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San Antonio or Bust – The Trail to World Skeet Competition

NSSA LogoAs this site is intended to be for shooters of all levels, I thought it might be interesting to document my path to the National Skeet Shooting Association’s (NSSA) 2011 World Skeet Championship in San Antonio, TX.  I am going to compete on a budget, and make an honest attempt at some medals and such.  Hopefully, you will come along on this journey and who knows, maybe next year, you can give it a shot too.

I just started shooting skeet in December.  I want this site to encourage starter shooters to try new shooting sports so I’m going straight into competition from simply having bought an inexpensive over and under. I will learn the fundamentals, find a skeet coach and train until I think I’m ready.

This post will be updated often as I learn, practice and compete. If you’d like to read how I am doing or did at the World Championship (Oct, 2011) go here.

Sections:

I have been shooting for most of my life.  At 40 years old, that’s a lot of lead downrange.  Shotgunning has always been about hunting for me: quail, pheasant, duck, dove.  I would pattern my guns/loads and shoot from a clay thrower on occasion, but never considered the clay games – until last year.  I was pointed at close-by sporting clays range by my gun shop owner when I moved here.  Sporting clays is a blast and I seriously considered shooting registered targets for NSCA (National Sporting Clays Association).  Had I not found my new shooting club, I would probably be writing a slightly different article.

Last year, I joined a local club that offers several high-quality skeet fields along side fields for trap, sporting clays, pistols and archery.  In my first year as a member, I became an addict.  Just for fun I was shooting 100 targets a week and working on constant improvement.  The better I got, the more shooting I did.  As of January 2011, I am shooting ~300 targets each week.

I started with a gun that I purchased as a field gun.  I bought a Stoeger Condor with the 12 and 20 gauge barrels in 28″ length.  I had the opportunity to shoot one a few years ago and loved how it came up, fit, and pointed.  Two years ago, I pulled the trigger (see what I did there?) and bought one.

The Stoeger Condor shoots flat for me right out of the box.  For skeet and sporting clays, this hasn’t inhibited my shooting as far as I can tell.  Station one high is the only truly outgoing rising target where it could be a problem and I am able to let the target come to the barrel and still turn fast enough to hit the low on doubles.  The only other station that might pose a problem would be low seven.  I just point low and use a pull-through technique.  With a higher pointing gun, I might be able to shoot it different, but I rarely miss on this target so I’m not planning any changes. – *update* – I’ve been trained on a better hold point that allows more of a still-gun shot. Slight adjustment and kill.

I have made zero modifications to the Stoeger.  I bought some briley extended chokes and am currently shooting skeet/cylinder chokes in the 12 and skeet/skeet in 20 gauge.  Once I see consistent 23’s I may drop to a skeet/skeet config for 12, haven’t decided yet.

The gun cost me just over $500  for both a 12 gauge and 20 gauge shotgun and has had over 4,000 rounds through it without a problem.  It isn’t the engraved masterpiece that the Italians and Germans would put out, but it didn’t cost $6,000+ either.

I am currently looking at the Browning Citori XS Special 12gauge for a main gun and will get the Briley companion tubes for sub-gauge.  The Stoeger will be my reliable backup for competitions.

Browning Citori XS Special

1/20 – Just received notification that I won my bid on the Citori XS – $2300.00 new in-box with the Citori $150.00 rebate on top of that.  Firearms transport arranged, sent ground today.

1/24 – IT ARRIVED!! Wow, this gun is night and day compared to the Stoeger.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love my budget shotty, but wow.  I’m prepping an unboxing and first impressions article, but I need to make 150 shotgun shells for tomorrow’s practice first.

1/26 – Gotta send it to Briley to get a full set of sub-gauge tubes made. Robert Paxton of Paxton Arms made everything easy to understand and helped me through the whole process.  Robert gave me a nice discount just because I’m a military vet (Navy Corpsman (medic) -LeJeune and points more distant) .  Tell him Rich Mitchell sent you if you decide to buy something from him.  Waiting for my second skeet choke to get here (gun comes with C, SK, IC, M) and have been practicing with IC, SK.  Briley needs two skeet chokes installed when the gun arrives to do the custom fitting.  I’ll be practicing with the Stoeger for 5 or so weeks once the Browning goes off.

2/2 – Gun sent off to Briley .. a little different than the Brad Paisley song, “I’m Gonna Miss her”. I am actually going to miss that gun .. a lot.

