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Be In Control

A few weeks ago during a coaching session, one of the shooters missed a target. I asked him, as I always do, to tell me about the miss: what happened, where the barrel was in relation to the target, etc. It’s not that I didn’t know, but I’m a firm believer that the shooter needs to know. You can’t fix what, you as the shooter, can’t see. If the coach continually tells you where you are on a missed target, the shooter doesn’t learn how to read their own shots. So, I asked this young man where his gun was when he took the shot and he replied, “Not on the target.” I looked at him for a minute and asked, “Then why’d you pull the trigger?”

He got a sheepish grin, shrugged his shoulders and gave the go-to answer, “I don’t know.” So, why do we pull the trigger when we know we’re not seeing the right sight picture? More often than not, we pull the trigger because we’re supposed to. We’ve trained ourselves to pull the trigger within a certain amount of time after we call for the target. Sometimes it’s because we think we’re running out of time and the target is getting too far away. In this case, it was 16-yard Trap and the choke in the gun was a Modified. Trust me, there was a lot more time to get on target.

One of the most significant things I’ve learned over my shooting career is eight very important words: Trigger Control is more important than Sight Control. It became a mantra in my shooting career. There are a lot of moving parts needing to come to together when shooting a target. They all happen very quickly and subconsciously. We don’t actively separate each element we need to execute. It just comes together and we do it without thinking. That’s muscle memory.

In shotgun shooting, no matter which discipline, you have to see the target clearly in order to hit it. Basic concept…you can’t hit what you can’t see. Having the correct target - barrel relationship is what breaks the target. In other words, pointing the barrel in the right place before pulling the trigger is trigger control.

Trigger control is difficult to master because when all of the moving elements of executing a shot are subconsciously taking place, we need to override one of those elements and make it a conscious effort – pulling the trigger. It’s easy to say, but difficult to do. Difficult because we’re countermanding muscle memory, but it’s without a doubt the most important element.

We spend a lot of time on the shooting range training our muscles to perform without thinking, including pulling the trigger. When everything is flowing smoothly and we’re effortlessly staying on target, there’s no reason to think about trigger control. However, for those times when it’s not coming together or the winds up or your timing is little off, that’s when trigger control is your best friend.   

Training to not ‘pull the trigger’ goes against everything we’ve learned about shotgun shooting, but it is trigger control that separates a competitor from a champion. Training trigger control is a challenge, but it can be done. Step out on any clay target range, call for the target and then purposely don’t shoot it. Take it out a bit, past the ‘normal time’ you would pull the trigger, then shoot it.

I know, some folks are already saying, that you’re training bad habits by carrying the target. That is not the case. You’re not training to carry a target a long time; you’re training to see the right sight picture and training to pull the trigger on your terms, not the target or the gun’s terms. You’re training yourself to be in control.


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