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In the Swing

Finish Your Gun Mount...

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? “Finish or complete your gun mount.”

Comically, some say, “Wood to wood.” So, I ask, who doesn’t want to shoot better on game birds and clays? As a shooting coach of almost 40 years, I guarantee that one of the most important ingredients to insure you shoot consistently and well is your ability to finish your gun mount while under stress. As a wing shooter, you are basically always under the stress of completing the specific athletic exercise of totally and firmly mounting your gun after a game bird flushes or a clay target is launched.

So why is finishing your gun mount so important? Well, quite simply, my Dear Watson, if you don’t finish your gun mount by bringing the comb of your shotgun stock firmly up under cheekbone ledge, aka in medical circles as the zygomatic arch, you do not shoot exactly where you are looking. In fact, if your gun fits you well and you mount the gun lightly to the face or jawbone, the dominant eye is elevated well above or high off the shotgun rib and barrels and — Bingo! You shoot high or well over the top of your intended target.

As is well known, shooting a shotgun is a hand/eye coordination proposition, so wherever the eye goes, the hand follows. When the eye is high, the hand elevates the muzzle of the shotgun, and the shot goes high. This could be a good thing sometimes and benefit you, or it could be a bad thing and cause misses that don’t make sense.

For example, let’s talk game birds flushing from the forest floor or CRP for a moment. When the bird is rising and elevating after it has flushed, the natural rise of the bird going up, up and away from the shooter can be hit with a light gun mount simply because the high shot helps intercept the rising angle of the bird. However, if the bird flight pattern flattens out or is a level flying crossing shot, over the top the pattern goes. Unfortunately, if the bird is hit, it may be crippled because contact is made with the bottom fringe of the pattern, the lean portion where fewer pellets come in contact with any vital areas.

The other shot that is complementary to a light gun mount is a high incomer.

When a dove or duck is flying from in front to behind a shooter, a light or incomplete gun mount establishes some built-in lead. If the same dove or duck is going away from the shooter, the light mount will cause the shot to pass harmlessly behind.

Since beginning my coaching career with the Orvis Company in the early 1980s, the same principles and problems with light or incomplete gun mounts haunted shooters then like they still do today. Why does this complex issue exist? Simply said, most wing shooters do not spend enough off time and energy practicing their gun mount, over and over again, without shooting.

Shooting at game and targets is fun, practicing at home and repeating the gun mount over and over again, not so much. While relaxing at home, maybe watching a ball game, I purposely try to have access to one of my unloaded shotguns, so that during a commercial break, I can stand up and follow through on all the propershooting principles I teach, “Move, mount and … .” Of course, I cannot and do not shoot indoors, but I can bring the gun firmly and completely to my cheekbone and then pull the trigger on my unloaded bird or target gun properly chambered with a snap cap.

Completing or finishing your gun mount is truly a trained, athletic move, one that must be committed to subconscious muscle memory. The only way you caningrain a perfect gun mount to your muscle memory is by doing the exercise over and over again, day after day, week after week, year after year. When your gun mount is perfected, your chance of mounting your gun lightly or incompletely to your face is greatly diminished. Now you can really shoot exactly where you are focusing and where your eyes are looking.

Remember, finish that gun mount.

Have a question about wing shooting or shotguns for Bryan to answer? Please send it to fieldsport@fieldsport.biz.

Bryan E. Bilinski

About author
Bryan Bilinski owns FIELDSPORT, purveyors of fine guns and renowned wing shooting instruction, based in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the country’s leading shotgun fitters and shooting instructors, Bryan is credited with introducing sporting clays to the United States.