3/6 – still no browning. Probably pushing the Stoeger to its limits shooting this much with it (500-800 rounds per week)

3/15 – Oh yeah.. the Citori is back with a full set of sub-gauge tubes

I have selected a Skeet coach that has a ton of experience and has produced a few Rookie All-Americans.  It is totally on me to make this happen – I just have to listen, practice, and practice more.  My first lesson with Coach  is Sunday.  I am looking forward to nailing down my inconsistency issues.

The lesson was amazing. Fixed several hold point issues, gave me a simpler stance, changed how I use my eyes and gave me a practice routine to help me build the consistency that I need. Next lesson will be early February.

1/17 – Shooting Schedule put together, needs refining.

Currently 109 shoots passed through my requirements (location, date, type).  With only 8 real months before San Antonio, I need to get this list down to 15-20 shoots to be realistic.

1/26 – I get to wait

Coach sent me a message today. He wants me to build on fundamentals for a few months before going heavy into competition. I am planning on doing a lot of winning so if this is what it takes, it is what it is. Our plan still includes San Antonio for skeet world competition and a few other shoots so come find me if you live in the area or will be at the shoot.

1/15 – Tournament Simulation – 100 targets

I was planning on hitting the range for my standard practice routine.  As I pulled up, a squad of 2 other young shooters was setting up and I decided to ask if I could just join them for some straight skeet.  One of the non-shooters told me that the shooters were simulating a competition and as long as I was ok with that, could join in.  Since I’ve never been in a competition, I thought that would be a great idea.

The squad was set with me as the #3 of 3 shooters.  The first shooter was new to competition as well and the non-shooter was performing the duties of referee and coach.  On station one, the test targets were thrown so we could all see how they were flying.  From there on out, it was your basic game of skeet – we shot 100 targets.

I shot a 22, 17, 21, 20.  A solid 20 average that should have been higher, but really struggled on the second round for some reason I have yet to discover.  I dropped targets I never miss (station 1 high and low 2 for starters).

I’ll be working with my coach to clean up those inconsistencies this next week.

1/15 Practice Session – 150 targets

I took a small break after the simulated competition and then did a dedicated practice.  I worked 10 shots at station one to find a comfortable set point and try to create some consistency on that target.  I also spent some time on station 2 double to try to pick up the high target faster to minimize my movement to the second bird.

Next, I practiced some at low 8 to polish my new set-point for that target.  Really made that station much easier.

After that I shot a few standard rounds to make sure that I had engrained into memory what I had discovered.  I think a solid 22 avg is only a few weeks away.

1/16 – Practice Session – 125 targets

Station one high has become inconsistent.  The house was throwing a little outside the center stake and the wind was pushing it in by 2 feet at the end stake.  It made for a different presentation, but one I might have to handle at a tournament.  I did discover that I had been raising my set point for high-1 and that was forcing me to move too much with the target.  By moving my set point further from the high-house, high 1 became more consistent.  I did still miss it twice in 5 rounds so more work at high-1 is in order.

I was able to shoot a 22, 23, 20, 18, 19 for my rounds – another 20 avg.  22 is still looking plausible, I just need to clean up some mechanics and make my set points more consistency.

1/20 – Practice Session – 150 targets

Station one high is still an issue.  I’m missing under it when I miss, about a 75% hit rate.  Lower set point may be the final answer and just swing hard for the low bird on doubles.

I shot about 10 straight on station 1 – high, then did some work on high 2 and low 6.

I then shot 3 straight regulation rounds 23, 22, 18 – there’s that low round again.  Decided to take a break and arrange an FFL for the citori.

After 10 minutes rest, shot another standard round – 19 this time.  Missing a lot from the high house.  The targets seemed to be dipping after launch, probably the wind that has been building.  Will have to work on building up my skill with wind-blown targets.  The four rounds averaged to *drumroll* 20.5 (one tenth higher than the last 100).  It’s improvement, hope the new coach can speed it up a bit though – would like to be at a 21 average this weekend.

I then had the privilege of shooting a round with Ron and Charles.  Much more experienced shooters than I and Ron proved it by ending with a perfect 25 – and he was shooting 28 gauge.  Color me jealous.  They were very pleasant to shoot with and gave me a few tips on the skeet field that I will have to work on.  I have met nothing but wonderful people on the skeet field and it gives me one more reason to spend time there.

READ:   Review: Rossi Pick 4 Youth Single Shot Rifle and Shotgun

1/23 – Straight Skeet rounds with a friend

Met with a buddy to just shoot skeet for awhile, we shot 4 rounds.  I scored 23,21,22,22 for a nice average of  22 – nice jump from Thursday.  High one was pretty locked in, in fact the whole left side of the field just felt easy.  Low 6 got me a few times and had a few misses on low 8.

