Jerky Swing


…thanks again for your help in the past…got a new one for ya!

My girlfriend has started shooting Sporting Clays. I’m trying to get her started properly, concentrating on fundamentals (foot position, hand position, mount and follow-through). She is picking it up well, but we’re running into a road-block. Any shallow angle going-away or incoming targets are no problem, but as soon as she has to figure out lead on a bird she tends to, in her words, “swing in a jerky manner”.

This is even after I explain to her how far she needs to put the muzzle in front of the target. I understand different swing types have different leads and even she knows what a pull-away style is vs. a maintained lead.

I took her to a skeet field today to give her a feel for leads, but she didn’t hit anything from station 3-4-5. She thinks that she may be consciously or unconsciously looking back and forth between target and barrel to check the relationship, thus causing a jerky swing.

Any ideas on an exercise or exercises that might isolate the problem. I’ve checked gun fit and that is fine (she shoots where she’s looking with a still target). She’s shooting 7/8 0z. 1200 fps loads through a 12ga. Red Label, so I’m hoping it isn’t some type of flinch. She cannot shoot a gas gun (as I do) because of her fingernails! Don’t Ask!!! Any input would help!!!


Dear Steve,

I know all about the “fingernail” problem with autos. My wife shoots a Beretta 28 gauge O/U and will shoot no other. I got her an auto to shoot in Colombia on dove some years ago. Amid some of the best dove shooting that I have ever seen came the comment, “Sure, it kills birds, but look at these fingernails!”

To be fair to both sides in the war of the sexes, she is much more practical about selection of chokes and shells than I am. I tend to fuss and fidget far too much about what is optimal. She just grabs the gun and a box of bullets and goes out and whacks dem birdies. I would probably be far better off worrying about fingernails and less about chokes and shells.

As to practice drills to stop a jerky swing- yes, it does sound as though she is moving her eyesight back to the muzzle for a moment. Usually, the tendency is to stop the swing on quartering birds and not on 90 degree crossers (skeet station 4) because the crosser has developed so much more muzzle speed.

I find it easier to teach beginners the swing through method on crossers. They usually start behind anyway, so this makes a virtue of the situation. They will have to learn swing through sooner or later anyway. The big advantage to swing through is that it is virtually impossible (virtually, not totally) to stop the swing with this method. Sustained lead is the easiest one to stop the swing with. Pull away is in between.

I firmly believe that the best possible exercise for almost any problem in shotgun shooting is “dry firing” at a clay target. Put a snap cap in the gun instead of a live shell and start throwing the problem bird. The student will develop the rhythm of the shot quickly without the interference of the gun going off. The instructor can always tell exactly where the barrel is in relation to the bird and instruct the student to give it more or less until it is right. Then give her a shell or two. Then go back to dry firing. Back and forth until the sight picture is imprinted. I have successfully used dry firing to teach beginners and advanced shooters with great success. Give it a try.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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1 Response to Jerky Swing

  1. tOM says:

    Bruce is correct…………the term we use is “Ratcheting”. It means the eyes are going from the target to the barrel, to the target to the barrel. (or anywhere else for that matter, except staying on the target) The gun stops and goes and stops and goes. Each time the shooter looks at the target the gun moves, each time the eyes go to the barrel it stops. The shooter is trying do and see two things at once, see where the barrel is in relation to the target and the target. Will not work. When my students do this, I usually take their mind off of the target breaking. I ask them to not break the target, and just miss the target in front. I don’t care what you do, just miss this thing in front. Their mind goes to, “Well this is a joke, sure I can miss in front of this target”. 9/10 times the target now breaks, and I get this bewildered look like, “How’d that happen”. Once that happens, ‘You got ’em”. You have their mind taken off “gotta break this target”, and on to……….”OK, all I have to do is this”. Obviously, there is more to it than that, and we do some dry drills, and talk about seeing the target, etc………….but you get the idea. No matter what method you use……… eyes locked on the target, and using your peripheral vision to see everything else is the key to good shooting. It’s performing a process that will break the clay……….NOT trying so hard to break them all, everything goes to MUSH!


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