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Why was my Down-the-Line performance much worse at a different ground?

Q: I enjoy shooting Down-the-Line at a nearby club and normally manage scores in the high 80s or low 90s. Three weeks ago I went with a couple of friends to another ground to shoot registered targets for the first time and hit just 74 ex 100…and that was with a lot more second barrels than usual. Back at my own club last Sunday I shot a 91 which makes me feel a little better but I haven’t got a clue why I shot so badly at the other competition. Would it help if I went to a shooting instructor to see if I have an underlying fault?

A: You have nothing to lose by booking a lesson with a decent coach, in fact it will probably do your shooting a power of good and lift your scores at the club where you shoot.

The acid test of course will be how well you perform when you shoot again at another ground because I’m not entirely sure your bad performance was necessarily caused by poor technique. The beauty of a discipline like Down-the-Line is that target angles and speeds are – or should be – the same wherever you shoot. Barring a mental aberration or foul weather this means you should be able to consistently shoot to an average.

While angles and speeds are pretty much identical from one layout to another, the same can’t be said for the background at different shooting grounds nor wind direction or strength. Trees, hills, even distant houses, can affect how well you see the clay after it leaves the trap which in turn might mean you having to adjust your hold position. An unhelpful wind might also affect target trajectory. Failure to ‘read’ the signs can soon prove costly in missed targets.

If you’ve caught the DTL bug then my advice would be to shoot at as many grounds as possible and thereby learn how to adjust instantly to those many subtle changes.