Learn From The Best by Robert R. Comal

n this edition of “Learn From The Best,” I review Chris Batha’s very comprehensive book on shotgunning, Breaking Clays, and Paul Giambrone III’s new DVD, Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet. Both are available from Shootin’ Accessories.

Chris Batha’s “Breaking Clays”

Chris Batha is a world–renowned shotgun shooting instructor and gun fitter. Chris has amassed over 30 years of experience in wing and competitive clay shooting. He was formerly the chief instructor and gun fitter for E.J. Churchill Gunmakers in London and served as the director of the British Clay Pigeon Shooting Association. He is also a Contributing Editor to Shotgun Sports magazine. Chris’ qualifications (of which there are more) make him a prime candidate to author a book on shotgun shooting. I have read many books on the principles of shooting, the techniques of better clay target shooting and gunfitting; however, until I read Chris’ book, I never fully realized how much there was to understand about it all.

Breaking Clays - Target Tactics, Tips & Techniques by Chris Batha

In the 19 chapters, Chris relates to readers a compacted collection of the knowledge he has gained throughout his many years as both a successful shooting instructor and gun fitter. He has put together one of the most comprehensive books on the subject of shooting sporting clays and shotgunning in general. Every topic a beginning or intermediate, even advanced, shotgunner might want to know about is discussed in Breaking Clays.

Chris begins with a chapter relating the history of the various clay target games. The target games as we know them today came from live–pigeon shooting in England. (Oh, this may be a good place to mention for those who are not familiar with Chris Batha, he is a British gentleman, and his book is filled with colorful phrases and analogies not heard with any regularity in the States.) His detailed descriptions of how the games were set up and executed caught my full attention.

Chris continues with a brief history of the evolution of the targets that eventually became the clay birds we are familiar with today. These clay “pigeons” became the standard targets shot in the three most popular disciplines — trap, skeet and sporting clays. Chapter 1 includes vintage illustrations of the early target–launching devices known as traps.

Chapter 2 discusses safety and proper gun handling. Chris begins the chapter with, “Clay pigeon shooting has one of the most enviable safety records of any sport, and it is important to maintain this high standard. When a newcomer is introduced to the sport, the first lesson should be an overview of safety and gun handling. Because we use a shotgun in a recreational sport in the same manner as a golf club or tennis racquet, we must never forget its lethal qualities.” Chris is depicted demonstrating the proper manner for removing a shotgun from a gun slip (zippered case) and acceptable, as well as not acceptable, ways to carry a break–open and semi–auto. The Ten Commandments of Safety are addressed, and photos and illustrations of possible damage to the gun when the wrong gauge shells are inserted into the breech emphasize the potential for hazards.

Chapter 3 is “The Shotgun Defined.” The types of shotguns are discussed and shown, and the advantages and disadvantages of each — sidelock, boxlock and trigger plate. Chris gives readers bits of advice on the buying of a shotgun — whether to buy new or used, how to be sure the gun fits your budget as well as your discipline, etc. Chris includes a large variety of topics related to shotguns: longer versus shorter barrels, mechanics, ballistics, velocity and patterns, ribs, beads, weight, balance, grips, triggers, stocks, recoil and much more. This chapter even provides readers with Chris’ conception of the ideal sporting clays gun, a recommended maintenance routine, as well as what a good cleaning kit should include. Chapter 3 is so full of useful and valuable information, I’m sure you will soon have it dog–eared or pasted with Post–it® notes for future reference.

Chapter 4 covers targets, chokes and cartridges. Target types — the different sizes, colors and vulnerability and the traps that throw them and their flight characteristics are discussed and explained.

Chokes — their origin, history, function and development — are just one of the topics also covered in Chapter 4. Shotgun chokes, as you probably know, is a subject that can easily fill an entire book on its own, as it has done a number of times. Chris condenses a great deal of information into one chapter and sprinkles information throughout the remainder of the book. Charts illustrating pellet percentages downrange from various choke constrictions are provided.

