A reader is a bit confused about lead and targets and needs enlightening. Adam Calvert advises …

Getting lead right in shooting
Woodland drives often call for instinctive shooting, so it can therefore be difficult to measure lead accurately

Q: I want to try and understand more about lead. Some people say give the target 5ft while others say a couple of inches. Can you help me see the light? 

A: The differing amounts of lead that people see on targets can be one of the most talked about subjects in the shooting community. The first thing to understand is that we all see lead differently, and if you try to use someone else’s picture it can create lots of problems or, more importantly, lots of misses. I tend to think that lead pictures fall into three basic theories…

  1. The ‘no lead’ theory. Many people say they are not aware of giving lead and as a result never see lead. I tend to find these people increase or decrease their lead by swinging the gun faster or slower, in some cases there is almost a flick just before squeezing the trigger. The actual lead they perceive therefore isn’t any different and people using this method would therefore argue they don’t give lead. This is very much a subconscious movement and as a result is totally unmeasured and therefore difficult for the shooter to quantify. It relies on the natural ability of the shooter squeezing the trigger at the appropriate time.

  2. Lead at the bird. This is lead that is actually seen by the shooter at the bird which is usually talked about in feet, yards or sometimes metres, for example: “I have given that target three feet”, and the shooter genuinely believes this is the distance in front of the target they have fired.
  3. Lead at the gun. This is lead that is seen at the gun end, i.e. I move the gun a centimetre and that is my lead. This can be talked about in centimetres, inches or, I find, is often best described by a gap between people’s thumb and finger! The advantages of using method No.1 is it creates a very natural swing and the people who use this system rarely stop the gun or check their swing. We have all experienced this method whilst shooting in tight woodland rides where there simply isn’t time to measure. The disadvantages are it is often difficult to shoot higher or more distant birds using this method due to it being difficult to give large amounts lead. The advantages of method No.2 and No.3 are they allow good subconscious lead pictures to be created that the shooter can use to get the right lead in all circumstances, whether the targets be near or far. It also results in consistent shooting once a clear lead picture has been established. The disadvantages of both method No.2 and No.3 are it can create measured shooting usually resulting in the shooter checking their swing and glancing back to the end of the muzzle. It can also be difficult to measure clear pictures in fast, reactive situations, i.e. a woodland ride. For the best results, in my opinion, you need to be able to use a combination of method No.1 along with either No.2 or No.3.

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