Skeet shooting is easy, but
breaking all 100 targets is not. This paper is intended for beginners
through intermediate shooters, and not all terms are defined. That said,
these are the three most important things in skeet.
1) Focus only on the target.
When getting ready to shoot, do not look at the gun unless necessary.
You may have to for loading, but get out of the habit of looking at the
beads for mounting -- learn to do it by feel. Once you call for the target,
strive to make your focus on the target clear, while letting the gun remain
fuzzy. Focusing at the barrel, or in between the target and barrel, to
check the lead just prior to trigger pull results in slowing down the
muzzle and shooting behind (again).
2) Keep your head on the stock.
Head on the stock is defined as the pressure on your face when the gun
is properly mounted, and keeping that pressure there during trigger pull
and until the gun stops moving. If there is any change in the pressure,
you have taken your head off the stock. Taking your head off the stock
results in slowing down the muzzle and shooting behind (again). It can
also result in your shooting over the top (again). Often it's high and
3) Rotate with your lower
body only. Follow through, continuing gun motion after trigger pull, is
essential. It is almost impossible for the muzzle to slow down while pulling
the trigger if all of your rotation is coming from your legs and ankles.
Another plus that comes from lower body rotation only is it eliminates
excessive follow-through while providing all that is required; whereas,
using the upper body and/or arms to move the muzzle almost guarantees
less than a smooth swing and inconsistent results. A couple of maxims:
a) Once the gun is mounted, everything is granite from the waist up, and
b) When your belt stops moving, the gun should also stop.
Those are the hard ones. When
you call for and try to hit a target, you need to be doing all three;
however, there is only enough time to concentrate one of them since it
only takes one second for a target to reach the center stake. As you get
ready to shoot, think about all three; but, decide which one you are going
to concentrate on for this shot. While you are learning the game, vary
which one you choose. As you gain experience, concentrate on the one that
is giving you the most trouble. When you have mastered all three, concentrate
on focusing on the target.
The following points, though
also important, are more mundane; they can be fixed, learned and/or memorized.
They include, but are not limited to, proper stance, gun mount and (then)
fit, foot position, lead and timing. What follows is a brief description
of each of these elements (and a few others), as viewed from the perspective
of a right handed shooter.
4) Eye dominance. Shotgun
shooting is best done using both eyes for a couple reasons -- the target
is moving and the need for depth perception. The shooter's master eye
should be behind the barrel; i.e., a right eye dominate shooter should
shoot right handed. When hand and eye dominance are opposed, the best
solution is to switch hands. Many have successfully made this transition;
however, most seem reluctant to give it an honest try. The latter have
two lesser options; put tape on the off lens of their shooting glasses
or close the off eye. For those with equal (or nearly equal) eye dominance,
these are the only two options.
There are several methods
available to test for eye dominance. A reliable method has another individual
stand square in front of you about 10 feet away. Have him close an eye.
With both your eyes open and while looking at his open eye, point an index
finger at that eye; then point your other index finger at that eye. Your
master eye should be the one he observes to be directly behind (or nearly
so) the pointing finger (in both cases).
It was stated above that depth
perception was needed for shotgun shooting. While true for hunting and
to some extent sporting clays, it's not really so for skeet. All our targets
travel predictable paths which is what makes it possible for us to get
away with using tape or closing an eye.
All that being said, eye dominance
is important. Nearly half the shooters in the game have to contend with
5) Shooting stance. With your
body erect and square, place your feet under your shoulders (and they're
wider than you think). Your feet should be parallel (like you're wearing
a pair of skis). Lean a little forward from the waist. Now bend your left
knee (or both) and put most of your weight on your left leg (you're going
to pivot around this leg). Turn your head about 20 degrees to the left
and stick your chin out slightly. At this point the front of your face
should be vertical, your eyes horizontal and your shoulders and hips still
square with your feet.
Actually there's quite a bit
of latitude with stance, as can be noted by the variation in styles between
gun champions. However, this method works and you would do well to adopt.
If you choose not to, the really important parts are the vertical face
and horizontal eyes.
6) Gun mount. When in the
proper stance (above), grab the pistol grip and fore-end (near the middle)
comfortably (should produce about a 45 degree angle to your shoulders),
and with the comb under your cheekbone, slide it back along your face
until it strikes your shoulder. If the stock is too far above the top
of your shoulder, try sticking your chin out a little further, raising
the muzzle above the horizontal, and sliding it back again. If it's still
too high, you may need a Monte Carlo stock or one of those adjustable
recoil pads that slide down (or a shorter neck). As a last resort, you
can hunch your shoulder a bit, but do not unhunch it until after the second
shot on doubles.
