Gun up or gun down? It’s a question that divides Sporting shooters – Ben Husthwaite dispels the myths and gives you all you need to know for a consistent mount…
A question I get asked a lot is: should I shoot gun up or gun down? In this segment, I’m going to try to clear up some of the confusion, and hopefully help you make better choices. The two sporting disciplines of English Sporting and sportrap have no restrictions on the gun mount – obviously, FITASC is a gun down-only discipline. The applications of what I write will be somewhat transferable between all three, but the basis will be around Sporting and sportrap.
The advice I’m about to give is only suitable to people with a consistent and safe gun mount. At the end, I will give you some drills to perfect this.
Most shooters believe the choice is between two stances: gun up or gun down. However, there are actually four mounts we need to master to progress through the sporting ranks:
1) The low mount, around 23 centimetres from the top of our shoulder
2) The half mount, two to four inches from the top of the shoulder
3) Fully mounted with the tip of the barrels lowered 1.5 inches to create a little void between face and stock
4) Fully mounted.
Which mount do we pick for certain targets? A golden rule is that we must be fully mounted and comfortable at the hold point just before the clay arrives (applicable to first or report target). In the last edition, we discussed the kill, view and hold points; the single factor in which the mount we choose is the time we have between the view point and hold point. If the target arrives before we mount, then we are no longer in control of the method we will apply or the speed we want to move at.
Another common mistake is people sliding as they mount. What do I mean by this? Well, I’m a firm believer that the gun should be fully mounted (like a bayonet charge forward) before any kind of movement along the target’s flight path. Most people try to mount and move (sliding) – this can cause them to move off the hold point and/or line, and again we are no longer in control of the speed. So, what is the best way to apply these four mounts, and what are the common faults?
When we start with the low mount, a huge mistake is to line up eyes – bead – target [figure 1]. This actually causes the barrel to be considerably over the line, and thus causes a back-handed mount. The barrels then seesaw under the line and back up. Valuable time is lost in this scenario, and a bad, rushed shot is the inevitable outcome.
What you should do is make sure the barrel is parallel through both hands directly on the target’s line. A double-handed bayonet mount takes the gun to the target’s line, timed to be there just before the target. We now have line and speed!
The half mount makes it a lot easier to get the correct line, as our barrels are closer to our line of vision – but we still want a double-handed bayonet mount before any kind of swing. A couple of problems do arise here, such as mounting too soon and then finding ourselves waiting, and possibly moving the hands too soon and ending up shooting maintained lead – or realising this has happened and stopping to wait for the target. As you can imagine, success is rare if this happens.
The mount I use the most is fully mounted with the tip lowered – when done correctly it is very effective. Done wrong, though, it can be disastrous. These days, there are numerous targets being thrown from behind obstacles. If we cast our mind back to the British Open at Hodnet, on calling, the targets were upon us immediately. This is when I mount and lower the barrel tip without lowering my head. This creates a better visual window, and still allows freedom of movement to deliver the correct method.
It’s also a mount I see used on the circuit a lot, but executed wrongly. If we go to the line of the target, mount the gun and lower the tip by 1.5 inches when we pick the target up at our visual point, our hands subconsciously rise into our line of sight and back to line, before moving across the line to deliver a successful shot. What I see people do is go to the line, mount the gun and, instead of lowering the barrel, raise their head, trying to create the freedom and visual window. Then, when their hands bring the gun back to their visual line, they are considerably above the line, and the same seesaw motion takes place as in the first mount.
The easiest mount to apply is the full mount at the hold point, usually for teal or fast Trap-type targets. We should be mounted at the hold point on the target’s line with our eyes back to the visual viewpoint. If we try this mount on all targets, again we will be at the hold point too long, and find ourselves starting the hand motion too early, or getting impatient and ‘hunting’ the clay. By this, I mean taking the hold too far back to the viewpoint and making a poor shot.
THE BIG DECISION
In the two Sporting disciplines we’re referring to, the rules state you can start the gun anywhere, so you have to take advantage of this and use the best mount available for the target. No or little time between view point and hold? Use a fuller mount (3 or 4). Enough or considerable amounts of time? Use a lower mount (1 or 2). Apply the same rules to a report or true pair. Remember, be fully mounted and comfortable just before the clay arrives at the kill point.
If we master the first mount, we can then apply that to training to prepare us for FITASC if that’s the route we wish to take. When training or practising, a lot of people go in afraid to miss. This is the place to make mistakes, so try things out, remember what works and importantly, what doesn’t. Find a target and approach it with all four mounting techniques to see what feels right. You can also apply this to a report bird, remembering that there could be less time due to the first kill point leaving us out of position.
Place a piece of blue tack at eye level on a full-length mirror. Standing a safe distance back, close the empty gun and align your hands to match the tack line (not eye – bead – tack). Close your eyes and complete the mount upon opening them. The empty gun should be on the tack. Once this is perfected, move on to the moving drill.
Standing in a room using the edging where the wall meets the ceiling, you’re going to use one corner as a viewpoint and one corner as a kill point, so our hold point will be halfway. Placing the gun halfway again parallel through your hands to the line, turn your head to the viewpoint, close your eyes and complete the swing, remembering to bayonet mount first. Once the swing is completed, you should reach the opposite corner still on line. Repeat from the opposite side.
Mastering all the mounts isn’t easy at all, and takes discipline. We have a world English Sporting championship and a FITASC Sporting world championship coming up – only three individuals have ever won both titles.
Thank you to Leslie Kaye for his question – I hope this helped! For any advice or information on lessons, please use email@example.com.