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New shotgunner

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
Hey there, Shooting Sports folks! Long time B&Ber, first time gun owner here. I mean, I've shot plenty of GI weapons in the Army, but for many reasons that I don't need to get into here, have not been able to have one at home. Until now. I needed something to pull double duty for hunting and home defense, so I selected a 12 gauge semi-auto shotgun. Specifically, its a Tristar Viper G2 with walnut stock and a 26" barrel. It holds five shells, instead of just three or four, is relatively light weight, and looks amazing. About the only thing I don't like is that it didn't come from some heritage Italian gunmaker (cuz sometimes I'm snooty like that), but then it would have cost two or three times as much and not fit my needs any better. The guy at the gunshop recommended Tristar and the Viper seems to have a lot of positive reviews online. Heck, even Randy Wakeman called the Mossberg SA-20 (same gun, different label) his favorite 20 gauge. So I summoned up my inner Janissary and ordered this Turkish beauty.

I've had it for a couple weeks now. I broke it in with a box of magnums, per manufacturer's instructions. Ouch, I think it broke me in worse. This ain't no M-16, that's for sure! Well, 1 1/8 oz target loads were a lot better, though I still think I want a cushier recoil pad. I stocked up on some birdshot since I couldn't find buckshot anywhere. I know birdshot is not ideal for home defense, but I figured it would better than swinging the gun like a club. Today, I was at a gunshop with a range out back, and low and behold, they had buckshot. I scooped up a few boxes and killed some paper. The "low recoil" buck actually cycled just fine, so I bought a few more boxes to take home. A couple of teenagers were shooting clays in the next station over and they invited me to take a few shots. Well, let me tell you, the safest spot on the range was riding the back of those clays I was shooting at. I emptied the whole magazine on the first one...and, nothin' (and yes, I was shooting the target loads, not the buckshot) Clearly, I have some work to do before I'll be hunting anything moving faster than a snail. But it was sure a lot of fun trying.

Anywho, there I am. I'm confident that the Tristar scattergun will do its job if a mob of rioters shows up at my casa. Now I just need some proper wingshooting instruction and maybe a tweak or two to the shims to dial in the fit. Hopefully, I'll be busting clays well enough to chase a few doves this fall. So I don't know, if any of you veteran shotgunners have any tips, tricks, or advice, I'm all ears. Cheers!
 
The first thing you need to do with a clay gun is pattern it and then make sure it fits you properly.

Shooting a shotgun is different than a rifle. You don't aim a shotgun, you point it. Focus on the bird, not the bead. If you come back and check the bead, you likely will miss. And keep your head down. Head lifting is almost a guaranteed miss as well.
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
You can practice shouldering almost anywhere, just make sure the shotgun is not loaded.

Pick a target at any distance, close your eyes and shoulder the shotgun with the intent of being on the target you picked. Once you become consistent at that and the shotgun is always pointing at the same spot, not necessarily the target intended, you'll know which way to adjust the stock to bring it on target.

Keep practicing. Make it habit. Carry it in the field as much as possible and pick out small targets and shoulder it as if to shoot. I use to pick out a leaf on trees and shoulder with my eyes closed.

Once you have the stock fitted so you're always shouldering on target, what you're doing is building muscle memory which is 95% of snap shooting with a shotgun.

You can do the same thing with any type of firearm. I use to sit in my living room with my S&W .44 mag and old 1911 and 'snap shoot' random things dry firing. You might be surprised just how effective that practice can be.
 

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
Thanks for the tips, fellas! @ColtRevolver Yes, I'm sure I was lifting my head shooting at those clays. Like I said, I need some professional instruction. I've always heard about the "point, don't aim, a shotgun" thing, but actually doing it is a whole different thing. @Esox Great pro tip! Thanks. However, I think I probably should hold off until I learn good form. I don't want to build muscle memory and reinforce a screwed up mount.
 

Ad Astra

The Instigator
Ambassador
It's a guess, but trap or skeet might be a better way to learn than sporting clays - there are fewer variables. Trap is easier, to me. If you miss, notice where the wad went, it's a good aid.


AA
 

Acmemfg

Contributor
Ambassador
Would help to know how your barrel is choked. Best “all purpose“ choke tube is reportedly light modified. Not a panacea but proper constriction can be a benefit.
 
I don't know what kinda range you were shooting on.

If it was trap, see if the range manager will set the machine to throw straight away. Then, shoot a box or three from post three until it gets easy. Then move around from post to post still on straight aways before trying it with the trap oscillating.

If it was skeet. Start at the high house and shoot a few straight aways. When that's easy, shoot a few incoming low house birds. Then, go to the low house and repeat. Once those birds seem easy, go to post 4 and shoot a few boxes.
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
However, I think I probably should hold off until I learn good form. I don't want to build muscle memory and reinforce a screwed up mount.
The best way to learn to shoot a shotgun, is to shoot a shotgun.

What @Ad Astra and @ColtRevolver suggest above is a great way to learn. Station three on the 16 yard line with the thrower locked so it throws straight away from you. Watch the first clay fly. It will rise, then level off, then start to drop. Focus on shooting the bird as it rises by swinging through it as you pull the trigger. All you have to do is track the clay, swing into and through it and shoot as the barrel covers it.

Keeping the thrower locked straight and moving to stations 1 and 5 will let you better understand the angle of your swing and the trajectory of the clay but the mechanics of it remain the same. Swing through the bird, fire when the barrel covers it. Station 5 was my favorite and most fun, especially the hard right hand birds. Its much easier for me to swing right than left.

It shouldnt be difficult to have the range officer set up a beginners practice round or three before regular shooting starts. We use to offer that opportunity every trap day at my club for new shooters, with instruction.

Assuming proper form, its all about timing and consistency. The best shooter I ever faced was Terry Jordan. This is a direct download to his .pdf file Tips by Terry Jordan. On the first round he dropped a bird and shot a 24. I didnt drop a bird and shot 25. He then went 75 straight for a 99. I shot a 98. Then I stepped off the line and started watching him. When he gets to the line he turns into a machine. On every bird, everything he does on every shot is exactly the same. From stance on the station to breathing when he calls for the bird and finishing his swing after the clay is smashed. For the rest of that day, he didnt drop another bird. The bird he did drop, was the first bird he called that day.
 
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