By Chris Batha
In just about every sport, training aids are used to examine faults, recognize causes and determine the corrections needed to fix them. Oddly, to this point little use has been made of technology in shooting instruction, as most coaching is still “over the shoulder” analysis. For example, when a shot is missed, often a coach will offer advice to turn the subsequent shot into a hit. By doing this, however, the coach in effect has shot the target for the student. Even though the second shot may be successful, the student has not learned why the first shot was a miss.
For the past several years, starting with videos on YouTube and claycoachonline.com, I have been using various coaching aids to help students better understand the “whys” of a miss. When fault, cause and correction can be shown in videos in the same manner that they can be in golf and tennis (as coaches in those sports have been doing forever), lessons seem to sink in faster and have longer-lasting effects.
The following advice and suggestions can be helpful to individuals as well as coaches—especially those involved in youth shooting, as the younger generation is so used to using technology.
My first recommendation is the coaching app “Hudl Technique: Slow Motion Video Analysis.” This is a free app that can be downloaded to a smartphone or an iPad. It is simplicity itself, as you just open the app and film your friend or student shooting. I usually film several shots: from behind, from both sides and with closeups of the head position and gun mount. In the playback—which can be done in real time or with several slow-motion settings—you can draw lines showing incorrect positions versus the optimum position. You also can show other faults, determine their causes and suggest corrections.
I use the Hudl Technique when doing gunfittings, to show clients their gun-mounting errors and help correct them. If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then this coaching app is worth a million!
One of the most consistent faults I see in both clay target shooting and bird hunting is the seesaw, or rock-and-roll, gun mount. It is the most frequent cause of inconsistent shooting and many misses. For years I have advised students to hang a mirror at eye height on the wall of a den or garage and, standing in front of it, adopt the correct stance and posture, then mount the gun from the ready position to the cheek while watching their reflection for unwanted movements.
This always was taught as the best gun-mount drill, and it still is. It is simple and, properly practiced, surprisingly effective. To improve the practice, I had the idea of attaching a tilt switch to the barrel of the gun that would beep if the gun were incorrectly mounted with the seesaw movement; however, I could never get the switch compact enough to get it to market. I still have all of the prototypes in the barn.
This is another great coaching tool that offers excellent feedback for coaches and students alike.
A few years later my friend Keith Appleton, inventor of the Arrow Laser Shot (another excellent training tool), contacted me and asked if he could run with the idea. He now has created an app called “GunMountPro” ($9.99), which can be downloaded and, with your phone attached with a small bungy to your empty gun, will perfect your gun mount whether you are shooting anything from an upland bird to a driven or passing shot to all clay presentations. This app is a must for FITASC competitors.
Once you have perfected your gun mount, you may need a little more feedback than “You’re behind it.” For several years I have been using the ShotKam ($695), and now I am using the third-generation, 2018 version. The ability of the ShotKam to link with Wi-Fi and then to my iPad has enabled me to fix it to and align it with clients’ shotguns.
Then I have the clients take shots at their problem targets, and I am able to give them instant feedback on exactly where they are missing. It is remarkable to actually see the difference in barrel-target alignment from what they thought was right to what the target really needed to hit it.
A year ago while attending the IWA show in Germany, I came across another gun camera called AimCam ($229). This is another fully adjustable point-of-view camera, but this one is built into a pair of shooting glasses. This viewpoint allows the shooter to precisely align the micro-camera in the direction being shot, and the recordings can be kept on an SD card in the glasses frame or loaded directly to any iOS or Android device. There is also a free AimCam app that, once downloaded onto an iOS or Android device, can be connected to (the AimCam has built in Wi-Fi) in order to allow live-streaming. This way the coach can see on the screen exactly what the student is seeing. The app has a wide range of features, including slow-motion replay, wide dynamic range (to balance dark and bright light) and more.
This is another great coaching tool that offers excellent feedback for coaches and students alike. The only problem I have encountered in using it is that you need to wear contact lenses or have 20-20 vision, as the AimCam shooting glasses will not fit over prescription glasses. (A note on the website says that a prescription mount is coming soon.)
All of the above coaching tools and suggestions can be used by individuals to help solve those “problem target” conundrums. However, they will never take the place of a real “over the shoulder” coach who can solve the mystery misses and glitches that can haunt us all!