If the instructor stands in front of your rib or behind you, don’t worry! In the first case it is to observe if the dominant eye is aligned just above the rib, in the second to check your stance. The following tips are geared towards Olympic Trap, but can be adapted for other disciplines (see end of article).
The right posture
Position the lower body
This is one of the most important factors in clay pigeon shooting (especially Olympic trap): legs slightly apart, for those of you who are right-handed, left foot forward at 45 ° with respect to the trench and the right foot back at about 80 °, and vice versa for left-handers.
The correct position of the feet facilitates the rotation of the torso thus allowing you to reach even the most angled targets. The weight of the body must be balanced, but a little forward: about 2/3 on the left leg which may be slightly bent, the rest on the right.
Position your hands correctly
The right hand grasps the pistol grip to allow the joint of the first phalanx of the index finger to reach the trigger. The ideal position of the left hand is approximately in the middle of the fore-end: this is at the point where, by holding your shotgun in both hands, you can see perfect weight distribution and balance of the gun. The thicker fore-end, typical of trap shotguns, helps to control the swing.
Don’t raise your elbow!
Don’t raise your elbow! Of course, don’t do it before getting off the shooting stand, but don’t do it even on the stand… Arms and shoulders must be kept at exactly the same height, with the elbows about ten degrees lower than the shoulders. It is quite common, however, to see shooters with the right elbow way above the shoulder, with the left one lower.
Avoid abnormal tension
This will cause you to rotate differently to the right than to the left. A high elbow on the side where the shotgun is held can induce abnormal tension in the neck and shoulder muscles, which are then subjected to the recoil of the weapon.
The stock at the shoulder
Have your grip adjusted
If a stock is too long, it forces you to bring the shoulder back and therefore makes left targets difficult, while a stock that is too short forces the shoulder forward, making right targets difficult.
Your cheek should never deviate from the support on the stock comb, and movements to the right and left to follow the trajectory of the targets must be performed by rotating on the trunk. You should never look up from the line of sight.
Position yourself before the pull
In the vain attempt to be faster than the electronic release systems, the mistake is often made of calling the “pull” and moving the shotgun at the same time, before having even seen the target’s exit: this is the reason for many “zeroes”. In the tenth of a second that elapses from when the shooter calls the pull to when he starts to move the shotgun, the result is largely determined.
Place your stock between your shoulder and your cheek
Normally, the stock is placed between the outside part of the pectoralis major muscle and the deltoid, which originates on the collarbone and is attached to the humerus.
The butt of the stock must rest under the cheekbone: it is necessary that the cheekbone muscles isolate the back of the gun from the cheekbone bone itself, in order to avoid contusion and abrasion of the skin. Nothing that cannot be sorted out with the correct training.
Centre your barrels on the “witness” zone
At this point, having assumed the right stance and correctly holding the shotgun, you just have to shoot. The shotgun should theoretically be aimed flush with the trench at the point (called “witness”) where the three targets, right, left and central, corresponding to each stand, meet. The shotgun must be aimed lower than this point. How much? It depends on the choices and the reaction speed: in any case from a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 50 centimetres.
Call the target
In the Olympic trap speciality, you can load the shotgun and put it to the shoulder as soon as the previous shooter has fired. When you are in position and you are fully concentrated, you can “call” the target with a simple “oh” or a “pull”. The important thing is that the call is strong enough to be “heard” by the “phono-pull” that controls the clay-throwing machine.
It is at this moment in which you must avoid making the common mistake:
- of moving only your eyes by diverting them from the rib and the viewfinder to follow the target,
- leaving the rest of the body still: the so-called “moving on call”.
Conversely, being able to visualise the target through the barrel line by moving the shotgun and body smoothly in the direction of the target increases the chance of hitting it. You need sensitivity and a lot of practice.
Follow and pass the target
The movement of the gun and the body that follow the trajectory of the target is smooth and controlled, to lock onto the target and overtake it by what is necessary to shoot and shatter it.
This, in theory, is the anticipation! Shoot without hesitation and continue the movement with a soft “follow-through” to eventually fire the second shot.
The speed of the shotgun is higher than that of the target, therefore the best condition would be to increase the ability to aim and glance, in order to be able to hit the target with a short and free movement in the first few meters from the exit, to have time to correct with the second barrel.
Adapt your shot to the speed of the target
The target comes out of the trench at 120 km / h (90 in Compak specialties) and loses speed in contact with the air. The shot, which comes out of the barrel at 1,440 km / h (400 m / sec), is also slowed down by the air.
If you shoot with the shotgun in motion, as you should, you will get “automatic” anticipation because the speed of your shotgun is increasing, while that of the target is gradually decreasing. Indeed, you will feel like you are shooting at the target without anticipation.
Then, you will acquire your personal experience and be able to adopt “your” method.
And in the other specialities?
Practice to find the right movement
As for Skeet and Compak or Sporting, bracing is one of the key movements to learn. You can also practice at home by raising the shotgun, unloaded of course, aiming forwards and downwards and then following an imaginary target in different directions.
Find the strategic place for the shot
Unlike Trap, you have to prepare for the shot not by following the trajectory of the clay, but by placing the barrels at the easiest point – the highest point of the trajectory – just before it starts to descend, where it is most clearly visible, predictable and slowing down.
Test the position and then assume it, looking back at the exit of the clay. In this way the weapon will not have to make large movements; you just have to raise it to the shoulder and align the eye to the rib to be very close to the point where you decided to aim, and shoot to hit the target. Easy, isn’t it?
Take my advice, though. At least at the beginning, get help! You can always put the blame on the instructor …
Are you a shooter? What are your best tips?