Learn From The Best by Robert R. Comal

rapshooters will be glad to hear about the new DVD set from Leo Harrison III. Leo is a great guy and a fantastic competitor, and now he shares his secrets and coaching tips. But first, here’s a great new book sporting clays shooters will want to check out. It’s about time somebody put out a book that helps you develop the skills needed for this challenging sport!

Shooting Sporting Clays
By Mark Brannon & Tom Hanrahan

Shooting Sporting Clays

There you are, sitting in your comfortable chair at home, still trying to figure out why you scored so poorly at your club’s sporting clays tournament last weekend. The crossers weren’t that fast or far. The rabbits didn’t have too much angle on them. You just seemed to be a little off.

It might be time to settle down with a good book. No, not some Tom Clancy thriller or anything like that. A good book that can educate you on the proper basics, stance, position, swing dynamics, gun fit and other subjects pertaining to your sporting clays shooting. A good book that can help you get back on track to better scores. Such a book is available with the title, appropriately enough, Shooting Sporting Clays.

Shooting Sporting Clays was jointly penned by Mark Brannon and Tom Hanrahan. Mark is an NSCA Master Class sporting clays competitor, as well as a member of the 2009 and 2010 NSCA Zone 1 (Northeastern United States) All Star Teams. Mark has been helping other shooters improve their game for more than 20 years. Tom was a struggling sporting clays shooter who had been a bird hunter most of his life. When he began shooting sporting, he found the game a bit tough to get a handle on. He enlisted the help of Mark. From that teacher/student relationship and combined personal experiences, this book was born.

The foreword in Shooting Sporting Clays was written by a gentleman who knows a thing or two about good sporting clays instruction, 14–time NSCA All–American and 2008 U.S. Open and National Champion Anthony I. Matarese, Jr. (see “Look Who’s Talking, September 2008). Borrowing from Anthony’s comments: “The complexity and dynamic of sporting clays can be a bit overwhelming for new shooters… Whether you’re a new shooter or a very experienced shooter, you will surely learn from this book. Greatness is not born, it’s grown, and this book will help you understand how.”

I agree with Anthony. From the foreword to the last page, Shooting Sporting Clays provides the reader all he or she needs to begin their personal journey of learning the art of shooting a shotgun proficiently in sporting clays. Everything you need to understand about proper and safe gun handling, eye and ear protection, action types to consider, the effects of recoil, stance, swing, techniques for acquiring forward allowance, the finer points of the mental game, and… well, just be assured your copy of this book will be dog–eared and have Post–It® notes all over after you read it. There’s so much to learn from it.

As an example: Are you having trouble with Rabbit targets? Here’s a tip from the book: “Use your heaviest shell with plenty of choke. If you’re unsure of the correct lead, shorten it. It doesn’t take as much as you think.” That’s funny. All the Rabbits I’ve ever shot at seemed to need a Suburban’s length to hit ’em.

The chapters in Shooting Sporting Clays are filled with information that will benefit younger, inexperienced clay–target shooters, moderately advanced shooters and even the higher–classed, more experienced target shooters. Anyone who’s ever been a little befuddled by what choke and load to use will gain a potential target or two by heeding the advice Mark provides in the book and Appendix B at the back of the book. Appendix B is a chart you might be familiar with. It’s the popular Choke Chart published by places like Gil and Vicki Ash’s OSP Shooting School and Briley. This chart gives in–depth recommendations and helpful information regarding the type of target being shot at, the distance of the target, the choke, shot size and even the square inches of surface area a particular presentation gives you to look at.

All through this book, readers not only get Mark’s tips and recommendations, they also get to read Tom’s take on things (titled “Tom’s Take”). These are inserts in the chapters in Tom’s own words giving readers Tom’s personal opinion on some of the topics. Tom’s take on shooting with confidence probably mirrors how many of us feel before we shoot a tournament. He says he suffers from performance anxiety at tournaments, gets sweaty palms and forgets everything he was taught, then shoots like an amateur, taking all the fun out of the event for him. Mark suggested Tom take at least a couple shots with his gun at the first station to get the feel of the shooting. “Tom’s Take” is an interesting part of this book.

I particularly gained insight from reading and re–reading Chapter 5 — Gun Swing and Speed. This chapter helped me determine I sometimes tend to swing my gun with just my arms, mostly due to my feet being improperly positioned prior to calling for the bird. This will help a lot in my next league shoot or tournament.

These tips and much more can be found in Mark Brannon and Tom Hanrahan’s new book, Shooting Sporting Clays. Buy a couple. You’ll want to keep one with you so you can study it in spare moments and one at home to read leisurely. Then buy one for your best friend so he/she can shoot better right along with you!

The Biggest Winner
2 DVD set by Leo Harrison III

Sunrise Productions has for many years been providing clay–target enthusiasts with great instructional videos. Their DVDs are naturally aimed at helping shooters gain more confidence and better technique and improve proficiency. The hallmark of Sunrise Productions’ videos has always been the quality and stature of the featured instructor. Their latest shotgun instructional DVD features one of the greatest trapshooting competitors of all time, none other than Leo Harrison III. Attempting to list Leo’s major trap accomplishments in the limited allotted space for this article would be an exercise in futility. I’ll just give you a hint: 39 placements on the All–American Team, 24 Grand American titles and 12–time All–American Team Captain. Leo’s credentials more than speak for themselves.