Chris makes reference to the development of the Winchester Winchoke as a significant step toward choke variability. He also makes prominent mention of the refining of this technology by Jess Briley of Houston, Texas. Jess, he said, “…created a system wherein any shotgun could have the barrels machined and threaded and, by screwing in matched tubes, the choke could be adjusted to suit the target! This ultimately revolutionized the clay target gun.”

Cartridges, another voluminous topic, are also discussed in Chapter 4. Their function, components, effects on patterns, speed and how it affects lead, patterns, cartridge/choke combinations and much more are covered in this section.

Chapter 5 is “Equipment and Accessories: Essential and Recom–mended.” Chris’ expert advice and recommendations on everything from shooting glasses to vests, gloves, shoes, toe pads, pouches, gear bags and even equipment carts will have you well set up with proper and efficient gear for sporting clays.

Chapter 6 covers eye dominance. Chris describes the absolute importance of having a complete knowledge of what eye dominance is, which eye is your master or dominant eye and what can affect dominance. This chapter covers in very good detail influences over eye dominance as we age and as we get tired. It explains how you can obscure the dominant eye to allow shouldering the gun on the opposite side. This chapter held my attention throughout!

With 13 more chapters to cover, even a skimming review does not allow enough space. Rest assured, Chris Batha’s Breaking Clays is one of the most fact, tip, suggestion and recommendation–filled books you will find anywhere on the subject of shooting and, specifically, taking sporting clays targets. Foot positions, weight distribution, posture, balance, proper hand and grip positions, stock dimensions, recoil reduction and control, head position, gun mount, proper lead acquisition for different targets, how to compete, the mental game and much, much more can be found here, aided by excellent photos and illustrations. Order a copy today and start shooting better tomorrow!

“Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet” With Paul Giambrone III

Sunrise Productions, producers and distributors of clay target instructional DVDs by most of the top national and world competitors, recently released their newest instruction DVD for the game of skeet. In this latest DVD, Sunrise Productions teamed up with one of the hottest rising stars of skeet, Paul Giambrone III.

Those of you who have been shooting skeet competitively and traveling the circuit to even a small degree have probably heard of Paul Giambrone III or perhaps “L.P.” Giambrone; that’s Paul’s nickname and stands for “Little Paul.” Paul has made a name for himself by winning many championship titles at some of the largest skeet competitions around the country. At the 2011 NSSA World Skeet Championships, Paul won the 28 Gauge Championship, as well as many of the year–end High Average Awards.

Skeet is a game of being perfect. The introduction of Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet has Sunrise Production’s President Bruce Scott explaining it’s not difficult to hit any of the targets in a round of skeet, but it’s more difficult to break all 25 targets in a round, and to be able to score a 100–straight, you have to break that 25 three more times, and that’s very hard. Moreover, if you wish to become the high overall champion at a shoot, you have to run the 100 four more times, and that’s extremely difficult. But there are shooters who do it and are consistent at it. Paul Giambrone III is one of those extraordinary shooters.

Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet with Paul Giambrone, III

Paul begins by thanking David and Mary Hebert for letting him film his video at the Lafayette Skeet Academy. Paul then begins his instruction by describing the importance of determining your dominant eye. He uses some common and accepted methods for determining eye dominance. Paul stresses that eye–dominance issues are best handled on a case–by–case basis, so it’s optimal to have your eye dominance determined properly and, if necessary, spend time with a professional instructor to determine your eye dominance and/or corrective measures.

Paul’s next advice has to do with the three main points of his foundation for skeet: stance, gun mount and gun fit. Paul says these three points are dependent on each other. The analogy he uses is of a stool; if one of the legs is weak, the stool will be wobbly and fall over. With regard to stance, Paul suggests the stability of having the feet set parallel and shoulder–width apart or slightly wider. The added range of motion provided by having the toes pointed out slightly is also included in his advice.

A proper gun mount is Paul’s next topic of instruction. He shows the viewer several common methods of mounting the gun to the face and shoulder that are less–than–desirable for a consistent mount. He also shows the preferred method for achieving and maintaining a consistent mount.

