ejected and loaded by pumping the forearm of the stock back and forth. The Remington Model 870 Wingmaster® Classic Trap is an example of this action type.

Semi-Automatic

A single-barrelled shotgun in which gas from the burning gun powder in the shell automatically ejects the spent shell and loads another. Semi-automatics are noted for minimal recoil. The Beretta AL391 Teknys Gold Sporting is an example of this action type.

Choke and Shot Size Suggestions

Chokes control the size, density, and rate of spread of the shot pattern. The tighter the choke used, the smaller and more dense the shot pattern will be at any given distance. A common misconception is that a tighter choke will INCREASE the length of the shot string. This is inaccurate, as the contstriction of the choke increases density and "bunches up" the shot pattern in all directions, thereby DECREASING the length. If you'd like a more technical description, refer to Bob Brister's definitive work, "Shotgunning: The Art and The Science", available through Amazon.com (ISBN 0-8329-1840-7) Winchester Press.

Selection of the right choke for the task at hand will improve your game but, the sheer number of choke sizes available can make choke selection a difficult task. A small set of properly chosen chokes will cover nearly all your shooting needs.

A good basic choke set for a single-barrel gun includes: one each of Skeet (SKT), Light Modified (LM), and Improved Modified (IM). If you could choose only one choke, an Improved Cylinder (IC) or LIght Modified (LM) choke should be it.

Choke selection for a double-barrel shotgun is a bit more complex as each barrel has its own choke thereby increasing the number of possible choke combinations. A good basic choke set for a double-barrel gun includes: a pair of Skeet (SKT), one each of an Improved Cylinder (IC) / Modified (MOD), and an extra Improved Modified (IM) for those long shots. Many competitive shooters replace the IC/MOD combintation with a pair of Light Modified (LM) chokes.

David's usual choke and shot size selection is MOD / IMOD with 7 1/2 shot.

Common Chokes and Constrictions
Name Abbreviation 12 Ga. Constriction 20 Ga. Constriction 28 Ga. Constriction
Cylinder CYL .000 .000 .000
Skeet / Skeet I SKT .005 .004 .003
Skeet II SKT2 .008 .006  
Improved Cylinder

IC

.010 .008 .006
Light Mod LM .015 .012 .009
Modified MOD .020 .016 .012
Improved Modified IM .025 .020 .015
Light Full LF .030 .024 .018
Full F .035 .028 .021
Extra Full XF .040 .032  

Choke and Shot Size Recommendations by Sport
Sport
Shot Size
Chokes
Trap
71/2 or 8
Full or Modified
Skeet
8 or 9
Skeet or Improved Cylinder
Sporting Clays
7 1/2, 8, or 8 1/2
Any. Light Modified or Modified recommended. Use a more open choke for closer targets and tighter chokes for longer distances.

Know Your Dominant Eye

Virtually everyone has a dominant eye and some have what is known as cross-dominance. A shotgun is designed to point rather than aim, and should be shot with both eyes open. And, since the ability to align your gun with a moving target is so important, it's critical that you know which, if either, eye is dominant.

Once you've determined your dominant eye, you will need to learn to mount your gun on the shoulder on the same side as your dominant eye. If you mount the gun to the shoulder opposite your dominant eye, another option is to place a small patch or opaque dot on the lense of your shooting glasses of your dominant eye. This patch should be small, but just large enough to block your dominant eye from seeing the barrel of your gun.

David addresses these issues as part of his instruction.

Here is a simple test to find which eye is dominant:

  1. Extend your hands in front of your face. Place them together to form a small roughly triangular opening with your thumbs at the bottom.
  2. With both eyes open, look through the triangle and focus on a distant object.
  3. Maintain your focus and close one eye. If the object disappears or shifts position, the closed eye is your dominant eye.

Common Shooting Methods

Sustained Lead

A popular method advocated by many instructors and favored by many shooters. It consists of placing the muzzle in front of the target, and keeping it there through the shot. Lead is apparent as the stock reaches your cheek. A weakness of Sustained Lead is a tendency to stop the gun when you pull the trigger. The key to this method is sustaining the lead through the entire shot and not allowing the target to pass the muzzle.

Swing Through

A widely practiced method for clay target and live bird shooting. In this method, you place the muzzle slightly behind the target, then sweep through the target and fire. This technique builds muzzle speed, which automatically provides lead (even though you may not always see it using this method) and helps overcome the tendency to stop the gun.

Pull Away

Similar to Swing Through, but the muzzle insert is on the target and, as you pull away from the target, lead can be seen briefly. The Pull Away method also encourages good muzzle speed.

Skeet Shooting Tips - Refer to The Sports page for a general description of Skeet

I get asked so many times by my Skeet Students to E-mail them the basics about Skeet set up including Break Points, Foot Position, Muzzle Hold Point (MHP), and Visual Hold Point (VHP or Focal Point, FP), as well as other “tricks” in moving their Skeet game to the next level. Well, here it is, once and for all, and remember, this is only the beginning! Tweak as you need it!

SET-UP (Feets, don't fail me now!)

For Right-handed shooters: When you set up, have your belly button to the Low House Window. The exceptions are: LH 7 (BB is perpendicular to the window or right at the Window Scoop) and HH 8 (BB is perpendicular, with your left shoulder facing the High House window).