Sunrise Productions made the marketing decision to disseminate Leo’s teachings in the form of a pair of DVDs. One is titled “Proven Techniques for Singles and Handicap,” while the other is “Doubles Techniques and My Mental Game.” The former lasts 1 hour and 49 minutes, while the latter runs 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Being that Doubles is my personal favorite of the three trap games, I watched this DVD first to see what Leo had to relay that might help my struggling Doubles game. This Doubles DVD contains eight chapters of shooting instruction and advice from Leo, including one chapter on reloading and a chat with Leo conducted by Bruce Scott of Sunrise Productions.

Doubles Techniques and My Mental Game

Leo starts the Doubles disc with his philosophy that he wants to be the most dominant and relentless competitor he can possibly be and win every event he enters. This might come as a bit of a surprise to those who have met Leo and know his gentle, soft–spoken nature, but not when you take into consideration all his accomplishments.

Leo speaks to the viewer about not advocating a certain style or having students in his clinics shoot the way he does. He understands individuals have a unique set of skills they bring with them, and he wants his students to learn to develop that which works for them to better develop their own style. Those words were welcomed news to my ears. It’s my opinion the better the teacher, the more he or she wishes the student to develop their own manner of performing once the proven fundamentals are in place.

Leo makes a powerful statement when he tells viewers, “People ask me how many All–Americans I have produced. The answer is zero. They did that all by themselves. That kind of dedication comes from inside each individual shooter. That’s something that can’t be taught, only honed. I try to point them in the right direction, and that’s about where my responsibility ends.” Excellent point!

“Physical Preparation,” “Mental Preparation,” “Reading The Field,” “Concentration” and “Dealing With Pressure” are a few of the other valuable and very insightful chapters. Then Leo describes his advice for shooting Doubles.

During this segment, the viewer gets to see a lot of colored flash targets broken by Leo while he uses Sunrise Production’s exclusive Eye–Cam®. Leo provides his Doubles instruction mainly by way of a sort of one–on–one session with the viewer using interjections of the Eye–Cam® segments. The targets seen broken through the Eye–Cam® are shown in slow motion. This is more beneficial than trying to watch targets being broken in real time. The smooth, precise movements of Leo’s Beretta DT10 gun barrel are much better viewed in slow motion. Additionally, the target’s angle of emergence and flight path relative to the shooter’s position on the pad are more noticeable.

Eye and gun hold points are discussed. In this segment, Leo provided me with a tip that should have come to me on my own. He suggests a two–eyed shooter (me) who wishes to look over his gun barrel for the target (me) probably needs to have his gun hold point closer to the roof of the traphouse, within a foot, he says. This has proven to be a boon for my Doubles, as well as useful in my Singles game, too. I might be a bit odd, but I feel a little uncomfortable looking downward through the gun to see the emergence of the target. Leo’s suggestion made sense to me and proved to help. Leo’s suggestions for one–eyed shooters should help many trapshooters who close their off eye or tape the lens of their shooting glasses on that eye.

Leo also tells viewers what chokes and loads he uses for Doubles. He uses a fairly light amount of choke for the first shot, about a Light Modified. He uses a Full choke for the second shot. His loads are a 2¾–dram equivalent load with 1 ounce of No. 8s for the first shot and a 2¾–dram 1–1/8 ounce load of 7½s for the second shot. Leo also shares the second–bird fodder is the same as what he uses for his Singles targets.

Leo takes to the field to show viewers what he does and suggests they do to take Doubles targets. He describes his prescribed methods on each pad relating to eye hold points, gun hold points, lead techniques and the path of the gun barrel to the second bird after the first shot. He describes it as a sort of shallow U movement.

In this segment, Leo’s initial pairs shown through the Eye–Cam® are real–time targets. The action happens quite fast and is a bit hard to follow, but subsequent Eye–Cam® views are slow motion, and it is much easier to observe the targets, barrel movements and how they relate to one another.

I particularly appreciated Leo’s explanation of the type of timing in Doubles he believes to be proper and beneficial. He tells viewers you do not have to shoot both shots Bang–Bang in rapid timing. He prefers the time be “banked” for the second shot by “pushing the envelope” a little with a quick shot on the first bird and using the banked time to better take the second bird. I know many shooters, especially younger shooters with great reflexes and hand/eye coordination, who attempt to take both birds with very fast–triggered shots, trying to take both birds before they come close to reaching the apex of the flight path and gain distance from them. Sometimes they can pull it off; oftentimes not. Leo’s suggestions on timing for Doubles pairs makes great sense to me. This section will help every trapshooter who enjoys the Doubles discipline.

The next chapter has Leo explaining the options available to play at many shoots. Leo also discusses shotshell reloading. Leo and Bruce Scott have a conversation on the trap field about his gun and loads and his views on release triggers, one–eyed shooters, lens colors and more. This chapter was most interesting to me.

