How to Swing a Shotgun
A shotgun is not aimed; it is pointed or swung at the target. Here is how to get on a moving target.
A shotgun is not aimed; it is pointed or swung at the target. There are two main shooting methods that will get your muzzle in front of a flying target: swing-through and maintained-lead. Most good shooters can switch back and forth between the two as the situation demands.
The more intuitive style, swing-through, is excellent for upland shooting and short- to mid-range waterfowling. Trace the bird’s line of flight, shooting as you pass the beak (“butt, belly, beak, bang” is how the British put it). You have to move the gun faster than the bird in order to catch and pass it. Because the gun keeps moving past the bird during the time it takes for you to pull the trigger and the gun to go off, you won’t see much apparent lead but the bird will fall.
The staple method of skeet shooters, maintained-lead is the easiest way to hit long-crossing targets such as doves and waterfowl. Unlike swing-through, where you catch the bird from behind, in maintained-lead shooting, you never let the bird pass your gun barrels. Mount the gun ahead of the target, match the bird’s speed for an instant, and shoot. Maintained-lead requires longer perceived leads than does swing-through.
Whichever method you use, a proper swing starts before you begin the mount. The first step is to lock your eyes on the bird. There is no reason to move the gun until your eyes can tell it where to go.
To visualize this basic process, keep these tips in mind:
• When you can see the target clearly and read its path, move the muzzle toward it as if you’re trying to hip shoot the bird.
• Keep moving—swinging—the muzzle along the line of flight as you raise the stock to your cheek.
• Keep the muzzle below the bird so you always have a clear view of the target, and move the gun in time with the bird. I cannot emphasize those two tips enough. Being too precise with lead will make you slow down or stop the gun and miss, which is why many engineers have trouble shooting shotguns—they want to be exact.
• Instead of feet and inches, think of lead in three increments: some, more and a lot. “Some” is the amount of lead you see when you shoot a mid-range target. “More” is twice that and “a lot” is twice as much as “more.”
• The spread of shot provides some margin for error. Trying to aim at the last second practically guarantees a miss. Trust your eye-hand coordination to put the gun in the right place and then just shoot without hesitation.