How to be a Better Shot: Improve Your Shotgun Skills With Ease

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Any keen shot will know that,  upon missing a target, there is always someone who will sagely proclaim, “Just behind that one” or “Just over the top”. These armchair shooting instructors are usually just reveling in the fact that someone has missed a shot, but there may be some truth in their words. Indeed, a spectator’s perspective on a missed shot can be extremely useful when trying to improve one’s shooting performance.

How Not to Flinch When Pulling a Trigger

The problem of flinching is more widespread than most people think. The recoil of a shotgun, especially when using a lightweight gun or heavy load cartridges, can be of substantial force. It is human instinct to flinch away from any kind of sudden blow to the body, and it is precisely this instinct that the shooter must overcome in order to improve consistency in shooting. Here are a few simple rules to counteract the problem:

  • Before closing the gun and mounting, take a deep breath in to increase oxygen flow to the brain and improve coordination and precision.
  • Just before mounting the gun and pulling the trigger, exhale deeply. The body will be at its most still after exhalation, prohibiting any extraneous movement or twitching that will affect a shot’s accuracy.
  • Always start off with your weight centered on your leading foot (for right handed shots this will be the left foot).
  • Lean forward slightly before mounting the gun, then increase the lean marginally before pulling the trigger, effectively allowing yourself to start falling over. This will counteract some of the recoil, allowing it to ‘knock you back’ to a normal upright shooting stance.
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How to Decrease a Shotgun’s Recoil

It is an age-old problem. Flinching and blinking are among the most unwanted side-effects of heavy recoil, but aside from their detrimental effect on one’s shooting there is the question of pain. Even the most experienced of shots will experience pain from recoil from time to time. There are ways around this:

  • First and foremost, mount the gun correctly and consistently. Mounting a gun even just a fraction differently from how one would normally can be extremely painful when its kick hits a bone, especially the clavicle. To avoid this, practice dry-mounting the gun in front of a mirror (always triple-check that it is not loaded) with a view to positioning it in exactly the same spot between the pit of the shoulder and the cheek each and every time (this technique is essential to skilled shooting anyway; Olympic shots will mount a gun smoothly and effortlessly as a matter of reflex. Muscle-memory and ideomotor movement developed by practice can foster this skill so that regular targets, especially for clay disciplines like skeet and trap, can be hit every time without effort)
  • Use a good recoil pad. Kick-Eze are made of soft neoprene and absorb the majority of the force exerted, but there is a surfeit of products on the market that do as good job. Ensure the it adheres to the stock properly before shooting.
  • Use a heavier gun or rifle. The heavier the gun, the more force required to push it back into the shooter. Many novice shots comment on how the recoil of a 12 Gauge seems considerable, but paradoxically this is simply not so.
  • Use a lighter load. Gameshots may use 32g cartidges as a matter of course (depending on the quarry), but for clay shooting try 28g or even 24g Magnasonic shells. The lighter the load, the less the recoil.
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How to Concentrate

Roger Silcox, former head of the CPSA and coach of shooting legends like Todd Bender, insists that, whilst on a stand or at a peg, the mind should be cleared the moment one loads and closes the gun. This is made easier by the aforementioned technique of taking a deep breath before mounting the gun. From the moment the gun is closed until the moment the shot is taken, put everything aside. Allow the entire world to dissipate and think solely of how to hit the next target. Go through the requisite steps to think of how to best approach the target, and do not worry about missing it! It is just a target after all, and shooting should be about pure enjoyment and fun, not about scorecards or averages.

How to Become a Better Shot

This advice should be of some use if implemented into one’s shooting practice with enthusiasm. Bear in mind that good shooting requires a perfect balance of physical skill and mental discipline, so do not pay to much attention to one aspect of shooting. Practice all of its facets regularly, including mental exercises to help concentration and reduce anxiety, and hitting targets will become second nature. Just one more thing: stay away from caffeine.