APPENDIX 2—ONE STUDENT’S NOTES

FROM THE WINGSHOOTING WORKSHOP

 

This is one student’s notes from the school.  While a few of the points may be as they be as they were interpreted, rather than as I taught; however, it is mostly accurate.  The purpose in recounting the student’s notes here are that they may give a perspective on what was some of the more important points from the school.  It may have some useful tips and reminders for you, as the format of these notes are quite a bit different than the dialogue set forth in the book.

–Buz Fawcett

 

Most shotgun shooters in this country are lousy shots. This is because most people who teach shotgun shooting are not qualified instructors.  They are excellent fathers or brothers or uncles or grandfathers.  They may be well-meaning friends.  They may be club or even national champions.  But they are not necessarily qualified shotgun instructors.  The skills necessary to become great champions are not the same as those needed to become great teachers.

My profession is teaching people to shoot a shotgun—to become great shots.  Many of my students have previously attended other shooting schools.

I’d like to explain to you why, in my opinion, most shooters eventually fail, and why instinctive shooting is the best and easiest way to achieve the pinnacle of shotgun shooting—a pinnacle I call the Master Gunner.

First, let’s take a look at the reasons why many shooters fail to achieve their desired shooting goals.

Beginners in the art of shotgun shooting are taught four basic skills:

  1. Stance:  Left foot pointed toward where you’re going to break the target (right-handed shooter), rear leg about a foot behind and at a 45-degree angle (or some variation of that).
  2. Head down:  Keep your head down on the comb.
  3. Swing:  Swing and shoot when you’ve achieved the correct lead, pull away from or pass the target, or some variation of that.
  4. Follow-through:  Continue the swing through the flight of the target after it has been broken.

All of the above are wrong for instinctive shooters, and account for much of the bad shooting that all other shooters experience.

These techniques are wrong because all of them are unnatural.  Even as you read this you know in your heart of hearts that I’m right.

Let’s consider them one

 

The point of all of this is, the traditional method of teaching people to shoot a shotgun simply doesn’t work—oh, I should take that back.  It will take the average shooter/hunter up to about the 50 or 60 percent bracket, but there they stick—okay, but not great.  The tip-off is this—remember it and never forget this single criterion.  Aside from hitting the target, “Does the shooter have a beautiful appearance when he/she shoots?”  And I don’t mean in the face.  Does he/she make it look easy?  Does the firearm appear to be part of the body?  Is the movement almost hypnotic?  Yet is it quick, seemingly beyond belief?

Many years ago I developed a concept that I’ve worked on most of my life.  It grew out of an interest in primitive skills.

 

We’ll use a side-by-side shotgun, straight stocked with splinter forend.  While a boxlock is surely the prettiest of the side-by-side Best Guns of London, an Anson & Deeley Action (boxlock) will not shoot any different than a sidelock Best Gun.  Most instinctive shooters in this tradition will be sporting about ¼ inch of cast-off, 1 ½ inch of drop at the comb and about 4 degrees of pitch.  In Mr. Fawcett’s opinion, this is the finest instinctive teaching tool and the only shotgun he uses at his shooting schools.  These become the magic wands with which he creates Master Gunners.

 

The Ready Position:  For your starting position, we’ll pick one of the more radical stances.  Understand that an instinctive shooter can shoot from any position, any stance, any foot position, including, sitting (how else would you expect to shoot from a duck pit), kneeling, astride (such as sitting on a log dove shooting), evening climbing or whatever.  Balance in shooting should come from within, not be dependent on a single artificial stance (such as is the rifle-man’s stance most commonly taught in theUnited States, for all shooting, including shotgunning).  Remember shotgunning inEngland has long been traditional in a peg, with birds being driven in all angles toward, around, and over a gunner.  The shotgun was developed with this in mind, not with the need to be a sniper with a single measured target to take out.  A Master Gunner can even shoot lying with his back flat to the ground or behind fences or walls.

