Keep it smooth

Every shooter is – or should be – aware that they need to swing the gun before; during and after the moment they fire. It’s a fact that’s usually drummed into them from their very first lesson.

Stopping the swing is a cardinal sin and will almost certainly result in missing the bird behind. It’s worth remembering that the swing should always be as the word implies ? swing. Swinging the gun should be a single, smooth and rounded action and not a series of jerks from one position to the next.

Move your body

It’s paramount that the swing of the gun is smooth and consistent, but moving the body – and transferring your weight if necessary – is equally important. Don’t just try to swing or move the gun on its own. The good shooter, by turning his body correctly, will swing the gun and himself as one, in total harmony and unison. It’s really important that the gun is never moved ‘independently’ of the shooter’s body ? if it does you’ll find it will affect the correct mounting of the gun in the shoulder and cheek.

In a worst-case scenario we can have a situation where what was a perfect gun mount ends up with the butt being out of the shoulder and the head lifted off the stock. This results in two things; you’ll almost certainly miss the bird? and probably end up with a bruised shoulder and/or cheek!

Always remember that at the end of the swing – after you’ve pulled the trigger and taken your shot – that the gun must be mounted exactly as it was at the start of the swing. You’ll find that if the gun isn’t in exactly the same place the whole relationship between the gun, your eye and the bird will be ruined and you’ll not be firing at the place you think you are? almost certainly resulting in a miss.


Even if your swing is as smooth as silk you’ll struggle to hit your targets if your initial stance is wrong. If your feet and body are positioned, say, 45° from where they should be on a crosser, for instance, you’ll find that you physically can’t swing the gun far enough.

You’ll ‘run out of room to swing’, end up twisting and dropping your shoulder to compensate and invariably you’ll miss. A good rule of thumb is to have the toe of your front foot pointing towards the intended kill point.

Relax…just do it!

Irrespective of the discipline you’re shooting, it’s vitally important that you’re relaxed. I don’t mean so laid back that you don’t give a monkey’s if you miss, but you certainly mustn’t be tense when you’re shooting. It’s quite noticeable how often even the best shots miss relatively straightforward birds simply because the pressure gets to them and they’re tense and uptight. Being rigid and tense will almost certainly affect your gun mounting and inhibit your swing.

Practice makes perfect

Swinging the gun properly is one of the most important aspects of all the shooting skills. I know I’ve said this a thousand times, but you must practice. When you’re fed up with practicing, practice some more! The easiest way is to spend a few minutes a day dry mounting and swinging the gun at home.

Use the join between a wall and the ceiling as a guide ? set yourself up properly; identify your kill point, leaving enough room to swing before and after (just in case you need a second shot!) and practice following the line with the muzzles of the gun.

I’ll bet a pound to a penny you can’t follow the line smoothly and consistently a hundred times in a row. Until you can, how can you ever expect to straight a 100-bird sporting layout? Make time to practice. If you don’t swing, you’ll never win!

Hang loose!

Nothing should impair a smooth swing, and that includes clothing. It might sound obvious but tight-fitting (especially around the shoulders and arms) jackets and shooting vests can seriously hamper your movement. I’m not saying you should dress like a teenage skateboarder, but don’t make it harder for yourself by wearing restrictive clothing.

Mark’s golden rule

Don’t stop the swing as you pull the trigger. You must keep the muzzles moving. If you don’t you’ll probably miss behind.

Have you got a problem with your shooting? If you drop us a line, maybe Mark can help.

Please write to our usual address: Sporting Gun, PO Box 157, Stamford, Lincs. PE9 9FU or email:

We’re afraid Mark can’t give personal replies, but he’ll do his best to tackle your subject in future articles.