View Full Version : Sight line - figure 8 or have the beads lined up?

May 29, 2012, 09:00 PM
I hate to say it, but I've heard a fair amount of conflicting advice on how to have a good sight line down the barrel of a shotgun for skeet/sporting clays.

Some have told me that the beads should line up.

Others have said that the beads should form a figure 8, with the mid bead as the lower section of the "8" and the front bead the upper section of the "8".

I have been tinkering with fit on two shotguns - a beretta 390 (I have lots of different shims) and a Winchester 101 with an adjustable comb.

The tinkering I have done has resulted, at least in the last two times I have gone skeet shooting, with getting pretty close to skunked on stations 3, 4 and 5. I'm hitting 6/6 or 5/6 on 1 and 2; and the same on 6 and 7. (station 8 is irrelevant to this discussion given how close it is, but I'm consistent there). Granted, i could be screwing up my leads, but before I started tinkering with my comb, I was at least hitting more of the middle stations that I was before. Buddy of mine thought I was set too low, so he suggested I raise my comb a bit. I wonder if I didn't raise it enough, or if I raised it too much.

So, how should I be sighting - with the beads lined up, or with a figure 8?

May 29, 2012, 10:33 PM
I have been shooting shotguns for about 50 years. I had never, ever, even heard of the figure 8 stuff until a relatively short while ago. I pattern all my shotguns. I always lined up the beads. My guns shot to POA.

May 29, 2012, 11:52 PM
I have been shooting shotguns for about 50 years. I had never, ever, even heard of the figure 8 stuff until a relatively short while ago.
I'd never heard of the figure-8, either, until I started shooting seriously in the mid 80s. Before that I'd just stumbled along shooting at small clubs, learning by trial and error, repeating the same mistakes and shooting good but not great scores. Then I joined a club with several world champions, hall of famers and all-Americans in their membership. I was fortunate that my work schedule allowed me to shoot five days a week. Shooting with these top level shooters, I learned more in two months than I had in the previous 20-years.

So, how should I be sighting - with the beads lined up, or with a figure 8?
How serious a shooter are you? The advantage of the figure-8 is that it lets you float the target where with the beads aligned, you cover the bird. As Virginian-in-LA said, he lines up the beads and his gun shoots point of aim.

Is shooting point of aim a good thing? Not necessarily, you don't want to aim a shotgun, with crossing targets you want it to hit where you're looking.

When shooting Skeet (the OP asked about Skeet) one of the frequent reasons people miss is because the target gets below their gun. Say you are shooting POA with your beads lined up, so you have to swing your gun ahead of the target and even with it. It the bird drops out of sight (below your barrel), you've got to drop your barrel and go looking for it. This often takes more time than the game allows. Another reaction, instead of dropping the barrel, is to raise your face off of the stock to get a better look. This results in you thinking the gun is aligned properly; but, in reality, you are shooting over the target. And, as a bonus to those missed targets, you may get your cheek bruised.

Now, consider the figure-8 alignment. It's the same as raising the rear sight of a rifle, so now you be hitting higher than your aim point. This is good because it lets you have you gun below the path of the target. With that gap, you have a cushion if the bird starts to drop. You'll see what's happening and drop your gun instead of raising your face. Some shooters use an exaggerated figure-8 where the have daylight between their beads, this allows them to float the target even more.

Think of it this way: with aligned beads you have to look through the gun, with a figure-8 you look over the gun. Skeet is a game of inches, and those few inches of sky under the target, with a figure-8 alignment, are very important if your want to shoot winning scores.

From this graphic, you'll see that three different bead alignments all put the shot on target:


May 30, 2012, 02:12 AM
Good explanation, Zippy. The last time I shot some skeet with .300 Weatherby, his Pops explained how on station 1 my hold point was so high (I looked like I was manning an anti aircraft gun, that I wasted time dropping the barrel down so I could swing up into the target and that caused me to be late going after the double coming at me from the low house.

