Press Room
Mastering Long Crossing Shots
Written by R.K. Sawyer   
An Interview with Bobby Fowler
Elite Shooting School

World Champion competitor and renowned shooting instructor Bobby Fowler has made a career out of learning to shoot a shotgun – and winning competitions. So, when I decided to write an article on long crossers, he was a logical choice to approach. Bobby did not hesitate to help out, and his responses were characteristic Bobby – no long explanations or hyperbole, just thoughtful insights from a master on the subject that seemed to make sense to me.

Bobby says that he teaches his students how to shoot long crossers the same way he taught himself. “I started by training myself what the lead picture looked like at 10, 20, and 30-yards. When I moved to 40-yard shots, I simply doubled the lead of my sight picture from 20-yard shots, and it worked pretty well.” It was stunning in its simplicity, but I was certain there had to be more to the story!

Fortunately, there was. Bobby followed by explaining that shooting easy 10 and 20-yard targets allowed him to master the basics before he moved up in target distance. Once he developed and built on the fundamentals, he found he could consistently hit long crossers. Those fundamentals can be grouped into three main categories; 1) shot mechanics – the eye point, hold point, and break point, 2) the speed and angle of gun insertion along the target line, or trajectory, and 3) judging lead.

Fundamentals of a crossing shotThe mechanics of the shot are the gun hold point, target break point and where you look as you call ‘pull.’ Bob continues: “You have to approach every shot exactly the same way. If you think of the trap as 0% and the break point as 100%, then I put my eyes at 10%, and my gun at 50%. I start moving my gun just as soon as the target leaves the trap, and at a speed a little slower than the target speed.”

I was taught to try to match the gun speed to the target speed, and was curious about Bobby’s approach. “Yes, most of us were taught that way. I have just found that I get a better sight picture when I use a decreasing lead, or what I call a ‘collapsed lead.’ My gun moves just a little bit slower than the target. I let the bird catch up to the gun as it is moving. I am waiting for the bird to get into the lead picture, and I pull the trigger the instant the sight picture is right.”

Part of Bobby’s sight picture success comes from inserting the gun a little below the target line. “You don’t want to start with your gun on the line of the bird,” Bobby counsels, “as the gun can obstruct your target vision. If you think of the bird as moving along a horizontal plane at 90°, then you want to insert the gun at a 30° angle under it. You are essentially building a right triangle with the gap it takes to break the target.”

Building a Right Triangle“The gap it takes to break the target.” It sounds so simple when worded like that, but for many shooters judging that gap – or lead – may be the most vexing topic in the clay target sports. Bobby has an interesting approach to determining – and teaching – lead. “Like most people, I was taught to think of lead in terms of feet in front of the bird, estimated at the target distance. I can do that, but it’s actually harder to judge lead in feet at the bird. I’ve found it is a lot easier to think in terms of inches at the barrel. My students have more success by thinking that way, and it is easier to teach, especially at the beginning.” In fact, Bobby believes this is the most successful teaching tool he’s found.

Here’s how it breaks down. An inch at the barrel equates to about a foot of lead at the bird. Bobby thinks of lead on, say, a 10 to 20-yard target as 1 to 2 inches, at 30 yards about 3 inches, and so on up to 50 yards with “4 to 5 inches, maybe even 6.” As I was listening, I couldn't help but think that, to judge lead at the barrel, I would violate the fundamental rule of looking at the barrel. “No,” he says, “Your eyes are still hard focused on the bird. You can see that gun – and judge the gap – in your peripheral vision. And when you see that gap – take the shot.”

Bob emphasized sight picture quite a bit during our discussion. “Your sight picture should be the gap between gun and bird, and a good sight picture is the foundation to become a good shooter. If you missed a target and didn’t have a good sight picture – meaning you didn’t know what lead you gave the target – how are you going to fix it? If I miss, but had a good sight picture, I just give it a different sight picture. And it works the same way with a hit. A champion shooter remembers what picture he saw when he has success.”

It took Bobby about 15 minutes to describe how to master long crossing shots. He is knowledgeable – and passionate – about the shot, so much so that I had to write pretty fast to keep up! Once the note-taking hand is rested, I have several new ideas to consider for crossers on the range.

Interested in learning more about crossers? Give Bobby a call at 713-858-4200.
Bobby firing upward Bobby instructing man with onlookers Bobby aiming right