Foot position and stance 101...


Dave McCracken
September 29, 2003, 06:52 AM
It pays to watch good shotgunners at the range. Regardless of game, the good shooters show themselves by the lack of wasted motion and the proper stance.

Stance starts with foot position. While exact position varies from shooter to shooter and shot to shot,basically the forward foot points toward the point where the bird will contact the shot cloud, AKA the break point.The rear foot is splayed and back a bit, usually maybe half a foot's length. For most shots, the weight is more on the forward foot. Lean into the shot for recoil control and focus.Keeping the front knee slightly bent and the rear leg straight but not locking that knee is how most folks do the leaning part. Do not bend your body at the waist.

How much to lean is debatable. Note how good trapshooters often use a very erect stance, while many good skeet shooters operate from a crouched position. Leaning into it aids kick control, but a more erect stance gives a little easier full swing, from the ankles up.

Caveat,the heavier loads need more lean for comfort, but for this I hope you're using the lightest loads you can find.Heavier loads are for later and as needed.

SC and field shots seem to use a variety of positions,and it pays to experiment and see how any position works for or against you.

A common mistake we shotgunners make with stance is the 90 degree turn stance to the target or break point. Think of a Medieval archer with his longbow and clothyard shafts. This doesn't work too well. All too often the butt is on the arm, not in the "Cup" inside the shoulder joint. This is guaranteed to cause pain as well as limit the swing, lift the face off the stock, and waste the shot.

Here's my suggestion for a starting position. Stand square to the break point. Feet should be about shoulder width apart.Hold your shotgun horizontally with the butt below the armpit a little, firing side forearm along the stock. Keep the muzzle below the projected flight path of the target.

Take a step as if you were going to walk to the target but stop after that initial step. Your nose, forward knee and the big toe on your leading foot should be more/less perpendicular. Mount the gun and call for the bird or take the shot if using a static target.

On flushing birds, move in slowly and at the flush, PICK YOUR TARGET, and step towards it as above, mounting during the step. You won't believe how much better your shooting will become.

Hope this helps, sing out if there's something I didn't cover or explain well....

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September 29, 2003, 07:36 AM
Thanks Dave !
Another one for the archives/ library.

September 29, 2003, 06:51 PM
Very good explanation.

Particulary when shooting flushing birds. If you don't take that potential extra step and lean into with your correct foot, your swing will be very difficult if not impossible- for me anyway.

I have seen a lot of skeet shooters crouch. Very hard on the legs after a while and for not much gain-IMHO. As long as you bend you knees slightly for easy swing movement.

I remember reading an English shooting magazine commenting on some of the American skeet shooting styles. He theorized the crouching may have developed back in the days when the Indians were shooting back. :)

September 30, 2003, 12:27 AM
I don't shoot the clay games so I'm really don't know what the best way for trap or skeet. But I do shoot what is called instinctive shooting in the field. I think it's pretty much what you described , keeping your torso square to target, actualy I was taught to point your belt buckle at the target. slight step to shift weight forward & mount and shoot all in one motion and on doubles bring gun back down then remount. The way I carry is butt between elbow & ribs muzzle down or parallel to ground but below eye level. This was learned mostly over pointers in grouse woods but I shoot the same now walking up grouse as well. Oh and the best gun to use in this case is a SXS that fits.

Dave McCracken
September 30, 2003, 05:47 AM
Thanks for the responses, folks.

45 Auto, while that Brit was being facetious, many folks crouch like a skeeter when under stress. "Serious" shotgunners do it almost to a man. Maybe it's the old Fight/Flight reflex.

My Skeet scores reek, but I'm improving. I note I tend to not be quite as erect as when doing trap, and using more like the self taught, half___ form I learned from field shooting.

Port arms is really not that good a position to mount from. The muzzle waves in several directions during launch. Keeping the gun roughly horizontal usually works better. Exceptions, as always in shotgunning, exist.

Remounting for the second shot in doubles is oft recommended, but it's sometimes of use, not SOP, for me. A covey flush has enough happening for me to want to keep the shotgun mounted. YMMV.