Also understand that the gun leg (gun side) controls the gun shoulder of the shotgunner.  If the gun leg is moved to the rear, the shoulder goes with it.  Since shotguns have wooden butts, lacquered pads, horn plastic, or steel plates, they are slippery—on purpose, unlike a sniper rifle meant to be literally screwed into a tripod, or artificially screwed into your shoulder socket for maximum stability before and after the shot.

With the gun leg to the rear, as in a rifleman’s stance, there’s a very real possibility that the shotgun butt will slip out of the pocket and on to the arm.  This is what causes pain and bruising of the shoulder, a common complaint of beginning shotgunners.

Instead, bring the gun leg forward, beside its mate, and the shoulder comes forward to form a 90-degree to the butt stock.  This is better, but if we advance the gun leg again slightly forward, the gun shoulder forms a pocket which can be maintained without raising the elbow.  A raised elbow results in the loss of control, taking leverage away from the body.  In the school, we call this the Goofy Foot.  This is a mark of our technique and one of the most comfortable and natural stances from which to shoot, since it allows you to rotate a full 300 degrees, in nearly all directions, with level shoulders and without moving the feet.  It also places only the weight of a light shoulder behind the shotgun, all but eliminating felt recoil.

So assume an upright stance, feet about three inches apart and the gun leg ahead by about half a foot’s length.  All of the weight is on the locked right leg, if you are a right handed shooter.  The left leg is bent with the heel slightly raised.  You can do the same with the left leg, when targets are coming from the right.

The body is erect and shoulders level.  The head is upright, slightly forward, and canted ever so slightly to the gun-side.  Watching the lioness and the coiled rattlesnake will give you good visual aids of this striking position of the Predator.  The eyes are level, chin up and out towards the prey.  This is not a head down on the stock position, such as the rifleman adopts.

The shotgun is held so that the butt is midway under the armpit.  The gun must have a 90 degree relationship to the ground and the front of our body.  The gun hand grasps the wrist of the shotgun so that there is about ¼ inch distance between the trigger bow and the middle finger.  The trigger finger lies on the wood of the stock pointing forward.  The thumb is arched and on the safety.

The shotgun is in line with the master eye, never angling the gun across the body.  The leading left hand reaches across and forward, grasping the barrels so that the splinter forend rests in the depression between the rearward most pads of the palm.

Hold the barrels firmly with the thumb lying down on its side, index finger pointing between the barrels, and the other three fingers curled gently along the gun side of the barrels.

Angle the gun upwards, muzzles about opposite your mouth.

The first targets in our schooling method will come from the right.  So look over there and notice how the barrels naturally follow the master eye.  That’s because whatever the master eye perceives, the index finger of either hand will automatically acquire.

Now, as the first target appears, fix your eyes on the leading edge of the target.  Let all thoughts drain away.  Really become one with the target.  Try to read the print of clay target manufacturer on the leading edge of the clay.  Is the clay orange, black or some other combination?  Focus on it.  All there is the master eye, that leading edge, your pointing finger, and the shotgun balanced delicately between your two hands.  Do not attempt to “lead” the target artificially.  The Predator will dial in the correct amount of lead without any help on your part.

As the target enters the “kill zone,” the Predator will strike, automatically.  Gracefully, the left, controlling hand pushes forward toward the target.  At the same time, the thumb pushes forward on the safety.  As the butt clears the armpit, the right arm move naturally downward as both hands raise the gun gracefully upwards and inward toward the anchor point on the face.  The shoulder follows the butt forward, deepening the pocket and wrapping the ball joint around the butt of the gun, locking the stock against one of three anchor points:  (1) where the teeth come together, for shots such as this one where it is up to about 40 yards out, making the pattern of the shot two-thirds high and one-third low; (2) the upper teeth if over 40 yards, up to about 80 yards; or (3) the lower teeth if under 25 yards and low, such as a rabbit.

All you see at this point is the leading edge of the target.  You are not aware of the barrels in any way.

