Last Shooting Lesson

So as the first leg of my Britishland sabbatical has been drawing to its close, two things happened:

  1. Last night, The Englishman, Reader John M. and Mr. Free Market ganged up on your Humble Scribe, taking me to a strange pub buried deep in Hardy Country, and forced — forced, I tell you — gallons and gallons of 6X down my throat. This, after a couple stiff whiskies taken earlier when Mr. FM returned from doing Capitalist Things in London.
  2. Then Mr. FM dragged me out of bed at some ungodly hour (I believe it was 10am), pushed a shotgun into my shaking hands and announced that we would shortly be leaving for the Barbury School for a session of clays.

Oy. Fortunately, we arrived early enough to have a few cups of miracle coffee and a bacon-and-egg “bap” (big breadroll) before Instructor Dave hauled me off on shaky legs to the first shooting position.

And, Dear Readers, I was total shit. No excuses, I just shot like someone who’d never fired a gun before. I think I hit maybe half a dozen of fifty-odd clays thrown up.

Then, despite my protestations that I should just go back to the Range Rover and finish myself off, so to speak, Dave and Mr. FM (who had shot his normal 95%) hauled me off to a second shooting position — one where instead of standing still, we had to move from place to place, shoot a couple, move, shoot another couple, move, and so on.

And a miracle occurred, because (as Mr. FM explained afterwards), I stopped thinking about all technique and did what I know how to do: just shoot, with over fifty years’ experience behind me and no time to think about the mechanics — and I scored hits (I think) very close to 50% of the time.

I could have pulled the trigger till tea-time, but instead had to be dragged off kicking and screaming because our allotted time had ended or some such nonsense.

Here’s the thing. When I get back, I’m going to go to an outdoor shooting range with my trusty old 16-gauge and two hundred rounds of ammo, and practice and practice and practice until just before I need reconstructive surgery on my shoulder.

Then I’m going to go back as soon as the bruise has disappeared, and do it again and again until all my ammo is gone (don’t ask — it’s a lot). Then I’m going to buy some more ammo and repeat the exercise.

Screw this shooting badly nonsense.



  1. Kim;
    As you noted in your post, a large part of shooting well is attitude & confidence. Or as I repeat endlessly to new shooters (and a lot of old ones too) Good shooting is between your ears.
    The balance of good shooting is practice, practice and more practice. Some good coaching to get you past bad habits helps but practice, practice, practice. (How do ya get to the Met?)
    Once you have gotten to the 90% level, then the quality and fit of your firearm begins to have importance. (But if someone offers you a free Perazzi or Kriegoff, don’t refuse it!)

  2. Learn technique, shoot with both eyes open, keep your cheek on the stock, don’t aim, point, keep the gun moving and most of all stop over thinking. Just see the bird, keep the gun moving until follow through, get on it, pull the trigger and watch it break, with clay, and best of all fall dead with real birds. There is a reason why some novice shotgunners can break doubles on skeet but they try too hard on singles and miss.

    Of all the gunsports, bird hunting is my favorite followed by clays and unlike my shooting buddy who reloads and shoots .308 precision, I like the action of shooting moving targets with shotguns. Those high tower shots along with number two station high house in skeet are my nemesis.

  3. I’d be worried when Englishmen try to ply me with strong drink- you may wind up getting shanghaied and impressed on a ship heading who knows where.

  4. Kim, as Robert Heinlein put it:

    “Be wary of strong drink. It can cause you to shoot at tax collectors — and miss.”

  5. There is a swing and a rhythm to sporting clays as much as there is to a dance with a sultry woman. It isn’t difficult, but can be problematic if you wake up after a bender with your skin on backwards… 🙂

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