SHOTGUNS and SHE-NANIGANS

For the most recent Q&A, please scroll to the bottom of Elizabeth’s column…

 

SHOTGUNS and SHE-NANIGANS

A WOMAN’S APPROACH TO SHOOTING FOR FUN AND FRIENDSHIP

Written by Elizabeth Lanier

Getting Started

PULL – What can I say?  It is my favorite four-letter word.  Why, you might ask?  Well, it’s the word used to release a clay target, but what it really turns loose is more fun than you can possibly imagine. 

From the moment I step into a shooting box and put two shells in my gun, I cannot help but feel a huge surge of adrenaline and anticipation.  As I close the shotgun and prepare to say “that word”, I have to smile and be thankful for the serendipitous journey that has led me to love saying “PULL,” and beyond.

Several years ago I gave my husband a gift certificate for shooting lessons.  He was already a rifle shooter, and occasionally an upland bird hunter, so I thought a lesson aimed at the clay target disciplines would be a fun gift for him. I went along the day he was supposed to take the first lesson, ended up shooting with him, and I loved it.

Between carpooling three children around, after school activities and keeping up with home and family obligations, I managed to squeeze in (and steal) his remaining shooting lessons.

Somewhere between the love of pulling the trigger, the desire to succeed, and introducing new shooters to this sport, I realized that it was the “why” of the misses and not the “where” that really mattered.

It was the realization of the importance of good first experiences that compelled me to become an instructor. To know that when I was guiding them through their first attempts with a shotgun, that I was setting them up for success.

When I was initially approached about discussing women’s shotgunning and the pros and cons we face, I was not sure if I could bring any new and novel approaches to shooting. The more I thought back on my own progression in this sport, both as a shooter and now as an NSCA Certified Shooting Instructor of men, women and children, I realized what I could do was be a voice of advocacy and assurance for recreational women shooters through my own experiences.

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Elizabeth Lanier

I stress recreational. The women shooters who are proficient competition shooters already know the fun and fulfillment of shooting. They know the skills and intense mental focus required to compete. No doubt it was the pure pleasure of starting as recreational shooters that compelled them to hone those skills.

I believe there are many, many women who, given the proper introduction to the shotgun sports, would not only love this sport, but excel in it as well. So I say if you have thought about it, why not give it a try?

I know, I know…..what do women think of when they hear someone say “shotguns” or “shooting”? They think of a man’s sport, heavy guns, loud noises, camouflage clothing and killing Bambi or Donald Duck. It does not have to be any of that.

As a female shooter I think of the fun and excitement I experience every time I pull the trigger. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I hear the bang and see a clay break.

For women who have family members wanting them to shoot or women who just want to try it, I encourage you to seek out a qualified instructor who will guide you through the learning process, paying careful attention to your eye dominance, good form and proper gun placement in the shoulder. They will know the right gauge gun and the best shell to use for the first lessons.

Many well intended people have introduced women and children to shooting with a favorite old hunting gun and perhaps some left over shells from a duck or goose hunt. “It’s easy, just point and shoot”. Trust me, this is not the best way to get started.

If you have started shooting and are looking for fellow shooters, don’t be afraid to go to a nearby shooting range. I have met many wonderful people in the shooting world at nearby gun clubs.

I met another female shooter, now a friend, at a pheasant shoot. After a brief conversation about finding other women to shoot with occasionally, we exchanged numbers on the only paper we had, shot gun shell box tops, and agreed to meet and shoot. I told her it would be fun to try and get other women shooters to join us and try to shoot on a regular basis. We both knew of a few women who shot with their husbands or kids, or had maybe hunted with their father or grandfather in their lives, so we called them to join us. Before you knew it, we had a women’s shooting group.

We now have about 25 members. We have housewives, garden club members, doctors, lawyers, artists, as well as a pilot and teacher. It is a fun loving, diverse group of women who have gone from shooting once a month to occasional 2 day excursions planned around shooting courses, shopping and all the shenanigans that go along with it all……fun shooting, good gear and great dinners, all topped off with a whole lot of laughs. Every now and then we even let our husbands join us.