May 30, 2012, 06:02 AM
I think it's like longer barrels - the current fashion. Back when I was shooting a little competitive skeet, no one used a figure 8 hold, and no one had a barrel over 28", and the vast majority were 26". I got a chance to see and talk with the then current United States all gauge skeet champion, and a member of the U. S. Olympic team, and watch both of them shoot, and neither of them shot a figure 8, and the Olympic guy only used one bead, and they both had 26" barrels. Remember Olympic is not shot pre-mounted either.
I don't ever consciously remember looking at the bead or beads since I started actually hitting targets. Heck, I may have a figure 8 hold, but I sure ain't going to try to check. I was never a world class skeet shooter, with my best ever being a 97 straight. No hold can help a world class low house 7 choke job.
Tom Knapp said he didn't use a figure 8 either. I don't know how he does that behind the back shot. He says it's all in knowing the right sight picture in any circumstance.
Trying to make sure you have a figure 8, or not, and estimating the lead, is the surest way I can imagine to miss. All anyone actually does is check their view of the beads before they ask for the target when they pre-mount the gun. Whichever method you use, you can be successful with practice.

May 30, 2012, 08:07 AM
AFAIK, The mid-bead setup is to assure the shooter of proper form... Mid-bead in alignment with muzzle bead to assure you are not cocked off or canted over (both official terms in redneck engineering manuals)...

As for "sight picture" my "close in" shots put target's head in the top position of the "figure eight" with "CoM" being POI. Further out requires personal changes to POA/POI...


May 30, 2012, 10:03 AM
Caddywampus covers both cocked and canted.

...The state of being grossly out of alignment, skewed, or uneven.

I've been shooting shotguns for over 50 years and for the first 40 didn't know anybody who had a shotgun with 2 beads. Too poor I guess.

May 30, 2012, 10:10 AM
Caddywampus is the extreme... If'n yer in caddywampus mount and hittin' targets... you are "wrong eyed" or bent barrel on gun...


May 30, 2012, 11:50 AM
Trying to make sure you have a figure 8, or not, and estimating the lead, is the surest way I can imagine to miss.I think you're confusing things with the semantics of "figure-8." You don't make sure you have a figure-8 no more than you make sure your beads are aligned. It basically comes down to how much rib you see. If you look down the rib, you shoot at the target. If you look over the rib, then you float the target. The more rib you see, the more you float the target. The "figure-8" is just one specific case of seeing the rib. I'm sure there are many shooters who see some rib and float their targets who don't know or care about the figure-8 bead alignment. The figure-8 principle is just a method of verifying that you're seeing the same amount of rib when you mount your gun. Using the figure-8 alignment, or any other high mount, the amount of target float becomes second nature and all you worry about is seeing the proper lead. If the bird starts to dip, you have a better chance of staying with it than the shooter who is looking through his gun.

In reality, the amount of rib you see and how much you float the bird is not something you make a conscious decision about, it's basically determined by the fit of your gun.Tom Knapp said he didn't use a figure 8 either. I don't know how he does that behind the back shot.
He may not use an exact figure-8 bead alignment; but, you'd better believe that he's floating the target with his trick shots. That behind the back stuff is just an exaggerated version of learning how much to float the target. Try this: tuck your gun up into your arm pit and start shooting high birds at Station-1. Looking above the end of the barrel, pretty soon you'll learn how much to float the target and you'll be smoking it every time.

May 30, 2012, 01:29 PM
You can't fine tune the "Fit" on a gun ....by shooting at targets !

After you make an adjustment on the comb ... regardless of whether its a figure 8 ...or some other.../ screw in a full choke ...and go to a pattern board to check the point of impact vs where you look ( shoot at a 3" dot at the pattern board at 21 yds or so.

Then adjust the comb on your gun ...to move the point of impact according to what you see at the pattern board / and then verify it - by firing 3 shells at another dot.

As Zippy has pointed out ...what you see is an indication of "Fit" ...and how you want to shoot a Skeet target. I use the same philosophy as Zippy does ....

Guys standing on the field with you ...might think you're high or low...but all kinds of things can cause that ...( if you're rolling your shoulders as you execute the shot vs moving level, picking up the heel on your back foot....all kinds of things ...)

