Exercises you can do at home right now to improve your shooting technique
There's nothing like having a smooth, fluent and efficient gun-mount. You look good and you will align your shooting eye perfectly time after time, says Steve Rawsthorne.
Do you have a feeling that you could improve your gun-mount? Well, there’s no better time than the present for improving your shooting technique. Here are some exercises you can do at home which will help hone your skills. Practising them regularly every day will make a big difference. One set uses a mirror and you can practice inside.
Exercises which will improve your gun-mount
The routines take just a few minutes. If you can do them on a daily basis so much the better.
Before you start, it’s worth checking what you’re wearing on your top half. You should be able to swing through the gun easily without restriction. If you do feel constricted, then read our suggestions for the best shooting shirts and the best shooting vests, which we’ve chosen for freedom of movement.
It’s all about muscle memory
Muscle memory basically means that after you have practised a movement a certain number of times, you don’t need to consciously think about it to get it right. If you’ve practised sufficiently then the movements will be natural when you’re holding your gun. Get to this stage and all you will have to think about is focusing on the target, rather than being sidetracked over whether your feet are in the right place, whether you’re turning correctly or whether you’re holding your gun properly.
Start here and improve your gun-mount
- Break your gun and make sure it is unloaded. This is absolutely crucial.
- Close the curtains if you are doing the exercises in the house. You don’t want nosy neighbours calling the police.
- Do not do these exercises in the garden, unless you really are in the middle of nowhere and live on a farm or spacious estate. (See point above.)
How to mount your gun
Take a note of the image below. The heel of the stock should be tucked up under your armpit, so that you cannot simply pull the stock upwards with your back hand. Your head should be erect, with a line from your eyes across the muzzles to where you see your target. The weight of the gun is on your front hand. (Inherited a gun? Read our tips on how to make sure it fits you correctly.)
How NOT to mount your gun
If you pull the stock up into the shoulder with your back hand and push your head over and down towards the wood, you will end up looking down the side of the barrels, and your eye will be in a different position every shot.
Sometimes the stock is low in your chest and you cannot get your head to the wood at all. Mounting in this way will also cause the barrels to “see-saw” so that on a driven bird they are moving in the opposite direction to the target. You will end up miles behind it, chasing to catch it up, with a loss of control. On a crossing target, the barrels to “see-saw” the muzzles would slash up and down through the line of the target.
The right start for gun mount
Start the mount by focusing on the target. Do this at the same time as your front hand pushes the muzzles forward towards the target, all the while moving with the target and pulling your rear hand forwards with the stock. Your head must stay vertical — it must not push over towards the gun.
As you push the gun forwards, the comb of the stock comes into the cheek, at about the level the teeth meet. This registers the gun on the face at the same point every time and positions it under the dominant eye. This is possibly the most important facet of the mount, as your eye needs to be in the same position relative to the rib and barrels every time.
As the comb registers on your face, your shoulder pushes forward into the butt and your body and gun become one unit. You apply the correct lead, fire and follow through. The sequence of your mount is vital to success. Think of your eye as the rearsight on a rifle. If you moved the sight between every shot, each one would go to a different place.
Improve your gun-mount at home using a mirror
As above, ensure that your gun is unloaded. Have a large mirror handy which is centred at eye level.
1. Start by standing a few yards back, in front of the mirror, then mount your gun firmly into your cheek, with your head absolutely straight. There should be no canting or rolling your head or bringing your cheek down to the comb. Bring the stock up under your shooting eye, point your muzzles at a spot about a couple of feet above the mirror and, with the comb firmly glued to the cheek, slowly lower your barrels to the horizontal as if to shoot your eye’s reflection.
2. You should now see your muzzles reflected in the mirror with the pupil of your eye, and the iris too, visible just above the rib. Check whether your eye is straight in line down the rib, not to one side or the other, or too high so that you see your lower eyelid, or so low that it blocks out your shooting eye, causing your muzzles to pull to the left. If it is not spot on, you will be well advised to think about an alteration either in your head position or your stock configuration — or both.
3. From the gun down position close both your eyes and mount your gun somewhere above the mirror, memorising the point on your cheek that gave you perfect alignment. Now it is all down to memory and feel.
4. As before, slowly bring your barrels down to horizontal. Open your eyes and check your alignment. If you did it right, you should be spot on in the mirror. Repeat the whole cycle again, relying on feel and memory.
Improve your gun-mount and you can build on your shooting technique
If you can get this exercise right consistently you will improve your gun-mount. Any shooting problems will more likely be down to poor technique, not poor gun mount. Remember, a perfect gun mount is the platform on which to build your technique, style and efficiency: only then will your gun fit be of any real value and benefit.
If you want to be a really good Shot with an excellent technique, then you should practice to improve your gun-mount regularly. It is one of the basics that need to be perfected. Get it right and you will realise your full potential. A good gun mount should be smooth, unhurried, with both hands working together. It is probably one of the most important but difficult things you need to master and one of the keys to consistently accurate shooting
Gun mount is not just about getting the stock to the face and shoulder but also keeping the barrels on the line of the target at the same time.
And the only way to do that is to use both hands together – the hand gripping the stock needs to lift at the same time as the forward hand ‘pushes’ the muzzles towards the target.