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Pre-shot routines - Clay Shooting

Updated: Jun 25

With so much you can’t control, it’s good to focus on the things you can, explains Georgina Roberts.


A pre-shot routine is the preparation we go through for each shot we take. For the majority of shooters, this routine will consist of using the same movements, breathing techniques and thought processes before each shot. It can also be broken down further into habits and rituals, like turning cartridges in the chamber to make sure the branding faces the same way.


We can only control the controllables. In shooting, there are few things that we are in complete control of, but our pre-shot routine is one of them. Whether you’re training in the UK or competing abroad, you can ensure that this routine is perfectly replicated for each shot.


Having a robust routine provides consistency, both mentally and physically. It’s something we use as a ‘to-do list’ before each shot, so that when we work through them and tick them all off, we feel truly ready for the next target and this combination will mean that there is a higher probability that you will hit the target.


It gives us something to focus on whilst we are waiting to shoot, so it helps calm competition nerves and anxiety, as well as directing the focus away from distractions around us.


The more steps you have in your pre-shot routine, or the greater its complexity, the higher the chances that you might forget a step – and that could have a negative impact.


However, I personally believe that it doesn’t matter how simple or complex your routine is, so long as you can execute it precisely every time without fail.


Short and sweet


It’s vital that your routine enables you to focus on your performance, rather than worrying about making sure your routine is right. In Olympic Trap we have 12 seconds from the time that the person before us takes their shot, to call for our target.


This means that your routine must be short and sweet, but also consistent, so you know that you won’t go over the 12 second limit. If you do, you’ll receive a warning – a yellow card.


That would be far from ideal, but it is better to take a yellow card and then perform your routine perfectly and hit the target. Just try to make sure not to do it again!


A second yellow card within that same round means you will be deducted a target. I keep my routine around 8 seconds in length, which allows me a few extra seconds in case I need to reset myself without being at risk of a warning.


I’ve heard many people say that whilst you’re learning to shoot a discipline, the work is 90 per cent technical and 10 per cent mental. Once you have learnt to shoot it, the work then becomes 90 per cent mental and 10 per cent technical.


Using a pre-shot routine creates a perfect opportunity for us to build in mental aspects to aid our shooting. This could be anything from visualising targets smashing to walking ourselves through our process.


Post-shot routine


Post-shot routine is less talked about, but it’s also worth a mention. This can help you re-ground yourself after each shot, especially if the target was missed.


It’s easy to carry a miss forwards and let it have a negative impact on the next target. Showing frustration in your behaviours, such as throwing your cartridges down angrily, can certainly have a knock-on effect.


Not only can it carry through to the next shot and lead to a miss, outwardly showing your anger can spur on your competitors if they think they have an edge on you.


Whilst it’s easy to use this time to reflect on what we did wrong, it’s important to accept the outcome and move on. If you are going to analyse the shot, use it to decide how you’re going to approach the next target.


Georgina’s pre-shot routine


  1. Check foot position

  2. Establish gun hold and eye hold

  3. Visualise target smashing

  4. Bring gun up into shoulder and ensure correct mount

  5. Bring barrel down to my hold point

  6. Bring eyes up and let my focus adjust

  7. Use a positive phrase like ‘smash it’ or remind myself of what I’m working on, for example ‘keep still’ whilst I’m letting my eyes settle

  8. Call for the target


…and after the shot


Note: I also focus on my breathing throughout this process.

  1. Open the gun and eject the cartridge cases into the bin

  2. Analyse the shot – what I did well, or, if I missed, what do I need to do for the next target

  3. Load cartridges ready for the next target

  4. Move to stand behind the next peg once that shooter has shot

  5. Once the shooter has moved, step onto the peg and start my pre-shot routine


Controlling the controllables


There can be huge variations in set up, not only between shooting grounds, but also between each range at the same venue. There are few consistencies in shooting, notably the layout (excluding sporting and FITASC, where traps vary) and our own routines.


When shooting a new range or layout, establish your plan and intentions. When I shoot each new range, I like to ascertain the scheme, gun hold and eye hold points.


These vary in each instance due to factors such as background and weather conditions. These ideas can be applied to any shooting discipline, for example when shooting sporting you watch targets to decide your hold points and ‘kill’ points before you step into the stand.


Personally, when I am testing out hold points, I use a cartridge to measure them for consistency. I stand in my ‘ready’ position as I would when I am shooting, I take a cartridge and place it on the mark on top of the trap house.


I then use the markings on the cartridge to pick out a point in the background (such as a broken clay or tuft of grass) where I will hold my gun. I will then repeat this process for each peg, so I am clear on where my hold points are.


The print on cartridges will vary, so I always try to use the same one when measuring my hold points. I will use the cartridge to measure, then put it in a separate pocket to try and keep it consistent.


It doesn’t need to be that exact cartridge you use every single time, just so long as you use the same cartridge for each stand on one layout. When I’m coaching, I recommend cutting down a clear ruler to pocket size.


This is something that you can travel with easily and can guarantee consistency when building confidence in testing out new hold points.


*This article was written for Clay Shooting and is available at: https://www.clay-shooting.com/coaching/advice-and-tips/pre-shoot-routines-with-georgina-roberts/

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