Sustained Lead Skeet


Dear Bruce,

I have a question about using the swing through method in skeet to obtain lead. I read the book about George Digweed, “It’s Got to be Perfect”. George says he uses swing through 90 per cent of the time. He feels that it guarantees that he has the line of the target so that he can miss only ahead or behind. This seems like good logic to me and you cannot argue with his results.

When I shoot doubles in skeet at stations 2-6, I come from behind on the second target. This is especially true on the center stations 3-5, where it seems to me that even a fast shooter will have to come from behind in order to kill the second target. In my own shooting, I try and use maintained lead on the first target at 3-5. In shooting doubles at stations 3-5, I am better at the second target (where I must come from behind) than I am at the first.

When I try and shoot maintained lead on 3-5, I sometimes loose connection with the target thereby producing poor results. When I try and shoot swing through on a single target at 3-5 or on the first of a pair, the sight picture that works for the second bird in a pair does not produce consistent results when applied to the first. One possible explanation is that I have more gun speed on the second bird of a pair and as a consequence I need less perceived lead.

I would like to use the swing through method on singles and the first target in a pair on stations 3-5. I would appreciate your thoughts on possible methods to achieve better results.

Marshall

Dear Marshall,

The more I think about it, the more I feel that it is best to pass your question along to Eric Steinkraus, an American-style skeet shooter who really knows what he is talking about. The other day, Eric gave me some lessons in shooting doubles that changed my way of thinking. My background is in International Skeet where the low gun starting position and higher speed of the bird make sustain leading the second target extremely difficult. Not so in American Skeet. Listen to what Eric has to say.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

Dear Marshall,

Virtually all good doubles shooters start the gun ahead of both doubles targets in American skeet. First a little background, then mount your stilts for the how to.

Doubles are shot in American skeet as a way to break the many ties that occur in tournaments. At the big tournaments with the large gauges especially, there may be 100 shooters tied with scores of 100 straight. The shoot-off’s following these ties can go on for as many as 250 targets. Doubles shoot-off’s also decide most of the titles involved in American skeet like HOA, concurrents, etc., so not missing any doubles targets is the way to win most American skeet tournaments.

Why sustained lead though? It certainly seems harder to the beginner the first time he tries it , especially in doubles. Sustained lead is a more demanding technique than swing through because it requires matching speed perfectly with the target through the shot. What makes the technique worth the extra effort is that it is also more forgiving. Let me illustrate. With swing through, or any of the methods in which the barrels are moving at a different rate than the target, there is only one instant during the entire swing when if the gun were to go off, the target would break. This is fine for many applications, although it relies on perfect trigger timing. Using a sustained lead, the target’s lead is acquired in the instant the target emerges and is maintained until the completion of the follow through. If the gun goes off at any time during the swing, the target breaks; IE the target is “covered” for its entire flight. Where many people run into trouble with sustained lead is that they fail to maintain a zero rate of change between barrel speed and target speed throughout the shot. There is a feeling that when the gun goes off, the shot is over. With sustained lead,( all forms of shooting for that mater rifle, pistol, archery, etc.) there must be a period of follow through after the shot. This follow through occurs at target speed, no faster no slower, and on the targets flight path. The follow through is insurance. Having too much imposes no penalty, having too little costs a target, which in skeet is the match.

Any way getting back to doubles and why sustaining is an advantage. Lets pick a station, say station 4, low house first and go through the steps required to break the pair. First let me say that the second target in this pair is difficult especially in bad weather. The longer you wait the more it is loosing velocity, loosing altitude, loosing spin, loosing predictability – the shotgunners nightmare. Because of this the sooner the gun can be brought to bear on the second target, the better. To reverse engineer the pair, we need to be on the second target ready to fire as quickly as possible. The best way to accomplish this is to make the turn from the first shot on the sustained lead for the second target. This is where sustaining’s forgiving nature makes it an easier method to be consistent with in doubles. Because the first target, in this case low 4, is covered right out of the chute, the shooter can choose to “place” the first break anywhere. Where he places it (about 2/3 of the way to the stake) allows him to follow through on the first target, and make the turn on the second target with both lead and velocity instantly correct. This is why good doubles shooters are able to shoot the second target quickly, because their anticipation in placing the first target has them on the second one instantly and perfectly. Where the first target is broken is the hold point for the beginning of the swing on the second target. Doubles is about placing the first shot and adjusting the first shot placement as fields and conditions dictate to allow the conclusion of the turn to wind up on the second target, on lead and on speed.

Swing through on the other hand, has the shooter coming from behind the low house on the first shot. It is very hard to precisely place the target this way because a lot of things have to come together at the same instant. The barrel, the target, and the finger, at exactly the right place on the field. If any one of these actors fails to do its part within the milliseconds allowed by the difference between barrel speed and target speed, the target is lost. If the first target is hit it early or late that sets the stage to come to the second poorly. Assuming that the first target is placed correctly, because the gun was moving faster than the target from right to left, it takes longer to reverse the barrels for the second shot. Now the second target needs to be swung through, and it is late and dropping parabolically. Also the hold on the target is below the apparent line of flight, so the swing through needs to be to a point in space, not through the target. It can be done but, swing through is not the easiest way.

Marshall, sustained lead doubles shooting requires precision with the gun and practice to master. It is an advanced shotgun shooting technique that offers an excellent arena in which to hone your swing and timing to a razors edge. It is the equivalent of mastering the scales on the piano in preparation for a difficult piece. Your problem sounds like a follow through that is not on target speed and a lack of the concept of timing. Try this exercise; with no shells in the gun call for a high 4 using a hold point that allows you to be on the lead instantly. This hold point may take a few targets to locate. Once you have found the hold point, again with no shells in the gun call for the high house make your swing and pull the trigger when the target gets 2/3 of the way to the stake. When the gun goes click absolutely nothing should change in your sight picture. If something changes; you pull ahead, fall behind, come off the gun, or flinch, repeat the above until you can execute it perfectly, smoothly with no change after the click. Like dry firing a pistol in 50 yard bulseye, nothing changes when the hammer falls. When you have done three in a row perfectly, put one shell in the gun preferably a light recoiler like the 28 gauge so you can see what’s happening. Call for a pair, shoot the high and make the turn and click on the second target. Notice how you came to the second one. Did you start out behind it? Then you need to break the first target more quickly. If you had to wait for the second target to get to your barrels then you need to “carry” the first target a little further. What you want is to come out of your turn right on the lead for the second target click and have a perfect follow through. When you can do three in a row perfectly, put two shells in the gun and shoot the pair. Pick calm days and don’t rush this process. It may take a number of sessions, and you should try to be alone or with a partner. This will require 100% focus. Make it a step at a time and don’t rush. You are building fundamentals and your pair is only as strong as the fundamentals that make it up. If you start to run into trouble back up a step and make that perfect again, then advance. Make your doubles work a quality over quantity drill. Its better to shoot 5 pairs perfectly than 25 pair poorly. When you can go through a box of .410’s on 3-4-5 doubles clean, you will have gained skills that will enhance all of your shotgun games.

Eric Steinkraus Skeet Shooter

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