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Focus is One of Those Things

Ed has been an entrepreneur and business owner/start-up generator for 15 years. He has also been a shotgun coach!

Can You See?

There are a number of initial considerations to take into account when analyzing your ability to visually focus on a target. But focus can mean a lot of different things and we will explore those as well. Regarding your ability to visually focus on a target, consider the following:

  • Does your eyesight need correction?
  • Are your corrective lenses designed for 30 yards, crisp?
  • Are those $350 shooting glasses you are wearing maximizing your ability to see the target?
  • Are the lenses of your shooting glasses also safe, protective lenses?
  • When you are preparing to "see" a target, where to you look?
  • Can you improve the muscles of your eyes?
  • Can you uses some simple techniques to see your targets better?
  • On a target, where do you look - at the whole target or some spot?

Let's explore all of these items regarding visual acuity, the first and most important part of improving your shooting scores. When was the last time you had an eye exam? When you had the exam, did you tell your doctor you wanted to be able to focus on a moving target 16-30 yards away? It makes a difference in how he/she responds with a prescription for your eyes. If you are considering Lasik or some other surgical/laser treatment and shooting is a big part of your future, this should be conveyed to that surgeon prior to laying out a plan of action.

If your eye exam reveals you have no need for any correction, good for you...that will change given time, but for now, good for you. Now protect those good eyes! If your exam reveals a need for some form of correction, be sure the doctor knows you will be shooting moving objects 16-35 yards away and want to be able to hard focus on them quickly. If they are worth their salt, they will take this into account. Keep in mind, it may require you to have more than one pair of glasses or more than one set of contacts. It is just a reality.


Protection and Perception

The cost of your shooting glasses isn't going to make you a better shooter, but the quality of your lenses can. Stylish, expensive, pretty glasses can be like a pair of women's shoes - stylish, expensive, pretty, but hurt like hell to try to walk in them.

The lenses need to do one thing first, protect your eyes. To do that, they are rated for such and you should know what your glasses are rated for protection. After all, they must keep trash that sometimes blows your way from yours or someone else shooting and creating trash that can blow into your eyes. Protect your vision.

The lenses need to improve your ability to differentiate your target from the background. Light is key. Even then, clear lenses cut light to the eye by 15% or so. And that is high quality glass. There was a time when only bright yellow was the alternative for shooting glasses and was to be used primarily on days where it was a little gloomy or less bright. Yellow does make the whole world appear brighter, but it doesn't help with an orange target, particularly on a bright day. A lot of work has been done to identify which tints allow a target to appear or differentiate faster. A quick look at some of the companies that cater to the shotgun shooters will show a number of bronze or brownish tone lenses for orange targets. Try some on sometime and you will see why.

But it is important to go back to light, and for that, important to restrict the depth of tint on that lens. If you have really dark lenses, it may make it a bit easier to see on really bright days in general, but you are cutting off light. Minimal tint of the desired color will give you the same differentiation and allow you the light to see your target.

There are a lot of arguments about which color is the right color and it is an individual decision. Here is a link to this color chart and some information on all the different colors http://lmlenses.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/lenscolorchart.jpg


Targets and Exercise

  • When you are preparing to "see" a target, where to you look?

Trap, Skeet, Sporting Clays - do the same thing. Remember, your eye can come back, that is closer faster than trying to focus "going away." It is a natural feature based on preservation. If something is thrown at you, you see it and get out of the way. Something going away from you isn't a risk - you don't focus on it as quickly. So cast a "soft focus" beyond where you expect to see your target, then when the target is thrown, come "back" to the target with your focus, hard focus on a spot on that target and your brain will do the moving of your gun to the point and tell you to pull the trigger. Trust your brain.

  • Can you improve the muscles of your eyes?

