View Full Version : Rifle and Shotgun differences in technique...

Dave McC
August 22, 2002, 06:46 AM
I saw a couple of shotgun newbies talking about this on another thread, so maybe it's time to drag this out into the sunlight...

Except for slug shooting and "Serious" work, there's a couple major differences in how we shoot rifles vs shotguns.

Tyros really do have trouble switching, and some never learn to. IMO, this causes more folks to stop shotgunning than anything but kick.

The first difference is that rifles are shot at stationary or slowly moving targets most of the time. Shotguns are shot at fast moving ones mostly. To do either properly, the way we hold the weapon is crucial.

Most excellent riflemen hold up the weapon with the forward hand and guide it more with the trigger hand. Shotgunners use the forward hand to guide with. Some even point the forefinger at what they think is the target. Leverage aids the rapid swing, which is why clayshooters tend to hold their forward hands closer to the balance point than gameshooters do.

Of course, there's individual variation at work, but by and large this is how we shoot.

Second big difference is in what we're looking at. With a rifle, one centers the crosshairs or front sight,places that on the area of the critter or target one wishes to hit, and gently squeezes off.The focus is on the sight.

Shotgunners are looking at the TARGET, not the bead. We're aware of the bead and bbl in our peripheral vision, but the target is what's seen sharp and clear.And the trigger gets "Slapped", which is a high speed press, rather than squeezed.
All too often, it gets yanked, usually with a convulsive clenching of the whole hand,thus introducing a bobble into the swing.

The fact that many shotgun triggers are way too heavy, muddy and uncrisp doesn't help either. Trust me, AA shooters in any clay discipline have clean,light triggers and they do not yank on them.

So, how do I think a rifleman or riflewoman should get into shotgunning?

First, until your form and sighting are well practiced,I'd leave the rifles alone. Once grooved in,the changes will become automatic.

Second, to do this, a few minutes of practice at home every day with a shotgun KNOWN TO BE UNLOADED will help get you going. You should be practicing your mount anyway.

Third, if you haven't already gotten your trigger worked on, do so.A clean,crisp 5 lb or less trigger is essential to good shooting and crucial to good wingshooting.Level the field....

Any questions, comments, donations?

August 22, 2002, 09:35 AM
The transition from shotgun to rifle can work negatively in the other direction too. I learned this lesson this spring when removing an unwelcome porcupine from our woodlot. To my dismay what should have been an easy shot at a close range, slow moving target required two additional shots. A trip to the range was planned to determine what went wrong.

The verdict: I had shot high even though I was using a shotgun with rifle sights. At the range, I noted a tendency to look at the target which caused me to raise my head above the sights in the process. I installed a set of Hi-Viz sights on the 870 barrel. They are very bright and you can't help but see them, unlike the factory sights.

I also spent the rest of the afternoon banging away at steel reaction targets and promised I would do so more often. It might actually BE a shotgun, but I need to shoot it like an open-sighted rifle and focus on the front sight.


August 22, 2002, 11:34 AM
Thought provoking as always Dave :) You made me realize that my technique with rifle and shotgun isn't that much different. I guide my rifle with my forward hand (with my finger pointing at the target). Even when I shoot shotgun, I tend to focus on the front sight more than the target.

Al Thompson
August 22, 2002, 01:22 PM
I have yet to try it, but I'm planning on removing a bead sight and shooting some clays.


Dave McC
August 22, 2002, 04:37 PM
Thanks, guys.

Of course, Paul. And, there's times when we're shotgunning but need an aimed shot. Squirrel hunting comes to mind. Fiber Optic sights are great for rifles and shotguns when shot like rifles, but I've doubts about their usage for clays and birds. Of course, lots of folks shoot the pants off me with them.

Ronin, if it works for you. Some rifles seem to handle like quail guns, Model 94s for instance. I recall a 6.5X55 Swedish carbine I'd love to own again, it was an amazing brush gun.

Gizmo, Sarah Sanford from that Pull show on OLN shoots sans bead sight. It looks like she needs little editing to appear good(G). I've known a couple hotshot bird hunters who were deadly minus beads.

I did have a bead fall off my TB during a double trap round, but didn't notice it until later. Decent score for me.....

August 22, 2002, 06:35 PM
Dave, I agree about the fiber optic sights for shotgunning. I've tried them and they don't work for me.

Another difference between riflemen and shotgunners is shooting stance. With shotgunners a proper stance is designed to facilitate movement. Rifle and pistol stances are designed to limit movement as much as possible.


August 22, 2002, 07:39 PM
I grew up shooting smothbores, and rifles. We would often shoot both the same trip to the woods. Hunted deer in the morning with the rifle, birds in the afternoon, then back to deer. I never had the slightest trouble with shooting either.

There are times when we tend to 'over analyze' technique. I have found that success in most shooting sports is heavily dependent on good hand/eye coordination. You have it , or you don't. All the training and seminars in the world can't make a shooter out of someone that is not equipped by nature to do it well.

Dave McC
August 23, 2002, 05:55 AM
Good point about stance, Paul. Mine is more open when shotgunning. Since I do not shoot HP, my offhand riflery tends to be close and sudden, I love stillhunting. Shots here tend to be taken ALMOST like a wing shot, with FAST sight pic. One of the reasons I like peeps.

Mann, some folks are like that, some aren't. After teaching a few hundred people the rudiments of LE style shooting, most anyone capable of playing volleyball ,darts or basketball can learn to shoot OK, IF they have a committment to learning, IMO.The best reflexes and co-ordination on Earth will not make up for a bad mindset.