As the shotgun touches the anchor point, the shot is taken.  The natural muzzle jump unseats the smooth butt stock and starts it back to the ready position.  You follow through by gracefully returning the butt stock to its underarm position, pull it slightly more, recocking the Predator, and look again to the right picking up the second target.  The full dismount clears the vision so that the shooter can clearly see any birds escaping beneath the firearm.  Since we depend on time compression, we have plenty of time to dismount and remount, plus take a look around to ensure all is clear.  This time compression and full dismount occurs event on the quickest following pairs from an automatic trap.  If the pair is a simultaneous double you may only experience the “demi-dismount,” in which the recoil moves the butt down about ½ inch, your head turns back looking for the second target from the trap/pointing dog and then you thrust the gun back up and kill it.  Often times, you will kill two birds with one shot, so a second shot may be unnecessary.

Time compression is an intersecting part of the Predator’s bag of tricks.  Keanu Reeves’s character takes this to an extreme in The Matrix movie.  In the real world, you have seen Olympic ping-pong players smashing the ball back and forth at impossible speeds.  Or Olympic fencing where the strike is so fast so as to nearly defy the human eye, making electronic scoring equipment in the body protector now necessary to keep accurate track of the score.  Yet ask these Olympians about it and they deny that it is “that fast.”  Every one has experienced this slow motion effect at one time or another in one’s life, such as in a car crash or some other sense-stimulating occurrence.  Events around you seem to be under water, yet you operated at “normal” speed.

In the shooting school, we learn to depend on time compression to accomplish impossible shots routinely—at least routinely for us.  Is there more?  Yes, very much more.  The instinctive shot described herein comes with a bit of practice and instruction; but not as much as you think.  Instinctive shooting becomes a way of life.  It instills a sense of self-confidence that pervades every aspect of the shooter’s life, in much the same way that a black belt in martial arts does the same for the martial artist.  Instinctive shooting is easily learned, yet it can take a lifetime to perfect.  And every minute of practicing it is enjoyable and rewarding.  When time compresses, you have more time than you think, it is relaxing, and everything is done easily.

All of what you’ve read would be more hype, hysterical street-corner hollering of just another shooting instructor, trying to advertise his wares.  Hype, that is, except for a single pervading fact—it works.

 

The Ready Position:  Every instinctive shot starts from The Ready Position.

 

The Mount, ¾ Front:  The instinctive shooting mount is simplicity itself.  The firearm slides forward toward the target and discharges the instant it touches the shoulder.  Muzzle jump begins the shotgun’s trip back to The Ready Position.  Though simple, the mount can take a year or more to perfect.

 

Goofy Foot:  Instinctive shooters learn to shoot from any foot position.  Shoulders, not feet, are carefully controlled.  Many shooters prefer the comfort of the Goofy Foot position under controlled conditions.  Recoil is almost eliminated in this gun-leg forward stance.

 

The Mount, ¾ Front:  Notice the mount from the front.  The lead controlling left arm is fully extended.  This varies slightly with different shooters.  Notice also that the shooter is in an upright position with head erect as well.

 

Anchor Points:  The barrels are not even a blur in the lower part of the shooter’s vision.  The point finger of the control hand guides the barrels.

 

Painting the Target:  Practice pointing at a ball on a fence with either hand.  Repeat with both hands.  This is the same hand eye coordination that you will need to become a Master Gunner.  The Predator controls this and it is very difficult for us to override this natural instinct.

Carrys:

One Hand Ready Position Carry:  When the gunner feels game is imminent, he can begin the three-part Ready Position.  The firearm is first closed and raised.  The gun hand holds the stock’s straight grip, barrels up, resting against the gun shoulder.  The gun can be quickly flicked barrels forward to this second position.  This is very useful in flushing, since the controlling left arm is not blocking the vision.  This is particularly useful when gunning at field trials or preserves.  These muzzles are under control, yet a shot can be made by simply adding the controlling left hand and assuming The Ready Position.

Over the Shoulder Carry:  The side-by-side’s most natural carry position is this over-the-shoulder carry where it is ready for an instant shot.  The left hand reaches across and grasps the barrels.  The firearm slides down the right arm.  The right elbow raises the stock (always close a double by raising the stock not the barrels), and the firearm slides naturally into position.  Notice even in this carry, the barrels are in line with the master eye.

