How to improve your clay shooting scores.
But for some of us whose time is limited – you know, boring old stuff like trying to earn a living getting in the way of what we enjoy – there’s only so much time every week you can be out with a gun in your hands practicing and trying to improve your technique.

But this doesn’t alter the fact that you want to do better. So, with this in mind here are my top tips to make you shoot liked a star.

Simply do what I recommend in this month’s article and I can pretty much guarantee you’ll see an improvement on your scorecard.

Give it a go… what have you got to lose?

Right then, first off we need to have a look at the hardware you’re currently using.

I realise you’re probably not going to be able to get this done by next weekend’s shooting session, but it’s something you must consider in the long term.

Just use one gun – that fits – and also stick with one brand/ make of cartridge. Consistency is the name of the game here.

Gun fit is important. There’s a reasonable school of thought that says if you don’t mount the gun exactly the same way every time it’s a waste of money having it fitted properly.

But – and this is so obvious it’s ridiculous – if you’re struggling because the gun doesn’t fit you, all you’re doing is making things harder for yourself.

You’re never going to shoot to your full potential. People adapt (physically) to make the best of an ill-fitting gun, so the obvious thing to do is make the gun fit and then concentrate on ensuring that your mount is exactly the same every time.

The gun should be an extension of your body and this is why I’m a great believer with ‘get a gun you’re happy with and stick with it.’

Have a gunsmith look at your gun fit as soon as you can.

I know that for some shooters with an eye dominance problem it simply isn’t possible, but you should always try to shoot with both eyes open.

Using all of your peripheral vision enables you to visually pick up the target earlier than it would if you close or dim one eye.

Gaining these few extra moments means that your gun mount and swing will be less hurried and smoother – an essential element in the clay breaking process.

As you’re standing in the cage, even before you load the gun, imagine the clay breaking – before you even think about calling for the bird.

You’ve got to believe you’re going to break the clay, so much so that missing it should come as an earth-shattering surprise.

Believing in yourself and having faith in your own ability is 50% of the battle. Think that you’re going to miss and you probably will!

If you don’t know where the bird is coming from… or where it’s going for that matter… you’ve less of a chance of hitting it! Watching the flightline – the path of travel that the target is taking – is paramount.

“But of course I always watch the clay before it’s my turn to shoot” is a typical phrase you hear every day on the shooting ground.

I’m sure they do… but I mean ‘really’ watch the bird. Following the line of the clay with your finger concentrates the mind and also helps in choosing the kill point.

Concentrating and remembering is the object of this particular exercise.

Really scrutinise every target before you shoot, work out in your mind what you’re going to do before you mount the gun and again, your scores will improve.

Making a conscious decision to practice dry mounting the gun, say, 10 minutes every day – at least three days a week – will improve your scores, guaranteed. This simple exercise is probably one of the best things you can do to improve your shooting.

Yes I know, we all say we’re going to do it – in fact, when we get a new gun we might spend the odd minute or two for the first couple of days practicing – but in reality the novelty soon wears off.

Yes I know it’s a real pain but just trust me and do it – I absolutely guarantee you’ll kill a lot more targets if you do.

Shoot as often as you can at as many targets as you can and always concentrate on remembering the sight pictures.

Hit any target and subconsciously you should remember what you did to ensure you break the next, similar bird.

However, you need to be able to remember that scenario (and recall the sight picture for that exact type of bird) in a week, a month or any time in the future to be any good.

Just remember the old adage: the harder I practice the luckier I get… and then remember that luck’s got nothing to do with it!

How many times have you heard shooters approach a stand and say ‘oh no, it’s a so and so’ (rabbits being the classic example.)

If you’ve got a bogey bird there’s only one person responsible for sorting out the problem. You.

If it’s a serious issue, you’re constantly missing and you simply haven’t got a clue what you’re doing wrong, have a lesson or two just on that type of target.

A good coach will spot your mistakes and put you right almost immediately.

If it’s the more common ‘sometimes I hit it, sometimes I don’t scenario’ the best thing to do is to have an all out blitz of practicing on that – and that alone – type of target.

Shoot two or three hundred, say, rabbit-style targets in a session, and repeat the exercise every day for a week and what was your bogey bird should end up being one of your favourites.

In effect, all you’re doing is giving your library of sight pictures a massive refresher course – and giving your confidence a boost.

I’m a great believer in instinctive or snap shooting and if asked to do so, I reckon even an average shooter can mount the gun (within a split-second), subconsciously assess the amount of lead required, pull the trigger and smash the clay.

I’d also bet that none of them will be conscious of how much lead they gave the target, or why.

All that they know is whatever they did produced the correct result.

Instinct plays a huge part in shooting and it could be the defining factor between the good and the great.

To shoot instinctively a shooter should be able to vary their technique, thus being able to employ every style of shooting – pull away, maintained lead or swing through.

In fact, if you’re competent with all these styles, you probably won’t even know how you’re shooting – all that will be evident is that you’re breaking the clays while your fellow competitors are missing.

Practice shooting in a different style as often as you can and, in time, I promise your average scores will increase.

Stance is all-important. If your feet are pointing in the wrong direction when you call for the bird your body will be completely out of kilter and you’ll inevitably find that you struggle to break the clay.

You’ll simply run out of swing because you physically cannot turn any more!

The important thing is to ensure that the toe of your leading foot is pointing at the (intended) kill point.

Get this wrong and you’ll always struggle to be ahead of the game (and the bird for that matter!)

With very few exceptions, always keep your weight on your front foot as you pull the trigger.

Your balance and swing will always be second-rate if you’re in a neutral, neither one thing nor the other, type stance.

Possible exceptions could be when taking a high, driven bird when it’s virtually above you, for instance.

Then you’re going to need to be able to transfer your weight onto the back foot so as not to impede your upper body movement and the swing of the gun.