Proven Techniques for Singles and Handicap

In “Proven Techniques for Singles and Handicap Trap” (surely intended as the first of two individual instructional DVDs), Leo speaks early on about his “interesting journey,” his career in trapshooting. He wishes viewers to use this video set as “…an informational tool, a reference work you can repeatedly come back to as your shooting style progresses.” Leo explains his suggestions pertaining to gun safety, eye and ear protection, gun fit, head and neck positioning on the mounted gun (Leo calls this “face–to–gun contact”), hand position and more in the early segment of this DVD.

In Leo’s explanation on mechanics, he covers the concept of weight balance and how he prefers his students to attain and maintain a balanced position before, during and after the shot is taken. This differs a bit from what he calls “the conventional wisdom” that dictates a shooter’s weight should be more situated on the front foot in an effort to combat the recoil of the fired shot. Leo also expounds on swing movement, foot positions on each station, the geometry of the trap field and what he calls “The Most Favorite Axis.” This is a term he uses to describe the natural and comfortable stance with regard to foot placement a shooter assumes when he makes a shot. With the help of some graphically enhanced views of the trap bunker, Leo describes the flight paths of targets as seen from each station. Hold points and focus points are then discussed and explained.

Pre–shot routine is the main topic of the next chapter, and here Leo explains to viewers the value of having a mental checklist of steps to be taken and made sure of before the call for the target is made. He stresses also in this chapter the importance of a still gun. Leo tells viewers he wants every shooter to make it a point in their personal game to keep a still gun before the call for the bird. Moving my gun is a habit I am often guilty of and need to rid myself of.

Gun fit and patterning are topics of the next chapter on this DVD. Leo explains the method a shooter should use to ascertain the percentage and height of the center of a pattern shot on paper. He also tells viewers he is a proponent of tight chokes. He believes tighter chokes force the shooter to become a more precise gun pointer. He does not feel shooters should rely on pattern size to get fringe hits; he would rather the shooter rely on his pointing ability to put the reliable pattern size on the target each and every time. This allows the shooter to learn more about his pointing on the target and make the proper adjustments. Leo’s philosophy is being a precision gun pointer beats being lucky every time, and any choke is okay… as long as it’s a Full choke!

Shooting from the 16–yard line is next up. Leo takes the viewer from Station 1 to 5. With the use of over–the–shoulder camera views and Eye–Cam® views in both real time and slow motion, the viewer gets to see Leo’s technique on each shot taken. The Eye–Cam® view in real time is quick. The slow–motion views showed me a lot I did not first catch in real time. You will likely notice, like I did, a bit of barrel cant to the left in Leo’s Eye–Cam® views. It doesn’t seem to hinder Leo any; he boiled each and every target.

When shooting 27–yard Handicap targets on this DVD, Leo begins by informing viewers there are some advantages to shooting Handicap over Singles at the 16–yard line; however, these advantages are overwhelmed by the disadvantages when shooting long yardage. Barrel movement to the bird must be more precise due to the increased distance to the target and the increase in required lead. Because the targets appear to be smaller from the longer yardage, your visual acuity needs to be that much more deliberate, as well. The increased leads needed and intense precision of bead–to–bird placement at long yardage makes Handicap a much more difficult game.

With the aid of the exclusive Eye–Cam® and over–the shoulder camera views, Leo demonstrates his gun hold points, eye focus points, leads and barrel movements from each station along the 27–yard line. He makes it look easy. What came as a bit of a surprise to me was to actually hear Leo say he fears targets on the trap field. He says the hard right at Station 5 is the target he fears the most. Well, that made me feel better knowing I’m in good company on that target!

The next–to–last chapter on this DVD has Leo describing his philosophy on practice sessions, when to practice and how. He recalls how, when he was a young shooter, his shooting sessions were primarily practice shooting as he searched to better develop his style and find the best gun for him. As he developed, he began to train more than practice, working on specific elements of his game. In this chapter, Leo also tells viewers he uses certain drills for the students in his clinics. The one he describes has students mounting their guns and not calling for the bird but having to wait for a bird to be thrown for them. The purpose of the drill is to train the shooter to keep the gun still until he/she sees the target in the air, not to move before a bird is presented. Leo also says he uses video filming in his clinics and advocates shooters doing the same during their shooting to review and learn from later.

In the final segments of this DVD, Leo describes the equipment he uses: his loads in Singles, Handicap and Doubles; the gun he uses; the reloader he uses; and his preference in lens colors. The obligatory sponsor plugs and a few quick tips pertaining to the mental aspect of competing make up the last few minutes. Leo also invites viewers to participate in his clinics.

Leo came across to me as a very detail–oriented person while stressing simplicity in his videos. His clinics are very popular and, although this DVD set is not a recorded session of one of those, the viewer will gain a unique look into how Leo thinks and processes information, how he handles stress and, most importantly, how he teaches and what he expects his students to learn from him. You’ll surely gain a great deal from this 2–DVD set by Leo Harrison III and will want to watch it many times and refer to it often when your game needs a little pick–me–up.

Check out this unique DVD set in our online store.