Port Arms Carry:  Port arms is fine way for a soldier to carry a weapon over uneven terrain at a face pace, in a position to somersault over it in the event of a fall.  Master gunners never carry in the Port Arms position, as the barrels are out of alignment and an instinctive shot is all but impossible.

Over the Arms Carry:  Another natural carry is this over the arm position but because the body must be bent forward to close the chamber, it is not as quick to the Ready Position.  However, the barrels are still aligned with the master eye.

 

 

The Test:

Thumb on the safety, dig it under the corner of your fingernail so you don’t forget to slide it forward during the mount.  Then your thumb slides over, after turning off the safety, or you will bruise your thumb.

Place the corner of the butt end of the gun under your armpit, right in the middle and 90 degrees forward and 90 degrees to the ground.

The Point:  Hold the gun with your right hand twisted underneath the stock with your trigger finger pointed at the pointing dog.  Drop your left hand to the side of your pant seam.

Before the shot you are looking at the focus point where the target twill come from.

The Relationship:  Your left hand points at the focus point then rolls underneath the gun with your pad of your hand holding the end of the splinter in the “meat” of your hand.

Coil the gun straight back, like a snake.

Follow the target with the gun in the coil position.  Your body must remain square to the target.  It is a dance.  Shooting is really about the anticipation of the kill.  Feel like “I’m flying with the target.”

Your shoulder stays relaxed.

Everything stays RELAXED.

Focus on the target—the leading edge of the clay or the color of the beak of the bird.  The only exception is if the target is incoming overhead, shoot at the beak edge and if it is a passing shot, you should focus on the close-side wing.

The Fundamental:  The gun is then thrust forward like a spear from a spear-thrower and at the same time the safety is moved off.

If you are cross-eye dominant or ambi-dominant, you blink your eye closed at this point.

Then guide the gun back to the shoulder, so that the left elbow is not locked but is straight.

The gun elbow (right) comes down likes a chicken wing and is it never up in the air.

The anchor point is touched with the gun stock.

The toe of the gun just sits on your shoulder.

The trigger is slapped.

Breaking the target is just applause for doing everything right.

The recoil sends the gun back to the Ready Position and follow through back to the dog/trap for the possible second shot.  The gun will kick down at least ½ inch if not all the way back to the Ready Position, before the mount occurs for the second shot.

 

Eye dominance:  You can check this by making a hole with your hands held straight out in front of your body.  Look at a friend’s right eye.  The eye that the friend sees through your hands is your dominant eye.  If you are a right-handed shooter and you are left eye-dominant, you will need one of three solutions:  (1) learn to shoot left-handed with a left-handed gun fitted to you; (2) shoot with tape over your left glass lens or with a dot in the middle of the lens.  I find blurring the center of the lens with Chapstick is often enough;  (3)  Blink your left eye closed during the moment of the final mounting and shot.  The blinking of the eye when the safety is thrown off until the shot is completed is the best method, as you can still use both eyes to walk, gauge the depth of the field, and to acquire the speed of the target.  If you do not correct it, ambi-dominance will throw the shot 18” to the left.

If your Predator is shooting high over the targets you either have a high-mount or you are looking at the barrels.  It is helpful to remove the bead from the end of the barrels, which serves no purpose anyway, except to keep your gun from falling when propped against the side of a tree while eating lunch.  Your chin is up, you never see the barrels in instinctive shooting.

 

Tips:

Confidence is the key to Master Gunning.  You are a 100% shooter.  You should be hitting 24/25 skeet shots within a year.  You can hit at 65-80 yards, which we practice at the Tower in the school, although it would not be fair to a bird.  I hit 95% during the school.  Buz said I was easy and I was his second best shooter for a first year student at the school.  The only other shooter got to 70 yard shots and I maxed out at 65 yards.

If you miss the problem is probably, not swing the gun, not fully painting through the target with your fingers pointed.  When you shoot, you hit: or there is something wrong with the gun and the pattern is not centered.

