Understanding eye dominance
Eye dominance for shot gun shooters has become quite a controversial topic over the last decade. Dominance eye tests, before shooting are a rough guide only! only when you see a shot gun shooter using gun from their natural shoulder, then shoot from the opposite shoulder whilst maintaining intense vision on the target, can you make a true assessment of whether a client has right eye or left eye dominance, and of course the third option being central vision.
Finding the right eye or left eye dominance is easy, however central vision offers a shooter the possibility of choice to their preferred shoulder to shoot off.
Effectiveness of Shooting with both eyes open only works if the shooter keeps 100% vision and focus on the target.
Double vision or seeing two-gun barrels or two targets only happens when the shooter looks from target to barrel, checking their shot, an eye flicker from target to barrel will cause a same result.
Eye dominance, broken down into two areas, one is the physical strength of the eye creating eye dominance, (note people wearing prescription contact lenses or glasses will have central vision because the optician has balanced out the strengths of the eyes to make them equal.) The second is simply the way the brain receives information from the eyes which has nothing to do with physical eye impairment, simply put the brain prefers information received from the right eye or the left eye!
Eye dominance is not simple to understand and navigating your way through the varying results for shot gun shooters can be challenging.
The simple answer to, getting you around eye dominance issues while shooting with both eyes open is to keep central focus on the target without looking back checking the gun, whether that be conscious or subconscious with an eye flicker.
Closing one eye for shotgun shooting.
Obviously, there is a third choice, to close or dim and eye, however this is for ever going to limit your shotgun shooting, for example medium height and high driven overhead targets become guesswork! in the same way as fast Teal going away leaves you with only two possibilities, shooting the target at the top or on the drop.
Closing one eye, dimming an eye, or closing one eye last minute will inhibit your ability to judge speed and distance, we are born with two eyes facing forwards because we are natural born hunters, the two eyes plus a target create a triangle, enabling the subconscious brain to calculate speed and distance without a conscious thought process, closing one eye makes it impossible to judge speed and distance, your conscious brain starts to then work out calculations, causing slower reaction time making shotgun shooting feel more like a science than an art.
Corporate instruction severely limits the time an instructor must work out eye dominance for large groups, and I completely understand why coaches tell clients to close and eye on corporate events due to time restrictions.
Shooting with timing or pictures
shooting with timing simply put, uses speed of gun swing pushing through the bird pulling the trigger while shooting at the target regardless of speed and distance, allowing the speed of gun movement to give the correct lead.
Shooting with pictures requires the shooters brain to recognise the desired gap on a specific target, adopting one of the three different methods depending on the target.
Shooting with timing is a beautiful technique to watch, simplistic and intuitive, takes natural talent to be effective consistently.
Shooting with pictures, builds in consistency, right from the start with novice shooters through to club and experts, removing the need for raw talent, opening the door to every level of shotgun shooter.
Mental desire and focus
look at the bird with intensity and focus of vision, clients very often look at a bird or clay target without a complete and utter desire to hit the target. Look at the target with sustained maintained focus throughout the entire shot, whilst being aware of the barrel within your peripheral soft focused vision!
Remember! looking at the target with committed desire to break the target is the key, releasing your hands, trusting that they will push the gun with the technique of your choosing, into the right position for you to apply the correct lead finishing the shot.
Note: mental focus and desire is unsustainable for more than a brief period, learn to switch this on and off between each shot.
Do not check your shot
Have confidence in your own ability: do not check your shot, what this means is do not look from the target back to the gun barrel and back to the target again. There are two types of looking at the gun, one of these the client will be aware of and understand because it becomes obvious once it is brought to the clients attention, first example, the eyes look from the target back to the gun and target in less than a half second, this may seem like a short period of time, but when you take into account time and motion of target this is a very long time and easy to identify, and will cause the clients gun to stop pretty much dead in a swing.
Second example, the eyes look from the target back to the gun and target in the same way as example one, but this time in approximately 1/10 of a second or less, this is an eye flicker and the client will not be aware there eyes flickered between target and gun, subsequent result is the gun swing slows down very slightly, again causing a miss behind the target, however the client will feel he is apply the correct target lead, but still missing behind causing the client frustration.
Caveat to example one and two: there are a multitude of different pieces to a shotgun shooting puzzle, depending on the level the shooter is at! their will be other correctable issues coming into play at the same time.
