Starting gun

Ben sized up everybody’s shooting style before and after his crash course in technique

Jonathan McGee is embarking on an exciting new journey with Ben Husthwaite as his capable guide. He tells us how his dreams came true.

My clay shooting story started 21 years ago, at the age of 13, when I was granted my first shotgun licence. At that age game shooting was my dream, but clay shooting – whether it was competitive or just practice with friends – was a welcome step towards live quarry.

Decades later, after much practice, it’s amazing to be starting a new chapter with the help of one of the world’s best coaches, Ben Husthwaite.

I’ve been aware of the professional clay shooting circuit for many years now and Ben is a character everyone knows. Contrary to his bad boy rep, he’s been very open with me and thoroughly responsive to my numerous questions and tuition needs.

Ben has won numerous titles, including World Fitasc, World Sporting, World 5 Stand, English Open, Classic Championship and Euro Fitasc, but his attention has always been drawn away from competition by his passion of coaching. It was this passion that led him to embark on the project that I am now involved in.

“A few months ago I had an idea,” says Ben. “It kept growing and growing until finally I put it into action on social media. I was looking to sponsor a team of six people with tuition for the next 12 months.

“After over 300 applicants applied my amazing partner Hattie Byron and I slimmed them down to 22. With 22 chosen, the idea was born to hold a vital selection day. The applicants would be put through their paces and slimmed down to six very lucky winners.”

When first I heard that Ben might be searching for sponsorship candidates I immediately put myself forward. It seemed to me that sportsmen the world over spend their lives competing and seeking greatness, but only a few take the time to give something back to their chosen field.

Twenty-two shooters arrived in the spirit of competition and learning. Who would win the chance to benefit from a year’s tuition?

I really wanted to be part of Ben’s tuition group. I had been addicted to clay shooting for a few years, so I was amazed to find out that I was one of the 22 chosen to compete on Ben’s selection day.

Judgement day arrived, and after an informal welcome Ben explained that the day would be split into sections. In the morning all 22 of us would shoot 25 Sportrap targets each, then there would be a working lunch and classroom session.

With our brains and bellies full we would then shoot a further 25 Sportrap targets and try to implement Ben’s techniques to improve our shooting. “Even if your score is worse, I am looking at your technique and the improvements I could make to your shooting,” Ben said. 

It was the final part of the day that worried me: an interview with an intimidating selection panel: Ben himself, team captain and event organiser Dean Martin, Leicester Tigers professional rugby player Mike Williams, and Ben’s biggest supporters… his mum and dad.

With help from Dean Martin we greeted one another and made our way to the first layout. The nerves were palpable, we all wanted this opportunity badly. I found out later from some of the more experienced shots that they found the experience harder than a major competition.

Scorecards weren’t the main factor that influenced Ben’s decision, but that doesn’t mean competitors weren’t working hard to break clays

Targets were testing, but there was nothing I hadn’t shot perfectly in practice. I had picked up a new gun from friends at Edgar Brother a few weeks previously, their amazing Zoli Z Sport.

Having had it fitted, the comb raised and the stock length altered, I knew that if I shot horrendously it was me and not the gun. I was among the first five candidates to shoot and it was obvious nerves had kicked in! Luckily things got much better after that as we began to revel in the competition while gleaning as much knowledge from Ben as possible.

After an exhausting day Ben took to our secret Instagram tuition page to broadcast one of his legendary Live Chats and give us all his verdict: “It’s amazing and truly humbling for me to see you all come together as a team on what is a very competitive day.

This is something that doesn’t happen at my level of competitive clay shooting. When the curtain dropped I simply didn’t have the heart to let anyone down or leave you disappointed, so I will be creating two winning tiers, gold and silver.

Jonathan gets ready to start shooting with his newly fitted Zoli gun

The difference between the two will be my gold candidates have more one-on-one time, masterclasses and I will be joining them at competitions. Other than that I will be supporting you all with free coaching and online assistance for the next 12 months. Well done.”

As thanks to Ben I can only reiterate one of his earlier statements: nothing has been done like this before. As a chosen gold candidate I’m sure all the team will join me in thanking those who made our selection day a huge success, especially Dean Martin, who will captain our team.

Watch this space in future issues of Clay Shooting magazine for our next day with Ben as he guides us through the basics of his masterclass.

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