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Things I’d wish I’d known when I started shooting

Some of us learn as children. Others as teenagers. Many of us as adults. It's easy to be wise later on ...

shooting in stubble

Advice and novice shooting tips from those who had to learn the hard way …

Lessons are key

“I started game shooting when I was around 14 years of age, cocky and confident I didn’t need ‘lessons’… I simply mounted the gun,  squeezed the trigger – and it worked (to a fashion). Roll on some years later to possibly three of worst consecutive seasons I have ever shot. I was atrocious. To the point of thinking I should perhaps hang up my gun slip and lock the gun in the cabinet never to be seen again. That’s when I started having regular one-on-one lessons during the off-season combined with regular practice. The benefit of regular shooting lessons and practice is priceless.You simply can’t put a price on the benefit of  building muscle memory in order to perfect that smooth and consistent mount of the gun into your shoulder and an awareness of speed and distances. When it all works and you’re on form while out shooting – it’s one of the best feelings to have.” Fin Green, Director at Albion England and Manager of Albion Sporting

Mistamina clothing

“Never tell anyone how badly you shot… people rarely notice”, says Lady Melissa Percy

The right clothes

“Having the right clothes makes all the difference. I wish I knew about the importance of layering when I was young. I was always freezing by lunch and therefore struggled to enjoy the afternoons. Two pairs of gloves are vital! So you can swap between drives if they get wet and leave one pair to dry on the car heater. Footwear is something you want to get right too, a good pair of wellies and walking boots are key. Never tell anyone how badly you shot… people rarely notice.”Lady Melissa Percy, Founder of Mistamina 

“Wearing the right kit is essential. I think it’s really hard as a women as there is so much pressure on looking good. It is therefore very tempting to forfeit comfort in favour of style but it is one of the greatest sporting mistakes. There are so many great brands out there now that cater for the lady Gun that there is no excuse for not wearing appropriate attire. Nothing will put you off shooting quicker than a wet, cold day in the field if you are not dressed for it. Alfred Wainwright once said ‘There is no such things as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.’ And this is so true! My leather and lambwool shooting mittens are my shooting staple.” Kathryn Bontoft, 

“My biggest regret is not wearing good, sturdy, warm wellies. When your feet are freezing it’s very hard to concentrate!” Felix Favor Parker, Co-Founder of Fairfax & Favor

10 best wellies

Find equipment that works for you

“I started shooting when is about 10 or 11, so much of my early memories were of lessons learnt from my father. One thing I wish I had learnt sooner as an adult though was the importance of having faith in your equipment. I have shot with beautiful English side by sides and with inexpensive Italian O/Us. It is having the confidence in a gun that suits you that helps improve your shooting and not the cost and or beauty of the equipment. Find kit you know that works for you and then your confidence and enjoyment will increase. In the same way, find one cartridge that you have faith in and use that at all times. “ Nick Radclyffe, Managing Director of Foxdenton Estate Gin

Find a cartridge you have faith in

Proper gun fit

“I wish I had realised the importance of lessons and having a proper gun fit.” Diane Wade, Membership Secretary of West London Shooting School 

“First things first, to have had a PROPER  lesson and a gun that fits you. I completely wasted one season shooting at 12 for that was far too big for me because I convince myself that my 20-bore, as a 15-year-old, was not big enough. Reality was the 20-bore fit me and the 12-bore didn’t and I missed so much more with the 12-bore…. all season. If the gun fits… shoot it. Then to make sure I really understood how my gun worked vis-a-vis things like chamber length and choke and the proper cartridges to use. Years as a young Shot swapping cartridges because they looked cool. No understanding of shot size or load. Finally but importantly to make sure you’re wearing suitable comfortable warm and waterproof clothing. Cold feet and wet clothes make for an unhappy day.” Jonathan Irby, Head of Sales, James Purdey & Sons Ltd

Invest time, effort and money

“I wish I had known the level of concentration needed to finish the shot to get the higher scores or kill cleanly. If you are serious about shooting, you must invest time, effort… and money.” Mark Heath, Instructor Manager at West London Shooting School

Ed Solomons

Ed Solomons

Structured practice

“If I could go back in time and start again I’d certainly change a few things in the early stages. Top of the list for me would be focusing on process not outcome when training. Too often people worry early on about how many they hit, not how they hit them. This is why you see so many people struggling with consistency, be it with clays or in the game field. Practice should be more structured, for example working on a specific move or technique and less focused on volume of shots or clays broken. There is a time and place for volume but only when you have sailed in the mechanics of the move and need to make it muscle memory; you don’t want to drill in an incorrect move.” Ed Solomons, Farlows Ambassador