Claybrakn... Regaining Control (7/11)

Regaining Control

By Frank Neumayer


Question:  I really enjoy shooting Trap and Skeet but I have a tendency to stop my gun!  Even though I know I’m doing it… I just can’t seem to stop.  No matter what I do, the target still has me beat!  What am I doing wrong, and what advice can you give me to correct the problem?


Answer:  You’re certainly not alone when it comes to this problem.  First of all, you’ll need to stop and analyze exactly what’s happening (with help if need be) and then apply the proper corrective actions necessary to resolve the problem.  What’s happening right now is that the target is controlling you instead of you controlling the target!  I think the biggest issue to overcome is the fact that “you” realize this has become a problem, so you’re jumping the target.  When you realize what you’ve done, you stop your gun to let the target catch-up… and it flies right on by. 


     Shooting at moving targets regardless of the game takes patience, precision, and timing in both your mental approach and in your gun movements.  The solution can be as simple as a change in basic mechanics, such as your gun-hold point or your body position for each shot.  Whatever it is, from start to finish, you’ll need to develop a smooth and controlled movement to the target.  Let’s look at few of the major elements in the target breaking sequence and develop an approach that will put you back in control.

First Point:  Are you set-up properly for each target presentation at each post or station?  First, make certain that your stance is not binding your movement or swing to the target.  In Skeet, you should set-up comfortably for the correct break point that’s basically pre-determined at each station.  In Trap, set-up comfortably for the hardest possible break-point you can expect from the targets at each post as you move through the round.  Be sure to check you gun-hold and eye-hold points. 


     In Skeet for example, if you’re in to close with your hold points, when the target first appears it can overtake the shooter and cause them to rush trying to catch-up.  A simple adjustment in either of your hold points could make a big difference toward solving the problem.  Couple this issue with not having a good visual lock on the target before you ever start moving your gun, and the whole target breaking sequence becomes hurried and out of control. 


Second Point:  Are you visually acquiring the target “first” then initiating a controlled gun movement to break it?  You must see the target first… then everything else follows!  The target will first appear in your periphery vision, then as quickly as possible, you should apply hard focus toward the leading edge as you move to it (or through it) to break it.  Once you’ve locked onto the leading edge, maintain that hard focus for the rest of the target breaking sequence. 


     Also, staying in the gun is a critical component to consistent target breaking success!  When control, timing, and accuracy are lost, staying in the gun becomes next to impossible, and you’ll start lifting your head in search of the target.  Always remember your gun and pattern will go exactly where your eyes are looking… as long as you and gun remain one. 


Third Point:  Are you pointing at the target or aiming at it?  Stopping the gun occurs most often when a shooter aims at the target.  Some longtime rifle shooters can have a difficult time at using both eyes and pointing at a moving clay target or bird.  When their gun meets-up with the target they take the shot and everything stops.  The problem here is that the shot pattern travels considerably slower to the target and a continuous movement, or follow-through, is what’s critical in order to complete a successful break. 


     Mentally force yourself to stay with the target after you’ve taken the shot.  If you broke it, chase the break!  Think of it this way, you’re using your gun and shot pattern to break the target and then sweep the chips out of the sky.  A smooth and fluid movement, with accuracy and timing, from start to finish is what you’re looking for.


     Hopefully, you now understand that patience coupled with precision and timing is what will put “you” in control of the shot.  Sure, you’re going to miss a few targets, but when you do, you will know exactly what you did wrong and you’ll be able to make immediate adjustments before you take the next shot.  All of the elements of the target breaking sequence must be made part of your practice regiment.  Whether it’s Trap, Skeet, 5-Stand, or Sporting Clays, you need to fully understand the type of targets you can expect from each post or station. 


     This means you have to prepare yourself mentally for every shot so that you can react properly, with your eyes and your gun, to whatever type of target is presented.  Even when you get a simple straight-away, incoming, or slight quartering target, you must always keep the mindset that there are “no easy targets”.  Plan on taking every target “one at a time”… this way you’ll be certain to maintain the correct focus and concentration needed to break every target every time!


     If you have a specific question, send me an email at and I’ll do my best to get it answered.  Please keep your questions brief and to the point.  


See you at the club… Frank


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