Mixing Lead Methods


I shoot sporting clays and 5 stand primarily. I’ve started skeet with the intention of bettering the crossers and quarters’ but just like what happened to me when I started with clays and 5 stand, it’s now DEEP into my blood and I can’t get enough shooting. I will be competitive. Can a guy use one technique successfully with sporting and the other for skeet (i.e. swing thru for sporties and sustained for skeet?) I was taught the swing thru approach. sustained lead would be new for me. My sporting clays instructor started me on a “modified”” swing thru approach with my first lesson on skeet…. by that I mean picking up the target at even and then extending for lead and pulling the trigger.


Dear Chris,

Good question. Short answer: Yes, you can use one technique on skeet and another on sporting.

Competitive American-style skeet is definitely a sustained lead game. That doesn’t mean that you can’t shoot it pull-away or swing-through (naming the two other popular lead styles), but if you want to do what the winners do, you will shoot sustained. The good AmSk guys I know even sustain the second bird on doubles! No kidding. The first bird is taken so early that the barrel is still in front of the second bird so it can be sustained.

While you don’t have a lot of choices for lead technique in AmSk, sporting winners seem to be able to use all the lead techniques. George Digweed, arguably the best sporting clays shooter extant, shoots all his birds swing-through. I shoot about half my sporting shots swing through- which explains why my scores are about half what Digweed’s are.

Other very, very good sporting clays shooters use the popular “pull-away” technique. This is how I teach most of my students to shoot many presentations. You just stick the muzzle on the bird (while the gun butt is still under your arm), move the muzzle with the bird (butt still under arm) to match the bird’s speed until you are ready to take it, then raise and fire in one motion as you accelerate ahead. The longer you leave the gun on your face, the greater the chance of missing with this method. It’s been called “Move, Mount, Shoot” by Michael Yardley. Probably as good a description as any. It sounds something like what your instructor has you doing, though you don’t mention whether you engage the bird with your gun up or down.

I don’t know of many sporting shooters who use sustained lead for all their shooting, but certainly there are many top shooters who sustain most of their shots. Long incomers and short, fast crossers are ideal for sustained lead.

Most of the better sporting shooters I know use a mixture of techniques, depending on the presentation. There is so much variety in sporting clays that no one style is dominant. Most shooters can take a bird in a number of ways if they have to.

For example: Personally I like to swing through my teal if they are fairly vertical and not “leaning” too much. I start my muzzle as close to the teal machine as I can and sweep upwards on the bird quite quickly, firing as I touch the bird. I like this method because it gives me excellent gunspeed. Others start their gun well out from the teal machine and intercept it. Both styles work well.

On rabbits, I like to sustain lead. When I come up in front of a rabbit, it seems to me to be easier to move with a bounce when I am in front than it is when I am swinging through from behind.

On long incomers I like pull away. Leaving the muzzle on the bird allows me to build in the speed of the target and the final little pull ahead (stretching the rubber band) gives me the lead I want.

Three different presentation and three different shooting styles.

If you want to add a fourth style, it’s spot shooting as you do with a pre-mounted gun on Skeet Low 7 and on the first shot of Trap doubles. When a sporting clays course offers one of those shots, I premount the gun and spot shoot just as I would in trap or skeet.

One comment about sustained lead- it works well at skeet because skeet lends itself to easy memorization of the exact lead required. Sporting doesn’t due to the variety. I notice that the more proficient shooters who are familiar with a greater number of sporting presentations tend to use sustained lead more than people who are newer to the sport. This is clearly because the experienced shooters know what more of the leads are, having seen more presentations. The have a bigger “target book”. This greater experience on a wider range of targets is really what sets the sporting clays pro apart from the weekend warrior. Trap and skeet, using standardized courses, don’t have this difference. This makes is possible forth weekend warrior to actually THINK that he can keep up with the pros. In sporting there is less of this illusion.

Bottom line: Use sustained lead for American-style skeet and use whatever method or mix of methods you wish for sporting. I don’t think that you will have all that much trouble switching from one to another because most of your sporting shots will be addressed with a low gun. Low gun sporting vs pre-mounted skeet is enough of a difference to enable you to accept the different methods of lead. After a while it will become like riding a bicycle. You’ll just sort of do it without thinking about it.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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