At some point in your learning curve for Clay Shooting you may have considered getting some formal coaching, I recently had a lesson with John King, and thought I would write-up the experience to outline how the session went – and what I learnt.

John King has been a good friend to ShootClay since we started – his shooting DVD and Book package was one of the first things that we reviewed – he has a wealth of experience and is an ideal candidate for a coach. His guide to choosing a shooting coach is an excellent starting point if you are trying to find someone local to you. My lesson was at the fantastic Barbury Shooting School – you can read our review of the facilities here.

Background – I’m a fairly new shooter breaking about 60 or 65% of clays in front of me. I shoot gun-up, am left-eye dominant and right-handed.  I have always struggled with gun mount, never feeling that I have a consistent mount. I’ve never had any coaching before – I often struggle with loopers, high driven birds and rabbits. I hope that sets the scene of what John had to work with.

So – onto the lesson. After a short chat and a check that I had all the necessary safety gear – we headed out to a quiet part of the Barbury school.  John showed me a gentle right to left crossing bird and after a short pep talk (about not being nervous) asked me to shoot it. I took about 5 shots, and I could sense that John was observing my gun mount and movement throughout.

After those first few birds – John asked me to go through the basics of ‘the method’ – establishing the correct position for my feet, the kill point, the pick-up point and the kill picture. His final words of advice were that the ONLY thing I should be seeing before calling ‘pull’ is that kill picture – getting my mind to focus on that would help my body remember it, he emphasised the key point of ‘PUSH’ing away from the bird to make that kill picture and then pulling the trigger. 

Then in some subtle coaching he talked about locking the gun in position, my head has always been quite scrunched over – but John asked me to make some minor adjustments to where I held the gun and to ensure that I locked it tight in position, THROUGH the shot (my head was apparently lifting as I pulled the trigger).  This was a major development – my next ten/fifteen birds were much better.

Now comes the magic – in my review of Johns book I mentioned that I didn’t understand the point he made about using your left hand.  John asked me (as an aside) why I shot ‘gun-up’. I mentioned that I had never been taught any other method. He gave me a fantastic metaphor for using my left hand to point more directly at the clay as I shoot – and then told me not to pre-mount my gun.  Bingo – a completely different experience. I could immediately feel an improvement in how I picked up the bird – I still need more practice here, but the principle was already engrained, and we were only half way through our lesson.

As an aside – I went away from the lesson thinking about how I could improve the reaction and feel of my left-hand (it has always been a useless limb), one technique has been to move my computer mouse to my left hand… my motor skills on my left side have improved significantly in the weeks since my lesson.

For the second part of my lesson – we walked to another area at Barbury and John picked out a looper. This is often a bogey bird for me, ruining a number of scorecards. John talked me through ‘the method’ again – but focusing on how I should adjust my pick-up point and kill-point for the right to left looper. He explained the principle of ‘removing the loop’ from the process and finding your kill picture.  I managed to hit a few of these and then John paired that up with a quick left-right crosser to get all of the things I’d learnt working together.

By the end of the lesson – I was feeling much more confident in the basics, it felt like I had added a lot of theory that I hadn’t really learnt before. I’m already shooting a lot more confidently and thinking about my other tricky targets before I see John for my next lesson. It was an excellent session – and I highly recommend spending time with John King, or another established coach if you want to introduce a step change to your game.