In the July issue of Clay Target Nation, you can read an article about some of skeet shooting’s most well-known championship-level shooters and the gear they rely on. You can read the full article here, but here’s a bonus question we didn’t have room to run in print!
CTN: Adjustment times seem to vary from shooter to shooter. How long (hours or days of range time) do you give yourself to become comfortable and successful in adapting to a new or different shotgun, ammunition or piece of gear and how did you go about determining that time frame?
Bender: Changes to equipment are only made in the off-season. I would allow one to two months to become comfortable and confident with specific changes.
Brown: Adjustment times vary among shooters due to their level of knowledge/experience. I have developed my own practice program that I shoot two to three times a week. On average I spend around two to three hours at the range practicing alone. I can focus on quality, not quantity, with little to no distractions. However if more shooting/practice is required, I will make all efforts to accomplish this. If I’m making changes, this is done in off/pre-season training to determine the proven performance I’m looking for. However, at any time during the season, or during each shoot I can and will make changes if necessary to handle a problem/obstacle or improve on something learned from mistakes.
Giambrone: When making any significant changes in equipment (mainly gun), it takes a solid 3-6 months of steady practice at the range and mount the gun at home to get comfortable with it. Steady range time is 3-4 times per week and shooting a minimum of 20-30 boxes per week. This is assuming the equipment fits you properly as well. If it doesn’t fit, I don’t care how much you practice with it, you won’t ever get used to it. If you change glasses, this doesn’t take nearly as long, but it still takes time to adjust.
Huszai: Adjustment times vary, depending on what you are in the process of changing. Our sport requires constant adjustment – to weather conditions, different backgrounds, and our own changing bodies as we age. The willingness to adapt and change is necessary in order to maintain your skills.
Stellato: When adapting to a new shotgun I leave six months to become consistent in singles and a year before I am comfortable with doubles. When changing gear, it only takes me a few boxes to become accustomed to the change, as long as I am comfortable with what I am using. If I’m not comfortable with something, I cannot use it. Also, it only takes me a few shots to become accustomed to a change in ammo.
Glenewinkel: I don’t change equipment much after I find something that works for me. The last time I changed competition guns was in 2008 and the only other significant equipment I have changed was my shooting glasses when I started using the Pilla glasses in 2015. The change in shotguns took a few months to work through and the change in glasses took a few days.
CTN: How much have you relied upon the advice, instruction and recommendations from top competitors and instructors in making the selection of your winning combination of shooting tools and techniques?
Bender: I have been very fortunate in that I worked under the best technical coach in the sport during my time at Trinity University, my coach, Col. Tom Hanzel. During the height of my career, for 20-plus years, I shot with and partnered with the best skeet shooter ever, and one of the best shotgun shooters ever, Wayne Mayes. In the last 10 years, I’ve studied under and taught with arguably the best mental coach, Olympic Gold Medalist, Lanny Bassham. I’ve been exposed to the best information from the best individuals.
Brown: Over my lifetime of shooting skeet I have had the privilege of receiving advice from only a few top competitors and at those times it occurred when I was not asking for the advice. They were generous enough to pass on a hint or suggestion at various times and I respectfully listened. I received some of the best instruction many years ago from several well experienced shooters who were not World Champions; however, their knowledge and experience was extremely priceless. Their instructions on proper shooting techniques, hold points, and equipment, to include skeet field etiquette, sportsmanship, and professionalism, have been very important to me as to my style and overall performance. Overall, I consider myself more self-taught when it comes to the final performance. This has been from tremendous hours practicing, wearing out guns and equipment, and learning what works best for me, which might not be the same for other shooters.
Huszai: I have been very fortunate to have had very good instruction over the years. From my Dad, who introduced me to the clay target sports many years ago, to my current coach, I have had good, patient instructors. I feel that it is necessary to work with a coach who knows your shooting style and can observe subtle changes in your game, in order to maintain a competitive edge.
Giambrone: I have been very blessed. I had so many people over the years help me in small and big ways, it would be impossible to name them all. I worked very hard to get where I am and it wasn’t an overnight process. I shot for 7 years with 5 of those being very steady before reaching AA/AAA status. Steady being defined as:
- Shooting 30-40 boxes of practice a week.
- Shooting a minimum of 5,000 registered targets each season.
- Having steady instruction during that time period.
- Watching the top shooters closely and seeing what they do and how they do it.
My coaches who had the most impact on me would be my father, Paul Giambrone, Jr,, and Eddie Francez of Louisiana. Eddie helped me understand the mental game, and my father always was there on the practice field with me. He was there through the good and bad and always had just the right thing to say to me to keep me going.
Stellato: I have relied heavily on advice from people throughout my career, especially when developing my techniques. Craig and Tommy Kirkman are my primary coaches. They helped me develop a technique which works for me and have taught me how to adjust to different conditions. Larry Seward has been very helpful with my mental game or when I am stuck on something. Being a quick study allows me to apply advice or make changes in a pinch. For example, at last year’s mid-America, I was struggling. John Shima helped me to understand how to best use my new larger barrels. Using that advice, I ran my first 100 straight in the .410 and won the gun championship. When deciding on equipment, I relied more on comfort than on outside advice. I am also grateful I can tell what I am doing wrong most of the time and stop before it becomes a bad habit.
Glenewinkel: Terry Howard was my coach for several years when I began shooting skeet and has undoubtedly had the greatest impact on my shooting technique. I have also used coaches from time to time for other shooting sports like trap and sporting clays. In addition to this, I have attended a few clinics focusing on particular aspects of skeet, like how to improve my doubles. Over the years I have learned where I usually encounter problems with my shooting. These days, I listen to tips from other shooters and learn from observing techniques of other shooters in the game to minimize bad habits and improve my technique.