THE SPEED OF YOUR SWING
In an attempt to try and give shooters an easy to understand idea of lead – the amount of forward allowance needed to hit a target – last month’s article looked at describing lead by visualising a clock face to indicate the position that the muzzles need to be ahead of the bird when we pull the trigger.
For instance, the swing might start at 10 o’clock, when the muzzles are on the bird it’s 12 o’clock and, continuing the swing through the target, the trigger is pulled at half past one.
Some people, particularly novices, seem to grasp this concept really easily as it’s an image anyone can instantly picture in their mind, compared with being told to ‘give it six feet’ and then hoping the pupil can imagine what this distance looks like from 20 or 30 yards away.
The article was not about assessing how much lead to give, but simply how to describe the amount in words and give the shooter a mental image of this distance.
Since I wrote that, though, someone in the office has chipped in with ‘what about the speed of the swing – surely that will make a difference?’
From the very first moments of their very first lesson, every shooter should be made aware that they must swing the gun before; during and even after the moment they pull the trigger.
It’s one of the essential ingredients an instructor will try and drum into a novice right from the moment they pick up a gun.
Stopping the swing amounts to a cardinal sin in the shooting world and it will almost certainly result in missing the target behind.
And while we’re on the most basic of basics, it’s worth noting that the swing should always be just that… a swing.
The movement of the gun should be a single, silky-smooth and rounded action and not a series of jerks from one position to the next.
And the perfect swing is not just about moving in the direction in which the muzzles are pointing, moving your body – and transferring your weight if necessary – is equally important.
Whatever you do, don’t just try to swing or move the gun on its own.
Watch any top shooter in action and you’ll notice that by turning and moving correctly the gun and their body will be as one – in perfect 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 on the face.
In extreme cases we can have a situation where what was a perfect gun mount at the start of the swing 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 sore shoulder 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.
If it isn’t, well, 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… and this can only mean a missed target.
Even if your gun mount and swing are perfect you’ll still struggle to hit 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’, you’ll end up twisting your body and dropping your shoulder to compensate. Inevitably you’ll miss.
Another basic, (and a good rule of thumb) is to have the toe of your front foot pointing towards your intended kill point.
Driven birds are a classic example where the shooter often runs out of swing. The contortions that ensue while the Gun tries to get ahead of the bird are humorous to say the least, verging on farcical.
One of the principal reasons this happens is because the shooter is leaving it too late before pulling the trigger, the swing is stopping simply because there’s nowhere else for the shooter to move the gun.
He’s run out of room.
If you take the birds when they’re about 45° to you the length of the swing, the arc if you like, will be manageable and comfortable.
If you start your swing as the clay is almost above you, however, the point where you pull the trigger and the end of the swing is going to be way past the vertical.
(Unless you’re an Olympic gymnast I defy anyone to shoot well under these conditions.)
At this point desperation sets in and the Gun is relying purely on instinct to get the muzzles onto the line and ahead of the bird.
As we know, instinctive shooting can sometimes be great as a get out of jail card when it comes to hitting more targets, but on driven birds it pays to be more methodical in your approach.
Swinging the gun properly is one of the most important aspects of all the shooting skills so it must be practiced and the easiest way is to spend a few minutes a day dry mounting and swinging the gun at home.
Use the line up the corner of your living room, or ceiling, as a guide – set yourself up properly and practice following the line with the muzzles.
It’s actually a lot harder to be consistent than you think – but you’ll only get better if you practice.
Nothing should impair a smooth swing, and that includes your clothing.
It might sound obvious but tight-fitting jackets and shooting vests can seriously hamper your movement.
You’ll always tend to shoot well if you feel comfortable.
So what about the Editor’s comment on swing speed that prompted this article?
Well, while I appreciate that using the clock face method might not be the first choice way to explain lead to a shooter with superfast swing, the mathematics still come out the same.
If the amount of lead needed to kill a bird is represented by, say, two o’clock, well that’s the angle the muzzles need to be at when you pull the trigger – irrespective of how fast the muzzles are travelling when they swing through that position.