If your shotgun swing tends to occur with minimal, or no, body turn, it’s easy to practice the proper maneuver. Do it at home, practicing with an unloaded gun. In addition to learning to turn your entire body as you swing the shotgun, you’ll also be practicing a proper gun mount.
The tendency for so many is a dip maneuver. As the gun is mounted, the right hand gets too active in bringing the butt stock to the shoulder. When that happens the muzzle dips down away from the target’s flight path, whether the bird in question is flying straightaway, offers a quartering or a crossing shot. What you want is a smooth move to the bird, not just with your hands, but also with the ever-so-important muzzle.
How do you do that? The mistake so many make is that they start the butt stock to the shoulder first. This move almost guarantees that the muzzle will come down, probably away from the bird’s flight path. The additional negative here is this. As this shooter is getting the butt to the shoulder the muzzle isn’t moving yet. Thus the bird is getting further ahead of that muzzle.
What makes a lot more sense is to start the muzzle moving with the bird so that the pitch or feathered target doesn’t get that jump on you. Then bring the stock to the shoulder as you keep swinging and turning. You may still see some muzzle dip as the butt stock nears your shoulder. If this happens, try less gripping pressure with the right/pistol grip hand. Also, work on smoothness as you practice at home. If the muzzle dips down, slow down until you become more accustomed to this move and comfortable with it.
It’s a good idea to initially practice this move on an imaginary straightaway clay. Get the feel of having the muzzle move smoothly and unwaveringly to the top corner of your office or den wall. One company sells a special flashlight that you can insert in your practice gun’s muzzle. It has a tiny red beam. The slightest incorrect move to the imaginary bird can thus be seen easily via the light on the wall corner.
Once you’re comfortable with this smooth move to the straightaway target, it’s time to work on a crossing shot. Here you can use the seam where the wall meets the ceiling. Start the muzzle at the room’s corner, gun down. Start swinging along that wall/ceiling seam, blending in the gun mount while turning, hopefully from the ankles up. As the stock hits your shoulder and cheek, this is when you should be hitting the trigger in a real clay-shooting situation.
How often should you practice this gun mounting and body turning scenario? I don’t think any of us should ever stop. This practice should be done every day, at least several times a week, – and not only in the days or weeks leading up to an upcoming tournament.
Why? Because the proper gun mount and the proper turn in your swing hits at the very fundamentals of shotgun shooting. Watch any how-to video on shooting, golf or the stock market. What do the extremely successful pros go back to day in and day out? It’s the fundamentals. I recall watching a golf video years ago – done by Gary Player. He kept going back to his grip. To his caddy and other close golfing friends he would say something like, “Keep an eye on my grip. It has to be perfect. If you ever notice the slightest change in my grip, tell me right away.”
This article is an excerpt from Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Shotgun Games.