In our travels last year we visited several different countries teaching everything from sporting clays to trap, skeet and game shooting of all sorts. While our regular students see their games improve dramatically both on game and clays our new shooters still bring to us the concept of starting behind the target and swinging through the target and pulling the trigger as the gun goes through the bird. The number one complaint of our new students is that they are not consistent and they never know where they missed the target and as a result can’t correct an errant shot in the field or on the range. Now on a trap field that would be what we would teach you to do but on every other occasion we would not want you to mount behind the bird, chase it, and as you pass it pull the trigger. Why you ask? Well read on and we will take more of a scientific approach to this more often than not misguided and misunderstood method of getting the gun ahead of a moving object in a consistent way.
First we must discuss consistency and focus on the target. Regardless of where we are on the planet when we find ourselves in the midst of wing or clay shooters eventually the phrase comes out, “I would do just about anything to be more consistent.” This seems to be the mantra of almost every wing shooter and clay shooter out there but they really don’t understand why they are inconsistent in the first place. Shooting a moving target consistently with a shotgun has more to do with the shooters ability to keep their eyes on the target as the trigger is pulled than any other one thing. Now we are not saying that being able to consistently move and mount the gun without thinking about it is not necessary because it is but the over whelming factor in success with a shotgun in our 20 plus years of research as professional shooting instructors is how to keep the shooters eyes on the target. As we age that becomes even more of a challenge because of what happens to our vision in the aging process. We have been introduced by many well-respected scientists to the evolution of the science of vision and what it is and how the visual data is processed and how this visual data is converted into the lead on a moving object. Because what we see when shooting a moving target is more perception than reality we are going to deal with only one of the visual anomalies that we think causes the most confusion to shooters world wide, relative velocity or what we refer to as visual speed.
We were shooting the USA National Sporting Clays Championships in San Antonio this past October and while at the shoot, fighter jets from the local Air Force base could frequently be seen over head flying in formation. Although we never could get a photo of them it did occur to us what a great example of relative velocity that was! Although the jets were going fast enough to stay in the air because they were all going the same speed to us they seemed to move at whatever speed they were flying. To the pilots looking back and forth at each other as they flew in formation they were motionless.
Now we are going to play with your brain a little here so hang on. Lets take one of those jets and give it a speed of 500 mph and lets have him do a fly by over you at say 500 feet and then again at 40,000 feet. He is going to look a lot faster at 500 feet than at 40,000 feet even though he is going the same speed. Now lets take the same jet and have him do a fly by at 100 feet directly over a car going 100 mph both going the same direction directly in front of you. How fast will the jet look now? Well with the jet going 500 mph and the car going 100mph and both going the same direction the jet will appear to be going 400mph due to the speed of the car. Said another way when two objects are going the same direction their relative velocity would be the difference in their speeds. Now lets take the two jets, separate them and have them do a fly by at 1000 feet but now they are both going 500 mph but this time they are going opposite directions and only 100 feet apart when they cross, how fast will they appear to fly when they cross over head? When the objects are going in opposite directions their relative velocity will be the sum of their velocities when they cross or in this instance 1000mph.
So as you can see in just this one example, relative velocity can fool your brain dramatically when there is more than one moving object in
the field of view or even when the moving object is farther away or closer to you. How does this affect your consistency in hitting a moving target with a shotgun? Well, as Boone and Crockett scorer Homer Saye says, “The most mainest thing about hitting a moving target is focusing on the bird!” Our research clearly shows and the vision scientists agree that when there are two objects moving in a single field of view that the eyes will always focus on the fastest moving object. If that object happens to be the gun then guess what is going to happen? Do you ever have trouble keeping the gun moving after you shoot and having a smooth consistent follow through?
Now hold on before you throw the magazine in the trash because of the blasphemy we are espousing just listen to a couple more scientific facts that will at least make you think twice about starting behind the bird and trying to out run it. Science tells us that it takes the brain ¼ of a second to get the trigger pulled after the brain sees what it needs to see to trigger the shot. If the muzzles are mounted well behind the target and then rapidly moved through the bird as the trigger is pulled then they don’t spend much time in the correct lead now do they. If, however, the gun is mounted just behind the bird and eased past the bird slowly and the trigger is pulled as the muzzle begins to slowly clear the front of the target then the muzzle is in the correct lead for a longer period of time. The best of both worlds however is for the muzzles to start in front of the bird and the muzzles to be moving the same speed as the bird as the shot is taken (remember the jet air planes?). This by far will produce the most consistent results on any target painted or feathered because the muzzle spends the greatest amount of time in the correct lead zone. Because of the size of
the pattern the lead doesn’t have to be exact (as long as it is in front!) but our findings indicate that the more the muzzle speed is the same as the birds speed the slower the bird appears to fly and the more consistent the results. Why more consistent results? Well first, it is easier to do what Homer says is most important, which would be focus on the target! Second when the bird and gun are going the same speed for at least ¾ of a second the bird appears to slow down and the ¼ of a second it takes to get the trigger pulled is now irrelevant. All of this is shown in our animations and ShotKam kill shots in the OSP Knowledge Vault.–Gil & Vicki Ash