Shooting instructor Andy Powell explains what you can do to prepare for the long-awaited return to shooting.
As I write the world is in a very strange place; the pandemic is something that none of us has ever experienced before. Like me, I’m sure many readers have a serious case of clay withdrawal syndrome.
I’m well aware that it’s nothing compared with some people’s suffering right now, but it has now been several weeks since I even looked at a target with my Blaser in hand, and there’s not much good news on the horizon. This is something that has never happened to me unless I’ve either been injured or taking time out from competing.
At least then you have an end date to look forward to, when you’ll be able to resume shooting. That is something that no one can predict with any confidence, not even the sport’s governing bodies around the world.
I must say a huge thank-you to all the hard-working NHS staff and key workers – many of whom shoot – for doing what they can to contain this pandemic and get things back to normal as soon as possible.
It’s also a time to offer my sincere condolences to the families that may have sadly lost loved ones to this terrible virus. Let’s all hope we never see the like of this again.
Enough of the doom, gloom and sadness. Now let’s look forward to the return of competitive shooting, and what to do during and after a lengthy lay off. The first part is to do as much as you can at home to keep things moving.
If you have access to a trap then that is a great advantage. Most of us don’t of course, but there are a couple of simple exercises worth doing at home which will certainly benefit your shooting going forward.
Dry mounting the gun, either indoors or outdoors, is a great way to keep your muscle memory in place even though you are not actually shooting anything.
When possible, you should wear the same clothing that you normally wear to shoot, to make it as real as possible. Pick a spot on the wall or an object in the distance and make that your main focus, just as a clay target would be.
Maintaining your focus on this point, prepare to mount the gun as if you were going to shoot it as you would normally. For the best results this needs to be done in a controlled way, not rushed. Over the years I have watched many people “practising their mount” and it wears me out just watching them, it’s so fast!
Get your feet into your normal position, focus on the target and use a steady, rhythmic count of one-two-three, where ‘one’ is your start position and ‘three’ is the gun fully mounted and ready to shoot. Once you are in the fully mounted position, hold it while you count slowly from one to three.
Now we need to dismount the gun in the same fashion, again on a steady count of one-two-three. This time ‘one’ is the fully mounted position and ‘three’ is your fully dismounted position, ready to start the whole process again.
Repeat in the same controlled and rhythmic way: mount one-two-three, hold that mount one-two-three, dismount one-two-three. I like to do this as long as I can, although if you’re doing it correctly the burning sensation in your shoulders will become too much to bear after five minutes. The more you do it, the more consistent your mount becomes when you’re shooting.
Repeat this as many times as you like to help keep the muscle memory good, the mount smooth, and most importantly the stock in the correct place time after time.
Every now and then, once you have mounted the gun, squint your non-dominant eye and make sure the rib is in line with the ‘aiming’ eye. If this is incorrect or off-line, you will need to adjust so that it is right.
Then check every time you mount the gun for the next few reps just to make sure it is now correct and the rib is in line with your eye.
The other simple thing you can do is an eye exercise. Some people will think this sounds mad, but eyesight is critical to the whole process of shooting. The eye contains muscles that need exercise just like any other muscle in the body.
If you look on the internet you will find lots of eye exercises, or eye gyms as they are called. If you don’t fancy using an eye gym system, you could just simply use birds flying past, or throw a ball between two people.
This form of exercise is used in many different sports from cricket to Formula 1. Racing drivers use this kind of system to take tenths of seconds off their lap times – in theory the quicker the eye moves the faster the car can go. Guy Martin is a good example, racing a transit van round the Nürburgring.
During his training he uses an eye gym to take time off his laps, so that’s good enough for me! Give it a go and you might just be surprised at how much quicker you pick up clays and shoot them once the eyes have had a few daily workouts in the down time we are all having to endure right now.
Keep it up
These are just a couple of ways we can keep things going. I hope that by the time this article is published it’s irrelevant – but even when we are allowed back out shooting, you can still do all of these exercises, and they should help increase your average and move up through the classes of the CPSA system.
In or out of lockdown, remember that stance and mount are the foundation of any good shooting, so pay them close attention and practise as often as you can.