Why You Should Film Yourself When Shooting
Capturing video of yourself while shooting isn’t just for Instagram junkies and can be a useful tool in a number of ways.
NO, I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT “doin’ it for the ‘gram” or trying to look “tacticool.” (But if you want to upload your footage and share it with your followers on Instagram, feel free; no judgement here.) Instead, I’m talking about the much more practical reasons you should be filming yourself when you go shooting.
You can learn a lot from seeing yourself on the firing line and shooting in various positions, performing your draw with a handgun, a look at your body position from above while shooting prone, and a lot more. Here are a few ways to use video to fine tune your shooting.
The biggest reason for filming yourself at the range is diagnostics.
Say you’re a concealed carrier. You’ve perfected your dry-fire technique and run through all the scenarios in your head a thousand times. You may have even spent an inordinate amount of time doing dry-runs and drawing your unloaded firearm in front of a full-length mirror; everything looks good there, so why aren’t the results showing up on the range?
A video diagnostic session can also be helpful if you’re a competitive shooter at any level. You don’t have to be some big-shot pro shooter to benefit from seeing yourself run through a course. If you have footage of yourself, you can use it to help figure out what you might be doing wrong and find ways to improve, both in terms of hits on target and even shaving time off your overall run.
Perhaps your stance is off, your grip is not quite right, you could be reloading differently, or you can see yourself flinching. Whatever it is, the footage can be a valuable tool for helping you see what you can’t feel. Or, see your body doing things you didn’t think it was doing.
Another big reason to film yourself is for posterity, and it’s not limited to the range. Sure, you might want to show off your sweet skills, but I’m talking more about hunting. Going afield in search of the animal of a lifetime is probably something you’ll want to document, and there are plenty of ways to go about it.
And not everyone is lucky enough to have a cameraman follow them around the deer woods. These days, with all the small and lightweight camera options with a bevy of mounting options and even cameras like GoPros that you can set up and have run for hours to be sure you capture something when it happens.
Having a video of a memorable hunt can be a nostalgic treasure that you really value as time passes.
Here’s some gear that can come in handy and help you get good footage no matter where you’re at, whether it’s at an indoor range, dry-fire in the living room, or sitting in a treestand.
Some Kind of Camera
Alright, alright, I know this is a no-brainer. You can’t film without a camera. We’ve all got a camera built into our cell phones and I’m sure you know where yours is right now. (In fact, you’re probably reading this article on it!) If you want to shoot the video on your phone, that’s perfect; most phones these days have cameras that will be more than adequate for these purposes and you can buy simple and versatile mounting systems or tripods.
But there are other options if you don’t want your phone to be your dedicated camera on a hunt or at the range—after all, a lot of us use them for everything, including a ballistic calculator.
If you’re looking to get really good footage, you might consider using a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Most of the “professional” cameras on the market today take 4K video, and they’ve also come down a lot in price. They’re fairly easy to use and if you already have one, getting it ready for a hunt with a weatherproof cover and a mounting solution is pretty easy and affordable.
But, getting that high quality footage comes with some detractions—most DSLR cameras are still a bit bulky (this isn’t a technological shortfall—lenses take up space), and it’s more gear to carry with you that has to be protected from damage while on the move—and they aren’t particularly fond of water.
A GoPro is another solid option. They’re small and lightweight and super robust. Most shoot 4K footage and are also waterproof, so they’re a good choice if your only range is outdoors or if you like to duck hunt. There are videos out there of GoPro cameras being dropped from the top of buildings or even planes, filming the whole way down, and actually surviving the final impact. If that can’t stand up to the rigors of your hunting or shooting plans—you might want to calm down a bit.
Plus, they’re small, simple to use, robust, and there are so many mounting options for them on the market, you’d have trouble not finding one to fit your needs. You can even mount one to your actual firearm or bow, facing the target or facing the shooter. Or a tree limb or your pack or your vest or binocular chest pack or wherever you want.
Plus, you can set them and forget them, and it will record the whole time you’re afield.
SoloShot Robotic Camera
If you want to get exceptionally fancy, you can look into a self-tracking camera such as the SOLOSHOT3 robotic camera.
Billed as the “robot cameraman,” this camera is designed to track your specific movements and capture them in a way that ensures you’re always in focus and always 100% in-frame.
The SOLOSHOT3 shoots 4K video and 12MP photos, storing them on SD cards. The robotic base provides 350 degrees of continuous horizontal rotation and 60 degrees of vertical tilt. It also features a touchscreen interface wit GPS tracking. The way it works is you wear a “tag” that is linked to the robotic base within a distance of 2,000 feet. The base then keys in on that tag and the camera mounted on top automatically follows you and keeps you in focus.
The camera has about a four hour battery life and the tracking tag also doubles as a remote control for the camera. It comes with the robotic base, tracking tag, Optic65 camera, an armband for the tag, tripod tool with adaptor screw, and a mini USB charging cable.
If you’re going to be filming a stationary range session, you could get away with using any old tripod; they’re a dime a dozen online and you can spend as little or as much as you desire. Even the inexpensive ones are compact, highly adjustable, and fairly good quality (the plastic bits will be the first to fail with rough use).
