Rhys Plum talks to fellow shooters to discover how they are coping, and gets some shooters’ tips on maintaining skills and fitness.
Shooters’ tips: Matt Hance
First to give out shooters’ tips is Matt Hance. Matt is currently in the top 20 for both English Sporting and Fitasc, and shoots for England and Team GB. Among his many achievements he has won both the English and British Open Fitasc Championships.
For his first shooting tip, he recommends mounting drills when you’re stuck at home – but he points out that it’s easy to pick up bad habits unless you do it properly. “Approach it as you would if you were shooting a competition,” he says, “otherwise you can develop habits that aren’t conducive to good shooting when you get back out.”
He explains: “You need to focus as if you’re shooting for real. Think about your view points, hold points and kill points, and be disciplined over them.” Remember that not every target travels at the same speed, he says, so you should vary your gun speed, remembering to rotate through your core and “finish the shot,” not stopping your gun after you fire – or at least pretend to.
He points out that you can replicate a huge variety of targets at home, so don’t just practise on a spot on the wall straight ahead of you. OK, you’re never going to shoot a Skirting Board followed by on-report Light Bulb, but “you can vary the different targets you shoot.
A corner of the room can represent a teal or going away, rabbits can be replicated by the skirting board.” To increase the variety you could even practise in different rooms, he adds. Matt reckons we could usefully work on our vision too.
“One thing that has become apparent from working with top optometrists is that when shooting we need to hard focus and lock on to moving targets – yet we tend not to do any eye exercises. Plus in lockdown we’re all tending to do a lot of reading, looking at a screen or page close up.”
He recommends exercises to work the muscles in the eyes: “Focus your eyes at different ranges, and move them up and down and side to side, as far as you can go. That will exercise those muscles in the eyes that we often take for granted.”
In summary, Matt’s advice is to take advantage of the time in lockdown to work on technique and keep yourself sharp. “Buy a decent pair of snap caps, so your firing pins aren’t knackered when we get back to it. Meanwhile, stay safe and try to enjoy the time off!”
Shooters’ tips: Amy Easeman
Amy was recognised as Clay Shooter of the Year at the CPSA Awards in February, following an outstanding 2019 season which saw her win the Fitasc World Compak Sporting Ladies title last August.
She is missing her regular training at AC Sporting Targets and EJ Churchills, as well as seeing everyone on the competition circuit. Like Matt, Amy believes in keeping up her training at home.
“Keep mounting the gun in the ceiling corners to keep a good gun mount and build consistency,” she says. She also believes in the importance of exercise: “Make sure you get outside and do some kind of exercise, even if it’s just a walk around the garden,” she says.
Amy also believes in keeping a positive frame of mind, and looking forward to getting back outside. “With all this time on our hands we can make plans for future competitions. I think it’s a good idea to set a goal or some kind of an ambition for each competition, and give yourself something to work towards – making it a positive,” she says.
Shooters’ tips: Tom Seay
It was a great pleasure for me to talk to Tom Seay, multiple times World Junior Champion and Team USA Captain. Like us in the UK, Tom is locked down at home in the USA, but he is fortunate to have a facility at home that allows him to continue with his training. Even when he’s not actually shooting, Tom makes sure to pick up his gun and mount it every day.
“I find that has a great influence on how comfortably you move the gun in competition,” he says. Tom also has an interesting take on gun fit. Like Matt, he says it’s easy to pick up bad habits, adding that “gun fit can definitely become an issue for a lot of people as they practise at home.
“Their gun can get lower and lower in the shoulder, which causes a number of problems,” he explains. “Having a low mount can give you a poor visual outlook on the bird, as well as increasing perception of recoil – which is not what you want.”
His answer is to mount on a point on the wall, paying special attention that the gun is hitting the right place in the shoulder and on the face. “It’s easy to get caught up in getting the barrel to hit the mark. That is your end goal, but don’t overlook the technical side of the mount,” he explains.
The process of achieving the mount is very important, Tom stresses. “You need to be upright, and make sure your head hits the same spot on the gun every time. If you can keep your head in a comfortable, upright position then you will have less tension in your mount.”
He also works on achieving consistent form: “I make sure that my head is level, as this ensures that my muscles are relaxed. My length of pull is 16ins, which is fairly long, but if you’re at the front end of the stock you’ll no doubt have a lot of tension in your shoulder and hands.”
As he explains, relaxed muscles are much easier to control than tense muscles – and Tom’s record shows it works, putting the shot in the right place when it counts.