1/24 – First session with new coach

Wow, I have been making the game harder on myself than I needed to.  We patterned and fitted my new Citori then took it to the skeet field.  I got some much better hold points than I was using, worked on hitting the birds sooner and developing a cadence for pre-shot routine.  There was a change to my shooting stance, felt a little awkward at first, but I settled into it after a few stations.  As we got to the end of the session, I really felt more consistent in my mechanics and much more confident that I would break every bird.  I was given a new practice routine that I will use 2-3 times a week.

1/25 – Practice session

I’m setting up the gun with Improved Cylinder chokes (tighter than the skeet chokes I usually use) so that I can really see when I’m on and when I’m not.  Just shot incomers and the line (1, 7, 8) today.  150 rounds pushing for 6 straight before moving to the next station.  Feeling much more confident.

1/27 – Practice Session and standard round

175 targets.  Really getting a feel for the converging lead style that coach taught me.  It’s different than sustained lead and has really helped me break the birds sooner than I was.

I first did 50 targets all incomers (L1, L2, L3, H5, H6, H7) and the line (H1, L1, Dbl 1, H7, L7, Dbl 7, Hi 8, Lo 8) – zero misses, but I’m still hitting low 8 a little later than coach wants me too.  More practice on that station.

I then did another 50 targets, same progression.  Starting to get the feel of L8 sooner.

The last 50 I spent some time shooting the outgoing targets.  Coach and I haven’t worked on these yet, but I have a shoot on Saturday and need to make sure I’ve got a feel for them with the new converging lead method.  So, H1, H2, H3, L5, L6, L7.  Wow, these needed work.  Really had a hard time getting comfortable at H3.  Really inconsistent and just doesn’t feel right.  Tried moving my hold point, tried adjusting my break point a bit .. meh, this one’s gonna need work.

The last 25 I shot a standard round of skeet.  No misses on Station 1 or 2, but High 3.. missed, then missed the option shot on it.  This one as turned into the bane of my existence.  Missed H4, then no other misses.  A 22.  Of course, I shot that 22 with IC chokes in the barrel.  Tomorrow I’ll do a session with skeet chokes to get ready for the competition.

1/28 – Practice and 2 standard rounds

200 targets today.  First 50 I did the incomers again and the line – no misses.  Those are just becoming second nature.  I then set out to blow 25 shells on H3. Towards the end, I got a little better, but still never quite felt confident.  Dropped 25 shells at H4/L4 and outgoing at 5 and 6.  Everything feels pretty good except H3.

I then changed the IC chokes for skeet and shot a standard round.  A 23 this time and yes, I missed H3, but got the option.  The other miss was H2.

I shot 25 more shells working on H3 and H2 and a few at H8/L8 for good measure.

I shot another round of standard skeet. got 24 of 25 – that’s my first 24 ever.  The only miss was at H7 – yeah, an incomer.  Wow, just wow. My inner voice was going berzerk by the time I hit station 7. I missed an easy target due to that.  All I could hear is wow, 25? Got all the way to station 7, without missing a bird and blew it.  That means I have a 25 in me real soon.  Then it’s going to be working on stringing them together.

The last 25 birds I shot with coach.  He happened to be at the club with another student and knew I was having trouble on H3.  He gave me a few tips and H3 became no problem.  Tomorrow is the competition.  I’ll do a whole write-up on how my first competition goes.  With the 200 shots tomorrow I will have shot at 925 clay targets this week.  That’s a huge increase from the ~300 per week I was shooting.

1/29 – Practice (yeah, after the Bragg shoot I went and practiced)

200 targets – 80 doing the standard line, then started shooting station 4 .. mental mistake here, setup wrong lead – twice.  Realized it and busted 4 straight.  After that was high house practice.  The last 100 targets was shooting high house from every station.  I missed more high house at the shoot than anything so wanted to get that ugly taste out of my mouth.

1/31 – Lesson

Coach really harped on two things. Staying in the gun after the second shot in doubles and slowing down. I hear that a lot. I walk fast, talk fast and react fast. Lightning reflexes apparently have a downside – who’d a thunk it.

