Three Important Points – Pick Up Point, Hold Point And Break Point

Making a Point

I mentioned previously that each time you shoot a target you need to know three points, all intrinsically linked to each other, which, if correctly established, will significantly increase your chances of acquiring and hitting the 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. Break Point – where you want to shoot, and hopefully, break the target!

There is a bit more to it than this, so let’s look at these points in more detail.

You’ve Got to See it to Shoot It!

The Pick Up Point is where you settle your eyes and first see the target and then visually follow its line of flight.  Often you’re unable to see the trap from which the target is released and have to wait for it to emerge into view not knowing exactly where it will appear.  If the background is a clear sky, then it’s easy to see; happy days!  However, if the background is trees, shrubs, rising ground or hills it may be harder to see.  

As an aside, how clearly you see the target is determined by the background, the colour of the clay, the light, and your own vision.  Selecting the most effective colour of lens for your shooting glasses under any particular conditions can help highlight the target.

But back to the Pick Up Point!  It is essential to identify the place where the target emerges. Make a mental note of it in relation to landmarks, be that branches, trees or bushes etc so you know where to locate your soft focus when you call for the target.  Seeing the target early is a big advantage; if you haven’t identified your Pick Up Point you will lose time searching for the clay and may struggle to acquire the target and are more likely to miss.  I’m often asked “Where’s the target coming from?” when I’m coaching a group of people and they’ve had plenty of other people’s targets to watch.  What a missed opportunity!  Make good use of not being the first person to shoot.  

Make a Break For It

Then work out your Break Point.  To do this you need to watch the path of the target; don’t just look at it as a bystander would, but really watch it and be aware of what it is doing and where and when.  Take notice of its speed, height, direction, trajectory, where it slows down or turns or drops; how long can you see it for before it disappears behind a tree?  Then work out where is the best place for you to shoot it ie the Break Point.  Knowing the type of target you are shooting ie a standard, midi or mini is important and informs you about your perception of the distance and speed of the target.

Be aware that there isn’t necessarily just one break point for most targets; there may be many, often determined by the shooter and their style or preference for shooting; for instance, some people shoot quickly, with little gun movement, others hang on and shoot later.  Often you can be guided by the target; see how it presents itself, and the best Break Point will become apparent.  Remember though, that things can change on a windy day!  The target may not always emerge in the same place or the flight line may vary and therefore the break point, so you need to be prepared and be flexible.

Hold It There!

Having established your Pick Up Point and Break Points, the final thing is to work out where to place your gun ie the Hold Point.  You’re looking for the sweet spot that allows time for the eyes to register the target, and send a message to the brain to start the arms moving by which time the target is at the hold point so when you start moving the gun you can keep up with the target.  

As a rough guide, in terms of horizontal distances, for crossing or quartering targets the Hold Point (barrel position) is around halfway between the Pick Up Point and the Break Point.  It’s a good starting place but you may need to make some adjustments if it doesn’t feel right or your breaks aren’t convincing.  It’s your Hold Point so find out what works for you.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and enjoy playing around with targets; shoot earlier or later by changing the Hold Point or the speed of the gun mount.  

As a rule, if the Hold Point is too close to the Pick Up Point, the target will get ahead of you; you’ll feel under pressure and struggle to get out in front of and the shot will feel rushed.  If your Hold Point is too far from the Pick Up Point, you won’t make a connection with the target and you will struggle to know what to do with the gun unless you patiently wait for the target to reach the barrels before moving the gun.

The Hold Point is not just about horizontal distances; it is about height as well and this is very important too depending on the target.  The barrels must not get above the target’s height; this is very easy to do, particularly with low targets and higher targets.  So, I recommend keeping your barrels well below the height of the target until the gun is fully mounted at which point you can make that final adjustment.

With Hold Points, be aware of your method of shooting, whether Swing Through, Pull Away or Maintained Lead.  Having that self-awareness of where the barrels are in relation to the target, knowing what you are feeling and seeing as you mount the gun and pull the trigger, provides very useful feedback.  When the three points are in sync with each other it should result in a smooth and natural shot!