Thanks for the Colonel's quote, Erick. Trigger control seems to be the most common prob for tyros, and shotgunning will never teach a controlled squeeze.

August 23, 2002, 07:54 AM
Thaks Dave. Thought provoking, and timely for me.

August 25, 2002, 12:42 AM
As usual, good post Dave.
Read it when it first came up. Mulled it over for a while.
Not till I read Erick's post with the Cooper quote did I realize what was bothering me about it.

Back when I was a pup; Charles Askins (Senior) stated that he thought the order of difficulty in mastering went from Rifle easy, to Shotgun harder and Handgun hardest.

I have found that it is usually easier to make a good rifle shooter out of a Shotgunner than vice versa.

The thing that Erick tripped was....generally speaking, most modern shotgun triggers are flat out terrible. Exceptions nowadays being mostly in the high end stuff. When Papa Askins was beatin folks with shotgun, rifle and handguns, shotgun triggers were usually quite good, even on budget guns.

I think Cooper's statement re triggers is applicable to most modern shotguns. And therefore, most modern shotgunners.

And Dave McC has oft commented on the lousy triggers found on most recent shotguns.

Lousy trigger is going to keep a shooter used to a good trigger from doing well. Conversely; one who is good in spite of a good trigger is going to have a fit coping with a really good trigger for a while.


Dave McC
August 25, 2002, 06:39 AM
You're welcome, guys. SG triggers are a mess, and it's the rare rifle that has as nasty a one as the average, post 1970 shotgun.

Back in the days of the British Empire, the bespoke makers figured the trigger should be about half the gun weight, and half a lb more for the rear one on a dual setup. Sinc emost of their shotguns ran less than 7 lbs, this worked well.

Back when I was shooting Light Sporter benchrest, the worked over hunting rifles I used had triggers in the neighborhood of 2- 2 1/2 lbs. My ML has a 2 lb, unset weight.Good trigger discipline is mandatory, of course.

The 3 1/2-5 lb weights on my 870s are good but not exceptional. Some of mine came like that, others had to be tweaked a bit.

BTW, the trigger on my post 64 Model 94 is heavier, even after a trigger "Job", than the 870s.

Shotgunners, especailly traphounds, will spend thousands on gadgetry, gizmos, and stuff, but often leave the triggers alone. Oft the difference between a top shooter in any of the games and an also ran is a good trigger, and the control that's needed to get the best results....

February 24, 2011, 03:18 PM

Apologies for bumping an old thread, but I'd rather do so than start a whole new one (I'm a stickler for trying to maintain some continuity on forums rather than re-writing the wheel each time).

oneounceload and zippy13 have been giving out some great advice on another thread I have comparing Remington's Compact Jr. 12" LOP Stock and Hogue's after-market 12" LOP stock (http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=441425). However, the questions/answers have moved into the realm of proper stance and proper mount for the shotgun, so I thought I'd move the discussion to a more appropriate thread.

The question is as follows -- I don't see very big differences between this "modern"/"combat" rifle stance (pic taken from the US Army):

And this "modern"/"combat" shotgun stance (pic taken from a Magpul class):

While I understand that there are differences in the trigger pull and sight alignment/target acquisition for the rifle vs. the shotgun, the basic stance seems (to me) to be the same (I made the graphic on Visio):

Am I wrong? Corrections/clarifications/criticisms welcome.


P.S. Of course, the above are different from the "traditional" rifleman's stance (pic taken from the US Army):

And the "traditional" shotgun stance (pic taken from a hunting website):

Which both look like this to me (I made the graphic):

February 24, 2011, 04:11 PM
To continue..... ;)

for moving target acquisition, I have my feet in a basic stance with my offhand toe (for me the right as I am a LH) slightly forward of my other foot and where I want to break the target. I am mostly facing in a forward direction, not at 90 degrees with my shoulders and head turned. This allows me a swing arc of 180 degrees to acquire and shoot at something that is moving, especially those pesky crossing targets. When you utilize a rifle stance and you shoot at something crossing, you will have a tendency to roll one shoulder up and the other down as you move, creating a canted stance, pulling your head off the stock, and subsequently, you're missing the bird. (this is what I was saying about a friend we've been working with). You use your legs, hips and waist more than you do shooting a rifle standing up in the basic marksman pose.

February 24, 2011, 05:03 PM

I think I've found why you maybe confused: Your pic of the guy in overalls may be from a hunting mag, but the shooter is more of a rifleman than a wing shooter. He's far from being in a "traditional" shotgun stance. Here's a pic of Kim Rhode, Gold Medal Olympian, in a more traditional wing shooting posture. You can see, her elbows are positioned differently.

(AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)

Evan Thomas
February 24, 2011, 05:53 PM
That's a fine picture, Zippy.

Except for slug shooting and "Serious" work, there's a couple major differences in how we shoot rifles vs shotguns.
And I think that this comment in the first post in this thread sort of covers the similarities in the rifle and shotgun "combat" stances... that being what's meant by "Serious," I believe. In other words, similar targets, similar stances, pretty much.

Dave McC
February 26, 2011, 06:49 PM
My "Serious" shotguns are shot like rifles. I aim,etc.

I'm no expert on modern military stances, but that one of the riflemen looks pretty good to me.

Wingshooting is a whole different method.

That Pic of Ms Kim says a lot.Control and focus maxed.