Like I said, why not give it a whole hearted try? Whether a beginner or more experienced shooter, there is always merit in good instruction and learning to shoot better and better by building your shooting inventory….to me that includes getting the gear but we will talk about that later.

Women communicate. They will convey their feelings if they are anxious or excited. They are gatherers. They like to understand and replicate instructions and often learn much more by visual demonstrations that just an explanation.

Stay with Shotgun Life….soon we will talk about how we gather information, process it and incorporate it into building that shooting inventory we are talking about. We will also discuss trying to find good “girl” gear, starting women’s shooting groups, shooting and shopping adventures and more. Whew….so much to cover, so little space……….stay tuned.


Elizabeth Lanier is an NSCA Level I instructor based in Virginia. Please send your questions to elanier@shotgunlife.com. Every week, she will update her monthly column by selecting one question and post both the question and answer to her column so that all her readers can benefit.

Question for March 2009:

Hi, Ms. Lanier,

I just recently read your article and like the way you think! Look forward to reading your future articles. I haven’t been shooting very long and would like to know what your opinion is on which choke I should use in Sporting Clays for an over-under gun? I shoot just for fun and camaraderie.

Thank you,

Debbie

Elizabeth’s Answer:

Dear Debbie,

Thanks for your interest and I’m glad to hear you have taken up shooting.

In response to your question about chokes, I will just briefly tell you how they work first. A shotgun choke is a constriction at the end of the barrel of the gun. It tightens the shot string of the pellets just before they leave the barrel. I had an instructor give the analogy that the choke worked much like the nozzle on the end of a garden hose. The more open it is, the more open the spray is as it leaves the hose; and the tighter it is, the further the stream goes before opening up.

The most open choke is a cylinder. Then you have skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified and full chokes. And, to confuse you more, there are choke tubes sizes between many of those.

You stated you are a beginning shooter so I would suggest using skeet chokes in both barrels to begin with, or a skeet choke in the bottom barrel and an improved cylinder in the top as you improve. These chokes work well with light loads such as 7/8 oz. to 1 oz. with number 8 shot.

Cleaning Your Shotgun (Or Not)

Do you really need to clean your shotgun?

You’d be surprised that the answer is: “It depends.”

One 50-year veteran shooter will hardly ever clean his over/under. He’ll go shoot birds in Argentina with a dirty shotgun, spend a few days shooting 4,000 rounds or so — and just keep on shooting without a drop of Hoppe’s ever touching it.

Then there are shotgun owners with semi-automatics that need to give it a good cleaning every 300 rounds or so.

And then of course there are shooters who clean their shotguns after a few rounds of skeet.

What’s right? What’s wrong? Well, it depends.

In this section you learn the ins and outs of proper shotgun care…

  • The importance of a clean shotgun
  • Products that do the job

Read More

Shotgun Chokes

Count yourself lucky that some genius invented the screw-in shotgun choke. Otherwise, you’d probably need five shotguns.

Adjustable shotgun chokes give you the ability to change the pattern of your shot by tailoring the constriction. The baseline constriction is cylinder — or the inner diameter of your barrel. From there, the designations grow tighter. 

Choke Bore Sizes and Constrictions

CYL LTSK SK IMK IC LM M IM LF F XF D
12 Bore .000 N/A .005 N/A .010 .015 .020 .025 .030 .035 .040 .005 and Rifled!
20 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .009 .012 .015 .018 .021 .024 .027 .005 and Rifled!
28 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .009 .012 .015 .018 .021 .024 .027 N/A
.410 Bore .000 .003 .005 .007 .008 .010 .012 .014 .016 .018 .020 N/A

(Courtesy of Briley Mfg.)

