Bartholow Brothers Clinics "Your Shooting Recipe"
Footwork, Stance and How to Get the Most Out of Your Swing
First, thank you for taking the time to check out my instructional articles. This is the first of many to come with Shotgun Sports magazine, and I’m very excited to share my knowledge of this sport and what I’ve learned along the way.
I want everyone to know the material covered is an overview of either how I shoot or things most people find helps them when out on the line. If you’ve been to one of our shooting clinics or talk with Matt or me at a shooting event, you know we teach our creation of what we call “Your Shooting Recipe”. This encompasses everything you personally need to do to break targets, from stance/footwork, target load preferences, mental game/prep, stretching, one-eye/two-eye shooting and much more. The material in these articles will be things to try, because once you find your recipe, great things happen.
I’ll start with a topic that many shooters have questions on:
Footwork, stance and how they impact moving to a target
For any new shooters out there, let’s briefly cover the basics. You have 5 posts which sit 16 yards away from a single traphouse. The traphouse throws 5 angles of targets, for simplicity we label the angles: 1-hard left, 2-medium left, 3-straightaway, 4-medium right, and 5-hard right. As you move from Post 1 all the way to 5, you’ll be introduced to different presentations of these angles. You shoot 5 shots from each post to give you a round of 25. Easily stated, trapshooting is a game of consistency, and the more consistent you can be with every aspect of your game, the better you will perform.
I relate stance, footwork and movement to a target like components of an engine. Each are separate critical pieces, but when these components are put together, they will make the engine work. In this sense, your stance gives you power, your footwork gives you control of that power and combined they allow a consistent movement to the target. But it all starts from the ground up.
Let’s first start with a solid base. Try a stance about shoulder-width to slightly over shoulder-width wide. Your footwork should be comfortable with toes slightly flared to give yourself better ability to swing and allow your body to move to the target in one fluid motion. The goal of a solid base is to allow your whole body to turn, using your hips, mid-section and upper body to drive to the target versus using your arms and upper body alone. You might notice a narrow stance makes you unbalanced, where a wide stance makes it tough to drive with your mid-section and hips. Footwear is all personal preference; we recommend a flat shoe so your feet don’t feel like they want to roll.
For all those reading, I’m going to have you try a drill.
Pretend you have your shotgun in your hands (you can try this with your shotgun too, but always double check the gun is unloaded and pointed in a safe direction).
For a right-handed shooter, I want you to make a move to an imaginary target moving to the right using just your arms to swing. If you’re a lefty, pretend you have a target moving to the left. Right away, you’ll notice when you make a move to the target, the gun doesn’t feel very “locked in” to your face and may even feel like it’s wanting to come off your cheek. This can have a huge impact on your shooting.
Now, try this. For the righty, make a move to that same imaginary right target, but this time I want you to use your mid-body and hips to drive your upper body to the target, while keeping your arms locked in and stationary. Feel the difference? The first thing you might notice is your face stays locked into the stock since there is a huge reduction in arm movement.
This shooting style keeps your gun barrel moving in the most accurate and consistent swing possible, from the start to the follow-through. Obviously, using your arms to move up to the target is necessary, but if you can keep your body moving as one, everything works together to help you get to the target and follow-through in one fluid motion. When I talk about a fluid movement, here is what I mean: moving to and through the target at a consistent rate of speed that feels comfortable to you. Everyone’s speed to the target is different, but there is a difference in shooting with fluidity versus jumping at the target.
Now that we have a good understanding of stance, let’s dive into footwork to see the impact it has on controlling your move to the target.
Footwork is like the gears of a vehicle: you have all this engine power from your stance — the gears simply harness that power and allow you to travel at a consistent rate of speed.
Incorrect footwork can slow your swing down or cause you to change the rate of speed in your swing.
If you’re a new shooter, in general I always recommend starting with your footwork slightly off set. (Diagram for example). For a right-handed shooter, as you move from Post 1 down the line to Post 5, you’ll adjust your footwork clockwise. Adjusting your footwork from post to post will make it easier for you to swing to those target angles.
The easiest thing you can do when getting to a post is visualize your target angles and set your footwork from that. Think to yourself: Can I get to my number 1 target; can I get to my number 5 target? If not, make a change in your footwork. Once you find those pieces of your recipe that click, write them down, mentally take a note or take pictures…whatever you have to do to remember them.
Things to watch:
“I understand footwork…but how do I know if it’s correct?”
Here are couple things to look for when shooting:
Do your knees break down or do you feel pressure in your knees when swinging the gun?
Does your face come off the gun? Or does your follow-through slow down when getting to the bird?
Does your barrel movement stay at a consistent speed and in the same direction?
If you feel any of these things happening, your footwork might not be correct for your post, and you’ll max out your swing. At this point, here are a few things that can happen.
1: Resort to using just your arms to move
2: Break down the knees to swing further in that current movement/motion
3: Your shoulders will dip to try and accommodate an extra swinging allowance
All of these create a change in your mechanics, and when that change happens, consistency is lost and you’re more likely to miss.
I strongly suggest looking at a slight change in your footwork. Try opening your footwork to allow your body to turn easier in that direction. For example, a right-handed shooter will shift his or her footwork in a clockwise direction if they are struggling to get to a #5 target. On the same note, if they cannot get to a #1 target, the footwork should rotate counter-clockwise to allow your body to swing better in that left direction. There are also a couple other things to try:
1: Flare a toe. For every inch you flare your toe out, you get approximately 8 degrees of extra rotation. Now obviously we don’t want shooters thinking they have to go out 30-40 degrees with their feet completely flared out, but it’s a good tip to remember if struggling to get to a target without making a huge change in footwork.
2: Hold points. This will be discussed in greater detail in a later instructional article, but don’t be afraid to adjust your hold points on the traphouse as you move from Post 1 to 5, which can extend outside the traphouse if desired.
Hope this helps! There’s a lot that goes into finding your recipe, and don’t be afraid to try small changes in footwork from Post 1 to Post 5 (preferably in practice).
Every day will present its own challenges from wind, rain, sun, clouds, background color, etc. It’s all about finding your recipe, and fine-tuning those pieces in that recipe that work for you. SS
The Bartholow Brothers, Foster and Matt, are two of the winningest competitors in trapshooting history. In 2008, Foster Bartholow was named Co-Champion along with Leo Harrison III for the Clay Target Championship at the Grand American, after a total of 1,100 targets straight (200 in the CTC program and 900 in the tie-breaking shootoff). This was the first time in the history of the Grand they named co-champs in a championship event. Their record for the longest shootoff in the history of the ATA still stands. Matt Bartholow, the Grand Doubles Champion in 2011, was the 2600 HOA winner (2553) at the Grand American in 2019. In 2017-18, he held second longest run in registered doubles with 910 broken doubles targets, and holds record for second longest run in singles with 1,840 consecutive registered targets broken. For more career highlights as well as clinics and coaching offered by the Bartholow Brothers, visit trapshootingbros.com.