...and in my opinion, there isn't one guy out of 25 that can really see the shot cloud coming out of your gun as it goes downrange...to really tell if you were high, low, behind or ahead.....( maybe 2 out of 25 could see it if they were at right angles to you / in just the right kind of light ...but in my opinion, they're guessing ). Don't put a lot of stock in their opinion ...go to the pattern board...get the point of impact fine tuned / then go back to the skeet / Trap / sporting clays field and work out your fundamentals.

May 30, 2012, 04:43 PM
I pattern all my shotguns.
This is the important part. Pattern the guns, see where they shoot with the beads in various positions. I have a gun that shoots dead on when I see a "figure 8" another requires the beads be right behind each other. Pattern your gun at a close distance (15-25 yards) with a tight choke and see where your shot is landing.

May 30, 2012, 04:51 PM
Not to be a pain in the butt......but "patterning" and " Determining Point of Impact" ....are 2 very different things.../ and we shouldn't use the terms as interchangeable ...because it confuses people.

In this case... the OP may have an issue with both ....but verifying "Point of Impact" with a tight choke ( like a Full ) is the first step. Our eye is the rear sight on a shotgun ....so its important to adjust the comb / jones pad or whatever / or put a pad on the comb or whatever you need to do...so the shotgun "hits" where you look ...meaning the gun "Fits" you.

Then he can pattern the gun using a Skeet choke at 21 yds ...and a given shell that he prefers.....( determining the effectiveness of a 30" pattern - ideally with no holes in it - at the intended kill range / with the choke he will use, that barrel, and that shell....). Chokes may be marked Skeet...but in 3 different guns ...or with 3 different shells...they may throw different patterns at 21 yds....some denser than others / some with more flyers out of the pattern ...some with some holes big enough for targets or birds to fly thru unscathed. It may be a gun barrel issue, a choke issue - or often a shell issue. But in any case...patterning is done - after you figure out the Point of Impact or Fit !

May 31, 2012, 08:34 AM
There is some good information provided in this post. I see this subject come up often here and on other forums. I think it would make a good sticky for others to learn from.

May 31, 2012, 12:00 PM
I found Zippy's explanation and the graphic to be VERY helpful.

Ultimately, one of the questions one should ask when determining how to establish your sight line is what type of shooting will you be doing? The more "float" you allow in developing your muscle memory for skeet, for instance, the more adjustments you will need to make for longer shots - say in sporting clays, 5 stand or even out hunting birds. If I understand this correctly (and looking at the graph), if you float the target with a figure 8, and that target is further way than the standard distance where you break your skeet birds, you would need to "float" your target even higher the further away it gets.

With that in mind, and in the hopes of being a versitle shotgunner, I think i will opt for the straight in line "cover your target with the muzzle", accounting for speed, type of shooter. That is, unless I decide I should try and shoot skeet competitively and notice that I am missing some targets that are dropping out of my view.

Very interesting thread. thanks for all of the input.

May 31, 2012, 04:06 PM
if you float the target with a figure 8, and that target is further way than the standard distance where you break your skeet birds, you would need to "float" your target even higher the further away it gets.
Oops… you've got it backwards. A shotgun is not like a rifle where you fuss over the bullet drop at various ranges. But, it will be easier to understand if I use a rifle as an example:

Have you ever used a rifle or handgun with a fixed sight where you have to apply "Kentucky Windage?" Say you line up your sights and it groups 3" high and and 1/2" to the left. With Kentucky Windage, you'll aim 3" low and 1/2" to the right with hopes of dropping the next shots right on the mark. Anyone who's shot fixed sights understands this principle.

Now, consider using a shotgun with a figure-8 alignment -- it sets your shotgun to shoot high. So, with a figure-8, if you shoot at the target, you'll go over it. Floating the target, is the same a aiming low with a rifle that shoots high. So, if you see more air under the target you'll shoot even lower. I shoot at short distances, so I don't concern myself with shot drop. But if I did, I could reduce the float distance or stretch the figure-8 and float it the same. Perhaps some of the boomer boys can shed some light on how they adjust, if at all, for shot drop on long shots.

Now, for the bad news… If, as you intend, you cover the target with your beads aligned at short range, how are you going to compensate for shot drop for long shots? If you raise your gun to shoot higher, you'll lose sight of the target.