For Left-Handed shooters, your belly button is to the High House Window. The exceptions to this rule are Station One, wherein your belly button is facing outward with your left shoulder to the High House window, and LH 8, where your belly button is facing outward with your right shoulder facing the LH window.

Muzzle Hold Points (where the gun is held before calling “pull”)

In general, your Muzzle Hold Point (MHP) is always 1/3 of the way out from the House Window to the Center Stake when shooting a MOUNTED GUN System. For Low Gun System Shooters, ½ way out (or a little more) is perfect. The exceptions are HH 1, LH 7, and Station 8. On HH8, hold on the bottom of the window, then go to the edge of the House, as a rule. For LH8, Hold at the bottom of the window, edge of the House, then move out 2 feet to the left, as this will allow a smoother move to the bird. Some people think holding at the edge of the House, bottom of the window, is good. Not in my book, as this allows too much random gun movement, (RGM). On BOTH targets, shoot the belly!

Visual Hold Points (The eyes have it!)

Your eyes or Visual Hold Point (VHP – sometimes called the “Focal Point) are always looking back into the House or just beyond the window. The exceptions to this rule are HH 1, HH 2, LH 6, and LH 7. On these, look up into “soft focus” just above the muzzle, and the eyes will lock onto the target much faster than if you start on the muzzle or in the house on these stations. Let your peripheral vision do the work on these stations.

Good luck, have fun, and remember, this is only a beginning point on the Game of Skeet. There is a lot more to this tricky little game than meets the eye!

Trap Shooting Tips - Refer to The Sports page for a general description of Trap

I get asked so many times by my Trap Students to E-mail them the basics about Trap set up including Break Points, Foot Position, Muzzle Hold Point (MHP), and Visual Hold Point (VHP or Focal Point, FP), as well as other “tricks” in moving their Trap game to the next level. Well, here it is, once and for all, and remember, this is only the beginning! Tweak as you need it!

SET-UP (Feets, don't fail me now!)

For Right-handed shooters: When you set up, have your Right Foot Instep (i.e., back foot) facing (on a perpendicular line) to the CENTER front of the Trap House.

For Left-handed shooters: It is just the opposite, when you set up, have your Left Foot Instep (i.e., back foot) facing (on a perpendicular line) to the CENTER front of the Trap House.

In either setup, this will give you the greatest range of motion for all targets. I like to call this the “Neutral setup”.

Muzzle Hold Points (where the gun is held before calling “pull”)

In general, for 16-Yard Trap (meaning that you are 16 yards back from the front of the Trap House and source of the launched target). Your Muzzle Hold Points (MHP) for each station are as follows:

  • Station 1: Always on the edge of the left side of the Trap House and even with the front top of the House roofline.
  • Station 2: Moved in 2/5 from the left edge of the House towards the CENTER of the House and even with the front top of the House roofline.
  • Station 3: In the CENTER of the House and even with the front top of the House roofline
  • Station 4: Moved in 2/5 from the right edge of the House towards the CENTER of the House and even with the front top of the House roofline.
  • Station 5: Always on the edge of the right side of the Trap House and even with the front top of the House roofline.

For Handicap Trap, if you are back and in the middle of the yardage markers in terms of distance from the front of the House, the MHP's are the same but the elevation is lowered somewhat to the middle of the house roofline. As you begin to move back on the yardage markers, you lower your MHP incrementally to where, by the time you are on the 27 yard line, your MHP is even with the back of the house roofline. The reason? I thought you would never ask! As yardage from the target increases, the move to the target becomes smaller, thereby creating an inverse relationship. This is where (slow motion) moves become critical. Your move to the target should be smooth and always in slow motion.

For Trap Doubles, for Stations 1, 2 & 3, your MHP is about a foot high and right of the CENTER of the House roof and below the target line/flight path. You will shoot the right target first in the pair and very aggressively, as the second target is getting away quickly. For Stations 4 & 5, your MHP is about a foot high and left of the CENTER front of the House roof and below the target line/flight path. You will shoot the left target first in the pair and very aggressively.

Be sure to pay VERY close attention to the FIRST target launched when viewing other's pairs when they are shooting them so you will remember where that line is when your turn to shoot arrives! Some Trap Doubles shooters like holding higher, so tweak as needed, but I would caution you, if you are “crowding the target line, and the wind causes the target to come out flat, you will not see the target and miss over top!

Visual Hold Points (The eyes have it!)

Where you look with your eyes, or Visual Hold Point (VHP – sometimes called the “Focal Point) is critical in any Clay Sport. As a rule in all shooting, you always want to look back at the source of where the bird is launched or where you first see the bird in flight. For Trap, your VHP is always just above the CENTER front part of the House and in “soft focus” above the muzzle and NEVER on the muzzle. The eyes will lock onto the target much faster than if you start on the muzzle, and as the target is emerging from the center of the House, this will give you the best view. Let your peripheral vision do the work. Your Primary Vision accounts for 0.02% of your vision, whereas your Peripheral Vision accounts for the other 99.98% (source: An Insight to Sports: Featuring Trapshooting and Golf by Dr. Wayne F. Martin, O.D.)! Remember, HARD focus on the target!

Good luck, have fun, and remember, this is only a beginning point on the Game of Trap. There is a lot more to this tricky little game than meets the eye!


Portions of this page are excerpted from:
Black's 2002 Wing and Clay Shotgunner's Handbook
Copyright 2001© by JFB, Inc.

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