High gun or low gun?
“I was watching a ton of video yesterday and seeing all of our great champions shoot, in addition to George Digweed. What really struck me was how short all of their draw lengths were. Of course, their draws are super smooth. Can you weigh in on this? Thanks. Joel. “
To pre-mount or not to pre-mount, that is the question! Let’s first define “draw length”. A term coined by Wendell Cherry, “draw length” is the distance between the comb of the shotgun and the cheek at the ready position (when you call for the targets). It is the vertical distance the gun will have to travel from the ready position to the cheek after the target is launched. Now lets separate principles from techniques. Intensity of visual target focus and efficiency of movement are two essential principles of good shotgunning. We must acquire the target using intense visual focus through the breakpoint with gun movement that is efficient and does not obstruct or our visual connection with the target. That requires that, for most targets, the gun muzzle remains below the target line and moves to the breakpoint without interfering with the connection between the eye and the target. On the other hand, it is critical to maximize efficiency of gun movement as we move from the hold point to the break point. Erratic or inefficient gun movement can be distracting and divert the eye from the target, reducing the eye’s ability to apply sharp visual focus. Now let’s talk about two different techniques or styles, which have both been proven effective by two well-known national champions: Bill McGuire and Wendell Cherry (I have taken lessons from both of them by the way). It is certainly possible for a shooter who shoots with a pre-mounted gun (McGuire) and another shooter that shoots with a gun off the shoulder in the ready position (Cherry) to have an equally sharp visual connection with the target. When shooting sporting clays, Bill will always have his Blaser mounted in the shoulder at the ready position whereas Wendell will adjust the “draw length” of his Perazzi to the character of the target but does not rule out the occasional pre-mount on a target that calls for it. I tend to adhere to the Cherry philosophy and provide my eyes as much room as necessary to see the target while maximizing the efficiency of my mount by minimizing the distance my comb has to travel to the cheek. I call it “the balanced approach”. Why do the top shooters that shoot with this balanced approach tend to hold the gun fairly close to the face? Answer: They are extremely skilled at pre-shot planning, memorizing target lines and knowing the proper line of approach to a breakpoint. They can move their gun to the breakpoint at an angle that is very close to the line because they have “gone to school” on the targets before they ever step into the stand and know exactly where the line is. Certain abilities improve with time and experience: The ability to study and memorize target lines and target behaviors as well as the ability to mount and move a shotgun efficiently. Attention to detail and fluid movement are two characteristics that set the giants in our sport apart from the crowd.