May 31, 2012, 04:24 PM
Interesting point. I was not considering the shot drop as much as the fact that using the figure 8 the further out the target is, the more float one has to account for - in addition to any shot drop. I would like to remove as many variables as I can at this point, and was thinking that a straight on targeting ight help that happen.

May 31, 2012, 04:39 PM
And it can help, as long as you are shooting targets that are rising, or at the very least flying level - but anytime targets are dropping, and you have to cover the bird to hit it, now the bird might be further below your sight picture than you think.

I use the figure 8 to make sure my mount is decent (LH shooter with a RH stock), but otherwise, I look at the target floating just above the rib, even when it is dropping, my beads are below (and accelerating as necessary) to get that dropper

May 31, 2012, 04:48 PM
1-oz, do you wonder what George Digweed was seeing for his 130-yard shot?

May 31, 2012, 05:48 PM
I have taken 12 shots so far with my friends new Beretta A400, no middle bead, and I hit each bird. Wish I could say that about my own gun. :(

I sometimes wonder if my middle bead just makes me think more about something that I don't need to think about..........:confused:

May 31, 2012, 05:56 PM
Like OneOunce mentioned....the only time I'm aware of that bead...in the middle or at the muzzle....is when I mount the gun / so I know I haven't canted the gun / or rolled into it ...as I mount the gun ...

as I call for my bird ...the only thing I want to look at is the leading edge of the bird ( and feel the lead to break it - but my sight never leaves that bird ....

( if you find yourself looking at the beads as you execute a shot / it'll stop your swing - because your eyes are leaving the target and going back to the barrel - and that's never a good thing )....

May 31, 2012, 06:07 PM
... beads or no beads... you can't miss with a Beretta :)


May 31, 2012, 07:02 PM
1-oz, do you wonder what George Digweed was seeing for his 130-yard shot?

A bigger orange target than I can ever see at half that distance

May 31, 2012, 07:16 PM
I sometimes wonder if my middle bead just makes me think more about something that I don't need to think about..........
Now that's a true statement if i ever heard one !!:eek:

June 6, 2012, 11:10 AM
zippy13 -

Thanks for the graphic and the explanation, excellent info and helps to put things in proper perspective.

June 6, 2012, 12:43 PM
Chadio, thanks for your service, Bravo Zulu.

Tonkin Bay Yacht Club

Creek Henry
June 7, 2012, 03:33 PM
I just had to add a shim on top of my rib of a new O/U I got. The gun shoots too low and I wasn't hitting anything with it. So, I put a 1/4"x14"x [1/4" to 1/16"] square dowel on the rib just before the middle bead. It aligns with the front sight perfectly now.

The only time I could hit with it was when I did the figure-8 thing but I dont' want to have to do that. It's cheesy, imo.

June 7, 2012, 03:51 PM
Well, I took my friends Beretta to the line last Sunday, started at station 1 which just happens to be my nemesis for some reason. Missed the first two birds, on the third I got it down-pat. Only scored a 21 with a gun I had hardly used, no middle bead to look-at. I then took my gun to the line, ignored the middle bead, broke 23.

So my take is..............Take the middle bead off, get the gun to fit you, or find a different gun that does fit you.

I also took a look at the other guns on the rack, three others had no middle bead, and those fellas were hitting at least 20 per round.

My friend asked me how I was lining-up my shots and how much of the rib I saw when I used his gun. My answer: NO CLUE! I put the gun where it felt right, kept the gun moving as I pulled the trigger. He then started to get the hang of it and was shooting 20+ the rest of the day!

June 7, 2012, 08:17 PM
My take on the middle bead. It shouldn't be contributing to losses, directly. The thing is if you use it to check your mount, then it is harder not to look at the front bead when going for the shot.

Notice I didn't say that you consciously ignore the front bead. You are going to see it in your peripheral vision. Just don't look at it. Perhaps it would be better to get to the point where I see it and am totally unaware of it, but if I try not to think of it that is just what I am doing; thinking of it.

Everyone has been telling me forever to just look at the target. Why is something so simple so difficult?