Yesterday at my club, I was practicing on a 30-yard left to right crosser. I hit about 40% using a modified choke. It was challenging. I tried to break the target at various spots along the flight path. My best breaks were shots where I shot the bird just before it started to fade and fall off the target line. When I tried to break the target a bit later, I had a lot of trouble. Why did I have so much trouble breaking this target as it was starting to slow down and fall?
This is a fairly common problem. When I observe a right-handed student missing a 30-yard left-to-right crossing target, it is usually one of a number of issues. Let’s eliminate eye dominance and gun fit and assume that the issue is technique.
First of all, identifying a specific terrain feature to mark your breakpoint is good idea. When engaging a crossing target, as with any other target, it is critical to identify and commit to a specific breakpoint and observe the behavior or “character” of the target at your chosen breakpoint. If you fail to commit to the breakpoint, you may find yourself shooting a target that is different in character than the one you planned to engage.
Secondly, if you are forced to engage a crossing target at a transition point, where the target is “losing its line,” it is more likely that you will inadvertently occlude or block the target with the barrel of the shotgun. Because all crossing targets eventually lose speed and line, a lack of commitment to the breakpoint can cause you to delay shot execution and get the barrel between the eye and the target as you execute the shot thus disconnecting you visually from the target.
A target that is losing its line or descending slightly at your chosen breakpoint requires a slight modification in technique. 1) Shorten your stroke a bit by moving your hold point slightly closer to your breakpoint and lower your muzzle angle so that your movement to the breakpoint is at a slight upward angle. 2) Start your gun movement early, in plenty of time to beat the target to the breakpoint. We sometimes refer to this as a collapse. If you don’t start your move early, you are likely to speed up your movement at the end of your stroke creating a situation where your muzzle is speeding up as the target is slowing down. This frequently results in a miss over the top. The move I describe above is a cut-off (or intercept) and collapse.