ver since I was first introduced to the wonderful world of shotgunning I have been involved in a constant effort to improve my scores. I’ve taken a few lessons, read a number of books, watched many videos and even listened to the advice of sports psychologists on becoming a better shot. One of the more prevalent bits of wisdom we’ve all heard is muscle memory is vital in any sport to reduce the working of the conscious mind. The conscious mind can, and often does, degrade the overall result we strive for. We all want that “automatic shot” that scores every time.
How do you develop muscle memory? Simple: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Sound familiar? I bet you’ve heard that before.
Repetition, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, but when you’re talking about shooting shotguns, repetition pulls some other factors into the equation. Things like fees for rounds of targets, ammunition costs, equipment wear and tear due to constant firing and fuel costs getting to the range are things most of us keep a fairly keen eye on these days. Oh, and for those of us north of their fiftieth birthday, recoil fatigue can be a concern as well. Yes, repetition is needed to develop muscle memory in good shooting, but at what cost?
Enter onto the scene Bob Foege at Robert Louis Co. of Newtown, Connecticut. In 2004, Bob began producing useful products for American shotgunners. His first offering was the Shotgun Combo Gauge, which allowed measurements to be taken off your gun, such as pitch, cast, length–of–pull and drop. As most shotgunners are aware, a properly fitted shotgun is a more precise and comfortable gun to shoot. Bob tells me there are over 2,000 Shotgun Combo Gauges in use worldwide.
Is there something that can help a shotgunner develop muscle memory? One answer is Bob’s Ultimate Practice Shooting System, a unique in–home setup.
The Ultimate Practice Shooting System makes use of laser technology in several ways. A major component is the Laser Shooter, a self–centering laser–projection device inserted into the barrel (muzzle) of your shotgun. The Laser Shooter is activated by a wired trigger switch. The original version of the trigger switch was a simple metal band that slipped around the shooter’s trigger finger. A “trigger pull” activated the Laser Shooter when the metal ring made contact with the trigger guard on your gun. In most cases, this worked very well, but some guns have coated surfaces within the trigger system that can break the ground of the battery–operated Laser Shooter, preventing it from projecting its laser. Bob took care of that with a trigger switch that makes use of a micro–switch.
A fitted gun should shoot where you look, and the Laser Shooter can help indicate if your gun shoots where you are looking with the aid of a simple laser–projection target supplied with the system. You simply hang the target on a wall, step back a few feet, install the Laser Shooter into your gun’s muzzle, place the trigger switch onto your finger, mount the gun normally aiming toward the center of the target and touch the trigger switch. The red or green laser will project onto the target, and you can instantly tell if your gun points its centerline of bore with your line of sight. Assuming no abnormalities exist with your bore or muzzle, the laser dot should be right on the center of the target. If it’s not, this might show a need for some stock tweaking.
All manner of shotguns can be checked for point–of–aim alignment with the Laser Shooter, including single barrels, over/unders and side–by–sides. Additionally, your mount can be grooved by using the Laser Shooter. Position yourself to be able to mount on the ceiling line of your garage, den or wherever you can mount your gun without tight confines. Pick out a spot on the wall, on the seam of the ceiling/wall junction or just about anywhere, then move the gun as if tracking a target while moving smoothly and consistently on each mount. The Laser Shooter will help you groove your mount and start the development of muscle memory.
Another major component of the Ultimate Practice Shooting System is the Laser Pro. This novel device can project one or two laser dots. When set to project two dots, you can use the first dot in the pair as the perceived lead point for the second trailing dot, or you can simply use the dots as a true pair of targets, firing the Laser Shooter on them as they travel across the wall. A small tabletop tripod comes with the system that allows the Laser Pro to be set to project vertically rising targets as well as crossers.
Four controls on the Laser Pro allow you to adjust the direction of travel of the dots, the speed of the dots and length of travel. The On/Off switch atop the Laser Pro lets you choose one dot or two. The Laser Pro has a rechargeable battery and is supplied with a plug–in wall charger.
I’ve used the Laser Pro, and for me using two dots helped me groove my move on the true pairs often seen in sporting clays. The single–dot projection allowed me to make a smoother, dedicated mount to my shoulder and face. I have noticed a marked improvement in my mount, swing and follow–through since I began using the Laser Pro.
Yet another very useful and beneficial component of the Ultimate Practice Shooting System is the small, bread–box sized device aptly named “The Wobbler.” Although an optional unit, this little rascal, when teamed with the Laser Pro unit, can show you a myriad of projected target flight paths, everything from true Chandelles, curling–away Teals, droppers and more. You know, all those “challenging” targets that can add a scad more zeroes to your scoresheet. With the Ultimate Practice Shooting System, your skills on those bad boys can be honed to a razor’s edge in the comfort of your home. Remember, it’s all about starting with good fundamentals and grooving your shots through repetition, more repetition and, yes, more repetition.
If watching laser dots fly across your wall and across a picture of your dear departed Aunt Matilda doesn’t ring your chimes, Bob has a cure for that as well. He offers a 9x4.5–foot wall screen with an overlaid trap/skeet field you can set up in your room to practice on skeet, trap or sporting clays targets. This scene can help shooters who benefit from using reference points on a skeet or trap field and make the whole experience feel more authentic.
About now you might be curious about how much damage the acquisition of an Ultimate Practice Shooting System might do to your pocketbook. Not much really, especially when viewed as an investment toward the improvement of your overall shooting. Bob currently offers the basic system with 12–gauge Laser Shooter unit for just $150. The Laser Shooter and Laser Pro together cost around $400. Add The Wobbler, and the system will set you back less than $600. The optional wall screen will tack on an additional $370.
Other gauges are offered in the Laser Shooter. Currently, only a bright–red Laser Pro is offered, but Bob is looking into other colors. He said, “Our standard Red Laser Shooter and Laser Pro use the Ultrabrite brightest–red laser we can buy with 635NM intensity.”
If you want to groove the shots on your ugliest targets and save tons of money while acquiring that all–important muscle memory at the same time, seriously consider the Ultimate Practice Shooting System from Robert Louis Co. Even in bad weather, you can practice at home. And it’s a great benefit to offer gun–club members to help improve their shooting enjoyment. Spend this winter getting in your best shape ever to take on the targets next season!