As such, we should all be supremely proficient at breaking them, shouldn’t we?
Well, to be honest, not always. If you think about it crossers should be easy to hit. It’s usually easy to sort out where you want to kill the target, they’re often in sight for quite a good length of time and, generally speaking, they don’t exhibit any sneaky little traits that sometimes fool the shooter.
Over the years, though, I’ve come to appreciate several reasons why shooters miss this type of clay, so this is what I’d like to try and rectify this month.
After all, if you can consistently dust this, the most common of targets, your scores will improve and you’ll be head and shoulders above your fellow competitors.
THE NOW FACTOR
Some shooters, for instance, often manage to hit clays that are travelling from right to left but then really struggle to hit anything that’s going in the other direction.
Although I appreciate there’s an element of ‘they’re easier for right-handers’ here, it’s not always the case.
I sometimes refer to this psychological problem as a shooter ‘hitting a wall’ and it’s a mental thing where the shooter simply can’t swing the muzzles past a certain point.
To be honest, I think we all encounter some form of this phenomenon at some stage in our shooting career. In this case you’ve got to (mentally) take a step backwards, reassess what you’re trying to do, follow your normal shooting procedure and concentrate on simply hitting the clay.
As you’ll always see how the clay is going to be presented before it’s your turn to shoot, here’s a little tip: Watch for the clay as it’s called and say to yourself ‘now’ when you first see it.
There’ll inevitably be a slight delay between the point when you pick up the clay visually and the moment you say now.
The ‘now’ point is the ‘actual pick up point’ as your brain takes time to register the fact that your eyes have seen the clay is in flight.
As such, you need to get the muzzles of the gun slightly ahead of your ‘now’ point, with an initial stance to match, so that you’re in the ideal position to swing and fire.
If you don’t you’re going to be playing catch-up.
If your feet/stance position was set for the perceived ‘visual’ pick up point – and not your ‘now’ point -you might find that your upper body cannot physically turn enough to take a comfortable shot.
There are literally dozens of variations that can fall under the general ‘crosser’ banner, but the one that’s most likely to be seen on the average English sporting layout is the crossing/incoming or quartering clay.
Although this target can often be a bit of a bogey clay for shooters, the easy way to ensure lots of ticks on your score sheet is to try and treat it in exactly the same way as you would a conventional crosser.
As we mentioned before, it’s crucial that you watch how the clay is presented.
(This is a classic scenario where tracing the flight line of the clay with your finger will definitely help imprint the clay’s line of travel in your mind.)
Knowing the precise path of the clay will enable you to judge your initial pick up point and also your intended kill zone.
The next thing to consider is your stance and mount. Don’t even think about trying to shoot ‘gun up,’ as this will tempt you into aiming at the target – and you’ll find the gun gets very heavy, very quickly.
Keep your weight forward, remembering that in this case there’ll be no reason whatsoever to transfer weight onto the back foot.
To make sure you don’t physically ‘run out of swing’ (and by that I mean you can’t swing the muzzles any further without moving your feet) position the toe of your leading foot towards the kill zone.
This isn’t infallible, but it’s the best starting position as far as I’m concerned.
Stay relaxed and adopt a comfortable stance.
Keep the stock just out of the pocket of your shoulder with the muzzles of the gun pointing at, or just in front of the pick up point. Try to keep the barrels just below the flight line so that you don’t obscure your view of the clay.
(When I say ‘try’ I actually mean ‘make sure’ – this is a common reason for missing this type of clay.)
Just as the target is nearing your kill zone, bring the gun up into the shoulder – making sure your face is planted firmly onto the stock.
Although there’s no real hard and fast ‘best’ shooting style to nail this type of clay, I reckon that the good old pull away method will give consistent results.
As such, the important thing to remember is to keep the swing going and let its inertia and acceleration get the muzzles ahead of the target in a smooth and unhurried fashion.
Without stalling, and when your instinct and hand/eye coordination tells you that everything is correct – pull the trigger.
Always remember – get the basics right; the preparation, stance and swing, and breaking this type of clay can be simplicity itself as it relies more on ‘instinct’ than style.
When trying to explain how instinctive shooting works, I’ll often use the analogy of trying to catch a ball.
If someone chucks an object towards you, you’ll automatically move forward, extend your arm and catch the thing.
You don’t hesitate, wondering to yourself, hmm, how fast exactly shall I move forward? And how far shall I stick my arm out?
Instinctive shooting works in exactly the same way… but remember, in shooting parlance, getting yourself ready before the ball is thrown simply makes it easier to catch!
These are probably the easiest of the crossing clays to master, probably because as the clay is travelling closer to the ground its speed and line is easier to assess (because of the background.)
All you’ve got to do is judge the amount of lead necessary, swing through and fire.
A typical mistake when shooting this type of target is to shoot high and miss over the top, so it’s important you keep the muzzles just below the line of the clay.
Also be aware the flight line might deviate as the clay loses momentum at the end of its travel so you’ll have to allow for this before shooting, if you have to take the clay late.
THE SUPER-FAST CROSSER
These are the trickiest of the lot. Choose your stance to accommodate your chosen kill point, then bring the muzzles halfway back towards the trap, this should be somewhere just after the visual pick-up point.
Because it’s a really quick clay, the kill zone is limited.
Unless you’re really, really quick and smooth with your gun mount, in this instance it might be best to shoot gun up.
Also, because we’re almost in ‘snap shooting’ mode it might be best to utilise a ‘maintained lead’ style.
Try to swing through or pull away on this type of clay and the target will probably be off and away over the horizon before you’re ready to pull the trigger.
As soon as you pick up the clay visually start your swing, keeping the muzzles ahead of the clay.
To a certain degree, you must let instinct take over – when you feel the lead is correct pull the trigger and let the shot string do the rest.