Focusing on the Gun and Not the Target
One of the more common reasons that shooters miss in the field is because they focus more on the gun than on the target. In other words, they are in effect aiming at the bird. Most shooters got their shooting legs at an early age by plinking away with a .22 caliber rifle. Unfortunately the only similarity between rifles, shotguns and pistols is that they are all classified as firearms. Shooting them is as different as day and night.
In order to consistently hit a target using a precise aiming point with a rifle or pistol, the shooter must align front and rear sights with a focus primarily on the sights. In most cases the targets for rifle and pistol shooting are stationary, which allows the shooter the time to make his precise sight alignment. Herein lies the main difference between these three types of firearms.
In wingshooting the targets fly at various rates of speed, and a successful shot requires the shooter to focus on the target and not the gun. Since a shotgun has no visible rear sight, the shooter’s master eye serves as the sight. As a result, the eye and the front bead on the shotgun have to align perfectly when the gun is mounted to the face and shoulder if the gun is to shoot where the eyes look.
In many instances, however, the shooter wants to make sure that this alignment is correct, and the tendency is to transfer the eyes from the target back to the gun. Once the eyes shift to the gun, the shooter loses touch with his target. When this happens, the shooter will attempt to find the bird again. Since the eyes lead the hands in shotgunning, the gun will go to the bird rather than to the proper lead, which in turn affects the timing of the shot.
The correct procedure for the shooter to be successful is to focus on the bird while having a soft focus on the muzzle of the gun. In other words, the shooter must be aware of the gun without aiming at the target, and by looking beyond the gun and to the target, the gun should shoot where he looks. Can you see now how important visual focus is to a successful shot? Having an idea of the type of lead picture required will certainly simplify this procedure, but as we have already established, it is amazing how the eyes find the proper lead picture when the shooter does everything else right.
This article is an excerpt from the Gun Digest Book of Shotgunning. Click Here to get your copy