The biggest issue you’ll have with tripods these days is that some are impossibly lightweight—so light that even with a camera mounted, a good breeze can make the picture shake pretty bad. Luckily, most come with a hook on the bottom of the base where you can hang a bag or other weighted object to give these light tripods more stability and some have spiked feet so you can really set them in soft ground.
If, however, you’re going to be spending the money anyway, I’d recommend trying to kill two (or more) birds with one stone and check out the Vanguard VEO 2 Shooting Stick below.
Vanguard VEO 2 Shooting Stick.
Like the name says, it is a stick, meaning that it only has one pole. Where it differs from other sticks, though, is in the feet. It has three fold and lock feet mounted to a ball joint, so that you have the stability of a tripod with the mobility of a shooting stick.
On the top of the stick, the U-yoke spins to provide 360-degrees of shooting opportunities if you’re using it as a shooting stick, and it is wide enough to accommodate a crossbow if you so choose.
The yoke can be unscrewed and topped with an assortment of camera gear, including regular tripod mounts, to the threads and use it like you would a tripod. Despite its “shooting stick” name, it’s a pretty versatile platform that works as a walking stick, a shooting stick, and a nice tripod—all in one package.
JOBY Tight Grip GorillaPod
What if you’re shooting outside in an area that’s not conducive to a tripod, or maybe you’re in a cramped shooting lane? A small tabletop tripod could be just the answer, and the JOBY Gorillapod is a good choice that will provide a ton of functionality.
In addition to working like a small, tabletop tripod, the Gorillapod’s legs are also highly flexible and magnetic.
This means you can get different angles with ease. All you’ve got to do is stick it to the metal partition in the shooting lane, or wrap the flexible legs around a tree branch. Either way, it’s a lightweight and portable option with a lot of versatility.
Stiff Arm Mount for Tree Stands
Shooting from a treestand can provide its own set of challenges for both definitions of “shooting.” You could certainly wrap the Gorillapod around a limb, but if you wanted something a bit more robust, “stiff arm” mounts might be just what you’re looking for.
They strap to the tree and then allow you to mount a camera of your choosing to the head. Then, you have control over placement via the arms. It’s a bit more complex, but more adaptive and more robust for heavier cameras.
If you opt to use a regular camera and tripod, then you’re pretty much good to go. Screw the tripod plate into your camera and you’re in business. If you’re planning on using a cell phone or a GoPro as your camera—or if you plan on mounted either of those to your actual gun or bow—then your needs are a little different.
JOBY makes a wide variety of mounts that can be used for a much wider variety of purposes than their descriptions would have you believe. For example, their Action Bike Mount is designed for handlebars, but it would also work quite well clamped to your rifle or shotgun, providing a very unique perspective of your hunt or shooting competition. Chest rigs and head straps for GoPros are also a good option for neat angles.
There are even mounts out there that attach directly to a Picatinny rail segment on your firearm for a secure mount that will stay out of your way.
And make sure you find a mount option that works with your size phone or GoPro so you don’t have to worry about your “camera” being secure.
Picatinny Rail Mounts
Whether you’re shooting a rifle, shotgun, or handgun, picatinny rail is everywhere. Chances are pretty darn good that there’s an unused section of it somewhere on your gun, and they’re the perfect host for a camera mount that will provide you with great point-of-view footage.
There are a ton of mounting options to fit the location/angle of rail on your specific gun. You can get ones oriented for the top, bottom, at a 45-degree angle, etc. The camera mount options are also varied, too, so you can hook up a GoPro or smaller traditional camera – or even both if you want.
This clamp is specifically designed for GoPro cameras, but the attachment design of the clamp makes it pretty versatile. In addition to clamping it to the gun of your choice, it also works on bows and fishing rods. Since a lot of shooters also enjoy bows and fishing, this is a win-win-win option.
If you’d rather not put anything else on your gun, then this head strap could be a good option for you. The nylon straps stretch from 6″-7″ to 12″ in order to accommodate any head size or headgear you’re wearing. The straps also have rubber non-slip inserts to keep the camera mount right where you want it.
After going over this whole list, you might realize that you want quite a few of the products for various scenarios and setups. Or, maybe you’re unsure of what one is right for you. Buying a bunch of different pieces individually to try can get pricey, so this bundle kit is definitely something to consider. Mini tripod? Check. Head strap? Yep. Chest rig? You bet. Multipurpose clips and arms? Covered in so many ways. You may not use all of these, but then again, you might surprise yourself. And for $23, it’s well worth the extra parts.
Just Give It a Try
As you can see, the options are almost endless for self-filming gear today. A lot of it is relatively inexpensive, so why not grab an item or two and give it a try. You might just spot an area of weakness that you might not have otherwise seen, thereby improving your performance and making the difference between winning the match or coming in a close second.
Just setting up your phone on the bench during a range session could make a big difference in your shooing game. And if you get ambitious and set up more than one camera on a hunt, you could end up with a self-filmed deer hunting video like this one: