Shotgun 101 – Perceptions, Perceptions, Perceptions

In another month we will have been professional shooting coaches for 30 years and wow, what a ride it has been. We are still blown away by the perceptions we have ascribed to us by shooters from all over the world.  

Shooters who visit our Knowledge Vault website are continually amazed at the OSP system of shooting and how simple it is to learn, as well as improve and correct both in the field and at the sporting clays range.  Some nine years ago, we changed, for the fourth time in our career, how we approach teaching shooters to improve their consistency as well as their enjoyment when shooting a shotgun at a moving target.  We changed from getting shooters to hit the target to teaching them to self-correct and it has made a big difference in the speed of learning as well as their consistency and constant improvement.  

One of the things we see often is that shooters don’t understand what it actually looks like when they pull the trigger on a moving target.  Because of this, they are reluctant to go practice because they end up just doing the same thing they have always done. They don’t get better and eventually they quit.  

We currently have 48 videos on YouTube that have been viewed 8,000,000-plus times and we get calls from shooters from far and wide, asking questions about how they can get better.  The first question we ask is, “What does it look like when you pull the trigger?” There is silence on the other end of the phone, followed by a definition of what they perceive when they shoot, that is a physiological impossibility!  

The reality is, for the majority of wingshooters out there, what it looks like when they pull the trigger is a mystery. They eventually realize that when they are trying to consciously control the shot, they can’t hit anything.  This leads them to try to not think or to try to not see the barrel or to only look at the bird or to look hard at the target, in an attempt to simply get the gun ahead of the target and pull the trigger.  

This was the genesis of our Knowledge Vault website that we began seven years ago, because we needed a website that could actually show shooters what it looks like to pull the trigger on game birds as well as on clay targets. 

In explaining this to a group of coaches at a recent event, Vicki said, “Everything that happens in wing and clay shooting occurs in the periphery and what you see in the periphery is not real, due to the fact that the periphery is as much as 300 miliseconds behind real time.  This is why there are so many different perceptions of what it looks like when you pull the trigger on a moving target.”  We have said this in this column many times, but it seems that no matter how many times we say or write it, it needs to be mentioned again and again.  

The eyes don’t see, the brain does and what you see when shooting a shotgun is an evolution that makes more and more sense as time goes on. Especially when you know what it really looks like when you pull the trigger. 

 Just got a call from a customer who had been in the website with his wife and they were amazed after taking the Shotgunning 101 course, at how much sense everything makes. They can’t wait to go and practice now, because they have something to practice.  

Wingshooters almost never go to practice because they don’t know how or what to practice and most look at it as a waste of good money. We understand exactly how they feel.  This came up on a dove hunt yesterday with our good friend Marc Socha in El Campo.  

It was the special two-day white-wing season in the south zone, and we were unable to hunt on Saturday, so we caught-up with Marc on Sunday afternoon. While waiting on the doves to fly, Marc complained about how lousy he shot the day before.  When we asked if he had gone to shoot some practice at a range not far from his house, he said no, because when he shoots at clays, he thinks too much and does not shoot well, so he just doesn’t practice.  

He said that the day before, he just tried too hard to think his way through the shots and it did not go well. After the first few flocks of birds came over, he just looked at one bird and shot without thinking or aiming and the normal smile came back on his face as the birds began to drop. 

What Marc described happens more often than you would think. This is the main reason shooters don’t get better, because they don’t know how in the beginning.  This is why we changed how we teach from getting you to hit the target to teaching you how to self-correct because if you can self-correct then you know what it is supposed to look like. 

When you have done your homework and programmed the sight pictures in your long-term memory by doing the three-bullet drill, practiced your gun mount so it happens without thought, then things make a lot more sense.  When you do happen to miss, you saw what it looked like when you took the shot and then the correction becomes more obvious. 

So, if everything that you see in the periphery is as much as 300MLS behind real time and is not real, then how do we know how or what to correct?  Pay attention, we are about to reveal what makes our system of shooting so consistent, lethal and correctable.  It’s what we call finishing the shot or adjusting gun speed to the birds’ speed or speed-match.  

Once you can see the bird behind where the barrel is pointing because you have done the three-bullet drill ‘til your arms almost fell off, your periphery can accept the muzzle as part of the picture without focusing on it. Then you will be ready to begin to adjust the gun speed to the bird speed.  

There are so many things that happen when you are able to accept the muzzle as part of the picture and keep it in the periphery where it belongs.  It is at this point that the sight pictures make so much sense and are very predictable and correctable.  This is perhaps the most important thing a wing or clay shooter can do to improve their consistency, because it must be trained and once it is trained it becomes easier and easier to replicate. 

The reason it must be trained is that the primary visual circle is .02 percent of what you see. It cannot detect motion and sees sharply, leaving 99.98 percent of what you see in the periphery. It only sees motion and cannot see sharply.  

The time delay in what you see in your primary circle is only 5MLS and as we mentioned before, the time delay in your periphery is 300MLS, which means what you saw as far as where the gun was as the shot is triggered is not real unlessthe gun and the bird are going the same speed long enough for you to recognize the speed-match.  

It takes longer than 300MLS for you to recognize the speed match, which eliminates the 300MLS delay in the periphery, which makes the sight picture you see real, repeatable and correctable.  What does the speed-match look like?  When the distance between the bird and the barrel does not change long enough for you to know it has not changed, then the speed-match has occurred and it is time to send the shot. 

The other thing that occurs when shooting the OSP system is that all targets slow down and the shot comes together regardless of the target’s speed.  Notice we have not told you to adjust the lead!  In order for you to adjust the lead, your primary vision must come off the target enough to analyze how big the gap is between the target and the bird.  Several things happen when you do this and they all lead to missing the target.  

Thinking requires memory and it is impossible to focus sharply on something if you are thinking.  When your awareness of the muzzle increases, your awareness of the target decreases.  When your awareness of the target decreases, your brain’s ability to anticipate where the target will be in the future will also decrease.  When looking at the gap or the lead and consciously adjusting it, your sharp vision is between the target and the bird, placing both the target and the barrel in your periphery, which places you behind the bird. 

As Reno radio personality Rick Carter says, “If you are thinking you are stinking!”  We can all produce hunting accuracy with a bullet or an arrow because the target is still, but when it comes to hitting a moving target at 35 yards with a shotgun that is 35 inches in front of your nose, it can get quite confusing in a hurry.  

Shooters of all ages and from all over the world continue to thank us for the articles and videos we create and for sharing with everyone what it really looks like when shooting a shotgun at a moving target.  We invite you to bring your questions and problems to the SCI Convention and come to our seminars where we can discuss them and improve your wing and clay shooting consistency and pleasure.-Gil & Vicki Ash