Shooting Where You Are Looking?


I noticed the other day that you now live in Florida. I retired down here as well though I still go back to Wisconsin for the summers. Nothing like the sound of cricketts at night, and the sound of air conditioners running in February. Would you not agree?

I have shot skeet and sporting clays for years. Great fun. However, I have always had some issues with what some people say about shotgun shooting. My favorite oxymoron is the gun has to shoot where you are looking. I always look at the front edge of the bird. Hard focus. Now if it needs a lead obviously I am swinging through or using a sustained lead what have you. The gun is not shooting where I am looking but in area where my subconscious is telling me to point the gun. That area is usually in my periphial vision but not where I am actually looking or focusing. The only time my gun shoots where I am looking/focusing is at a pattern board or a true straight away. I think this whole concept has application for gun fit but for actual shooting it is misleading. I am interested in how you describe this process.



You can shoot at the target, and yet still be able to shoot in front of it, due to lock time. Take a swing-through shot on a crossing bird, like skeet station #4. The actual mechanical lead on this station is about 3 to 4 feet. If you start behind the bird and have the correct swing tempo, you can pull the trigger right at the moment the gun passes through the target and still break it. You shot at the bird, but the shot goes in front of the bird.

That’s because when your brain says “Pull the trigger!”, things take a while to develop. The brain issues the order, the muscles take a moment to react to it. the trigger has a little travel to pull back and it takes a small amount of time for the hammer to drop, the shell to ignite and the shot to get out of the barrel. No one thing takes that long, but together they add up to what I call “lock time”.

During this lock time, which starts as your gun is just touching the bird, the gun continues to swing ahead of the bird. When it all works right, the gun will be far enough in front of the target to have the right lead when the shot arrives at the target.

The lead method at the other end of the scale is a sustained lead. Here you point the gun where you want the shot to actually go. It’s the correct lead, right from the start. There is no lock time issue as the gun is moving at exactly the same speed as the bird, so the lead you see is the lead you get.

Here is were it is hard to keep your eye on the bird and also on the barrel at the same time. Since we can’t focus on two things at once, you focus on the bird, but you do see your barrel in your peripheral vision. Use that peripheral vision to establish the sustained lead that you need, while still focusing on the target. You won’t (shouldn’t) see the barrel as clearly as the target, but you will see it enough to establish the sustained lead you want.

Pull-away leads are simply a blending of the two, though I feel that pull-away has more to do with swing-through than sustained. In pull-away, I focus on the target and then, while still focusing on the target, I push the gun ahead and fire. I rely more on timing than visuals here as I am still focusing on the bird as I pull away from it. For me it is harder to pull-away by waiting for the right sight picture than it is to do it on timing. You know how fast your pull-away speed is due to experience, so you can adjust the amount of time of your swing to get the lead you want.

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

This entry was posted in Shotgun related. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shooting Where You Are Looking?

  1. bluedsteel says:

    I think Ken’s question comes from what many of us experience when receiving shooting instruction. We are told over and over to “look at the bird”, and the gun will automatically shoot where you are looking. The disclaimer is always the same: “if you missed, it is probably because your gun doesn’t fit you”.

    I recall your previous post about side-by-side shotguns and clay competition. You mentioned that whether good shooters admit it or not, they do “aim” their shotguns. Obviously, to do that, the shooter has to see a part of the gun (barrel, bead, rib, whatever) in the shooter’s peripheral vision. They just can’t “look at the target” and hit it.

    For what it is worth, I think this repetitive admonishment from these instructors to just “look at (or focus on) the bird, and if your shotgun is properly fitted, you will hit the target” is not helpful advice.


  2. The gun has to shoot were you are looking. After you see the bird you “see” or calculate the gap or lead and move to gun to that point and pull the trigger at the appropriate moment. That’s an over simplification of a complex act, but the point is, I don’t think you can focus on the bird all the time, the focus has to shift to the point where you see the proper lead.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.