Note that after assuming your
stance, only your arms move while the gun is being mounted. It is poor
technique (and frequently observed) to mount the gun on your shoulder
and then to lower your head to the stock. This results in what is called
crawling the stock (not so bad) and taking your face out of the vertical
(which is bad).
7) Gun fit. The shotgun has
two sights -- the front bead and your eye. Hence, it is important that
your eye be in the same, proper place every time you mount the gun. When
you are in the proper stance with the gun properly mounted (above & above),
the pupil of your master eye should be centered and at least a quarter
inch above the shotgun rib (as viewed looking straight into a mirror)
in order to have an unobstructed view of targets. If it is not, there
are several actions you can take. The recommended steps to get your eye
in the right position starts with the least, and moves to the most, expensive
and includes a) change your stance/mount slightly, b) use moleskin or
other stick-on items, c) have a gunsmith fit your stock with an adjustable
comb and/or recoil pad, or d) have a custom stock made.
What follows is a brief discussion
of actions you can take to improve gun fit. It is by no means complete.
The terms cast, drop, pull and pitch are stock dimensions; their values
are not important here.
Cast. If your pupil is inside
the rib line extended, try rotating your chin into the stock a little,
but do not roll your head over the top of the comb; keep your eyes as
level (horizontal) as possible. If it's outside, rotate your chin away
from the stock or add some moleskin where your face touches the wood.
Most adjustable combs have a cast adjustment.
Drop. If your pupil is less
than a quarter inch above the rib, add moleskin to the comb as necessary.
If your pupil is above the quarter inch point, chances are the comb is
not touching the bottom of your cheekbone. If correcting your mount does
not solve the problem, your choices include a wood rasp, a new stock,
or shooting the gun the way it is (and there are some fine shooters that
do). An adjustable comb will solve the too much drop problem.
Pull. If you have mounted
the gun correctly and your thumb does not bump into your glasses when
it goes off, length of pull is acceptable. However, for correct pull your
face should be a little forward of center on the comb. Most gunsmiths
can shorten stocks or add spacers to lengthen them. Some recoil pads have
length of pull adjustments.
Pitch. If the toe of the stock
digs in on recoil, or you find you are shooting over the second target
on doubles, you may want to have a gunsmith change the pitch. You can
experiment with pitch by adding washers around one of the two screws that
hold the recoil pad on. Some recoil pads have pitch adjustments.
8) Break points. Opinions
differ as to what are the optimum locations; they may even be a function
of shooting style and/or technique. However, these are recommended; they
work and are a natural lead-in to doubles in the middle.
Outgoers. Stations 1 through
7 all have outgoers. They should be broken two-thirds of the distance
from the house to the center stake. This is not easy at first; (a lot
of) practice helps.
Incomers. Incomers at stations
1, 2, 6 and 7 should be broken 2-3 yards after they pass the center stake;
those at stations 3 and 5, 1-2 yards before they reach the stake; and
those at station 8, one-third to halfway from the house to the stake.
9) Foot position. Good foot
position allows you to complete a shot using lower body rotation only;
with bad foot position, you'll run out of swing requiring you to finish
the shot with your arms. Good foot position varies between shooters because
they do not all mount their gun at the 45 degree angle mentioned above
and/or because of differing opinions as to where targets should be broken.
To find one of your foot positions, stand in the middle of a shooting
pad and assume your stance and mount. The gun is now pointing at its neutral
(or mid) position and is where the target should be broken. If the gun
is not pointing where you have decided you would like to break the target,
then rotate your whole body (left or right using only your feet; shoulders,
hips and feet to remain square) until it is.
There are 8 skeet stations
and two targets are presented at each. You could use the above method
and find your foot position for all 16 targets (and some do). Additionally,
doubles are also presented at 4 of these stations which require both targets
to be shot using only one foot position. This leads to potentially 4 more
foot positions for a total of 20 that need to memorized. However, with
a little compromise this number can be reduced to 9, with 2 at station
Singles. Singles have an obvious
foot position compromise. Using one of the middle stations as an example,
the intent is to break each single target before it reaches the center
stake. If the shooter takes a foot position that places his neutral position
halfway between the two intended break points, he will be shooting at
each target while he is still unwinding. Hence, one foot position works
for both targets.
Very little body rotation
is required to shoot at station 8. However, if a target gets away from
you, you'll want to be able to rotate easily (legs only) all the way to
the center stake. Hence, a defensive foot position is in order; take one
that places your swing's mid-point halfway from the house to the center
Doubles. The doubles foot
position compromise is not so obvious and it bends the unwinding rule
somewhat. Clearly, one could apply the foregoing compromise to singles
at stations 1, 2, 6 and 7 (and some do). A similar compromise could be
applied to doubles at these stations (again, some do). However, under
windy conditions the targets can misbehave, with the outgoing target going
up and the incomer low and fast. Under these conditions you need a defensive
foot position to take care of the incomer, one that allows you to turn
all the way to the out of bounds marker without using your arms. This
foot position will put your neutral position close to the middle of the
near side of the field. It is recommended you use this compromise/defensive
foot position for all 4 targets on these stations so that you will be
accustomed to it when conditions demand. It should be noted this foot
position is proper for incomers, but has you shooting outgoers just past
your swing's mid-point (but not a lot).