Gun fit, the last of the three main points vital for a good foundation in skeet, is Paul’s next topic. He demonstrates with his gun how length–of–pull (LOP) is important in helping to assure a good gun mount. Paul explains if your face is improperly positioned on the stock’s comb, it may be an improper gun mount that’s the problem and not so much a dimensional LOP problem.

Correct and incorrect sight pictures along the rib are described and shown with the use of the exclusive EYE–CAM®, a device that lets the viewer see just what the instructor sees along the rib of the gun. Paul reiterates that stance, mount and fit are interdependent, and a shooter must have all three right if he or she wants to produce that desirable foundation for perfect skeet.

In “Developing A Shot Plan,” Paul tells viewers his personal shot plan consists of four parts: foot position on the station, hold point for each target, look point and break point or break zone for each target. Paul demonstrates hold and break points on the field with the use of small stacks of targets. This is not a bad way to practice getting your hold and break points grooved, but it’s not allowed in sanctioned tournaments.

Paul begins his instruction on Station 1 with a view of him shooting a high–house target as seen through the EYE–CAM®. You’ll notice Paul makes very little barrel movement on this target before he crushes it. He makes an aggressive move on this bird because he wants to take it before the wind affects it.

Foot position for both right and left–handed shooters is described and shown. Hold point, look point and break point for the high house on Station 1 are shown. Paul emphasizes a shooter needs to have a hard focus on the bird after it emerges from the house, but your eyes should settle, not be moving around, before the call. Looking in the right spot is important, but so is how your eyes are used on each bird.

The low–house target at Station 1 is next. Paul stresses shooters should attain the same foot position for the low–house target as they have for the high–house bird. He does not like shooters to move from one foot position for the high–house single bird, another position for the low–house single and then back to the first position for Doubles. He tells the home viewers this creates additional target angles the shooter will have to learn. Not what you want to do!

Paul’s great use of the EYE–CAM® and over–the–shoulder views demonstrates many things to the viewer at home, one of which is his sustained–lead technique on the targets. The sustained–lead method is the preferred technique among the majority of competitive skeet shooters around the country, and indeed the world. The Sunrise Productions’ EYE–CAM® shows lead–acquiring methods wonderfully to the viewer.

Doubles at Station 1 are next. After an EYE–CAM® view of a pair of Doubles targets, Paul’s first words are that Doubles are not as scary as most people make them out to be, and you need to go into them with a game plan and confidence. Paul tells viewers they should remember Doubles are “…no more than two single shots put together.” Paul assures viewers if they break the first target with an aggressive move in the break zone of 10–15 feet before the stake, they’ll have plenty of time to move the gun out of the way to see the low–house target coming, track it and shoot it.

Paul finishes his instruction at Station 1 by going over some common mistakes he sees shooters making there, mistakes such as incorrect hold points (gun too high or too low to see the bird well) and incorrect foot positions. Additionally, Paul tells viewers choosing a foot position closer to the front or rear of the pad is strictly a personal preference. There are negatives and positives to being at the rear or front of the pad.

One thing you’ll notice about Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet has nothing to do with the instruction. The zydeco music riffs that accompany the segues from one chapter to the next are a nice piece of additional production value. My guess is the music is homage to Paul’s home state of Louisiana.

Paul discusses the shot plan for Station 2 in much the same manner he did at Station 1 — foot position, hold point, eye look point and break zone. Once again, the exclusive EYE–CAM® allows the viewer at home to see just what Paul sees when he makes his shots. Some digital graphics help as well, letting the viewer see exactly where in the air the suggested hold and break points are located.

Paul makes several shots on the high–house single bird at Station 2 and the low–house and then demonstrates the Doubles birds at Station 2. Paul once again describes to the viewer common mistakes he sees at Station 2, such as a too–close or too–far hold point for the high–house and Doubles birds and look points too close or too far for the high and low house.

