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Lead

What is lead?
Lead is the distance you need to shoot in front of the target to hit it....

I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, far from it, but I wanted to share my experiences while I have been shooting, you can find your own preferred methods obviously, but I hope something here may help you on your way.

Although the shot is coming out of your barrels at what seems to be an inconceivable speed, your target is likely to be going in a very different direction, at a completely different speed. Your goal is to intercept that target with your shot so if it is travelling from right to left, you need to be aiming to the left of the target when you actually shoot - simples!

Unfortunately it's not that simple because targets are moving at different speeds and different directions / angles, so this is where the main challenge in clay pigeon shooting, or any shooting at a moving target for me seems to be.

Some people will say "for this one you need to give it a good 6ft in front" Sadly this doesn't help me much as I am female and one of those that has little or no perception of distance!  I would ask "is that this much?" holding my finger and thumb an inch apart, or this much? .... why? because that is how I see it at the end of my barrels when my gun is mounted lol.  The strange thing is I have only met one other who described it like this without prompting. (and yes I know I shouldn’t be looking at my barrels they are just in my peripheral vision, honestly!)

There are different methods in approaching this but the first thing is to try and establish where the clay is actually coming from and the angle that it is crossing your path and how far away from you will it be when it is in your chosen kill zone... where exactly is the trap?

Your shot pattern as you can clearly see here (the blob on the right is the wad from the cartridge) depending on what chokes you have, is likely to be around a metre across once it gets there, so this allows some amount of error, but not as much as you or I may like. Yawn

If it’s going straight away or straight toward you, whether high or low you just need to figure out when you actually fire your gun, whether it's going to be rising or falling when you actually intercept it. Even that can be tricky as they are generally ‘edge on’ making the target smaller.  There are also other things to consider.  Most over and under shotguns shoot (they say) 60% of their shot above where you are aiming, so shooting underneath is always a better option, but too far and the individual lead shots become sparse and that sneaky clay can wriggle in between them.  I guess this shooting high thing is designed so that you don’t cover your target with your barrels.  Points to note – if your target is likely to disappear behind your barrels while you are lining up with it then slightly alongside also is apparently the answer.

Swing / Pull through

Anyway back to lead, because I fail miserably mostly at judging it, I tend to use the 'pull through' or ‘swing through’ method where I can. That is, see the target, follow it, and just as you reach it speed up a bit and fire so you are in front when your gun releases the shot. Some say “bum belly beak bang!” You must keep the gun moving through also, since the shot doesn't all come out in one go, it comes out with a string of stragglers behind so you have a chance to hit with those too if they are better placed.  The good thing here I find, is that as you follow the target it appears to slow down, almost like slow motion so the little acceleration at the end can seem easier.

Pete tends to use a different method where he does not actually 'track' the clay, this is easier for him shooting gun down. He gets better sight of the target and predicts it’s path then draws a straight line with is gun and shoots where it will be.  Hmmm, well, he shoots better than I do so who am I to judge.

Sometimes there is no space or time to use this method (trees, obsticles blocking your line of sight) so working on your lead judgement is still important.

Pull Away

This method is similar to swing through except that you actually keep the clay on the end of your barrels then pull in front of it and pull the trigger.

Maintained Lead

If, unlike me, you are good with your distances and judgement you can use maintained lead. This method requires no speeding up you just keep your aim in front of the target and match the speed - obviously at your pre-judged distance.

Target shooting

There are times when you can actually shoot straight at a target, high loopers and teal can be this way, they slow down, reach their peak and seem to hang in the sky for a split second as they change direction and fall. Judgement is important here too since if you shoot too late the falling clay is much quicker, and for me, far trickier to predict as they accellerate all the way down.

Body movement, placement and hold position

One thing I have had drummed into me from the start is when shooting 'gun up' all your movement should be from the waist. When swinging left to right, up and down it is easy to push or pull the gun off your face resulting in the gun not pointing where you are looking and generally, a nasty bruise!

Your chosen kill point should be your most relaxed position giving you best span of movement in all directions so position your feet to align with this. The CPSA will advise you to point your 'non hand' foot directly to your kill point ie if you are right handed, your left foot. This may not be right for everyone but somewhere to start. Your hold point (when you are waiting to spot the clay) should be a point where you best see the clay coming into focus - move from your waist to this point so you naturally unwind to your kill point.  If you are shooting doubles and they are going in different directions then think about both targets and choose an average position to suit them both. The pro's will be good enough to move ther feet between shots but certainly not me lol. 

If shooting below your body height, try shooting with your feet together, othewise your body will draw a natural curve when side on aiming downwards causing problems, not so when square on - this helped me a lot with low rabbits in particular - thanks Ben (multiple World Shooting Champion).

Just remember to keep that gun swinging after you have pulled the trigger!

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