Generally, is it better to keep the barrel angel on the target line throughout the move from the hold point to the breakpoint or should it start below the target line at the hold point then move up toward the target line until just before the breakpoint? If either is ok, is what situations is one recommended over the other?
Muzzle angle, or barrel angle, is a critical element of the ready position. Inappropriate muzzle angle can cause a shooter to occlude the target with the muzzle (if too high), or generate excessive gun movement if the muzzle is too far removed from the target line.
First of all, let’s differentiate “principles” from “techniques.” Different instructors teach different techniques, but we should all, for the most part, teach the same principles. With that said, the following is the technique I teach…but it is not the only way to break targets.
Generally, on a flat trajectory target, like a crossing target or quartering target, your muzzle angle should be on or just under the line and, whether you use a the pull-away or sustained lead technique to engage this target, the line of gun movement should be on or parallel to the target line. On the other hand, if you are engaging a target that is transitioning, or “losing its line” at the breakpoint, your approach will be different. Imagine a target that is crossing left to right but is looping into the breakpoint, descending from the apex of its flight line.
With this presentation, you should “shorten your stroke,” meaning that instead of holding your gun about two-thirds of the way back to the trap from the breakpoint as you would on a flat crossing target, you should cut in half the distance between your hold point and your breakpoint and lower your muzzle angle, thus reducing your gun movement to the breakpoint. In so doing, you are less likely to occlude, or block, the target with the muzzle. Given that one of the chief causes of a miss on a transitioning target is occlusion, or a visual disconnection from the target at the breakpoint, this “cutoff” or “intercept” technique works well. So, the proper muzzle angle for a given target presentation depends on the character of the target.