Shooting doubles at the middle
three stations (for doubles events and shootoffs) is a little different.
You need only take a foot position that places your swing's mid-point
halfway between the intended break points. Since both break points are
on the same side of the field, you will be able to cover that side easily
with legs only.
Belly button. If you find
all this confusing or too hard to remember, just stand on any station
with your body squared up and face the low house window. This will produce
a foot position that will work (except for station 8 high and not very
well for station 7 low).
10) Position on pad. Where
you stand on the shooting pad is generally not critical; some stand in
one place for the high house, another for the low and a third for doubles.
However, since one foot position is all that is really needed for each
station, it is recommended you put the tip of your left toe on the front
edge of the pad and your right toe back so that you can visualize the
angle you have memorized for each station's foot position. A caution is
in order here. Occasionally you'll find a pad that is improperly oriented,
so check each pad the first time around any new field.
There are 3 stations where
you stand on the pad does matter (some). On station 1, in order to reduce
surprises, stand such that the target comes out right over the top of
your head. This is usually the front left corner. On station 7, for safety
(yours) and because you may occasionally need to swing all the way to
the out of bounds marker, stand as far from the target chute as possible.
This is the front left corner. On station 8, to give yourself a little
more time, stand as far back in the box as possible.
11) Hold points. The short
stroke method is recommended; as such, the hold point is 7 yards back
from the break point on the flight path, and to assure a clear view of
the emerging target, 1-2 feet below it. For the outgoers, 7 yards back
is the one-third point. For the incomers, on stations 1 and 7, 7 yards
back is 1-2 feet inside the center stake; on stations 2 and 6, it is over
the corner of station 8 closest to the stake; and on stations 3 and 5,
it is halfway from the house to the stake.
Special cases. On station
1 high, mount with the gun level and 1-2 feet to the left of the expected
flight path (normally the stake), and then elevate about 30 degrees. If
you mount with the gun elevated, your face will not be perpendicular to
the barrel. On station 7 low, hold 3-4 feet below and 1 foot to the right
of where you expect the target to pass the center stake. On station 8
high, hold about 1 foot above and 3 feet to the right of the window. On
station 8 low, hold about 1 foot above and 3 feet to the left of the window.
On station 8, do not point at the window for safety reasons, and make
sure your hold point is at least a foot below the target flight path.
False pointing. New shooters
tend to place their feet, assume their stance and mount the gun while
pointing at the break point. They then wind into the house to find their
hold point. This is called false pointing, and it's OK. However, as soon
as you become confident you can properly mount the gun, it is better to
assume your foot position, find your hold point, rotate your body to it
and then mount your gun right into its hold point. This method will assure
a more accurate locating of your hold point.
12) Focus point. Where you
look before calling for an outgoing target is critical. You need to be
totally focused on the target before it reaches the break point, and the
sooner you can do it, the better. Some look right at the window; but when
they call, the target jumps to their peripheral vision and they have to
chase it to focus. It is better to be looking at a spot some distance
from the window and right on the flight path when you call. It pays to
experiment with your focus point; it is somewhere between the window and
your hold point. Ideally (when you have found it), the target will appear
right where you are looking almost the instant you call.
Station 1 high is somewhat
of an exception. Your hold point is to the left of the flight path, so
look above your gun and to the right. On station 7 low, look above your
gun 3-4 feet and a little to the right.
Where you look for incomers
is not critical. However, it's best to use the same technique you use
for outgoers for reinforcement. Station 8 is an exception. Your hold point
is very close to the window and we plan to come from behind on this target,
so look right in the window.
13) Leads. To hit a moving
clay target you must shoot in front of it. The distance between the target
at the instant the gun goes off and the point of impact is called lead.
There are 5 methods recognized for establishing proper lead. Although
you need not be proficient in all of these methods, it is best you add
them to your bag of tools as time and experience permits.
In spot shooting, the gun
never moves. As the target approaches the gun and it gets to the right
place, the trigger is pulled. Some use this method for station 1 high.
In pass shooting, the gun
starts behind and is moved faster than the target. As the barrel visually
passes the target, the trigger is pulled. The lag time between thinking
and actually pulling the trigger establishes the lead. This method has
great utility in hunting because it automatically establishes greater
leads at greater distances. However, it requires routine practice to maintain
proper coordination. It is used by some shooters for a few to most of
the targets, and by many at station 8.
