Elephant Burgers!

The best shots make shooting look easy and uncomplicated; minimal, smooth movements, perfectly balanced, and in control, both physically and mentally!  It might seem an impossible task to learn to shoot like that.  It requires a particular skill set and mind set and a great deal of self-awareness, grit and dedication.  Yes, elite athletes have oodles of natural ability, but that alone doesn’t get them to the top; they have a plan of where they want to get to and how, and they implement it.  The same applies to us mere mortals if we wish to improve our performance, so don’t just look at the whole elephant and think “that’s impossible to eat”, but turn it into burgers and eat one at a time; in other words, look at the process logically and start planning.

There are many, seemingly small, but significant, elements of shooting which need to be right to perform well.  It’s a precision sport, so given that your gun fits and your barrels are not bent, marginal gains count for a lot.  In this summary, I break down the process in to “elephant burgers” which are more easily digestible than a whole elephant!

Your Coach

However good a shot you are, if you want to improve, the best starting point is to find a coach with the ability and experience to help you and with whom you can build a rapport.  Whether you’re a novice learning your craft for social purposes or an athlete with ambitions, I’m of the view that two-way communication with the coach is essential.  They need to put their message across in a way that you understand and can apply it; they must also be a good listener and want to get to know you and want your feedback so they can tailor their coaching to you and your needs.

Gun Safety and Gun Handling

Ensure your gun safety and gun handling are second nature; this is paramount.  Your coach should teach you this and other shooters will keep you on the straight and narrow, but don’t wait to be told.  Learn right at the start how to handle your gun so those around you feel safe and confident that you know what you are doing.  Practice at home with an empty gun in a safe place, and be self-aware.  Even if you’ve been shooting for ten years, carefully consider if there are flaws in any part of your gun handling; just because you’ve always done something one way, it doesn’t mean it’s right.  Also, understanding how to hold and grip the gun correctly will have a positive effect on your shooting.

Eye Dominance

Aside from having the correct eye prescription, it is vital that you understand your own eye dominance.  Find out which is your dominant eye; is it 100% dominant or is it influenced by the other eye or do you have central dominance?  This, along with certain other factors, will determine which shoulder you shoot off and if you need to “de-influence” one eye to a greater or lesser degree with a patch.  If your personal eye dominance situation allows it, I recommend you shoot with both eyes open, even if that means swapping shoulders from your normal handedness; it’ll be worth it.  Your coach will be able to advise you on this.  NB  If you use prescription glasses, I recommend you get proper shooting glasses with prescription lenses; normal glasses can affect your shooting because the frames may get in the way of your vision.

Ready Position

I cannot emphasise enough how much having the correct stance, foot position, Ready Position, and balance affects your ability to hit targets.  Being aware of your body and balance, how your weight is distributed between your feet and what your arms and head are doing throughout the shot really helps.  By reducing unnecessary arm, head and body movement and using your hips to rotate when mounting the gun and shooting, you are being as efficient and effective as possible.  If you can’t feel what your body is doing, get someone to video you and play it back to see what is going on, or, stand on a balance pad to magnify the problem and increase your awareness. 

Pick up, Hold and Break Points and Method

Pick up points, hold points and break points will come naturally with time and experience.  If you don’t see the target you can’t shoot it, so you do need to know exactly where it’s coming from.  Then watch what it’s doing to work out the optimum break point.  It’s likely that the hold point will be somewhere roughly half way between the two, but this may vary depending on the target and how and where you want to shoot it.   My advice is, don’t be afraid to experiment with all of these things as well as your chosen method of shooting (swing through, pull away or maintained lead) and work out which works best for you.  It may evolve with time so keep experimenting!

Target Acquisition

If your set-up is correct it (take your time over this) it will increase your ability to acquire the target.  Then, learn to focus on the target in a meaningful way (not just casually looking at it); apply your hand-eye coordination to lift the gun to the face, matching the speed as the target (assuming you’re not pre-mounted) whilst ensuring the barrels connect with the target.  Timing and control are required in spades as well as awareness of how you are looking at the target.  Now you are in a perfect position to accelerate away and pull the trigger!  BANG!!  Another elephant burger for the pot!