This is Part 1 to our brand new “How To Improve Your Shooting” Series

Contents of Part 1:

Introduction to Your Coach!

What to Expect from this Series

What to Expect on Your First Tuition Day


For those of you who are new to The CGUK, I am the Resident Coach for this vibrant community of “game on” ladies!  Many of you are already keen shots, and others have joined because you want to lean to shoot in a fun, supportive and non-judgemental environment and with like-minded ladies.  You have definitely come to the right place!

“The Coaches Corner” is my space where you will find my blogs, which I hope are of interest and helpful.  I’m here to support you in your shooting any way I can, be it via questions on the Members WhatsApp group or an online Coaches Corner Q&A session.  There are other things in the pipeline but additionally, I’m involved with some of the Midlands tuition days.  I am a resource for the Members so please make use of me!

A Bit About Me

The first time I pulled the trigger, using a boyfriend’s gun, I was terrified I might kill someone!  A friend properly introduced me to the sport when I was in my mid thirties. I loved it and it changed my life.  But I had no one to shoot with, so I’d put my Brave Boots on each weekend and go by myself to my local shooting ground; watched by a bunch of old men through a haze of smoke, I’d ask to borrow a gun and for someone to button for me.  I’d had a few lessons but I didn’t really know what I was doing, I just knew I wanted to shoot!   Then the old men, without introducing themselves, would come up and helpfully offer their considered advice …“Yer behind it!”  I‘m sure they meant well but I’d have given my eye-teeth for The Country Girls UK!!  

My friend then invited me game shooting; only a 350 bird day!  She lent me her 20 bore Browning and put me on Peg 9 all day with a minder.  I shot partridges, pheasants and a pigeon; I came home with a big lump on my jaw and a big smile on my face!  My friend’s husband mused “I think you could shoot for England!”  I was made up!  I bought Beretta Silver Pigeon, had more lessons and got more invites for game days, mostly from more old men who thought it‘d be a novelty to have a young lady in the line! I was grateful, but I struggled to find nice ladies kit and I still had to wear my Brave Boots for practising on my own and I was always the only lady in the line, but I loved it! 

I then met a coach who told me “I think you’ve got some potential.”  He introduced me to Olympic Skeet; I was hooked.  I upgraded to a Perazzi, practiced hard and qualified for the Ladies OSK team and shot for Team GB for a number of years.  I went the London Olympics, watching in the stand!  But I did shoot at the 2012 World Cup at the Olympic shooting range at Woolwich, which was pretty special as well as pretty wet!

I gradually slid in to coaching after taking some qualifications.  I’m freelance, and work with clients on their sporting and game shooting but the majority of my time is spent teaching British Shooting Talent Pathway athletes the tricky art of Olympic Skeet!

I’ve had so much pleasure from my shooting and because of my early experiences, I’m eager for ladies to not just try shooting but to develop the confidence to do more and fully enjoy their sport.  I believe this hinges on having positive first experiences.  Good tuition in the right environment, tailored for ladies, with appropriate guns, is so essential; sadly isn’t always the case and many ladies are put off at the first hurdle.

What to Expect from the “How to Improve your Shooting” Series

My impression is most ladies want to shoot for fun with friends, be it clays, simulated game days or game shooting.  This is what it’s all about; it’s a great way to socialise and enjoy the countryside.  Others ladies perhaps are competitive and want more from their shooting.  Either way, in my experience, the best way to enjoy your shooting is:

  1. Being confident that you are safe and that those around you are safe
  2. Knowing how to handle the gun
  3. Having a good understanding of how to hit the target so you’re not afraid to experiment and “play” and have a go at harder targets.

There will be some hitting and plenty of missing along the way but from this point onwards you can improve your skills through practice and tuition and have fun too.

With the above in mind, my plan is to break down the process of shooting in to its logical constituent parts, which can be looked at and scrutinised in isolation.  Improving any one element of shooting can help you improve your overall performance.  Not all parts may apply to everyone as you may be happy with some areas but not others, so you can pick and choose the parts that you feel will help you.  Topics will include:

Eye dominance – Sooo important!

Gun fit and suitable guns for ladies – Yea!  At last!

Gun safety – Can’t stress it enough!

Gun handling – Did you know it was a thing?

Stance and balance – Don’t fall over!

Ready position – You gotta be ready!

Pick up points, hold points and kill points – And what do points mean??!  Prizes!

Looking at the target and focus – Do you really know what you are looking at?

Gun mount – Once more with feeling!

Routine – It’s physical AND mental!

Methods of shooting – So many to chose from?!

And there’s plenty more shooting related topics to cover beyond this list!

In the meantime……

What to Expect from Your First Tuition Day

You’ll probably be both excited and apprehensive about your first tuition day.  Don’t panic: this is normal!  The best thing you can do is dress appropriately, sturdy shoes, and a layer or two for padding; no strappy tops or sandals!  The rest is up to the coach.  You should be put at ease and asked what you want to achieve with your shooting. 

At the start your coach will identify your dominant eye; this is crucial to your shooting.  It’s not always straight forward and you may need to consider which shoulder you shoot off or what to do with your eyes; your coach will guide you to the best solution.

You’ll be given an appropriate gun that fits reasonably well and explained how to hold it, how it works and what happens if it doesn’t go bang when you pull the trigger!  A basic fit will be sufficient to learn the essentials and hit some targets. 

The basics of gun safety will be explained so you are clear on what you should and should not do; ask if you’re not sure.  Safety is the most important thing you need know about shooting.  Ear and eye and head protection will be provided.

You’ll learn the importance of stance, foot position and balance and how to hold the gun.  This is described as “the Ready Position”.  It may feel little alien to begin with, handling a potentially lethal weapon and standing in a slightly strange way!  

Then you’ll be shown the gun mount – where to place the gun in your cheek and shoulder.  You’ll probably shoot “gun in” to start with but I like to progress my clients to shooting “gun down” as soon as possible as this is a more flexible way to shoot.

At all times the coach should be able to take control of the gun for safety purposes, standing close to you so they can grab the gun if required and be in charge of the safety catch.  Some physical contact will be needed to position the gun in your shoulder correctly.  Recoil is not a problem if light cartridges are used.

You should learn how to use your eyes, what to look at and be aware of whilst shooting.  The terms pick up point, hold point and kill point maybe introduced.

Your first shots are likely to be at easy “floppy” targets giving you time to connect with the target and allow you to build up confidence in controlling the gun.  I check that my clients they are not experiencing any discomfort or aching arms 

The coach should build a rapport with the client.  I want my clients to be relaxed, so I try to make my sessions fun.  Communication is very important so I check that they understand what I’m asking.  I give feedback but I also ask the client for their thoughts and feelings, a useful resource to me and encourages them to be more self aware.

You should come away with a strong sense of the importance of gun safety and feel you were in a calm and safe environment, where success is not just about hitting targets but getting the process right; and misses are not seen as failure but as learning opportunities.  Finally, with a good coach, hopefully you will find it fun and rewarding!

Written by Nicki Wakeford