You can get a 6/10” Pachmeyer Old English Pad installed with 0-1/2” down pitch at 26”.  Spray the rubber pad with WD40 and sand with 240 grit sandpaper.  Quit for the day.  Then spry again and sand with 360 fine grit.  You can cover it with electrical tap or lacquer.  The lacquer will eventually crack and then you have to sand again and recoat.

Never slam your gun closed, treat it gently and it will last forever.

We only use 10% of our brains, our Predator controls the other 90% of man’s thought.

You must focus on the point where the target will come from, whether that is the trap or in front of your pointing dog, or whatever.

In the school we call “pull” for a bird, by saying “bird.”  This somehow triggers the Predator better than a worn call.  And instead of “fire,” we say “kill it” to our Predator.

Generally, you should shoot the furthest away bird first.

After the school, you must go out and have your own “Walkabout” practice for a year.  If any way possible, shoot 100 clays for a year.  Don’t shoot skeet or sporting clays, except occasionally, you need to do a Walkabout in the field practicing what you need to practice.  Begin with the left to right crossing shots, same as the school, for instance, and work your way around the trap so that they become overhead and going away shots.  You will learn more this way than shooting what “others would have you shoot” in skeet or sporting clays.  Shoot what you need to shoot, not what others would have you shoot.  Be conscious of hitting the wall.  Hitting the wall is when you have shot enough for one day and there is nothing more that can be learned from another shot.

Begin the Test by dry firing at a stationary target.  Follow a moving target, such as a tweety bird, with your left hand only.  Then do it with your right hand.  Do both hands.  Then begin shooting right to left crossing targets.  Practice breaking them anywhere on the flight path.

Play a game of “horse” like in basketball, where you take 3 steps toward the trap every time you hit one.  If you miss two in a row, go back three steps and repeat one step at a time.

Visualize that great shot you had each day, ten times each night and each morning, until you go shooting again.

“F@#! the target” by articulating your body towards the overhead target.  Articulate towards the target by moving your hips towards the target when overhead or crossing overhead.

A beaver felt hat with a 3” brim will help your shooting if you wear it low in front and high in back.  Yellow shooting glasses will help and Browning shooting glasses are cheap and as good as many.

Knickers help your body move during the mount, withWellingtonboots and Barbour waxed cotton jackets for rain.  Or you can try German wool army pants.

Shooting gloves are a must and you can tape your middle finger with padding if the trigger finger kicks you (or a rubber trigger guard.)

Stop shooting before you hit the wall, don’t think that “one more shot” will help.  Always end practice on a hit.  When approaching the wall, you start to lose fundamentals, your form gets sloppy, you start forgetting the safety, and you start missing.

After you practice for a year, you can come back to the school to work solely on style.  It is easy to hit targets, but you must do so with style.  You know you have arrived when you can toss a target with your left hand, mount your gun, and shoot it within 5-10 feet.  Your mount, point, and, your resulting style, will have become subconscious at this level.

 

Notes on Ammunition:

Mighty Light from Estate Cartridge, Inc. loads fromTexaswhich are no longer made.  This was the ultimate low recoil load.

12 gauge, 2 ¾ length, 2 ½ dram, 7/8 shot, #8 = 1350 fps

20 gauge, 2 ¾ length, 2 ¼ dram, ¾ shot, #8 shot =1350 fps

 

The best ammunition used to be made by Estate Cartridge Company fromTexas, under their Mighty Lite brand.

In 2002 $54 flat, Estate12 ga., 2 ¾ length, 2 ½ dram, 7/8 shot, #8 = 1350 fps

In 2009 $80 flat, Vinci 12 ga., 2 ¾ length, 2 ½ dram, 7/8 shot, #8 = 1350 fps

In 2009 Mirage 1 oz. loads cost $69/flat and Sportsman Mobile 1oz are $79

 

The major wholesalers in the Western states are Sears and Southwest Shooting, so you can contact them for a list of dealers.

 

Reloading may be the best option, given what is currently available in 2009, but there are now suitable low-recoil shells from several Italian manufacturers which are worth trying.

 

The best patterns are given by high velocity, low deformity, and low recoil shot.

