Can’t say I have ever really had much of a problem keeping it up…
But then again, I’ve had years of practice!
Most beginners are taught to shoot with the gun already at their shoulder, this simplifies the training process – even though learning to mount the gun correctly is always taught straight from the outset.
As the shooter’s ability increases, though, and a correct mount is attained, the average person tends to forget that shooting ‘gun up’ can be a sensible option – and certainly not one to be scoffed at.
I sometimes think pride can colour the shooter’s judgement. This may be a macho thing, but often it’s just the shooter doesn’t want to look a wally by having the gun at the shoulder when everyone else is shooting gun down.
To me this is just daft. Why make things difficult for yourself if you don’t have to?
The whole object is to hit more targets, so who cares if the gun’s pre-mounted as you call for the bird?
Take a simultaneous pair of fast crossers, for instance. Why drop the gun after the first shot only to raise it again for the second? The swing and rhythm are obviously going to be affected.
If the first needs to be taken quite quickly, this could be a good case for starting gun-up. If the second is a slow incomer, that’s going to take several seconds before it’s hittable, you’re better off dropping the gun and re-mounting. Here, holding the gun mounted while waiting for the bird can tend to make you aim at, and not ahead, of the target.
These are just a couple of examples, straight off of the top of my head, so lets have a look at which typical sporting layouts could benefit from ‘keeping it up’.
Generally speaking the bolting-bunny lends itself to using the gun-up technique. This is often because the window of opportunity to shoot is limited.
Remember to keep the muzzles of the barrels just below the line of the target’s travel and always aim to ‘shoot its front feet off’. Given the right amount of lead, this will normally result in a hit.
Even when shooting gun up, it’s a good idea to slightly raise your head from the stock so that you get a good view of the target.
Just as you will find in real game shooting, the driven bird is a waiting game. If you’ve got the gun already in your shoulder the instinct is to aim at the target rather than follow through and shoot.
Never be tempted to mount the gun too soon. If it’s a high bird, to wait until it’s hittable, then mount, swing through or ahead of the target and cover the clay and fire in one smooth action.
This very much depends on the type of target presented, so watch the bird closely before you go onto the stand to shoot. You will have time to keep the gun down, enabling you to mount, then follow/swing through (depending on which technique you prefer) and shoot, but I have known layouts where the bird comes out of the trap like a scalded cat on a hot tin roof. If it’s really quick, mount the gun before you call for the bird and try to break the target when it’s still under power going up and away from you.
Generally speaking, you can keep the gun down for Teal, but always aim for a parallel gun mount and smooth swing before firing.
One of my favourite targets. You’ve got all the time in the world. Definitely a gun down shot, for your ready stance remember to keep the muzzles pointing towards the known pick up point ? usually just as it appears in view above or from behind trees or hedges. Try to kill the target when it’s at its apex – not when it’s dropping and likely to be affected by factors such as the wind.
Crows are normally a gun down target. Remember to keep the muzzles covering the pick up point and try to kill the bird just as it reaches the apex of its travel.
Any decent sporting layout will have numerous combinations of pairs, the permutations are endless, so let’s have a quick look at what is probably the most difficult imaginable.
The thing to decide is if it’s beneficial to have the gun up or down from the outset, and then whether to take the gun out of the shoulder for the second bird.
Our scenario is thus: a high incomer then a high overhead bird from behind on report.
Treat the incomer as you would any driven bird – keep the gun down until the bird is in range (hittable), cover the clay, swing through and fire.
The shooter then has an option.
Keep the gun at the shoulder, tilt your head back to look for the second bird, bring the muzzles back to be on the flight line of the second clay, keep them ahead of the target (utilising maintained lead or the pull through technique is a good option as the bird is always in view), wait until the bird reaches your chosen kill point and fire. This is probably best.
Alternatively, if the bird isn’t coming directly overhead and you’re not confident about shooting birds such as these, drop the gun and move your feet through 90° so you can take the second bird as a crosser. Trying to keep the gun up while you move your stance is not really recommended ? the position of the gun in your shoulder is bound to move as you do.
The perfect mount
No matter how good you are at reading a clay and assessing lead, you’ll always struggle to achieve consistently high scores if your gun mounting technique is suspect.
A smooth, unhurried gun mount is of paramount importance. Get it right and I know you’ll shoot well. It’s absolutely essential that you mount the gun in exactly the same way, every time. Here are a few pointers to help you when you’re practicing:
* A parallel gun mount is essential, irrespective of the angle at which the barrels are held at the ready/call position (see images right).
* Don’t have the gun too low at the ready position. Ideally it should be just out of the pocket of the shoulder ? extra movement equals extra effort and wasted time.
* Always bring the gun to your cheek, not your cheek to the gun.
* When the gun is mounted, don’t lift your head off the stock.
* Remember your ‘front’ hand needs to be positioned on the fore-end according to the type of bird, i.e. for a high driven bird, consider having the forehand back a little so it doesn’t impair the swing.
* Practice dry mounting the gun at home in front of a mirror.
* Don’t tilt the gun at the ready position.
‘Gun up,’ is fine for English sporting targets. When shooting the FITASC discipline, however, the rules state that the heel of the gun must be below a mark 25cms from the top of the shoulder when the shooter calls for the first bird, and the gun must not be mounted until the target is in sight.
Have you got a problem with your shooting?
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Can’t say I have ever really had much of a problem keeping it up…