September 30, 2003, 08:25 AM
Good post Dave.

For skeet point your belt buckle at the break point for the first target . Then you are not all bound up going after the second. Wind your body into the first shot and use a weight shift like a punch to release and swing aggressively on the bird. You will have an 'hour' for the second bird if the first is shot correctly.

Just like golf the stance that fits ME best may be a little different than what fits YOU. THE very worst thing you can do is not try a couple different approaches, but like in golf you will not be too far from the "ideal" stance. If you are something is wrong.

September 30, 2003, 11:24 AM
Wind your body into the first shot and use a weight shift like a punch to release and swing aggressively on the bird. You will have an 'hour' for the second bird if the first is shot correctly. This is key to getting the second bird in Skeet. I set my stance for the second bird and wind into position for the first bird; then it's a natural swing to get the second bird. I've seen folks use very wide stances "for stability" and be unable to swing naturally -- singles or doubles

Dave McCracken
September 30, 2003, 04:40 PM
H, that's about the system I use, but it's my foot not my belt buckle. The scores reek due to newness and not knowing the right leads. I'm learning, and my recent acquisition of a Remchoked 30" barrel with a set of tubes including a Skeet choke has helped enormously.

Wide stances do not do it. Feet should run about shoulder's width apart. Naturally, best stance varies shooter to shooter due to build,etc, and from shot to shot.

Example, High 8 has more weight on the back leg.

September 30, 2003, 05:38 PM
I learned basically the Fred Misseldine method. Toss in Grant Isleng, and Brister for good measure. Now you know a) I'm late 40's and old fart at heart, and b) swing through/pass shooter.

I stand pretty much erect, moreso than when started. Feet about shoulder width, forward knee flexed. My feet position is different than when started. At first if one visualizes the "pad" mine may have been 45* maybe 15*...basically (me being right shouldered shooter) my left foot is ahead of my right--right is splayed/ over shoulder width, and back ~ 1.5 inches. Depends on stations, it appears I'm squared on some.

Remember I'm not a sustained lead, but swing thru shooter, I tend to break birds either just before the stake. or at the stake. I have to be careful, as I have been known to shoot to soon ( way before stake) and not allow pattern to reach full potential. H2...I was was breaking halfway to stake...had to learn to wait. [low gun or mounted I did the same deal]

I change foot positions on 3 and 5 (ala Misseldine huh?) I position for 2nd shot, break the first and therefore the 2nd is easier for me.

H8, well I get to the left side of pad, figure to break halfway to me. Hold point ( be it low gun or mounted) I see target opening, top right corner and about 3 ft out--my hold point....I "see" about 3" of daylight and pull trigger. L8 , right side , top left corner pull up about 2ft and "line of flight" about 3 ft.. I "see" about 4" of daylight and pull trigger.

Now when I say I move to a side of pad, I mean my body is as far that way as feet still the angles I described. I used to be able to walk in 3/4 toward H8 and break, L8 1/2 the distance. Hadn't tried in a while.

I use my left arm to push/ pull the gun, I don't death grip, I use my forward foot to push/pull "off". what I want. I focus on nothing but the leading 1/8 edge of target...or less...I care less where its been or the back part of a bird.

Never learned hold points for trap, so my foot position I learned on for skeet, is applied to everything, hunting , trap, 5 stand, sporting clays...basically I figure "wee past" where I want to break, position my self , and usually break before .

Dunno, I dry fire at "targets" to represent various angles, found for me by doing so my stance is more erect, foot position is whole bunch less radical than some, I get onto birds quicker. I don't wear myself down so much "fighting" the gun and all the stuff we are to do "right"all at the same time.

I'm 6' not as lanky as once was , but Dave mentioned a great point--"swing from ankles up", I swing, and keep swinging...but being more erect instead of contorted/scrunched/ wound up like a top...I appear to be using less effort. In effect I'm, being more efficient with my body. Less tiring, and using the body, feet, stance and a unit, it's more effecient for me anyway.

