Last month I discussed forward allowance in some detail, but today I would like to simplify it, and put it into some practical contexts.
I concluded with some basic advice saying in normal circumstances, within 35 yards, your primary consideration should be to watch the target well with perfect sustained focus, and to keep the gun moving. For most people, this should take care of forward allowance unconsciously, assuming your gun fit and shooting vision are sorted. My Positive Shooting video on YouTube demonstrates this.
There is a conscious pre-shot preparation, imagining where I will see the shot as a blur, where I will see it clearly and where I want to shoot it. This is followed by an unconscious but visually disciplined approach to the shot. My ‘Positive Shooting System’ does not work in all circumstances or for all people, so in recent years I have introduced the close swing-through technique to my shooting. I bring the un-mounted gun to the back edge of the target, and push through without hesitation, firing as a gap develops. Whether your preference is focusing on the bird or the back edge, I am big on building an early barrel-target relationship. Starting miles behind the bird and swinging wildly at it is a recipe for inconsistency.
Last week I was with a client and we were facing a challenging midi presented as a crosser off a high tower. It had wind behind it, and was about 40 yards out. The first two methods mentioned did not produce consistent results. I reverted to something more like the CPSA method. Mount on the bird, move with it a moment, then push ahead. This whacked the bird repeatedly and proved you need more than one technique of forward allowance to get around a good course – although I do not use this often as it slows down the process of shooting. I call it the ‘get you out of trouble’ method.
Reading targets is especially challenging in sporting shooting. Skeet birds are fixed and have more predictable angles so it is best to use a conscious form of maintained lead. Even then, complications can arise. On the middle peg of a domestic skeet, I tend to shoot the first bird of a pair with a form of maintained lead, and shoot the second with a deliberate picture. I often shoot the second bird in front and high, so my ‘picture’ is usually the bottom, front edge. This brings up several issues: a pair of targets may require two methods, developing a library of pictures that seems to work, and considering lead in front, and up or down. Missing clays over the top is very common and many presentations benefit from a slight allowance under as well as the right forward allowance.
Despite this exception, most targets are missed behind, owing to hesitation or the shooter’s insufficient experience in forward allowances. Therefore I am keen to push people in to being braver when applying lead.
A friend and I were shooting a midi-type clay pigeon 60 yards away, a true crosser and still fast. Many of the shooters before us were clearly having problems. I could see their shots missing two-three yards behind, and I was determined not to make the same mistake. It took me a few shots to get the courage to be sufficiently in front by, as I saw it, 20-25 feet. My rational mind was reluctant to accept it, it seemed too much, but I got onto it.
This situation reminded me of similar comments from clients when I spent time trying to stretch their limits. For a target more than 30 yards away, whether it is a clay or rocketing pheasant, many people do not appreciate how far forward they need to be. Birds are missed in front, but most misses are undoubtedly behind. This is either because the shooter stops the gun or they have never felt the lead required. It’s natural to feel reluctant about shooting in to open sky, but to succeed on long birds it has to be done.
Try the ‘briefly track and push away’ method as described on a long crosser, and also try swinging through from well behind, and from the back edge. Then try leading the bird deliberately with up to several yards of lead. Don’t be afraid of missing, and don’t go away thinking all birds are missed behind when they’re not.