Updated: Jul 1, 2020
There are so many factors that go into a consistent routine... some of those factors include: hold points, footwork, eye placement, grip on the shotgun, how you call for the bird, color of glasses to see the bird (better), bead color, your movement up to the bird while swinging to it, finger on the trigger(not snap firing), and a consistent follow through...to name a few!
In this blog, were going to discuss follow through, why it is important, and what it does for you.
Now to start, follow through in trapshooting is simply your actions that take place after you have taken the shot. In sports throughout the world, whether its golf, football, basketball, baseball, etc etc... you'll watch top athletes have a tremendous follow through. Golfers follow through after they hit the golf ball, a QB in football follows through after he throws the ball, and in baseball the batter will follow through when hitting the ball.
The list goes on and on, and trapshooting is no exception to that list.
When you are swinging to a clay bird, too often we see shooters that stop their swing when they reach the bird, at this point they pull the trigger, which typically ends with them shooting the back-end of the bird, or missing behind it completely.
Another theory we have watched will be the shooter following the clay bird to the ground after they missed it. Both of these styles we recommend not using because there is a lack of consistency (generally) in these styles of shooting, and here's why:
When you shoot, your lead shot doesn't come out all as one, it spreads out into a three dimensional pattern, what we call a "shot string", which depending on your choke/ammo setup, can be 3 ft-12 ft long (depending on distance to target). As the shot advances further downrange, the shot string gets longer, and the shot gets more spread out in diameter.
This is why you see clay targets get turned into a "soot ball" at close ranges, and not nearly as much at longer ranges. The shot string is shorter and pattern is tighter at closer ranges, resulting in more pellets on target. As the distance increases, the pattern spreads out in diameter and shot string length increases at longer ranges, thus the amount of pellets hitting that moving target is more spread out, and many will miss the target being further spaced out.
The shot string length can be impacted by choke constriction, shot size and load weight.
This is why we recommend a consistent follow through after you pull the trigger. Using this knowledge, if you have a 4-5 ft shot string, you have a much better chance of hitting that clay target with at least a portion of that shot string when you're in front of the clay...but when you stop your barrel, you're going to be behind the clay target regardless of how long the shot string is.
In a overlook of the whole shot process, you want the swing and follow through one fluid, consistent motion with the barrel not slowing down or speeding up throughout that sequence.
This is why follow through is so critical:
Follow through continues your speed and forward motion in the shotgun for during and after you pull the trigger. You want a consistent barrel speed when you pull the trigger, and the follow through ensures you don't slow down your barrel just before you pull the trigger.
The equivalent would be like when a golfer swings, he or she doesn't stop the club just before or immediately after they hit the ball, they continue the follow through in their swing well after. Could you imagine what it would look like if they stopped their swing without a follow through?
The same applies to shotgun shooting, you should be driving to the clay target with your hips, but when you stop your barrel at the clay bird, you lose so much energy in your hips/body and gun.. trying to stay consistent with all this change is very tough.
This is why we try to avoid using teaching "follow the bird to the ground" method. When you use this method, you're not following through the target, you're stopping the momentum in the barrel after you pull the trigger, picking your head up to look for the bird, and then trying to get back on the bird and track it to the ground if you miss. The whole process leads to a lack in consistency, which is key for trapshooting.
Another question we have is how fast should you be shooting, or what speed should you move to the target? This will be discussed in another blog at greater length, but simply put, everyone has their own style and speed they shoot. You want to have a steady flow and fluid movement to the target where you're consistent..not lolly-gagging, but not ripping to the clay bird.
*Note*: Footwork (which will be discussed in another blog), can have a huge impact on your swing speed and fluidity/movement to the target.
When you follow through, your main goal should be keeping your cheek on the stock and continuing that fluid motion and momentum forward. Don't be worried to watch the target break, rather, focus on a smooth swing up to the bird, a good trigger pull, followed by a consistent follow through until you un-shoulder and bring down the firearm.
To start, I always recommend an extended follow through to learn the method in better understanding. Once you get a proficient at following through, you can shorten it up to your shooting style & preference. It will teach you the importance of consistency throughout the shot sequence, and help not only on clay targets, but in the field hunting upland & waterfowl as well.
Thanks for reading!
*Note*: Here are two videos of myself shooting, one in real time - one in slow motion to show the swing and follow through in greater detail.
Notice my holdpoint when I call for the bird, the is no movement before I call pull, or when I call pull. If you're yelling "pull" too loud, this can cause muscles to tighten up and you'll potentially get movement in the shotgun.
When I call "pull"... I see the bird and make a fluid motion up to the bird. Once I get to the bird, I pull the trigger (no hesitation), and continue with the follow through until I bring down my gun.