Paul tells viewers the angle the shooter is placed on the pad at Station 2 in relation to the high house versus the angle at Station 1 necessitates acquiring the first target on the Doubles as close as possible to the two–thirds marker to allow time to acquire, track and shoot the second target, the low–house bird. Another mistake Paul sees on the Doubles at Station 2 is a shooter trying to take the high–house bird too soon. Paul says shooters might get a little anxious on the first bird because the angle makes it appear it’s getting away quickly and shooters will often rush it.

Before Paul gets into his instruction on Station 3, he gives a nice plug for one of his sponsors, Kolar Arms. Because the game of skeet requires precise shots executed with a high degree of consistency, instruction for skeet can begin to sound very repetitive. Paul often makes comments during the video like, “I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record” or “I know this is starting to sound repetitive.” I will say Paul’s instruction monologue for Stations 3, 4 and 5 are all very similar (they can’t help but be similar), but they all include well–described shot plans that include hold points, look points, hard and soft focus and break points for each bird from the high and low house. All of which are benefited by ample use of the EYE–CAM® and over–the–shoulder views.

Paul’s first words about foot position at Station 6 are that the shooter needs to find a position he or she is comfortable with for the high–house single bird, the low–house bird and both targets of the Doubles. This is the same advice he provided at Stations 1 and 2 on the other side of the field. The views seen through the EYE–CAM® are invaluable to help viewers see just what Paul is describing with regard to lead pictures and barrel speed. Paul begins his advice on the low–house single bird, describing the target as “…giving every skeet shooter added stress they don’t need.” I have to admit, I watched this DVD with anticipation of what Paul was going to say about this target.

Paul says there is nothing special about the low–house single on Station 6. There are a few great tips Paul gives the viewer to help relieve a lot of the anxiety you might get when you come to Station 6 and have to take on the low–house birds. Instead of divulging them here, I’ll let you hear and see them for yourself when you view the DVD. With Doubles at Station 6, just like at Stations 1 and 2, Paul stresses the shot on the first bird is taken in the same manner, just like a single bird. EYE–CAM® and over–the–shoulder views reinforce Paul’s advice on this tough station.

Many shooters take targets at Station 7 for granted, particularly the low house. Paul says he has seen many top skeet shooters drop a target to ruin a 100–straight because they believed after clearing Station 6, Stations 7 and 8 were in the bag. Paul says Low–7 deserves great respect and attention, as it is so easy to take for granted. Paul describes the low bird at Station 7 and says he likes to take it aggressively in order to prevent any action by the wind affecting the target. I know there have been more than a few times I’ve taken the Station 7 low–house bird for granted, and it always cost me.

There is a change in Paul’s instruction on Station 8 with regard to hold and look points on High–8. He mentions it is best to use the edge of the window to gauge the position of your hold point. Many shooters will use the edge of the building instead of the edge of the window, and this can be critical, as not all skeet houses are constructed in the same manner when it comes to the distance to the edge of the building from the edge of the window. Also, High–8 is the first place were Paul suggests placing your eye look point at the edge of the window with a soft visual focus.

Paul also describes some bad habits shooters can get into at High–8, like rolling or dipping the shoulders as they track the target to the break point. Once again, the EYE–CAM® shows you just what Paul is talking about as he shoots the targets.

Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet finishes up with a talk between Paul and Bruce Scott. Paul’s suggested hold points and look points are meant to be used as guidelines, and he tells Bruce many of the suggestions he makes can be tweaked to personal preference. He cautions shooters to avoid hold and look points that are too extreme for efficient gun movement.

Other topics are briefly talked about. One is “the flash.” This is the initial early view of the target the eye sees as the target emerges from the house and into the shooter’s field of view. Bruce asks about Paul’s habit of making a small “negative move” as he calls for the bird, and Paul says “This is not necessarily recommended.” It’s just something he does, a personal thing.

Your Foundation For Perfect Skeet is a DVD you’ll get much from. I suggest you order one right now and get to work on your winning shot plans.