The Ready Position : Ready, Steady Go!
A good Ready Position begins with the stance and how you hold the gun, both of which are discussed earlier in this Series. But the Ready Position also includes your foot placement in relation to where you wish to break the target, the positioning of the gun in relation to the body and the positioning of the gun in relation to the target.
A View to a Kill!
Before we go any further, you need to be aware of and be able to establish the following three essential points; knowing where these points are key to helping you achieve the correct Ready Position for any target:
1: Pick Up Point – where you first see the target clearly
2: Hold Point – where you position the gun before calling for the target
3: Kill or Break point – where you want to break the target
As with the stance, the Ready Position begins with the feet. It’s interesting to watch different shooters address the same target; some approach the stand and begin their set-up and routine with little regard for their footwork and shoot from whatever position their feet happen to land in. Others set their feet so they are in the “neutral” position at the hold point; both scenarios will increase the likelihood of a miss.
Here’s what I do: I observe the target and establish my Pick Up Point and my optimum Break Point. I address the Break Point by setting my feet so my body is in the neutral position facing that direction and feels natural. I rotate through my hips back to my Hold Point. I settle my eyes at my Pick Up Point. When the target emerges, I naturally unwind as I watch it whilst mounting the gun, pulling the trigger at the Break Point.
If you’re in the neutral position whilst addressing the Hold Point, on a crosser you have to wind up to hit the target rather than unwinding, thus creating tension. This is counter-productive and will cause you to slow down, run out of swing, go offline or off balance; it will not feel natural. As a check, once you have set your feet but before you shoot, allow your hips to rotate and feel the ease and range of your rotation. If it doesn’t feel right for the shot or pair in question then alter your feet until it does.
Keep Holding On!
Your Hold Point lies somewhere between the Pick Up Point and Kill Point. A good starting place is halfway between the two but it may vary depending on the nature of the target, its speed and how you like to shoot. With experience, you’ll learn what is right for you. If you’re struggling with a target, your Hold Point may be wrong; try to be aware of whether you feel under pressure with the shot and if the target is beating you, in which case your Hold Point may be too tight. Alternatively, if you feel you don’t have any connection with the target or you are waiting for it, you may be holding too far out. The answer is to experiment with different Hold Points to find what works for you.
Equally, the height of the barrels is important and should promote an efficient movement of the gun to the line of the target. If the barrels are too low, you have further to lift them; either it will take too long to mount the gun and reach the kill point or the shot will be rushed and the fine control lost. You may even come up to the target at an angle such that it minimises the amount of shot placed in front of the target. If the barrels are too high, correcting the height during the mount will obstruct your view of the target. Both scenarios will increase the probability of a miss.
Stick to your Guns!
Assuming you’re shooting “gun down” ie not pre-mounted, consider the positioning of your gun whilst in the Ready Position. The Hold Point is important in terms of height and distance to promote target acquisition, but also remember:
1: Holding the gun too far back requires more work to bring the stock to the face. Having the stock further forwards allows a more efficient, timely gun mount.
2: The rib of the gun should be in line with your nose so the gun comes straight into the face when mounted bringing the master eye in line with the rib. It is not unusual to see people holding the gun out of line to the right or left of their head; this encourages leaning in order to get the face on the stock resulting in a poor mount. The gun should come to the face, not the other way around.
3: Be aware of the angle of the gun with the body which should be about 45° helping to create the shoulder pocket for the butt of the gun to sit in. Avoid holding the gun across the body “archer style” as it is not helpful for mounting the gun. Too wide an angle results in the gun being held away from the face as in 2 above.
See the image below for how NOT to hold the gun.