How Do I Learn To Shoot A Shotgun?

Growing up, we took lessons to learn how to do everything: Play guitar, dance, drive. But how many of us took lessons to learn how to shoot? Very few. Perhaps it's because of all the action movies we watched growing up, but for some reason we believe we're born knowing how to shoot a shotgun.

Of course, this isn't true. Like golf or skiing, shooting a shotgun is skill that can be taught. And learning how to shoot right can make trips to the range and field safer, more enjoyable, and more productive.

Made, Not Born

There's always that guy who hits everything, from pair after pair of crossing clays to flushing quail. If it goes up, he puts it down. A lot of us assume people who shoot well were born with a knack for it. Perhaps. More likely, though, someone taught them how to use a shotgun.

Even people who come into this world with a talent for shooting need professional instruction. And even you aren't aiming for Olympic-level skeet, you can still benefit from coaching, whether you get it through an all-day clinic at a local club or by spending hours one-on-one with a Nation Skeet Shooting Association-National Sporting Clays Association (NSSA-NSCA) Instructor.

Where To Get Shooting Instruction

Once you're set on learning to shoot a shotgun, you should have an easy time finding a person or place offering instruction. Here are some places to check:

  • Gunshops near you
  • Sporting or shooting clubs in your area
  • The NSSA or NSCA websites
  • Your state's fish & game department

Once you find a place that offers training, you'll probably have the chance to take classes at different levels.

Level: Elementary School

These basic, introductory courses tend to be short (a few hours long) and safety focused, with little time spent handling guns and shooting. But that's OK. If you're brand new to shotguns, you should take one (and some states require you to do so).

Level: High School

Many of the places offering introductions to shotguns will also offer the next level of instruction. These classes can last all day and should include:

  • An introduction to the mechanics of shotguns
  • An overview of gun safety
  • An introduction to shotgun handling
  • Live firing, with a chance to shoot at clay targets

Level: College

These courses get serious and can last two or three days long. They should cover all of the topics in the first two levels, with the addition of:

  • Lessons into how to mount a shotgun
  • A demonstration of proper shooting stances
  • Extensive trigger time
  • One-to-one coaching
  • An introduction to shooting clay targets in different scenarios

The best schools will also include an overview of shotgun fit and personal shotgun fitting.

Level: Grad School

Once you've learned all of the above and are handy with a shotgun, you're ready to focus on specific skills: Wingshooting, competitive skeet shooting, British-style driven shooting, etc.

Instruction at this level is offered at first-rate shooting facilities and sportsmen's clubs, usually the ones with their own skeet fields, five-stand ranges and sporting-clays courses.

The courses these places offer can last all weekend long or just be short clinic taught by top shooters in these fields. At its highest level, this kind of instruction is a private lesson with professional instructor.

If you have a specific problem (like hitting crossing targets), training one-on-one with a pro is the ideal way to figure things out. It's not cheap, but it can help your shooting skills leap forward in just a couple hours.

See Orvis Wingshooting Schools