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A shooting lesson. Why we can all benefit from one.

If you think you don't need one think again, says Giles Catchpole

learning to shoot

It's always worth having lessons with an instructor when you start shooting

What I really want – a shooting lesson

I was asked recently what I would like for my birthday. I thought about this while the usual suspects whistled through my imagination. Aston Martin DB6 shooting brake, pair of Woodward hammerguns, a week at the grouse and more besides.

It was, however, a serious question that only crops up once a year after all so is deserving of a serious answer. So I responded that what I really wanted was a shooting lesson.

I should perhaps be flattered by the scepticism that this answer elicited. I have, it is true, been shooting for five decades or more with all sorts of guns. I have volumes of gamebooks cataloguing my sporting outings the length and breadth of these isles and beyond. I have competed from time to time and even won occasional trophies for my efforts.

I led the inaugural British Open Side- by-Side Championship for a few minutes. In the 16-bore class, admittedly, and only until the second card in that slightly esoteric group came in. But my name topped the board and that’s what counts. I took a photograph of it. So there.

Wanting to do better

So it can be argued that I can shoot. I know what I am doing. More or less. And there’s the rub — more or less, with quite a lot of emphasis on the less. And I would very much like to do it better and in order to do that I need to spend some time with an expert. Not necessarily an expert Shot but certainly an expert coach. I need someone who can refine my technique. Smooth out a few kinks. That sort of thing. (Read “do I need lessons before I get my shotgun licence?“)

It’s been a while since I last had a shooting lesson. I am therefore older and considerably less fit, I dare say, especially after the COVID-19 confines of the past two years. I am using a new gun that I acquired in 2019 and haven’t had nearly enough practice with. The moths ate the suit I used to shoot in, so I have a new outfit into the bargain. There are many bulges to be squeezed round and many creases that could do with ironing out.

And a hot peg at a mid-season battue is no place to be trying to address all these issues. Not when there is a perfectly good shooting ground just down the road.


Game shooting is a serious business and deserves a bit of seriousness on all our parts. We owe it to our hosts, their keepers, the beaters and pickers-up to be as expert at the whole undertaking as is possible. Most of all we owe it to the quarry. We cannot all be Digweeds, I grant you, but we can all try. And we should. (Read 20 things you should know about George Digweed.)

I’m happy to report that the family and friends duly passed the hat round on my account and I have, as the result, not a lesson but a course booked. Well, three lessons. Less than a course perhaps but certainly more than a refresher.

So if we can knock the dust off and identify the most glaring faults with the first, we can probably pull off the bulk of the remedial work in phase two, which leaves the third session to initiate some degree of improvement. At least that’s the plan. Much depends, of course, on the extent of the eyebrow raising, lip pursing and teeth sucking that we encounter at the outset.

Success lies, I suspect, with my instructor. Will he be sympathetic or critical? Might he be, perhaps, a she? Women are perfectly capable of being anything they want to be these days, so who knows? Times change, as do we. Watch this space.