Hey, and when all this stuff don't work and I miss, its a pretty points anyone? :D

September 30, 2003, 09:29 PM
One thing that has not been mentioned is that all motion of moving the gun should be from the knees and the waist for good gun control. If you use your shoulders at all it will move your sight plane left or right on your gun without you even realizing your doing it. Many newer clay shooters also drop their shoulder as they go after the target, this moves your point of impact up or down, usually up as they take a peek at the target as it goes by. A good way to help break this habit is to keep your elbow up at the same plane as the gun which results in keeping your shoulder square with the gun and it forces you to keep your head ON the stock. Do your swinging from the knees and hips, this does not really apply to trap shooters but stance and position is the key to consistancy for skeet and sporting clays.

Just a few items Iv'e found helpful in training newer shotgunners, and occasionaly I have to go back to the basics when I have trouble with a certain station. :scrutiny: :o

September 30, 2003, 09:34 PM
Perhaps we shooters should use the term "practice" like doctors and lawyers do...:D

Dave McCracken
October 1, 2003, 05:36 AM
Lots of good input here!

Imagine a new shotgunner who has no good teachers around. He/she could learn oneheckuvalot about position and stance just from this thread.

'73 brings up a good point. The crouched position may be more fatiguing for most shooters. I see good work done both ways. Like so much of shotgunning, no absolutes here.

Dunno about push/pull though, I use the swing from the ankles and my left arm basically controls height, not horizontal movement.

Also, I do better using a swing through method than a sustained lead. More skeet and 5 stand may change that...

October 1, 2003, 07:54 AM
Clarification on the push/pull ... I can show you better than type it ;)

I am pretty much erect in stance, I swing with my body, "from the ankles up". Now Misseldine suggest for instance on H2 to "get things going quicker" to use the left foot and arm to "start the swing" ...opposite for L6 .

Still clear as mud huh? Gonna have to head North I see...:p

I stayed with swing through/pass shooting, being curmudgeonly and all to change...I can shoot sustained lead, snap, pull through and whatever else is out there. I can miss real pretty for style points in all methods...including some not "defined". :)

FOR me, and standing more erect I can adapt to the wind/rain/snow...changing the flight of bird. I have been known to "adapt real quick" when H2, 3 or 4 ...was at about 3 feet off the ground near center stake, a "bit" of wind, rain and hail that day, just a bit.

For me transition to other games, or critters was easier. In sustained for instance it is said one can/could/ has opportunity to pull the trigger a niumber of different times during path of flight. Many skeet shooter have such a rhythm is it almost automatic reflex...when the weather/trap machines are adjusted,and planets aligned. Enter wind, rain, snow, hail...anything that disrupts this perfect alignment, and Art's Grammaw will still hear things through her shooting muffs.

SC, and afield, birds flight behind trees and such...uh oh ...where, is my lead, right speed, angle...with Sustained. Swing through for me its "bird -belly -beak- boom"... I have matched all these things and in good form I really don't see much daylight, when I pull the trigger. Video has shown me I have more than I see, just I swing really fast. Perception .

Have played some various gun games and I still use pretty much the same form. Be it steel, some 3 gun, or quail walk. For practice I had the bird pulled without being called. I shot between stations,moved forward, moved back, all over the field to ready for hunting, SC, 5 stand. Plus I get tired of "rhythm", don't want to get complacent, I want to be able to "improvise, adapt, overcome".

I think there are basics that we all need to learn, develop to our physical build, have a reference to fall back on.

Kinda like driving my moms car...I can't get in the darn thing till I put the seat back...she can't reach the steering wheel after I drive her car till she moves it back up...we get it to fit us respectfully,and use accordingly.

Got her eating Cheerios...ain't helping tho'...still short...still have to move seat back. :D

Dave McCracken
October 1, 2003, 05:29 PM
I think I got it, 73, but I'll have to try it out.

Part of my trouble, I think, is that I didn't have me, or you or this BB to ask for advice. Pop was a great Dad, a great shooter, but he didn't quite know WHY he was good with a gun, and he wasn't able to clue me in. So, I started out terrible, got halfway there on my own and have been unlearning bad habits ever since.A work still in progress....

