Do you know your midis from your minis? Do you know how this affects a target’s flight path? Ben Husthwaite explains all
Since the new rules in FITASC came in, shooters are not informed what type of target is being thrown. So to start I’m going to give you some tips on how to differentiate between typical target types.
This is the most frequently thrown target. It is 120 millimetres in diameter and fairly constant in its speed so it will keep moving forward, even during the last part of its flight. It will continue in an arc, showing top or belly as it descends to the ground.
90 millimetres in diameter and somewhat lighter than its standard counterpart, the midi will appear faster off the arm but it will slow dramatically and it is very easy to miss it out in front. It won’t follow a constant path but will lose its speed, appearing to fall out the sky at the end
as it falls more edge-on than arcing.
This is the newest of the target family and it’s certainly a bullet off the trap arm, but again, it changes pace and seriously slows down along its trajectory. It’s very deceptive to read its distance without using any land markings.
60 millimetres in diameter and easy to spot visually, the mini looks the fastest but is actually the slowest of all targets. In my opinion, it is a totally unfair target. Its flight path is inconsistent and hopefully the 70-millimetre will replace it.
The thinnest of the target family, the battue cuts through the air faster and can be thrown dome up or down. When thrown dome-up, it will climb, twisting and turning, before falling to ground. When dome-down, it will accelerate off the arm, appearing edge-on, then open up to show you a face before arcing to the ground, staying high in velocity throughout.
This isn’t a target, it’s a trap. It can be a standard or midi. It simply means that the target is thrown on its side in a rainbow arc, showing dome or belly for the duration of its flight. The target will always be moving forwards and is frequently missed underneath. It will travel 20-30 yards forward for one or two yards of fall.
That quick description will help you recognise target variety and also, if the menu tells you what you’re shooting at, it should help you decide on lead, approach and so forth.
This is a very difficult skill and with the correct method, it isn’t critical. But if you’re a maintained lead shooter then this is something you will have to master.
The three things that you need to break a target are speed, line and lead. I find this easiest to do if we split the flight path into quarters. In the first, we know that the target will be at its fastest. In the second and third, it’s most stable in its flight path and consistent in its speed. In its final quarter, it will be unstable and slowing down, with the exception of the battue.
First, isolate which quarter you’re going to place your kill point in as this is the only quarter you need to read. Too many people try to figure out the whole flight path. If my kill point is in the final quarter, then this is where I must do my target reading. Don’t overthink it and find yourself with paralysis by analysis.
Issues that can arise
If we see the target for its whole flight path, it’s easy to work out the quarters. But target setters get crafty and use trees and woodland to hide the machine or part of the flight path to make this more difficult to achieve. When all is said and done, a station is a competitive challenge between yourself and the target setter. If you’re unsure of the presentation, stand back and think, “How is he trying to trick me here? What is the trap he wants me to fall in?”
When taking shots in windows, working out quarters can be a task and requires practice. Judging the speed in the distance of the window is crucial. Regardless of speed upon first glance, it will appear fast as it crosses the small window so step back and see if you can see how far it has travelled before the first sighting, or indeed how far it will travel after its last sighting.
In my experience, you will mostly find that they are nowhere near as fast as your first look may lead you to believe. It is a hard skill, but try to visualise the shot without the objects causing the window, as if you have a clear view, everything will slow down for you.
The hardest part of reading the line is if the ground owner uses the natural lie of the land to deceive us. A solid method will help you out a lot here, but if that’s not enough, how do we read the target’s flight? What it’s doing in the quarter that we’re going to shoot it in is all we are interested in.
First, you need to read the lie of the land in this area. Is the ground sloping away or climbing up? Use objects like trees or fencing to determine what the land is doing. If there is a fence and the ground slopes down, look at when the target enters this quarter and look at the gap between target and fence later in the quarter. If the target-fence gap has grown or narrowed, this target isn’t dropping or rising at the same rate as the fence and this should help you decide the line and vice versa.
Most shooters can imagine a Skeet field. High house to low house on a Skeet field is 40 yards and that is quite easy to visualise, so a 60-yard bird is a Skeet field and a half. While learning, you may find it easier to judge the distance to an object near the kill point and then simply add or subtract final few yards.
Not only will a target setter try to beat you with line and speed, but they will also use positioning. The two targets are not set in that particular order randomly – they are set A report B for a reason. The order they are thrown in can make the same presentation easier or harder.
The best kill point for target A will quite often be nowhere near the hold point for target B. This creates two problems – people shooting A in the wrong kill zone trying to make B easier (making A harder), or they stick to the plan, shooting A in the correct place, but don’t pre-plan the movement to the hold point for B, and come racing across. Gun speed spirals out of control and the shot is a disaster.
I believe reading targets is one of the things where less is more. A clay pigeon trap will only throw a target in two dimensions – left and up, or right and down. Overanalysing will just cause confusion and lead you to overthink your shot. Use the tips given above on the harder to read presentations, but in all instances trust your first instincts.
As always, send questions or lesson enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.