Exercise is at least as important for your eyes as it is for your abs. Wait, I've seen a lot of shooters so maybe abs isn't what I should compare to....just kidding. Ok, what kind of exercise can you do. Watching a blade on a ceiling fan is great, then reverse and watch in the other direction, again great! Second, pick out a vertical post or pole. Go from the center out one foot and back, then down one foot and back to the center, then out two feet and back to the center, then out three feet and back to the center, repeat. Now find a horizontal feature you can do the same thing but horizontally with. Go out a foot left, back to center, out a foot right, back to center, then two and then three feet, repeat. These kinds of exercises are good for your eyes and will strengthen the muscles you will be depending on for shooting.

  • Can you uses some simple techniques to see your targets better?

It really doesn't matter what clay sport we are talking about, but the first 3-4 feet after launch a target is a blur. But the sooner you see the blur, the sooner you will see the target in focus. One of the biggest mistakes shooters make is assuming a position that blocks the initial blur from their sight - which then makes their first view where they are looking for the target - the initial blur period. So now they are going to be further into the flight of the target before they can focus on the target.

You can have a hold point where you intend to engage the target, but your eyes should move back to the point of origin in a soft focus to see the target as soon as possible.

  • On a target, where do you look - at the whole target or some spot?

If you have ever shot archery instinctively you know you just look at the target exactly where you want the arrow to go, and that is where it goes. Your brain does all the calculation. Focus on a point, preferably a leading edge, of a moving target and not the whole target. Your brain will do the rest (with practice).

Mental Focus


"A Mind is a Terrible Thing" (Eddie Murphy)

So with all the visual acuity you can have, exceptional eye wear, and quality focus, what about your mental focus?

When a coach says, "FOCUS," just exactly what does the coach mean? Of course it means get into the game, think about what you are doing, quit letting your mind wander, THIS SHOT COUNTS!

In real shotgun competition, EVERY shot counts. One extra bird can mean the difference between first and second place over and over again - at all levels! You don't have to be the star of the squad, the guy/gal shooting 100s all the time to be in a position that one more bird could have changed your or your teams outcome!

I took a squad to San Antonio one year in hopes of competing. We did compete - and had we just had 1 or two more birds by any of our shooters, we would have been in the money in more than one game!

Mental awareness - knowing what you are doing - can get in the way or can be a powerful tool for you to control. Think about what you are doing on each shot. Think about your preparation, mount, soft focus, hard focus, boom! Then quit thinking about it until it is your chance to shoot again...but don't just go off into random thought! Control this period of time as well! Get a tune you can stand for a round of trap and get it stuck in your head. From "boom" until the guy to your left raises their shotgun in preparation to shoot, you play that tune in your head. No thinking about a class you need to take, a girl you need to ask out, the water bill, or flowers for your mother. Only your pre-shot routine, followed by a mental statement as you mount your gun that turns on 100% mental focus to get on that bird and nothing else matters. I say to myself, "head on the stock, eye on the rock." Not original, I know...so come up with your own, and use it. It works. With practice it will work even better. You won't be able to shoot without it.

Prayer...or meditation. Either is good and I do both. For me, nothing is more calming than a moment of prayer. It isn't really formal and it is very individual in my case, but it is to sooth my normally ADHD ADD self. Getting yourself into a bit of a meditative state where what is going on around you isn't important for the time you are shooting.

If you are ADD or ADHD and want something to help with the distraction, try chewing gum. Seriously. Even your brain, although you have been told and may believe it, has trouble doing two things at one time. Chewing gum gives your brain something to do - up until you need to focus and say pull! Give it a try - and it may well work for you!

This is my take regarding Focus and the clays shooter. I hope you will comment and let me know how you are using focus and what tips you have for those who need more focus to gain a few more targets.

Please post any helpful comments

Inventurist (author) from Georgia, USA on January 20, 2015:

Thank you Eric. I coach competitive shotgun shooters at many levels. I've decided the best way to reinforce what I have just stated to them on the range 200 times might also be helpful to read and reflect on at least once or twice! From middle and high school to college to professionals, I try to help them get their head in the game! You are right - it has applications in a lot of fields!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 20, 2015:

Excellent hub on focus. While you focused on shooting it seems applicable to much of life. Thank you

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