It’s time to be prepared and take control of your shooting, says Vic Harker
Being prepared is not just for the Boy Scouts – to succeed in any kind of endeavour, preparedness and planning is crucial. This is as true for the sportsman as it is for the businessman and a good many clay target shooters are both, so they will know what I’m talking about.
Any sport in which you engage on a regular basis suggests you are serious about it and therefore expect to succeed. However, that expectation must be built on more than hope and be sustained by a structured plan that supports and sustains your ambition.
It’s important that you should begin the new season with a gun that fits you. Gaining or losing weight alters the way your gunstock fits you and the elevation of your aiming eye above the rib is dependent on the shape of your face. If you’ve gained some weight, that chubby cheek placed on the comb of your gunstock will increase the elevation and your firearm will shoot higher. Conversely, if you’ve lost some weight, there may be less flesh between your cheek and the stock, so your eye will be looking flat along the rib and you’ll shoot lower.
The experienced will know if their sight picture is as it should be but if you’re not sure, mount your gun in front of a mirror and take a look to see how much of your eye you can see above the rib. If you have any doubts as to where your gun is placing the shot charge, a trip to the pattern plate will soon tell you and you can then seek remedial help if needs be.
While on the subject of shot patterns, the start of a new season is a good time to check that your current gun/cartridge combination is as effective as it should be – if it isn’t, a change of cartridge might be all that’s required. If you are still not happy, seek expert advice on your firearm’s choke boring or the screw-in chokes you may be using.
There is always the temptation to treat yourself, even to the extent of buying a new gun – but will changing your firearm improve your shooting? Before taking this step, take time to reflect on what you expect from a new gun and how it would compare to the one you already have. Here’s a checklist.
Weight and balance
As a shotgun is used exclusively for shooting moving targets, weight and balance are crucial to success. A clay target gun should not be too light. A modern Sporter with long barrels can weigh close to 8lb, or even more, but if the point of balance is positioned correctly between the hands, this will not be an issue for the able-bodied shooter. We have already covered the question of gun fit but a custom-made stock can be of far more benefit than just looking for another gun off the rack that may or may not suit you better.
This factor above all influences the cost of gun manufacture and therefore its price to the consumer. To illustrate this, a firearm with a sophisticated low-profile action and hand-detachable trigger group is more expensive to build than something that is simpler to make. With its feel and balance, it may also be a pleasure to shoot but it might not if you are used to something very different.
Far be it from me to dissuade anyone to purchase a fine gun with all the benefits of good design and great handling qualities it may have, but first be certain what you are buying into and that you will enjoy it. If you’re unsure, seek reliable and knowledgeable advice before you make a purchase.
This is time never wasted – if you have not shot much at all in the winter, it restores muscle memory and stimulates reflexes.
Try to choose those days that provide reasonable light conditions and are dry. Having said that, ignoring poor conditions is futile and your shooting will suffer accordingly, along with your confidence.
As for competitions, the same principles apply; if good conditions coincide with a late winter competition, participate if you feel like it, but if your score is below par on your first outing then don’t be overly concerned.
A degree of physical fitness is demanded for any sport and shooting is no exception. The constant hauling an 8lb shotgun to your shoulder quickly and smoothly will develop upper body strength and will only be of benefit, supplemented by further exercise.
Core strength is important – indeed, strength throughout your whole lower body provides a stable platform essential to clay target shooting, whichever discipline you pursue. It rather goes without saying all of this should be supported by a healthy, balanced diet.
Set yourself goals
As a competitive clay shooter, set yourself some achievable aims for next season and be determined to improve. As a CPSA registered shooter, your goal should be to move up a class in the coming season – unless you are an AA shot already.
Other achievements of even greater worth include winning your county championships. Moving further up the ladder of success is a place in your national team for the home internationals. As for being selected for one of the GB teams and competing against the world’s best shooters – that must surely be a landmark in any shooter’s career. The dark days of our winter months are the time to make your resolutions for your future shooting success.