We do need to have all three methods of shooting in our tool kit though, to be successful on these targets.
Whichever method of shooting we decide to use, we need to work out where we first clearly see the target, (A in the diagram) then where we will break it (C) and then depending on the method we employ, where our hold point is (B), remembering to hold the muzzles at the correct height so that the targets flight line will be just above the muzzle. If the muzzles are too high we will lose sight of the target beneath them and will end up behind the target chasing wildly after it, if too low we will be moving diagonally to the target and cross the line at only one point, rather than being able to shot it at any chosen point along its flight line.
In our practice session, let’s select a mid-paced standard crosser say 25 yards out. If right handed, chose a right to left target to start with, we will practise the left to right later. We have of course already established the points A and C as above. We will start shooting our target using the CPSA method – that is mounting on the target and pulling away. We can now determine our hold position (B). Utilising ‘method’ our hold position will be about a third or half way between A and C.
Call positively for the target, looking back from the barrels to where you will see the target, push the muzzles forward to meet the target, so that the bird is sitting right on the muzzles as you mount the gun. The comb comes into the cheek and the shoulder pushes forward into the butt and as this happens we accelerate smoothly away from the target, applying the correct lead. We fire and follow through. If we have missed, our coach should be able to tell us why.
If there is no coach, we will have to try and work it out for ourselves, which is more difficult. Do 10 shots like this and then have a break for a few minutes and repeat. When you are hitting 90 per cent, you can then try shooting the target maintained lead. The hold position will probably be further towards C than before. Look back to the target, when it appears insert the muzzles in front of the bird with what you think is the correct lead picture, stabilise the relationship between target and muzzle, fire and follow through. As before, have 10 single shots and have a short break. Repeat until hitting 90 per cent consistently. By shooting ‘method’ first you will see what the lead picture is, it is then simpler to apply this to a target using maintained lead.
When you are comfortable with shooting the target as detailed above, you can try moving back ten metres, which will change the lead picture quite dramatically, repeat the exercises as above with the target now 35 yards away and if you are feeling brave, you can keep moving back to fifty yards or so.
By exercising as above, you will practise not only on the crossing target, but also the different methods and simultaneously your gun mount. We are aiming to build skills and the library of lead pictures in our subconscious. Next try swing through, mounting onto the “tail” of our target and as the gun comes into the cheek and shoulder push the muzzles out through the bird, remembering as always to follow through.
Once you have mastered the right to left target (for the right-handed shooter), it is time to try from the other side, left to right. For a right hander, this is the more difficult side, pushing the gun away from the face and turning away from the body.
For this reason the foot position is particularly important, you really do have to orientate yourself to the point at which you will break the target or you will run out of movement and miss behind. Start at 25 yards as above and repeat all phases of the exercise, moving back as far as you wish. Do not move further back or switch to a different method until you have thoroughly mastered the one you are working on.
In competition, we may well have a pair of crossers, one left to right and the other right to left. If right handed, you should set your foot and body position to the point at which you will break the left to right target, the harder of the two for a right handed shooter, you will be able to turn into the other target relatively easily. Set up for the break point to your left and you will run out of movement for the target to the right. Left handers need to reverse this.