Bryce on perfect positioning

Keeping your nose over your toes will draw approval from your instructor – and you’ll break more clays too.

Bryce explains how to position your feet and body for the perfect shot.

Shotgun shooting may not look like an active sport but it involves the whole body from your head to your toes. Much like swinging a golf club or hitting a tennis ball, you need a smooth, controlled movement, and that starts from the ground up.

The position of your feet, your stance and balance, provide the foundation for a good swing on the target and a successful shot.

In clay shooting you have the advantage of knowing in advance where your target will be. You can watch the squad ahead of you, or call to see the targets when you arrive at the stand.

Make sure you pay close attention to each target of the pair – where do you first see the clay, what flight path does it follow, and where do you plan to shoot it?

Then you can set yourself up correctly facing the right direction so your body can move freely and you don’t reach your limit of movement too soon, causing your swing to slow down or go off-line.

When you’re shooting a pair of targets, as you will at any Sporting competition, you must set yourself up allowing for both targets. Make sure you can swing freely on one, then the other, without stretching or losing balance.

On rare occasions you may need to rearrange your feet between shots, when there’s time and the targets are widely spaced – but usually it’s best to plant your feet correctly and leave them there for the pair.

By the clock

The correct foot position for shooting is often described using an imaginary clock face on the ground. The hands at 12 o’clock point to the spot where you plan to shoot the target. Your front foot – the left foot if you shoot from your right shoulder – should be pointing to 12 o’clock on the dial, and your rear (right for a right-hander) foot points roughly towards the 2. 

That’s what people mean when they talk about standing ‘in the ten past twelve position’: your feet are where the clock’s hands would be at ten past twelve. If you’re a left-hander, of course, your feet are at ten to twelve.

Stepping in

To achieve good balance and a solid foundation for your swing, start with both feet together, facing the direction you will shoot. Then take half a pace forward and allow your weight to come onto your front foot. Some people liken this to stepping up to a bar and reaching for a drink with the hand that will be holding the gun’s fore-end.

Shooting rabbits can easily throw off your stance, even though the principles at work are exactly the same

Your feet should end up roughly your shoulders’ width apart. Keep your front knee slightly bent, with most of your weight on that leg. The rear foot should bear very little weight – its job is mostly about helping you to pivot while keeping your balance.

Your body should bend slightly forward at the waist, but you should feel comfortable and relaxed with no exaggerated angles. Above all, you should be balanced and in control, able to swing side to side and up and down without feeling like you might topple over. It can help to imagine yourself gripping the ground with your toes for a firmer foothold.

Nose over toes

This is the mantra of many shooting instructors. When you are standing correctly addressing the target, with your weight mainly supported on your front foot, you’ll find that your nose is directly above the toes of your front foot – the left foot if you’re a right-hander. It’s a useful quick check to look down and see that your toes are directly below.

With practice, of course, the stance becomes second nature and you won’t need to check – but at any time if the wheels come off and your shooting isn’t working, it pays to go back to basics and make sure you are getting the fundamentals right.

Creating a solid base leaves your upper body free to follow the target

Feel the swing

Once you’ve adopted the correct foot position and stance, try swinging your gun left and right. If you have a spare moment in your day, you can even practise this without a gun by stretching out your arms and holding an imaginary gun. 

The movement should come from your whole body – ankles, legs, waist and core – while the gun, head and shoulders remain locked together. 

This is the opposite of keeping your body still and just moving the gun with your arms. That will take the stock away from your cheek if you’re swinging right, or press it more firmly against your face when swinging left (and the opposite for a left-hander). That changes the position of your eye above the rib, which is something we want to avoid.

Notice how your body can swing a certain amount and then you feel resistance, as your joints and muscles approach the limit of their movement. If you swing along a straight line such as a hedge, notice how your body starts to pull the gun off the line as you go beyond what’s comfortable. 

You’ll find that you can swing further one way than the other – for a right-hander it’s easier to swing left than right. That’s something to bear in mind when setting up for a pair of targets – you may want to favour the right-hand target, as that’s the one that will be harder to reach.

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