Shooting is like any sport; if you want to do it consistently, at all quarry species, on different topography, in any weather conditions, it takes work
The season was drawing to an end when I received a call from Shooting Times Editor Patrick Galbraith. Patrick mentioned that he wasn’t entirely happy with his shooting over the season; he had been frustrated at his inconsistency on many days. He thought it was time to try to sort it out.
To structure future lessons I needed to know how Patrick was feeling about his shooting, where it would go wrong, the advice he has been given in the past and the type of situation he struggles in or species of game he struggles with.
There are so many aspects to being a competent Shot in the field — it is not as simple as being able to break a few clays.
It may not even be the shooting that is the problem: it could be fieldcraft. You need to be able to read birds on the wing and understand what grouse, pheasants and partridges do and how they can behave in different weather or over different ground.
Patrick asked if he shoot with one eye closed or both eyes open? He had been told that he should shoot with both eyes open but he has always shot with one closed. This has caused him to try both options on shoot days and this will cause major problems. Ignoring the obvious eye dominance issues, you have to pick one or the other. You can’t keep changing because they are completely different.
Patrick’s first concern was that his gun didn’t fit him correctly and this has played on his mind all season. He has been chopping and changing guns and this doesn’t help when you are trying to find some form.
We headed to the shooting ground to have a look. You can’t tell if someone’s gun fits when they stand and mount the gun. It gives you an idea but you need to see someone actually shoot to get a true impression. You certainly can’t fit a gun without using a tri gun, set up to the correct measurements of the person shooting it.
There are two types of gun fit. One is gun alteration — adjusting the original stock. There are limits that a gunsmith can achieve by moving or adjusting the stock and many different gun makes are easier than others to achieve measurements. The second is a true gun fit; I can give a full range of measurements, including grip and so on, and the stocker or stocking machine can achieve most requests from a stock blank.
At the ground Patrick started shooting the tower and shot well. His gun wasn’t perfect but it was not a complete hindrance. His Beretta had been adjusted previously and was a tiny bit short for him, and his bend/drop measurement was 1/16th too low. I decided to improve Patrick’s style and technique bit by bit then give him a final gun fit in a few weeks.
For gun fit to be of benefit to the shooter he must be able to mount the gun consistently. Any small changes, such as where you hold your lead hand or what you do with your footwork and stance, can change the fit of a gun.
Patrick has plenty of time to put the work in before the start of next season. Getting better is a slow process achieved bit by bit and ingraining a structure and sound technique that becomes natural. The main thing is that he is keen to really improve.