When you pull the trigger on a shotgun you are almost always moving, especially when you are shooting a moving target in the air. How you hit the target, is based on how much and what kind of lead you put on a target. Lead is the amount you must shoot in front of your target in order to make up for its speed. It is important to keep your barrel moving during a shot. Think of the barrel as a garden hose, if you keep the barrel in the same place and pull the trigger all of your shot string will go to that point. If you keep the barrel moving, the shot string will be spread over a larger area, allowing you a greater chance of hitting the target.
There are four types of lead that can be used in shotgun shooting in order to break a target or hit a bird, they are; Spot Shooting, Swing Through, Pull Away, and Sustained Lead. Each one of these can be effective given the right situation. In this piece, I will go over what type of lead is best in each situation and clay target game as well as which one provides the most consistent results.
Spot shooting is most commonly used in a hunting situation. When a hunter is surprised by a bird flushing, the first reaction is to bring the gun straight up pick a spot in front of the target where they believe that the target is going to be and pull the trigger. This type of lead is also referred to as ambushing. This is because the shooter gets out in front of the target and waits for the target to approach the barrel and pull the trigger. This can also work in some clay target games. In skeet, it can work on stations 1, and 7, and in sporting clays and trap it can be used on straightaway targets. The downside of this technique is that it requires perfect timing and is not very dependable or repeatable. If the shooter has made the slightest mistake there is no room for correction, which often leads to a missed target.
Example of spot shooting on a straightaway target
h lead, the gun starts its move from behind the target. In clay target sports this could be used in skeet, trap and sporting clays. Simply by letting the target pass your hold point before making your move. This sets up for a perfect shot because the speed of the target is compensated for with your gun speed. The gun speed lets you catch up to the target, swing through matching speed and pulling the trigger all with the lead built in. This works great on hard angles because it allows you to establish the angle before you move. In hunting, this type of lead would most commonly be used in a crossing shot on an upland game bird or a duck passing through the decoys.
Example of how to shoot a swing through lead
In pull away lead, the shooter starts moving with the bird the moment it crosses the hold point. The barrel and the target are together for the entire duration of the shot. This allows the barrel to match the speed of the target almost instantly; once the speed is matched the shooter will recognize the correct moment to pull the trigger. At this moment the shooter will pull ahead of the bird slightly, using the barrel speed to put the correct amount of lead on the target and break the target. This type of lead is very consistent and keeps the gun moving through the entire shot process, minimizing the chance of the stopping the gun.
Example of how to shoot pull away lead
During sustained lead, the shooter starts the shot with the correct lead already factored in. The barrel starts in front of the target and stays in front of the target for the entire shot. The shooter looks for the correct lead for just a moment and fires. The benefit to this is that the barrel and target are already matched in speed; this allows the shooter to see the target for the longest amount of time compared to any other type of lead. The downside of this is that you must already know the exact lead for each specific target, and if you don’t this will cause the shooter to check the relationship between barrel and target and will cause you to stop the gun. Sustained lead is very effective in skeet and sporting clays, where the flight path of the target is known. It is much more difficult to perform this type of lead in a game with random targets, like trap. This type of lead takes a large amount of practice to perfect, but once you learn it well it is very consistent. In the field, it is almost impossible to use when shooting birds due to the random nature of hunting.
Example of how to shoot sustained lead
In my opinion, the two most consistent types of leads are swing through and pull away. These two leads already have the gun speed and lead built into the shot and it is much easier for the shooter to recognize the angle and placement of the shot. They both work very well across all of the clay target sports as well as in the field. These also require the least amount of practice, which allows the weekend warrior and everyday outdoorsmen to have great success on the range and in the field. Regardless of which lead you choose to use, with practice, you can become great at shooting whichever one you like.