You mentioned snap shooting, still do that and surprisingly enough do OK with it. It's a compressed "Just shoot the thing" flash shot.

Still do better with swing through than sustained, but hope to improve that.

October 1, 2003, 07:13 PM
Sustained requires me to think too much and then I blow it. Swinging through is more consistent ... which could mean that I miss with more regularity ;)

October 1, 2003, 11:44 PM
Dad gave me the safety and revolver lesson, a gunny gave me the 1911 lessons...Dad left the picture. I bugged and pestered men to teach me. I was described akin to "that doggie in the window". Not the cream of the litter, that certain 'wanna take me out look" whom eyes lit up, and chest swelled upon learning, feeling the recoil, smell of gunpowder.

One of my earliest memories was actually putting my feet into the boot prints of a certain gentleman, and emulating his stance, and getting to actually fire the darn thing. I had spent the previous hour mounting the darn gun, correcting mistakes...heck, I thought learning to shoot meant I got to actually touch one off.:D

I mounted incorrectly, didn't focus ( I wanted to fire the gun you see), lousy swing, what follow through-- and still managed to hit the wee back edge of a moving tire. Back to the mounting of gun standing in boot prints...for a 1/2 hr.

All my years of shooting, I've heard certain things must occur in order to hit the mark. "There are 5 things you gotta do to hit a clay target....the human computer is so remarkable with the eye/ hand coordination...etc."

The best advice " quick thinking, focus on the bird/threat and shoot the darn thing".

Meaning my built in human computer works fast and correct...who am I to slow this down by getting in the way? ;)

POSITIONING ,( which encompasses foot position, stance) I was taught was so critical, that if I were positioned incorrectly...I've already missed the bird before it is even pulled!

Oh, I was taught to shoot without beads ( sights on any firearm).

"You may lose your sights, but with positioning, focus, swing, and follow through, you WILL fell your bird/threat".

Just a little whippersnapper back then, still wouldn't hurt to step into those boot prints again.

Dave McCracken
October 2, 2003, 04:53 AM
Pop was a "Just shoot the thing" shotgunner. While memories get edited and nostalgia plays a part, I don't recall much wasted motion when he shot.

Mentors, bless them, are why some folks take to shotgunning and other shooters do not, IMO.

And too much intellectualization gets in the way of those learned responses. At some point we have to stop thinking and just shoot.

October 2, 2003, 05:50 AM
And too much intellectualization gets in the way of those learned responses. At some point we have to stop thinking and just shoot.

Thats the way it goes exactly Dave but once you have the basic stance, footwork, and swing ingrained 'just shooting it' is a whole lot easier.
When I started shooting skeet I had the worst form out there. The veteran skeet shooters would cringe when they watched me mount the gun and still manage to break the targets. What I lacked in form I made up for with some talent. I would always shoot 22s and 24s and the occasional 25 straight but when they finally talked me in to ad justing my form, footwork, and swing I started to shoot consistant 24s and 25s all the time on the skeet field. This was when all I had to shoot with was a Remington 1100 20ga with a modified barrel to shoot.

Trap was not that much fun for me but I can still break average of 22s from any yardage and the occasional 25. I like sporting clays, and do excellent at it but it's a wee bit pricy for my budget. But when you get right down to it, it's 'just shoot it'.

October 2, 2003, 08:40 AM
kudu, my story reads a LOT like that too.

Dave McCracken
October 2, 2003, 07:58 PM
H, agreed. Once form and fit are OK, and the little tweaks that one needs on a given shot are learned, the best teacher's "Live ammo".

I learned to shoot geese by shooting geese. Once Pop told me to take the birds as they flared in that brief, panicky moment between landing 'mongst the decoys and flying out of danger, they started hitting the mud and water with satisfying regularity.

I'd wager that a South American dove and pigeon foray would groove in a shooter nicely. One reason we all could stand much improvement in our dove skills are we do not get that much shooting in most sessions.

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