Understanding The Three Different Methods Of Shooting

There is Method in the Madness!

Have you ever thought about the importance of connecting with the target or even how you connect with the target?  Perhaps you just shoot without thinking about it?  Or do you do something different each time, but you’re not sure what or why?  Or perhaps you just put the gun up, pull the trigger and hope for the best! 

If any of the above are true, you may find inconsistency in your ability to hit targets but also to hit the same target repeatedly, even easy targets.  To shoot well, it’s vital to understand exactly what you are trying to do ie the method you want to use, and also to have a good awareness of what you are actually doing when you shoot.  Armed with this information you are better equipped to correct the process if things go wrong.    

This blog describes the three different ways of shooting and gives you some tips on acquiring that awareness of what you are doing when shooting. 

The three methods of shooting are identified according to where the barrels are placed at the start of the shot in order to make the connection with the target.  They are all perfectly valid methods of shooting;

1. Swing through

2. Pull Away

3. Maintained lead

King of the Swingers! 

The “swing-through method” is regarded by many as the easiest way to shoot; it is the way beginners are often taught, but it’s used by experienced shots too.  The line of the target is found by coming from behind and accelerating through the target to gain the lead.  This is the preferred method to use for those that shoot “gun in” ie pre-mounted.

(Photograph 1: shows the barrel start point behind the target)

On the Pull! 

The “pull away” method is similar but more efficient due to less gun movement.  As the gun is mounted the barrels come directly onto the target, rather than from behind.  A moment is spent with the target to establish the speed before accelerating away to acquire the lead.  This is probably the most popular system of shooting and is the preferred approach of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, referred to as “The Method”.

(Photograph 2: shows the barrel start point on the target)

Lead by Example!

The third method is known as “maintained lead” or “sustained lead”.  It is the least used of the three techniques often employed by more experienced shots and can be target dependent.  Regular users of this method include many Olympic Skeet shooters.  It allows gun movement to be minimised for quick efficient shooting on fast targets.

With maintained lead, there is no contact as such between the barrels and the target.  As the gun is mounted the barrels come up in front of the target establishing lead from the start.  Although the target never catches up with the barrels a connection is still made between the two; the lead is held throughout the shot with the gun moving ahead of the target at the same speed; no acceleration is needed.  There is little time to think with a fast target, so it can be a reflex shot as demonstrated in Olympic Skeet.

(Photograph 3: shows the barrel start point with lead established)

Out Damn Spot

What I don’t recommend is spot shooting or ambushing the target.  It’s too unreliable and it does not generally allow you to make a repeatable connection with the target.


Some people are naturally self-aware and others need a bit of practice.  A few people don’t have any awareness at all and need a good coach to help them out!  

To acquire self-awareness, which is needed to progress, shoot a few simple targets playing around with the three different shooting methods.  Don’t worry about hitting or missing, as this is purely experimentation and outcomes don’t matter, it’s all about the process.  See if you can shoot the same target three different ways but be aware of where your barrels are in relation to the target throughout the shot; or try shooting the same target ten times with your chosen method.  Note that in doing these exercises you should know where your barrels are without actually looking at them or looking at the bead of the gun.  When shooting, only ever look at the target, all the time!

Smashing It

The method you use is down to what suits you and gives you the most consistent results; I would start with pull away and if you are struggling with a particular target try swing through.  But be bold and give maintained lead a go too.  Work out your preferred method for shooting.  Once you have established this and have practised applying it on different targets, you should find more consistency in your shooting.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun!