I have been shooting for about a year, mostly sporting, but a largish minority of my time is spent on the skeet range, and even a little time on the trap range. I prefer to see the bird floating above the front bead, rather than have the bead on the bird (or rather, on the flight path of the bird). I felt like this gives me a better view of the bird, and it bothers me to have the bird obscured by the barrel or to have more of my field of view right around the target obscured by the barrel.
It occurs to me, though, that for targets of unknown or variable distance, such as on the sporting field, this introduces problems of convergence. In other words, if a bird at ten yards is floated above the barrel, the pattern will center at a certain point in relation to my “aiming” point, but that point of center will be different at 40 yards. On the skeet field, with the targets at more or less the same distance, this shouldn’t be a problem, but how much of a problem is it on the sporting field, or when hunting? Should I stop doing this, and move the target closer to the barrel?
The short answer is- yes, floating the bird on targets at various distances causes a convergence issue. No, it’s not enough to matter when using a slight float. Look at things another way. No one ever tries to factor in shot drop when shooting longer birds, but it is a very slight factor. AT 40 yards a 2-3/4 dram load of #7-1/2s drops 3.2″ inches, at 50 yards it’s 5.7″. That’s starting to matter. Your floating the bird convergence issue could automagically compensate for shot drop! Yeah! That’s the way to look at it. Compensating errors. I love it.
Bottom line: if you like to float your birds, don’t worry about convergence. What I might be concerned with is the complications arising when shooting sporting with a very high stocked gun on looping chandelles and other droppers. A gun that shoots high might make these more difficult. Because just as many (or more) sporting clays targets are shot as droppers, the vast majority of shooters want sporting guns to shoot dead on, not high. ATA trap shooters like high shooting guns, but most of the Olympic bunker heroes want flat guns due to the lower bug cutters they sometimes get from the trench. It’s a horses for courses type of deal.
I shoot a fair amount of all the shotgun games, often with the same gun- either a 30″ Beretta 303 or a 30 FN B25. All my guns are set up the same for a “squashed figure 8”. That setup for me and the way I hold a gun produces 50/50 patterns and yet keeps me from ever cheeking down so much that I am below the rib and go “blind”. I have to cover my rising birds at ATA trap, something I’ve gotten used to, but in other games it really simplifies things. This is especially so in the games where there is more lateral target movement than vertical.
I want to emphasize that sight picture and cheeking pressure are intensely personal things. Just because one things works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for another. Trap shooters tend to cheek harder than some sporting shooters. Andy Duffy, three time national sporting champ, use very light cheek pressure and shoots more off the corner of his jaw than his cheekbone “notch”. George Digweed, the British FITASC great, claims that he is relatively insensitive to gun fit and seldom alters a stock gun. Clearly, this means a lighter cheek pressure is being used (aided and abetted by an awesome dose of preternatural hand/eye coordination). Other equally good shots put wood hard to wood. It just depends.
I’ve been shooting competitively for over 30 years and found that I’ve personally gone from low stocks/soft cheeking to higher stock/harder cheeking and am now trending back to lower stocks and softer cheeking. Who the heck knows why. I sure don’t . It’s certainly a combination of subtly changing shooting technique as much as gun fit.
The easy way to quickly come to a conclusion is to borrow a gun with an adjustable comb and experiment. I’m not a big fan of the adjustable comb as a permanent installation because it can come out of adjustment and bits and pieces of your face and hands can get pinched under the comb, but it sure is great to work something out as a try-gun. Once I found out my proper setup for a gun, I’d have a solid stock altered to fit and that would be that. Until something else changes…
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)