The Churchill Method can dramatically improve your shotgun results
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
When you're out shooting clays with your shotgun, you've probably learned by now there's no shortage of free advice from the local know-it-alls. Miss a target and suddenly you're subject to unsolicited opinions on what you should have done to hit it. You'll usually hear promptings like "You're behind the target, you're in front of it, you were under it ..." — you get the idea.
Here's the problem: While those well-meaning busybodies may get you to hit the target, they're not teaching you how to shoot. Most targets are missed by poor form and technique.
Your inability to judge the relationship between the shotgun and the moving target is rooted in a lack of fundamental basics such as stance, gun mount and foot position. Master the basics, and your consistency will improve dramatically across the wide spectrum of targets — including game birds.
One of the best and easiest ways to improve your shotgunning technique is called the Churchill Method. It's not named after the famous statesman Winston Churchill, but the British gunmaker and wingshooter, Robert Churchill.
The Churchill Method has been developed primarily for wingshooting in the field, but is equally effective for recreational clays shooting among friends.
Competitive and tournament clays shooters have their own style of shooting where the shotgun is held much closer to the face prior to calling for the target. By comparison, the Churchill Method recommends that you hold the gun lower, around your arm pit (the ready position), for a comprehensive view of flushing game birds. The underlying premise is that the Churchill Method relies on the human instinct to accurately point, coupled with an effective, simplified technique for wingshooting.
The Churchill Method is not named after the famous statesman Winston Churchill, but the British gunmaker and wingshooter, Robert Churchill.
If you already shoot clays, you'll probably see shooters take a position that's sort of contorted to their specific discipline. For the most part, they lean far forward, shoulders hunched, right elbow pointing outward, head hunkered into the gun stock so they’re forced to watch the target through the tops of their eyes. After calling for the bird, they will likely mount the gun and keep it in their shoulder for a long swing to the break point.
By contrast, the Churchill Method proposes a more upright and natural stance with your feet placement almost as though you're driving. The right foot is angled about 40 degrees to the right (on the gas pedal) and the left one (on the brake) is point almost straight head. Your posture is upright — not forced but comfortable. The gun stock is tucked under your armpit, with the muzzles tilting slight upward at the approximate elevation you anticipate the bird will fly, providing a full view of the range of field ahead.
Called the ready position, it can be summed up in one word: relaxed. It's all a single flowing movement of mounting the shotgun as you swing toward the bird and pulling the trigger as soon as possible. Don't ride the gun. The Churchill Method is all about smooth form, rapid target acquisition and quick trigger pulls.
Remember, the longer the shotgun is mounted into your shoulder, the more it will obstruct your view of the target. Game birds move quickly. Mount the gun and shoot the bird with minimal swing and movement. The mantra you want to recite yourself from the ready position is "see it, shoot it."
Churchill wrote a book about his method called "Game Shooting: A Textbook on the Successful Use of the Modern Shotgun," originally written in 1955 with several updates since by his biographer Macdonald Hastings. Orvis teaches a close variation on the Churchill Method in their wingshooting schools, and you can find out about it in their latest book "The Orvis Winshooting Handbook — New and Revised — Proven Techniques for Better Shotgunning" by Bruce Bowlen.
Devotees of the Churchill Method insist it comprises a timeless truth in wingshooting. In fact, it could be a revelation for you as a wing or clays shooter.
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