*Abbreviations:
CYL = Cylinder
LTSK = Light Skeet
SK = Skeet
IMK = Improved Skeet
IC = Improved Cylinder
LM = Light Modified
M = Modified
IM = Improved Modified
LF = Light Full
F = Full
XF = Extra Full
D = Diffusion
N/A = Not Applicable

Looking at the chart, you’ll see that SK (skeet) imposes a .005% constriction compared to cylinder. Full gives you a .035% constriction. Yes, that’s a 600% difference.

Percentage of Constriction Based on Distance
Choke 20 Yards 30 Yards 40 Yards
Cylinder 80% 60% 40%
Skeet 92% 72% 50%
Improved Cylinder 100% 77% 55%
Modified 100% 83% 60%
Improved Modifiedz 100% 91% 65%
Full 100% 100% 70%

In this chart, you’ll notice that as the choke grows tighter (from cylinder to full) the density of the pattern increases based on distance.

That’s because tight chokes distribute the shot in a tight, dense pattern best for long shots. Open chokes give you a wider, diffused pattern intended for close shots.

If this sounds counter-intuitive, here’s the way it works.

You may be thinking that you want the wider pattern for longer shots because the target is further away. The longer the distance, logic dictates the wider the pattern giving you a better chance to hit the target.

But what you’re not taking into account are the laws of physics.

Smaller shot (which tends to be used for close shots of 16-20 yards) lacks the energy (momentum) to give you accuracy at longer range. The shot spreads willy-nilly and you lose accuracy.

So if you’re going for a long shot, you want to use a bigger pellet in a tighter shot string for an arrow-head effect. Hence, a tighter choke.

For close-range shots, as in skeet, physics dictates that the more pellets you shoot the greater the odds for hitting the target before the smaller (lighter) pellets lose their momentum. So you want to go for a wider choke that lets the smaller, lighter pellets actually swarm around the target while they’re still effective.

Basically, there are three types of chokes.

The fixed choke is already machined into the barrel of the shotgun. You’ll see guns that are designated with skeet chokes, or full and improved cylinder chokes for wingshooting. The type of chokes depends on its specialized use, and will often be accompanied by stock and sight complements.

When you buy a new shotgun, it will include a few screw-in chokes most appropriate for its design. You usually can purchase after-market chokes to fill out your inventory.

Screw in chokes come in two varieties: extended and flush mounted.

Extended chokes protrude above the muzzle and are generally clearly marked; they are designed to be screwed in by hand.

Flush-mounted chokes are screwed entirely into the barrel so that in the end the choke is flush with the muzzle. Newer flush-mounted chokes tend to also be clearly identified. But less expensive or older flush-mounted chokes rely on a notch system to identify their constriction.

Choke Notches
Cylinder /////
Skeet /////
Improved Cylinder ////
Modified ///
Improved Modified //
Full /

Then there’s the adjustable choke. This is a single choke with multiple settings. Turn the selector to set the most appropriate constriction.

Once you have the choke installed, it’s best to pattern it on paper.

You’ll need a pattern target and something disposable to mount it on.

Typically, you’d want to be about 40 yards from your “pattern board.” Draw a 30-inch circle around the center of the pattern and then count the pellets as a means to determine the accuracy of your choke. A full choke should put 70% of its pellets in a 30″ circle at 40 yards. A modified choke should put 60% of its pellets in the circle. And an improved cylinder should give you 50%.

Perhaps the biggest risk with chokes is that they become a crutch.

For example, if you consistently missed the #3 station on skeet with a skeet choke, moving to a wider cylinder choke probably won’t help. After all, if you’re on the target, you’re on it. The same can be said of most other clays sports.

Missing shots is generally not a function of your choke selection. It’s a function of your skill, technique and body mechanics.

The worst mistake you can make with a choke is using it as an excuse for missed shots.

If you have a problem station, and you’re using the recommended choke, the best thing you can do is practice, practice, practice.

Helpful links:

http://www.mynssa.com/

http://www.shootata.com/

http://www.trapshooters.com/

http://www.ushelice.com/

http://www.nrahq.org/education/training/basictraining.asp

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