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Thinking is Seeing

“It is a trait of an educated and seasoned shooter that he can entertain a thought and not succumb to it.”
– Steve Brown

This is in essence what has to be done to achieve higher and higher performances. You can’t “not think” and your mind will eventually go to the dark side. It’s okay and really a normal thing. Negativity is in and of itself easier to sell to our imagination than its counterpart.

However, trying not to let it in makes you focus on it even more. Once you label it as what it is, poke a little fun at the reality of it and how foolish it is. Then it becomes just another part of getting better. Another stair on the stairway of improved performance.

The Perils of Muzzle Awareness

I am getting better at thinking deeper about the reality of shooting a moving object with a shotgun. And I said this the other day: if you must be looking at the target and the gun must be pointed ahead of the target, then you must be able to know in a less-than-conscious way where the gun is pointed without looking at it. So why not learn to know where it’s pointing without looking at it from the beginning?

You learn this by learning to move and mount the gun so you don’t have to think about what you’re doing with the gun. Why so many shooters fail to see the connection between thinking about what they’re doing with the gun and having their focus shift to the muzzle or the gap really puzzles me.

In the thousands of shooters we’ve coached and watched shoot, the ones who don’t have to give the muzzle a second thought before, during, and after the shot are so much better than the ones who are constantly looking at it in the setup, mount it and check the beads and then cut their eyes back at the trap and call “pull.”

It seems as though these truths or proverbs or psalms come to my understanding in cycles that repeat themselves. Which, by the way, is how I finally recognize them.

I must tell you that they are borne almost immediately after great frustration at not being able to get a shooter who I want to really do well; someone who has the potential to do well but will not do the necessary hard work and repetitions required to build skill.

Taking the Time to Learn it Right

As the great actor, Al Pacino said of learning a role, “if you don’t take the time with it and learn it right, you’re just chasing it; you’re not embodying it. Most actors today get a four-week rehearsal period, and then you’re just learning the lines. You’re not living in it! With Shakespeare especially, it’s best if you have done it before. Because by the time you’re getting to any place of understanding, the run is over.”

This, unfortunately, is how most shooters look at learning to move and mount the gun! Without exception, they all want to shoot gun-up so they won’t have to learn to move and mount the gun. And they don’t know that they’re putting themselves squarely behind the 8-ball when it comes to building the skill of shooting moving targets with a shotgun with any consistency. They just will not work on it.

Hell, when we were competing, we practiced the gun mount relentlessly every night without exception. It occurs to me, however, that back then you had to shoot low gun because it was the rule.

Still, as we travel and witness shooters getting better, the ones who have a flawless gun mount can pick up new moves and changes so much more quickly than those who shoot the gun mounted and drag the barrel. They just don’t want to work for it. They want it to come too easily and quickly.

Having a Flawless Gun Mount

This leads to another quote from Jeff Wolfe: “Just like any other thing you don’t have to work for, just because you have it that doesn’t mean you really understand it or know how to apply it properly!”

Jeff and I were discussing the new “chief instructor” and his experience or lack of it and how so many of the things he says and writes resemble so closely what we have said or written in our columns, books, or videos. And he’s not the only one, you understand.

It was Jeff who sent the above quote to me. And how apropos it is to this situation and what so many shooters think about learning the gun mount and decide to shoot with a mounted gun.

We are not saying to never shoot mounted gun, but shooters who have a flawless move and mount never have to reference the muzzle when shooting gun up. And shooters who don’t have a flawless gun mount and choose to shoot gun up always reference the muzzle – typically several times before calling “pull” on every shot!

In fact, if you were to time their approach from loading the gun and calling “pull,” I would estimate that they spend at least 60 to 75 percent of the time looking at the gun. Now, what do you think that does to the muzzle awareness in the shot?

Remember that when you are going through your preshot routine, it’s about reviewing what you’re going to do during the shot. And I don’t remember anyone who says look at the gun.

This leads to the last quote of this blog post. The amount of muzzle awareness in the shot will always be equal to or greater than the amount of muzzle awareness in the setup. Enough said!