Bird-Barrel Relationship vs. Gun Speed

As you become a more advanced shooter, does bird-barrel relationship or gun speed become more important?

Gun speed is infinitely more important than sight picture. Before you think you are getting closer to proving that we are both crazy, let us explain.

If the gun is not ahead of the bird when the shot is taken, regardless of gun speed, you have no hope to hit the target. If the gun is ahead of the target, even if it is in the “perfect spot,” if the gun speed isn't correct, the target will be missed. The more the gun speed equals the target speed, the more forgiving the lead and timing are.

For example, let's say we are shooting a 25-yard crossing target and the correct lead is four feet in front. If the gun speed is greater than the target speed, even though the lead is correct when you pull the trigger, you will miss in front. If the gun speed is less than the target speed, even though the correct lead is seen, you will miss behind. The only time the correct lead is correct is when the gun mirrors the target's speed and line.

You have all experienced this phenomenon and didn’t realize it. Remember the last time you were shooting a pair of easy floating crossers and you only hit seven out of ten, but the lead was perfect on all ten of them? What happened on the three you missed? Chances are good that you became more aware of the sight picture than the bird and the gun slowed and the correct lead put you behind. The only time the correct lead is correct is when the gun and bird are going the same speed.

Lord help you if you subscribe to the theory of trying to obtain lead via gun speed being greater than bird speed. There are so many things that go wrong when this is attempted it's not even funny. In fact, we have watched over shooters who insist on trying to be successful by slashing the gun out in front of the bird at three times the speed of light. When his timing permits, he has a pretty good score. However, he consistently misses the easy slow floaters — in front. If he only understood how much slower the targets would appear and how much more forgiving his timing would be if he would just slow down on all shots.

Have you ever wondered why, when you are watching other people shoot a station, the targets appear so slow? But when you step into the box they seem to speed up? Why do you think this happens?

Speed is a relationship between two objects. The target's visual speed is equal to the difference in the gun's speed and the birds’ speed. If the gun's speed is equal to the target's speed, the bird will appear to slow down and float, regardless of how fast it is actually going. If, on the other hand, the gun's speed is greater than the target's speed, the target will appear to speed up and become erratic in flight.

To illustrate this, imagine yourself merging into a freeway from a stopped position. While the cars are speeding by at 70 mph, they appear fast to you. Then you spot a break in the traffic and you begin to accelerate and merge into the traffic. As you accelerate and merge at traffic speed, the cars that once appeared to be moving so fast have all of a sudden appeared to slow down. Now that you are going at the same speed as everyone around you, there is no speed.

When the gun merges in front of the target and is going the same speed as the target, just like the car on the freeway, your move has robbed the target of its speed and you are now in control of the target as you mount and take the shot. If, however, the gun has to speed up to get far enough in front of the target to break it, the target is in control of you. It will appear faster than it really is.

Two things happen when the gun moves faster than the target. One, because your eyes go towards motion, when the gun moves faster than the target, the eyes want to look at the gun. The gun stops and the target is missed. Two, if the gun slashes out to the lead, it spends 3 percent of the total swing in a place where it can break the target. Timing is critical to break the target. However, if the gun starts in front of the target and stays in the break zone as it merges to target speed, when the mount is complete, the shot can be taken. Timing is not nearly as critical because the gun spends 80 percent of the swing in the break zone! The target is slower, the sight pictures are more consistent, there is less panic and you are in control of the target.

Ever wonder why all the great shots appear to move in slow motion? Ever wonder why they can break a 50-yard crosser moving the gun so little? They all have come to the same conclusion. When the gun speed equals the target speed, the targets slow down and they are easier to break.

It's no wonder the great shots break more targets than anyone else. Their targets are going slower than yours!