Muzzle awareness is not as simple as most of us more experienced shooters make it. There are different amounts and different types of muzzle awareness from beginning to advanced levels of our game. In the beginning, there is nothing else that exists but the barrel, so muzzle awareness is huge, and when beginning you must have some muzzle awareness just to know when the gun is mounted correctly. Once you have gone through this, then you must learn to shoot with no muzzle awareness as a beginner and then some awareness as an intermediate shooter while learning sight pictures and taking on longer targets that take lead. Once sight pictures are learned and you have shot enough of them to become accustomed to letting the gun be well in front, the gun must again become less of a fixture in the periphery. When you finally ascend to the level of an advanced shooter and are learning to compete and win tournaments, there will be an ever presence of knowing exactly where the muzzle is, but you will not be looking at it. The muzzle will be in your preload, but by this time you know exactly how much awareness you can get by with and still keep the gun moving and run stations.
In the beginning, you will train your gun mount by looking in a mirror at a round Snoopy Band-Aid. Look at where the gun is and where your eye is starting from a full mount while aiming the gun at the bottom of Band-Aid. By doing this you will begin to understand exactly what a gun mount looks like and where your eye needs to be when mounted correctly. With the gun pointed at the bottom of the Band-Aid and with your face, shoulder and the eye aligned correctly with the barrel, lower the gun to the ready position without moving your head, and then raise the gun up to where it was and check the eye position to make sure it is in the center of the rib. You will have to do this over and over until you know what it is supposed to look and feel like. This will create muzzle awareness, but it must be done to establish an anchor point on the face and the shoulder. You will be confused when you go and shoot because when you look at the mount in the mirror you look at the gun, but when you look at the gun when you are shooting, the gun stops moving and you miss behind the target. The unfortunate thing is that you must go through this to establish what a good gun mount is and what it feels like and really looks like both in the mirror and on the range.
Now it’s time to begin doing the OSP Flashlight Drill and then the Three- Bullet Drill. Go to the “14 Tips To Better Shotgunning” and “How to Practice and Understanding The Move” and “Perfecting Your Gun Mount” DVDs in the OSP Knowledge Vault and view the complete videos several times to begin your journey to both improving your mount and learning the move. As you become more proficient with the Flashlight Drill, begin including the Three-Bullet Drill every time you do home practice. You will find new versions of the OSP Flashlight and Three Bullet Drill in the Knowledge Vault; Shot Simulator; Video Tutorials; Quick Tips #s 101, 102, 102a, so go look at them and do the drills.
Once you become more consistent in your mount and practice the Three Bullet Drill, you begin to understand sight pictures and will train your eyes to do several things. The first thing you will notice is that your eyes are either looking down the left side of the barrel or across the barrel (right handed shooter just the opposite for left handed shooters). The Three Bullet Drill simulates the two sight pictures you must learn in order to become proficient with a shotgun, and yes there are only two sight pictures. The goal is to train your periphery to accept the muzzle in the picture without looking at it! It is part of the picture but not a dominant part of the picture and doing this drill will help you train your brain to understand the sight picture. Check out the Visual Circle Tip #127 and Focus Ratios Tip #139 in the Knowledge Vault; Shot Simulator; Video Tutorials; Quick Tips and you will find out why this makes so much sense.
Another great thing about these drills is that they will help you visualize in your pre-shot routine what you are asking your brain to do with the visual input, which will keep your eyes from bouncing to the muzzle as you insert the gun ahead of the bird. That’s right we said ahead of the target! The overwhelming majority of shooters who play this game are either inserting the muzzle behind the target or, because they are holding the muzzle on the trap when calling pull, they get beat by the target and they don’t understand why they are always behind chasing the target. Remember you can’t chase the target from in front! A great thing these drills help you accomplish is to always insert the muzzle ahead of the target by always seeing the target behind the barrel as you finish the mount. It may not seem like a big deal to see the target behind the barrel as you finish the mount, but it is huge in being able to keep your focus ratio at a level that enables you to consistently hit targets under the pressure of competition. You don’t intend to compete? Well then, when you begin to get tired in the field, guess what happens? The barrel begins to creep into your vision and at that point you will begin to have trouble keeping the muzzle moving with the target and you will begin to miss even the most simple of shots.
So as you can see, in the beginning you must be aware of the muzzle to learn to mount the gun correctly, then you must begin to shoot without looking at the muzzle, then you learn sight pictures and again the muzzle comes back into the picture. As you begin to understand sight pictures, you begin to accept the muzzle in the periphery and see the target behind the barrel as you mount. As you move to the advanced level you mount the gun farther and farther in front, and learn to slow the bird down as it comes to you. Just remember that in order to shoot a shotgun consistently, you must learn to move and mount it without looking at it to check to see if the beads are lined up. When you do that, you end up looking at the gun during the shot, the gun stops and you miss behind. “The amount of muzzle awareness in the shot will always be equal to or greater than the amount of muzzle awareness in the set-up!” Learn to move and mount the gun and you will get better faster and enjoy shooting much more.—Gil & Vicki Ash