King of swing

Mike Yardley takes you through the perfect swing


They talk a lot about the swing in golf. In shooting, we tend to talk more about the mount (a subject we considered last month in some detail). Nevertheless, the swing is just as important to shooting as it is to golf. Perhaps the first point that I would make about the swing is this: when we are shooting gun-down, the mount is an integral part of the swing. Many seem to rush both. There is a tendency by many to see the target, wildly bring the gun up to face and shoulder, and then to slash at the bird. In my book that is very poor technique. People often begin the swing late too. So, let’s start with a few points and see if we can break down the swing into some of its components.

1. When shooting gun-down, the
swing should begin before the gun
is mounted.

2. The swing should begin as early as possible on sighting the target
clearly (and will be greatly
facilitated by good pre-shot stance and preparation).

3. The swing should not be rushed. An early start, with good visual
lock-on established, and what I call
‘connection’ to the target helps
to prevent rushing (which is often
a consequence of beginning the
swing late when the target is half- way or more along its flight line).

4. Unless it is a deliberate technique (as advocated in the Churchill method of shooting) there should
not be weight transference from one
foot to another during the swing –
the weight should remain primarily
on the front foot or evenly distributed as per your individual shooting stance.

5. In the simple swing, the shoulders should remain level. Although, at an
advanced level, I acknowledge the
need for the line of the shoulders to
remain parallel with the line of the
bird which may involve a deliberate
canting of the gun in some situations
– but this goes beyond the scope of
our article this month.

6. The swing should be a controlled
movement but fluent. As well
as good pre-shot preparation, good
positioning of the hands on the stock
will facilitate this, as will good gun-
fit (too long a stock impedes the
swing, as does a front hand which
is overly extended because it needs
to lift during the swing, or a gun
which hurts when you shoot it).

7. A sense of timing is an aid to
a good swing. Gun-down, most birds,
regardless of the specific technique
of forward allowance, are shot to three beats – ONE: TWO: THREE – with tempo changing depending on the speed and angle of the shot.

8. A good swing requires good upper
body rotation – the upper body
moves like a tank turret. The lower
body is involved too, but the essential
point is that the body is the engine of
the swing, the hands/arms lift and point the gun, they do not power the
swing, though they may help
in follow through. Disabled shooters
confined to a wheelchair may use
the hands and arms more than others
though to impart horizontal or vertical
movement to the gun.

9. A good swing is facilitated by a
well-balanced, well weighted gun.
There are different preferences with
regard to balance – my own in a 30in
gun is for a near hinge pin balance.
A bit of frontal weight is, however,
acceptable, and possibly preferable,
in a longer barrelled-gun (and some
skeet shooters prefer it too as an aid to
follow through). A clay gun will be
easier to swing steadily if it has some
weight to it. Moreover, light guns
need to be ‘driven’ more during the
swing to prevent them stopping.

10. The selection of a forward allowance
technique (a subject we will consider
soon) will impact on the swing
– some require a more deliberate
acceleration from the target than
others. Classic ‘swing-through’ –
aka the ‘smoke-trail method’ –
requires a smooth movement through
the target. Acceleration is less
apparent or absent in maintained lead.


Speed of swing

As noted many clay shooters rush the swing, mounting far too early in the process. This reduces visibility, impedes timing and may lead to a ‘mount and slash’ style of shooting. ‘Windmilling’ is a common malady too, where one allows the gun to pivot about the axis of the front hand, moving muzzles messily below and above the line of sight to the target. A swing and mount (note my order) dominated by the rear hand nearly always leads to this sort of unnecessary and inelegant extra movement. The solution, of course, is for both hands to work together.

You should practise the swing and mount combined. If you are using a Stanbury style of stance, or a modification of it, pivot on the front foot and swing the hips right and left as you hold the gun in a ready position just below the target keeping the shoulders level.

When you feel comfortable with this movement, and you will note body and tip of the gun moving as a unit, you can introduce the mount into your training scheme. Remember what we need is a slowish, controlled, but fluent movement. Rotating right and left, shoulders level, bring the stock to the face and shoulder slowly and smoothly – controlling and lifting the muzzles with the front hand. Now, try swinging along an imaginary or actual line, for example, the line created where wall meets ceiling if you are indoors with a proven empty gun. Call out the three beat time: One: Two: Threeeeee…

What I like to see in a good swing, apart from an early but unrushed start, and good muzzle control thoughout, is fluidity of movement and a good, head-down follow through. Often when I get clients practising their swing, I will say things like: “slow down”, “now, I want you to try it in slow motion”, “No, even slower than that”. If one has prepared well, noted a visual pick-up point, a hold point, and an intended break point, the swing can be a comparatively slow and very elegant movement. It must not be checked of course (stopping the gun, like relaxing focus, is one of the most common errors of shooting technique). One must pay attention to the line of the bird, as well as the lead. The front hand must do its job. One must make the effort to keep the movement going after the shot is taken, completing the shot well. I sometimes talk of powering oneself though the swing – this is a reference to the fact that a good swing requires considerable muscular effort, notably from the upper upper body and front hand/arm. And, don’t forget, shoulders level, weight on front foot, eyes or eye on bird throughout. Smooooothly does it. One: Two: Threeeee. Break: That: Clay!

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