Heads Up, Down or In Between

Sporting clays, like skeet, started off as practice for bird hunting. Like skeet, as sporting clays matured into a competitive sport, things changed. Targets no longer imitated realistic bird shots; guns were no longer hunting guns; and the gun-mount rule, catering to the lowest common denominator, went from a hunting stance to anything you want.

So, what gun mount do you want when you shoot sporting clays? There are a lot of choices, and each has advantages and disadvantages.

Butt at belt. Starting in the International Skeet position, with the gun butt down at the waistline, is a disadvantage and has no pluses. The gun butt must move farther than with any other starting position without any corresponding advantages. Olympic skeet requires this starting position because it is harder.

Low gun field position. Your dog’s on point and you are walking forward. Chances are your gun butt is either under your armpit or just in front of it. This approach is the rule in FITASC and works well in sporting clays too. The advantage of a low gun like this is that you have excellent wide-angle vision, which is especially helpful when shooting true pairs. The disadvantage is that there is still room to screw up when raising the gun to the face.

Many shooters carry the gun at the front of the pectoral so that it can come straight up to the cheek. I prefer to run the butt about a half-inch under my arm so that the gun must be pushed forward slightly as it is raised. I find that this lets my body flow with the gun mount as weight is subtly transferred forward and I lean into the target just a bit. This helps with the follow-through and keeps me from shooting from my back foot.

Pre-mount. There are a number of ways to pre-mount the gun. You can fully mount the gun like a trap shooter, with your head firmly on the stock. The advantage of this is that there is nothing left to do but swing the gun and pull the trigger. Head position will be perfect by definition. The downside is seriously limited visibility. It is hard to cover a wide area visually from that position, and sporting targets can cover a wide area.

There are two popular modifications to the full pre-mount in sporting clays. The first is to fully mount the gun, position the head properly, and then lower the gunstock an inch or so. The head doesn’t move and stays in position. When the bird comes out, simply raise the gun an inch and you are good to go. The advantage is very little gun movement and a wide field of view. The disadvantage is that the gun must still be placed on the shoulder.

The other pre-mount modification—and perhaps the more popular of the two—is to fully pre-mount and then raise your head an inch or so. When the bird comes out, tuck back in and fire. The advantage is that the gun is already properly mounted in your shoulder and there is a wide field of view. The disadvantage is that you are moving your head down to the stock instead of bringing the stock up to your face. It’s normally not very good form.

There you have it. A bunch of different ways to mount a gun at sporting clays.

That’s it for now. Boots off, beer open.