Ed Solomons, shooting coach and former FITASC Sporting World Champion, offers some useful tips.
One of the first things I do when starting a training plan with new customers is to set a list of goals that they wish to achieve over the coming season, followed by what you might call a “shooting basics health check”.
This isn’t anything especially exciting. However I think it is vital to get the basics right from the start and highlight any current problem areas. This health check gives a solid platform to progress from through the season.
To start 2018 off, I am going to run over some of these points so you can have a little more structure to your shooting, and to give you a platform to work from going forward, should you wish to kick on a little bit in the new year.
— Ed Solomons (@edsolomonscoach) December 28, 2017
Making sure your eyes work their best
One of the most important areas of interest, and most often overlooked (pardon the pun!) are the eyes.
If your eyes aren’t working at their best, you will never be able to shoot at your best. Over the past five years I have been working in conjunction with Ed Lyons who has helped countless shooters including myself get the most from their eyes. This not only includes a 2-3 hour in depth exam, but Ed is also able to custom tint lenses in shooting specific styles and offer advice on all things ocular.
One very important aspect of this is eye dominance. Eye dominance is not fixed, and can change as we get older, as well as with fatigue, hydration and stress. A fairly small shift in dominance can cause big problems for your shooting, however is easy to correct- so if you were to do one thing on my list, a trip to see an ocular specialist like Mr Lyons would be top of my list.
I am a big believer that for most people, close enough is good enough when it comes to gun fit, as few people actually have a consistently good enough mount to truly fit a gun accurately.
However, there are certain dimensions that can cause serious shooting struggles and a competent and knowledgeable coach can pick up on these and offer suggestions to get the stock tweaked to make life a lot easier.
If you find your shooting has tailed off over time and you have ruled out visual problems, gun fit would be my next basic to check.
The gun that fitted you perfectly three seasons ago may no longer be appropriate, especially if you have gained or lost weight, or changed shooting style/mount.
Even a change in clothing can have an impact- if you had your gun fitted at the start of the grouse season you most likely had a light shirt on and perhaps a tweed vest. Back end of the season you will be base layer, shirt, jumper/fleece and a jacket. This affects stock length by no small measure, which has a knock-on effect to drop and cast at face and head position, all of which will impact your results.
The next bit is a little self-analysis – you should already be aware if there are certain presentations of birds (be they clay or game) that are likely to cause you more problems than others.
If it helps keep a notebook handy with your shooting kit to keep an up do date list of what you perceive to be problems.
This is the first step towards addressing your issues with a coach, and it will help the instructor get to the bottom of any issues faster.
The more information the better, is one side stronger that the other? Is it always straight birds causing you problems?
Stopping the gun on left to rights but not right to lefts? All of these will have a root cause and once you make a list of your problems they become much easier to deal with. You wouldn’t go to the doctors without a list of symptoms, don’t do the same with a coach!
— Ed Solomons (@edsolomonscoach) December 12, 2017
I can’t think of an activity where you can make meaningful progress without practice, and shooting is no different.
The key for me is to have structured, focused practice as opposed to just pulling the trigger x number of times and making your way home.
If you have had lessons, you should get either a training plan or some key points to focus on to address any issues in your technique. This may be something as simple as working foot position better, ingraining a new technique for applying lead, or slowing the mount down and getting the hands working better together.
If you haven’t been given a plan, try and focus on the basics, foot position, good controlled mount (don’t rush), slow smooth swing and focusing hard on the target making sure you finish the shot.
Don’t be the shooter on the first day of the season who hasn’t picked a gun up since late January- you won’t be doing yourself any favours!