The pull away method is much
like pass shooting only the gun starts out pointing at the target and
the trigger is pulled as the muzzle is pulled away in the direction of
target motion. It is most useful for long range hunting shots. It is used
by very few in skeet.
In sustained lead shooting,
the gun is started and kept in front of the target; after establishing
the correct lead, gun and target speeds are matched and maintained; the
trigger can then be pulled at any time. This method has great utility
in skeet where the leads are known, and less in hunting where distances,
speeds and leads vary. It is used by many shooters, and is usually recommended
for shooters just getting started in the sport.
The sustained lead for stations
1 and 7 incomers is less than a foot, and for the outgoers, shoot right
at them; for all targets at stations 2 and 6, it is a little less than
two feet; and for all targets at stations 3, 4 and 5, it is about four
feet. At station 8, the lead is about 4 inches; however, most shooters
come from behind this target and shoot right at it (pass shoot).
In decreasing sustained lead
shooting, the gun is started ahead and moved slower than the target; the
trigger is pulled just as the target reaches the proper lead. It is this
method that enables shooters to break outgoers at the two-thirds point
with consistency. It is used by many of the more experienced shooters.
Decreasing sustained lead
is most easily learned using the short stroke method, first on the incomers,
and then the outgoers. For the incomers, wait as long as you can before
starting your gun movement; the longer you wait, the sooner you will be
able to shoot. For the outgoers, start your gun movement as soon as you
see the target. The main benefit of using decreasing sustained lead with
the short stroke is most apparent on windy days and shooting doubles at
stations 3, 4 and 5.
14) Timing. Timing can be
defined as your ability to consistently hit a target at a desired break
point. If you can't, your timing needs work. On incomers, you may be starting
your gun movement too soon. On outgoers, you may not be looking in the
right place for, or hard enough at, the target, or you're not as ready
as you need to be when you call. Given that your technique is good, timing
comes with (a lot of) practice.
15) Doubles. Being able to
break the first target in a tight zone at the two-thirds break point and
shifting your eyes to the second target as the trigger is pulled on the
first are the two secrets to shooting good doubles. Although not required
for scoring well at regular skeet, practice shifting your eyes when shooting
doubles at stations 1, 2, 6 and 7 because you will find it beneficial
on windy days and essential if you ever hope to become proficient at stations
3, 4 and 5.
The following are random thoughts.
You may find some/all of them useful.
Conformity. Don't try to invent
a new way to shoot skeet. Everything's been tried; what's presented here
works. Also, don't use a gun that only a few others use, for a couple
reasons. First, you will have trouble getting help when yours breaks (and
it will), and second, they have all been tried and narrowed down to the
few that are suitable. These are all fairly heavy, from about nine to
ten and a half pounds. In short, find out what the experienced shooters
are doing and using, and copy.
Scoring. Scoring well requires
the proper attitude. You have got to want the next target bad enough to
work for it; take none for granted. Scoring also requires confidence,
which comes from breaking targets. When you have lost confidence with
a particular target, you tend to raise your head the next time to see
it break. This results in the muzzle slowing down and shooting behind
(again). Keep your head down.
Practice. Practice to improve
your timing, to learn how to smoke targets (the proper lead), and to gain
confidence. Some of the most productive practice comes when you're tired,
you've had a bad round, you're bored, you really don't want to shoot,
it's windy, it's cold, it's whatever... Then see if you can run the next
round. Do not overlook doubles in the middle. Nothing points out the need
for timing more, or the need for being able to shift your eyes to the
Be ready. Most of the time
you are on a skeet field it is not your turn to shoot. When you are next
to shoot, it is your turn to get ready. Stand just behind the shooting
pad (next to it on stations 1 and 7); get the gun off your shoulder, shells
out of your pouch, and be ready to load; and go through your mental check-off
list. When the shooter in front clears (should step to the side), step
on the pad, load and close the gun, and step into your memorized foot
position; this part's easy and should take at most 3 seconds.
Load one/two. Loading one
or two shells is a personal preference for shooting singles. If you are
using an autoloader, loading one is recommended because of the gun malfunction
rule. However, loading two is recommended for over/unders to reinforce
keeping your head down; i.e., keep your head down even between shots on
Referees. Referees are human;
although they try hard, they cannot be perfect. That's one of the reasons
the one-third point was selected as the hold point for the outgoers; it
pretty much takes the referee's thumb out of the game. However, you can
help by observing the first three rules of skeet: Be sure the referee
is ready; call loud enough for him to hear; and give him enough time to
see if you broke the target.
Guns and ammo. You may talk
of guns and ammo if you like, but aside from proper gun fit, skeet chokes
and adequate reloads, the real payoff is from shooting. However, if there's
any doubt about your gun's point of impact, a trip to the patterning board
is well advised.