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Throughout my last article I stressed the importance of comfort during your first shooting lesson. It is of course also very important that your comfort is maintained during your subsequent lessons. Your feelings of wellbeing start naturally with the psychological factors; being made to feel at ease and re-assured by your coach, feeling relaxed in your new environment and understanding what is going to take place during your lessons and everything that is required of you.
Your coach will be very tuned in to the psychological factors related to novices’ lessons, and in addition to positive re-assurances about the successes that you are going to achieve; he will be quick to dispel any fears that you might have about physical discomfort caused by recoil. Before beginning your lessons, your coach will be providing and explaining the equipment that will be used to ensure your safety and physical comfort.
Safety equipment and physical comfort.
To ensure simplicity and clarity; I am going to describe the equipment that I provide to best ensure my lady pupils’ physical safety and comfort.
Before going into detail; I would like to make it clear that the great majority of modern experienced lady clay shots are using 12 bores. There are also quite a high percentage of modern lady shots who are mainly involved in game shooting , that prefer to use 20 bores( simply because they are lighter to carry around during a full days game shooting) Some ladies choose to use both calibres.
Once the lady shot has reached the appropriate stage of confidence and muscle/body familiarity with shotgun handling; she can choose to use the calibre of her choice regardless of her physique.
I provide all my pupils with shooting safety glasses, ear defenders and a shooting hat with a stiff peak to best protect the face from falling clay fragments. When ladies are attending their first lesson on warm days wearing light summer clothing, I provide them with shooting vests with padded shoulders. If they are especially slight in stature, I will provide them with a shooting vest that has pockets inside the shoulder pads where custom made recoil reducing pads can be inserted.
These pads are very effective: Those of you who have watched my DVD “Clay Shooting From Scratch” will have seen Zoe Salmon wearing a Musto shooting vest. In which, I had inserted three Beretta recoil pads within her right shoulder pad pocket. Zoe had never held a shotgun before the first lesson was filmed. The six lessons that you see her participate in were filmed during two very full intensive days shooting. She fired a 28 bore during the first day and a 20 bore during her second days shooting.
She was of course very tired at the end of filming; however she did not suffer physical discomfort from recoil.
I provide a 28 bore for every lady that attends for a first lesson if she has not had any previous shot gun shooting experience. I also use this calibre if I have any evidence or suspicion that my lady pupil has suffered from recoil during any previous shooting experience.
This gun has short barrels (26”) and open chokes (True Cylinder to provide the widest pellet pattern spread) it also has a shortened stock.
I am simply trying to make the gun feel as light and comfortable as possible to inexperienced hands. To further reduce recoil and improve comfort: - The stock has a 1” Kick-eeze (Trade name of a quality USA product, stocked by most UK shooting retailers) recoil pad fitted at the butt, with a recoil reducing gel pad fitted over the comb of the stock. There is also 4 ounces of lead secured inside the stock. Putting extra weight behind the action dampens down recoil and positively improves gun balance and handling. The butt recoil pad absorbs about 30% of felt recoil, whilst the gel cheek pad absorbs the pressure felt by the soft part of the cheek as the gun fires.
The gel cheek pad also raises the stock comb height, which is necessary for most ladies. Outside shotgun shooting there is no reason to know; but size for size, the distance from the centre of the shoulder to the middle of the cheek is greater in females compared to males of similar height.
Recoil is further reduced by using lighter cartridge loads. I use 17 or 18 grams in 28 bore loads. Comfort is finally ensured by ensuring that my lady pupil has the stock butt snuggled firmly into her shoulder pocket and cheek. I take great care that my pupils have their guns correctly and securely mounted during each shot of first and early lessons. This is the only way that the body will learn what the correct gun mounted position is.
After a few lessons, usually at least three; most ladies are ready to move onto a 20 bore. One with longer barrels (28”) than the 28 bore and a longer stock. The 20 bores that I use also have very open chokes (Improved cylinder) and the same recoil reducing properties of; of lead in the stock, Kick-eeze butt pad and gel cheek pad. The 20 bore is heavier than the 28 and the extra weight coupled with the use of 21 gram light load cartridges further reduces recoil and improves comfort.
The increased weight of the 20 bore also helps the lady pupils to build up their muscle familiarity and shooting stamina, which is a very important factor in reducing shooting fatigue.
After a couple of lessons with the 20 bore I like to demonstrate and introduce the correct sequence of ‘gun mounting’ to all my lady pupils. (Starting from the ‘gun down’ position rather than pre-mounted).
Ladies that are going to be focused solely on clay shooting, may well feel more confident and comfortable by opting for a pre-mounted ‘gun ready’ position; which the clay shooting rules permit.
There is one clay shooting exception to this, which is Olympic Skeet which has its own specific gun down ready position.
Ladies that are going to be involved in game shooting and of course Olympic Skeet shooting are going to need to learn to learn correct gun mounting.
I take great care during this learning process and like the ladies to practice this with recoil reduced 20 bore. I encourage my lady pupils to spend plenty of time practising the movements of gun mounting on a moving target with the gun unloaded. Only when I am confident that they are mounting the gun perfectly, do I start them live firing. Firing a badly mounted gun can cause pain and discomfort which I am very keen to prevent.
Whilst my lady pupils will not suffer from recoil during their lessons, it is perfectly normally that they feel quite tired after an hours shooting; in particular an aching right wrist from gripping the gun tightly with their right hand and a very tired left arm from supporting the 6/7lbs of the gun. During ensuing lessons and regular shooting practice their muscle familiarity/stamina will build however there is a practice that they can carry out within the comfort of their own home, without the need of handling a shotgun.
Please allow me to pass this practice on to you:
You will need; your most comfortable armchair which affords you the best view of your favourite TV programme. A small coffee type table close to your armchair is also needed. Inviting your No 1 girlfriend to keep you company and share your practice if she wishes will add to the pleasure of your practice. Finally you will need a full bottle of your favourite wine and a tennis ball!
Now to the actual exercise. Have the wine bottle on the table within comfortable reach of your left hand (opposite for left handers). Hold the bottle by the neck with your left hand, lift it until your left arm is stretched out horizontally in front of you, count slowly to 5 and then gently lower the wine bottle back to the table and release it. Now take the tennis ball that you have resting beside you and grip it as tightly as you can with your right hand whilst you are counting slowly to 5. Release the tennis ball and repeat the left hand exercise followed by the tennis ball gripping. Carry out these exercises slowly for 5 to 10 minutes.
Well done! You now have earned your reward; open the bottle and enjoy it with your girlfriend. Well you would not want to drink it all by yourself would you?
Moving up a calibre
If you decide to move up to a 12 bore, and most clay shots do. Take your time choosing your gun. You will discover that your new clay shooting friends are a very generous bunch who will be happy to let you try using their different guns. Your coach/shooting school will probably have a variety guns for you to practice with and they are likely to have a good relationship with your local friendly gun shop that will help you select the best gun for you.
You can maximise comfortable shooting with your new 12 bore by firstly getting your coach to make sure it is properly fitted for you and getting your gunsmith to add the same recoil preventers that my coaching guns have. You will also greatly add to your shooting comfort by using 21 gram 12 bore cartridges.
Ladies; you can expect to have fun, success, excitement and total comfort during your shooting lessons: