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All shotgun shooters want to break clays. Whether we’re training for a competition, staying sharp for an upcoming bird-hunting season, or just having fun, seeing clay targets turn to dust is the reason we call “Pull! ” New shotgunners can get easily overwhelmed by the technicalities of skeet, trap, five stand or sporting clays. In the beginning and for closer shots, it’s best to keep it simple by using the 4 B’s.
Veteran clay target shooters use a wide variety of shooting techniques, each one best suited for a specific target presentation or hunting situation. Each style of shooting is important for shotgunners to know and to be able to apply, and there is a time and a place for them. Students can learn them after they are comfortable with gun mount, sight pictures, stance and recoil. To learn about swing, follow through and lead, why not start out with the simple 4 B’s.
The 4 B’s are broken down into Butt, Belly, Beak, Bang. My understanding is their roots are in the British shooting tradition, and as most scattergun shooters know the Brits are the best in the business. Imagine that a clay target is actually a flying gamebird and there are three parts of the bird: the butt, the belly and the beak. In a nutshell, the muzzle starts behind the clay, moves through it, continues until it is out in front of it, and then the trigger is pulled. Provided that the shooter continues to follow through and move the muzzle the clay breaks easily.
New shotgunners find it easy to pre-mount their over/under, semi-automatic, or side-by-side. By pre-mounting the shotgun, any variable that might cause mistakes are removed. You won’t need to worry about a bad gun mount or such. With a mounted shotgun the shooter can focus on learning what to look for at the end of the muzzle. And once they figure that out, other intricacies can be added.
Here are the 4 B’s and what a shooter should see when looking down the rib of a shotgun.
Butt As the clay takes flight, move your muzzle in the same plane as the clay. Move quickly to catch up with the target until your view is of the muzzle just behind the back of the disc or the “butt. ” You’ll want your movement to be consistent and smooth, so move deliberately and avoid the start-and-stop movement.
If you’re having a difficult time getting on the plane, try this simple trick. Stick your arm that holds the fore end of the shotgun straight out. Point your finger and call pull. Follow the clay with your index finger. Then pick up your shotgun, and keep the index finger on your fore end hand extended. When the clay comes out the next time, just point at the clay as you did before. Some shooters like their index finger on the side of the fore end while others like it on the bottom. Either way works fine, and it serves to help you point to the clay, stay on plane and catch up to the butt.
Belly Once you’ve caught up with the clay, keep the muzzle moving. For a visual you’ll want the muzzle blotting out the clay, with slivers of orange on either side. Clays coming out of a trap move quickly, and so should you.
Beak Continue moving the muzzle through the clay and on to what would be the front end of a game bird or the beak. Your muzzle is now moving in front of the target, with no color except for that which is trailing behind. Keep moving just slightly ahead of the clay and….
Bang squeeze the trigger. A simple squeeze on the trigger sends the shot towards the clay. As with all sports, follow through, and keep swinging the shotgun. Keep your cheek on the stock, you’ll be able to see the clay break easily enough.
Butt-Belly-Beak-Bang is an easy to remember approach to start breaking clays. It’s good for the field, too. Once you see clays on a skeet range, trap field or sporting clays course break with regularity you can learn the technicalities of the sport. In the meantime, keep it simple and turn the discs into dust.
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