 

Use #8 shot for practice, clays, and quail.

Late in the quail season, use #8 in right barrel and #7 ½ in right

Use #6 shot for pheasant.

Can use #4 shot for ducks and geese.

 

High base Remington for quail in 1 1/8 or 1 ¼, #8 shot in the left barrel.]

Low base #7½ shot mighty light in right barrel.

Use #7½ shot high base in right barrel if cold.

 

You may save up to half the cost of a box of ammunition, by reloading.  You should reload to learn about the physics of the gun, not to save money.  Use Rex 24s or Super Spark wads.  Use a MEC 600 Jr., (15 minutes per box) and get a primer dropper attachment.  A MEC Grabber is better and reduces the time spent to 5 minutes per box.  Winchester AA shells can be reloaded up to 10 times, but most others can only handle 3 reloads while still maintaining a tight crimp.  Buz’s favorite hand load isWinchesterprimer, 18 grains of Red Dot, 40 lbs wad, super spark or Red 24 wads, and 7/8  of hardest comp shot, with a 1/8” crimp.  You should use nickel shot for hunting.  A MEC or Limon book will give you a good start and read the book thoroughly.  Apex andAjaxloaders are also good, but don’t  buy a 366 loader.

 

CHOKES:

12 gauge, left barrel .004 (light skeet) and right barrel .008 (improved cylinder).

20 gauge, left barrel .003 and right barrel .007.

 

FIT:

While it may vary, I am 5’10” and 175 and have a 13 5/8” or 13 3/4” length of pull, with 2 1/8” or 2 1/4” drop at heel, with 3/8” cast off and 1 ½” at 16” down pitch without a pad or 0-1/2” at 26” with a pad.  Forcing cones are reduced to 2 ½”, with everything polished to final dimensions.

 

GUNS AND GAUGES:

Pattern any gun by taking 10 shots, averaging the results by overlapping the shot spray) at 16 yards on a single sheet of paper.  For each 1” correction on paper, move the stock 1/16 inch in each direction.

12 gauges fits most men’s hands best and with the light loads, it’s effectively a 20 gauge being shot.

20 gauges fits most women best and with the light loads it’s a .28 gauge.  Gun weight in a 20 gauge is ideal at 5 pounds 4 ounces, and a 6 pound gun is too heavy.

Garbi makes a lovely boxlock with Cercasi walnut and Kreighoff barrels.  Garbi is a better gun than AYA for the money.  Ugartechea boxlock is a good entry level gun, with 28” barrels with my build, double triggers, splinter fore end, straight stock, extractors so as to not spew cartridges over the field and a smooth butt.  Ugartechea is French walnut.  You can always have the wood stripped and refinish it, but repeated treatments with silicone spray will add luster to any wood.  Be cautious of pretty woods with vertical grains near the wrist of the gun, which can break easily.

Buy the gun with M/F or IC/M so that there is enough steel in the barrels for the gunsmith to work with to take do to the above-described chokes.

 

Tony Fanelli does the gunsmithing for the shooting school.  1998 prices were $65 length of pitch, $55 forcing cone, $140 bend stock, $50 adjust each choke=$400-450 per gun.  2009 prices haven’t been increased by very much.

 

2009 prices for Grade I Ugartechea from Lion Country Supply is $1395 and Grade II goes for $1795.  Also in 2009, a Garbi 101 goes for $8500 used and a 103a for $13,300 from William Larkin Moore & Company.

 

APPENDIX 3-THE WINGSHOOTING WORKSHOP CLASS AGENDA

 

Day One:

Classroom

Eye Dominance

Dry firing

The Test

Right to left targets about 25 yards in range (this is a 2/3 low house shot in skeet)

Day Two:

The Test

Right to left targets about 25 yards in range

Left to right targets

Pairs/Report Pairs/True Pairs/Usefulness of Double Triggers

Overhead shots

Shooting from any foot position

Day Three:

The Test

Three steps towards the trap house

Shooting from any position

Overhead/crossing/pairs

Shooting birds off the tower

Final fitting/patterning of the gun

The Walkabout