2/1 – Shooting with a friend

A buddy of mine invited me out for an afternoon of skeet. How could I resist. We ended up shooting 10 rounds of skeet (250 targets).  I started off ok, but faded as the afternoon wore on. I will have to figure out how to keep my focus through 400 targets to survive the big tournaments. Here’s how I shot:

  1. 23
  2. 22
  3. 24
  4. 22
  5. 21
  6. 21
  7. 22
  8. 21
  9. 20
  10. 22

I then shot 25 targets of incomer practice. That went pretty good, L3 and H5 are almost there, everything else except H1 are there.

2/3 – Practice and rounds

First practice without the Browning. Back to the backup – Stoeger. The difference is obvious. First, the safety resets after every opening of the breach. Second, trigger is sloppy, have to take out the slack before each pull. Third, it shoots flat – noticed it mainly on the rising targets (H1 and L7) but got some light hits on a few other stations. Lastly, it doesn’t fit as good as the adjustable-comb citori. I had to adjust the position of the stock on my shoulder to keep the sight pictures I was used to.  The good news, after 4000+ rounds, it still goes bang.

I Shot 150 rounds of incomers; 4 each  at 1,2,3, 7,6, 5 and didn’t miss anything. then shot 2 each at the line (h1, l1, dbls 1, H7, L7, dbls 7, 8H, 8L). Missed H1, didn’t miss anything else. H1 is a familiar enemy.

I was closing up shop when someone I shoot with a lot at the club showed up and wanted to shoot a few rounds. I decided to see how the practice went. We finished the first round, I shot a 23. Then someone I know of, but didn’t know showed up. The club’s skeet referee trainer showed up with  his more-than-awesome k-80 to shoot 20 gauge. The three of us shot a round, then just the referee coach and I shot another.

What a great outing. Finding new people to shoot with is always great, but getting to shoot with someone with such great experience and knowledge is an honor. I truly enjoyed this shoot, although 250 targets later.. was ready for a nap.

After talking with my coach, I may have been setting my eyes too far above the barrel at H1, we’ll see. Working on it as soon as the rain stops. It could just be that I’m holding too low or am clueless at this station.

2/5 – Practice and a surprise lesson

Shot 100 rounds doing incomers and the line with Coach’s new shot thoughts. Really made a difference in consistency of the shot process. While it didn’t change hits/missses, it will in the future. H1 was still not cutting it during this practice and it’s the last station I need locked-down to reach my goal.

As I was taking a break, Coach drove up and offered an impromptu review of H1. Off we went. Yup, I was holding too low.  Didn’t take long to get things wired better and I started feeling much better about that station. He walked. He also decided that I was ready to move on and start locking in outgoing shots at 3 and 5 and both at 4. We went through that and I felt pretty good, small adjustments. More aggressive to the bird and get those break points to be sooner.

That went so well, he offered to tackle H2 and L6.  Duh duh duh!!! L6 has been a thorn in my side for awhile. He made two small adjustments and both became automatic. There is a 25 in my near future, I can feel it.

At that point I had shot almost 200 rounds and decided to call it a day. An awesome day.

2/7 – Straight Skeet for Score

I went to the club with the intent of a quick 100 targets to reinforce what I learned on Saturday, but the auto-pullers were gone. A few other members were shooting skeet so I joined in for 4 rounds. I shot:

1- 23 (missed H2 – dbl, L6 – dbl)

2- 23 (missed H1, H2 – dbl)

3 – 23 (missed L5, L6)

4- 22 (missed H1, L7, H8)

91 a solid “C” class score. Six more months of practice to hopefully enter competitive skeet as an “A” class rookie.

3/5 – Skeet for Score

1- 22 (lost: H2, opt, H3)

2- 23 (lost: h3, h4)

3- 23 (lost: L1-dbl, h3)

4- 24 (lost: H3)

3/15 First Session w the browning back

1 – 25!! I literally took the Citori out of the case, put the 20ga tubes in it, reset the comb (rough set) and shot a round of skeet .. oh man I love this gun!!

2 -24

3- 24

Then shot doubles at 3-4-5 to simulate a shoot-off.  Hit 3, 4, 5, then missed the second bird at 4 coming back (you have to shoot it backwards – low then high)

My practices continued along this path but with much more shooting for score. Straight skeet rounds with critique from my coach. In late September, I headed out to San Antonio and started competing:

NSSA Worlds: Day One (mini’s 12 and 28ga) 10-1-11

NSSA Worlds: Day Two (in progress – mini’s 20ga and .410) 10-2-11

NSSA Worlds: Day Three (Worlds 12 gauge) 10-3-11

About Rich

Rich Mitchell is the President and CEO of RAM Arms inc. Rich is also a competitor in Skeet, sporting clays, 3-gun, Steel Challenge and USPSA.

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