Q and A

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Worry over licence renewal

Q: I am a keen clay shooter in my late 50s. My shotgun certificate is due for renewal soon and I am a bit concerned that a period of ill health which hit me a few years ago is going to influence my renewal. As part of my treatment for a bout of physical ill health, I was prescribed a short course of anti-depressant medication to help me through it all. It was a worrying time for me but I came through it and made a full recovery. The medication was stopped and I was able to get back on my feet again. My worry is that I was prescribed such medication will have an impact on my application. Is that the case?

Stuart Farr says: I cannot comment on your personal situation as I do not know the full circumstances. However,  difficulties are part and parcel of life itself, and I don’t believe the licensing system was intended to penalise people who go through problematic physical or mental health episodes. That said, public protection is the priority, so sensitive issues such as these need to be properly considered according to the merits of each case.

In April 2016, information sharing between the police and GPs was introduced to ensure that people licensed to possess firearm and shotgun certificates are medically fit to do so.

The current system requires the police to ask an applicant’s GP to provide general medical information. This consists of a factual report based on the applicant’s medical history. It may include a generic question whether the GP has “concerns” regarding the issuing of a firearms licence.

In certain cases, the police may ask for a full report. Your GP may charge you for this and you may wish to clarify whether that is the case up front.  

As for your own renewal application, you may wish to consult your GP in advance to ensure that the correct and appropriate information is provided about your particular circumstances.


Will new glasses change the lead picture?

Q: I have been shooting Sporting clays since last June when I got back into it after a 25 year gap. At age 51 I wear glasses for reading now. Last time my eyes were tested the optician said my long vision was starting to wane a bit too. I tried varifocals briefly but hated them, and also they proved unsuitable for my job, train driving, as they messed up my peripheral vision which I need to judge deceleration when stopping. Since then I’ve not used anything for long distance.

Lately I have noticed that my long vision is starting to get worse, although I can see a good distance  during daylight hours and I can see pretty well when I shoot long distance clays. I find it odd that I can see a clay whizzing through the air but a car number plate at 30yds is slightly blurred. I have an appointment with my opticians, and I suspect they are going to say I need long vision glasses now. What worries me is that after months of hard practice to improve my shooting I’m now averaging 65-70 per cent kill rate. If I have glasses will they change my lead picture and judgement and put me back to square one again?

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Ed Lyons says: It sounds like you have made good progress over the last few months! It sounds as if you are slightly long sighted – once we get to our late forties the system that controls this becomes less efficient and the visual system has to work harder to bring objects into focus, especially those closer to.

With a number plate, there is a largely stable target and a defined image that we can visually assess and criticise. With a clay moving at speed we use another part of our brain to pick up the movement of the target. The lead picture should be learned subconsciously – we want an “eyes first” technique where we move on the flash, acquire the target, focus on a small part of it and pull the trigger when it feels right.

Prescription lenses should help to make the image of the clay sharper. They will also relax the visual system, reducing the effects of fatigue and possibly the frequency of tiredness-induced dominance shifts. However, they may feel unusual at first and will require some practice to bed in.


Don’t mix up your snap caps

Q: I was sold a pair of snap caps when I bought my gun, but the friends I have made at my local clay club say they are a waste of time and money. One person even suggested they could be dangerous! Could you please explain – was I misled when I was sold them? I am particularly concerned about the safety point raised by one person.

Richard Atkins: Let me set your mind at rest: no, you weren’t mis-sold the snap caps when buying your gun. It was good advice but perhaps the shop didn’t fully explain their purpose. The key function of snap caps is in the name – it refers to “snapping” the locks. Before the advent of modern gun springs, this was done as a matter of course to take the strain off the main springs when the gun was stored.

With modern guns this is no longer necessary, but snap caps also allow you to repeatedly dry-fire the gun. This means you can practise your gun mount and swing, ending with an imaginary shot fired, in your own bedroom! This can help a great deal in becoming familiar with a new gun, as well as improving your technique generally. You can also see if heavy trigger pulls are disturbing the smoothness of your swing, maybe even causing you to deviate off line at the moment of pulling the trigger.

Your friend’s safety caution refers to being certain it is a snap cap you’re loading, not a live cartridge. Mix-ups have occurred and some clubs do not allow them in their clubhouse for that reason. That’s why mine never travel with me, they stay at home.

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