Not Seeing A Lead

Mr. Technoid,

I have been shooting skeet for quite a while now. Oh may be 5 years, but i never saw the lead. i just shot at the target. For some odd reasons i broke some of it. Friends told me to lead about 2 fingers or 3 fingers from the barrel or 2 to 4 feet in front of the target, but I could never see the lead. Would you please, Sir, help me with this issue. Am I a lost case, as they said? Please help me.




Are you a lost case? Absolutely not. In fact, you are shooting a shotgun the way it really should be shot. You are looking with 100% concentration on the target and not paying any attention to the barrel. That’s the correct way to shoot.

If you see “lead”, especially on closer shots like skeet, that means that part of your focus is on the target and part is on the barrel of your shotgun. Looking at the rib is never good. Good skeet shooters can focus on the target and pick up the barrels in their peripheral vision. That way they can offer a measurement of feet or finger widths. In a game like NSCA skeet, with its known distances and speeds you can get away with doing this and, for many, it improves consistency. As long as the targets don’t change. If you get into sporting clays, you’ll be toast if you keep referencing the barrel.

The problem with measuring leads is that it increases the tendency to stop the swing or, at least, slow it down a bit. This can often lead to misses behind. You get the lead measurement that you are looking for, think that the job is done, slow the gun down, and miss behind. Remember, leads are always a function of a certain target speed and a certain gun speed. We tend to concentrate on the target speed and ignore the gun speed. Not good. Churchill (the British gun guy, not the Brit pol) claimed that lead was unnecessary if you swung quickly enough through the target. He was right too on the short stuff. With sufficient swing speed, the shot can be taken directly at the target and get a hit. What happens is that there is a delay between the mind’s order to “fire” and the actual shot leaving the barrel. During that time the barrels move ahead of the target to get the right lead. It’s like magic.

As to measuring lead in feet off the target or inches off the muzzle, most men see feet off the target. Many women (but not all) see inches off the muzzle. For you, none of it matters. All you see is the bird and your hands holding the gun know where to go. Your instinct is doing the job and it sounds as though it is doing a pretty good one.

The problem with repetitive clay targets is that we can use instinct to break the first ones, but then we want to quantify that instinct and “write it all down” so that we can repeat it every time. You take a shot at something, hit it and then say to yourself, “Now what exactly did I do that time and how can I repeat it.” You desert instinct and cleave only to rote memory. That makes you aim and aiming leads to stopping the swing and shooting behind.

It’s a tricky mental game. Many skeet aimers and lead measurers do it very well, but as a newer shooter, relying on your instinct is a great way to handle things as long as you can do it. Instinct is almost always right. It’s when you throw the instinct out and start to measure stuff to make sure of it that the problems arise.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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One Response to Not Seeing A Lead

  1. Chuck says:

    These remarks should be made into a poster and a copy should be on every wall in every shotgun club in the United States. Years ago Remington distributed skeet “lead” instruction (in feet) oversize posters to gun clubs and I saw a set on the wall at my gun club. What drivel! Robert Churchill & Norman Clarke would turn over in their grave.

    This is the real deal. Read it, practice it, and read it again, again and again until you can shoot instinctively as most ably described here.

    Bruce, could you opine on pointing with your index finger as it rests on the forearm, or refer to your previous post on the subject, if any.


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