Correct foot positioning and stance for kill or breaking position of the target
feet should be 4 inches to 6 inches apart at the heel of the foot, with the toes in the ten to two position, target to be broken at the 12 o’clock position, stand in an upright position pushing your hips back two inches, stopping you losing balance upon shot recoil, weight evenly on both feet with 5% more weight on the ball of your foot compared to the heel.
Body rotation starts from mid back going through to the hips, knees (knees locked straight) and finally the ankles, keeping a relaxed posture throughout the movement, this creates a free and natural movement throughout the gun swing, giving the shooter a window of opportunity in which to kill the bird or target. It is important the shot gun shooter takes the shot within this window Within this window, resulting in targets missed offline rather than the correct lead or technique applied. (The size of a break or hit window will be approximately 15° left and 15° right of your central stance, giving you a 30° hit window of opportunity, age and flexibility of each individual shooter will differ slightly)
Line of a bird or target
The line of a bird or target is simply where the bird comes from and later ends up, within the trajectory of that game bird or target you need to predict its straightest area of flight and most stable speed, set up a good kill breakpoint within your 30° natural window of swing! More importantly you will be able to move your feet ahead of time, placing your feet centrally on your breakpoint, keeping your gun barrel back and addressed to the target, so you have free natural movement swinging through your breakpoint window, being able to keep the gun barrels at a 90° angle in swing, to the line of the bird, limiting your chances of rolling off-line, the big advantage to staying online is determining only the correct lead needed, enabling the client with minor lead adjustments to consistently kill or break the target, limiting possibilities of bad line, above and below target misses.
Example, a crossing game bird or target travelling from right to left with a rising line, for a right-handed shooter, the right shoulder will drop down by an inch or two, keeping a 90° angle between the line of the bird and the barrel, enabling the gun barrel to swing free along this line.
Calling for your target
Only call for the target when your body is ready to take the shot, shooters minds race and call for the target early, before the body settles in readiness, giving a belief of being rushed! Making it difficult to apply the right technique to that target.
Adopting good mental focus under pressure
You cannot control mental stress and fatigue, but you can control the physical symptoms caused by stress and fatigue, breathing techniques will slow the heart rate down and calm the brain.
Using the correct arm to address the target
If you ask a right-handed shotgun shooter to point to the target with one finger they will address the target with the hand and finger from the shoulder they shoot off, this needs to be unlearned and re-taught to use the opposite hand, for example a right-handed shooter should address a game bird or target with the left hand and forefinger, because this is a hand that is pushing the barrel to the target.
As a rule of thumb rest your eyes on the position where the clay target turns from a blur to a solid object.
Establishing a gun hold position for a target
Knowing your gun hold position, starts by working out where you are going to kill the game bird or break the target, then working back from the kill or break position for your gun hold.
Selecting the correct technique for your target
The three different techniques used for shot gun shooting are: swing through, pull away, maintained lead.
Swing through, commonly used by gain shooters, should only be apply to approximately 15% of your shots on an average hundred bird clay shoot. The gun barrel starts behind the game bird or target and swings through the target to the required lead picture before pulling the trigger. Swing through is an effective way of finding the line of a bird at distance with undulating topography that will cause you to miss read the line of the game bird or target.
Pull away should always be your go to technique of choice and will cover 80% plus of your shots on an average hundred bird clay shooting layout. You will push your gun barrel directly to the target whilst matching the speed of the target, then pull away from the target to the correct lead picture.
Maintained lead, needed for 5% of your shots in the average hundred bird clay shooting layout. Maintained lead requires you to push the gun directly in front of the target to the lead picture needed, adjust the picture, and take the shot whilst keeping gun movement. Maintained lead used where window of opportunity limitations applies, with high-speed targets! Maintained lead slows the feeling of time down, allowing target acquisition easier within limited parameters.
Game bird or target connection with the gun barrel
With swing through the barrel will be placed close to the first scene position from which the target breaks cover, with pull away the gun barrel would move farther away from the trap or area the game bird breaks cover allowing easier target acquisition, with maintained lead the gun would move further still away from where the game bird or target breaks cover, in fact gun placement would be extremely close to kill or target break position with minimal gun movement throughout the technique.
The belief of technique choice is often miss read by club shooters, believing they are using pull away, when they are still using swing through for example, professional shotgun coaches will be able to correct their client’s technique at once.
Call for the bird or target like a public speaker, “with confidence”
Making a controlled but pronounced call for a target helps keep mental focus, giving mind and body time to react using the technique you have chosen.
Note: with the three methods at your disposal, one technique does not fit all: absolutely you can force one technique to work with differing results. My question is, why would you choose to make things harder than they need to be?