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Utilization of the Body for Gun Movement


Much like a golf swing, in shooting it is body movement that controls, or really dictates the final destination of the shot string.  If your back swing in golf, and ensuing stroke down to the ball deviates from proper form, then it is likely that the ball will not go where it is supposed to.  At least that what happens when I hit a golf ball.


As we will learn in the Chapter Three, a shooter’s foot position can play a major role in that shooter’s ability or inability to move on a particular target.  Obviously, if I stand and face in a certain direction, then turn my body at the waist, one way, then the other, I will find that I have limits.  I can only turn so far to the right, and also have limits to the left.  It is the way that the human body is built.  Although elementary, this standing demonstration illustrates that the human body has limits as to what it can do, and to the degree that it can do it.


The human body is a wonderful machine that serves us well.  But we must also control the body’s movements and navigate away from its limitations.  We will do so to our advantage, using the body’s parts in unison, so that are movements are efficient, smooth, and satisfy our foremost goal, which is creating a solid foundation from which we can match gun speed with target speed with an economy of movement.  Pay particular attention to the last statement.  When attempting to shoot target with a maintained lead as we will in our approcaah to this game and the targets presented, the goal is to do so by matching gun speed with target speed.  This matching of movement between two non-connected objects, demands continuous and uninterrupted rotation from the body.  It is the body’s ability to turn in an efficient manner that will determine the attainment of that goal. 


We can categorize shooter’s body movement by dividing them into two groups, upper body shooters and lower body shooters.  Quite simply an upper body shooter uses the upper body to create gun movement and the lower body shooter relies on the legs to do the work.  Let’s look at each more closely, and determine why one is better than the other.


First we will examine the movements of the upper body shooter.  This shooter generates all of the gun movement from the waist up.  To move the gun, the shoulders and arms push or really force the gun in the desired direction of the shot.  A number of poor fundamentals are created when using the upper body to move the gun.


Initially, two bad things happen as the arms “push” the gun.  First, using the arms to move the gun is a very limited move, you can try but you will find that you can only push the gun so far in either direction.  Also, the arms push in a point A to point B fashion.  This move is very linear, so it is difficult to rotate smoothly and match gun speed with target speed for any sustained period of time.  Secondly, as the arms push or “throw” the gun to the target, the head will invariably come off the stock.  Any upper body shooter who has a problem of “coming out of the gun”, will continue to have that problem, regardless of how the problem is combated, until that shooter stops being an upper body shooter.  Just the act of moving to the target, commences the pushing of the gun away from the face, which in essence, is raising the head.


While the arms are busy pushing the gun, the upper body follows the arm’s movement.  Pushing back and forth from right to left, and left to right, the body’s weight shifts from on foot to the other.  This happens because the arms have a limited area of movement, so the introduced weight shift increases the area covered by the push.  As this weight shift occurs, you will notice that the shoulders do not stay level, but in fact roll as the body rocks back and forth.  Now we’re in the quagmire, and deep.


How many times have you heard shooters complain that their shoulder roll and they can’t stop it?  There are more shooters who do this than there are empty hulls at the World Championships.  The shoulder roll is an insidious move because, you can’t stop doing it, unless you change the way you move the gun. When the shoulders roll, there is another variable thrown into the equation of gun speed.  As the roll occurs, the gun tends to slow, because the gun changes its lateral direction and begins to move upward.  The subsequent miss is high and behind.


High Five is a perfect example for a right-handed shooter who rolls the shoulders.  While moving with this target across the field, the weight shifts from the front foot to the back, or right foot, and the right shoulder begins to dip accordingly.  Since the gun is mounted on the right shoulder, as that shoulder dips, the gun muzzle goes up, resulting in a miss that is over and behind.  Right-handed shooters become cognizant of this move on the low house side of the field when shooting the high house as an incomer, High Five, Six, and Seven.  These targets move from left to right, and so does the shooter, left foot to right foot.  Conversely, the left-handed shooter will more often experience “rolling” on the high house side of the field shooting the right to left, incoming low houses.


If all of this isn’t enough, when the shoulders roll, the weight shifts back to the back foot, and something else really bad happens, you are off-balance.  Before I continue, note that when shooting, our right and left feet stop being right and left and start becoming front and back.  For the right-handed shooter, your front foot is your left foot, for the left-handers, it’s your right.  The front foot is the foot that we come forward on and it will be the foot that we work off of.


Back to being off-balance.  What is so bad about that?  Well, I have never been involved in any sport where the first thing they told me to do, was get off-balance. Moreover, of all the sports that I am aware of, football, baseball, and basketball to name a few, when you get off balance, you’re deader than fried chicken.


Ever watch a shooter “walk” or “fall” off of the station, especially at a shot like Station Six doubles?  That walk or fall is necessitated by the use of the upper body to move the gun.  As the upper body changes position in relation to the feet, balance changes or is sometimes lost altogether, leaving the shooter with only two options after the shot, fall down or take the step.


You may have already deduced that I am not big on upper body shooting.  I have tried to illustrate all the negatives associated with this method of moving the gun, and would have presented the positives, if I knew of any.  I am a lower body shooter, and without doubt would like my students and clients to do the same. In fact, a large portion of my game is built around the use of my legs, the “lower body” to produce my movements with the target.   All of the negatives associated with being an upper body shooter can be countered and conquered by using the lower body to create gun movement.  Let’s discuss why.


Being a lower body shooter, all of the lateral rotation with the target is created by leg movement.  It is the legs that do the turning.  As discussed earlier, instead of right and left, our feet become front and back, the left foot is the front foot for the right-hander, the right foot for the left-hander.  In order to counter the weight shift during the shot, I will position most of the body’s weight forward, onto the front foot.


This weight distribution can be easily demonstrated by standing with the feet underneath the shoulders, extending the fingers out from the left hand, and positioning yourself arm’s length away, and perpendicular to a wall, fingers just touching the wall.  Left-handed shooters will extend the right arm.  Now, while continuing to extend the arm, rotate the hand up, as if to tell the wall to “stop”.  Next, lean against the wall using the rotated hand as support.  You will notice that a majority of your weight now is positioned on the foot closest to the wall.  Now, drop your hand.  Roughly eighty percent of your body weight is now on your “front” foot.  This is the weight distribution that one would desire while using the lower body to shoot.


Maintaining, this position, turn to the right, then to the left, rotating over the front foot.  Notice that the body turns smoothly, and of utmost importance, on one axis.  I like to think of a pole extending up from the ground, through my left leg, and continuing up through the torso.  This is the axis that I turn on, and it is an unbending axis.


As you turn from this position, take into account that it is the large quadricep muscles of the legs that are doing the turning, the upper body turns also, but it is just coming along for the ride.  The shoulders remain in the same plane as the hips, following suit as the legs dictate the action.


Adopting this method of turning, we have essentially eliminated all of the problems experienced by the upper body shooter.  Recognize that as we turn over the front foot, the shoulders stay level, thus eliminating a shoulder “roll”.  This roll only occurs when the weight shifts from the front to the back foot.  Concurrently, as the weight remains over the front foot, balance is maintained throughout the shot.


The maintaining of balance throughout the whole shot is very important when we take into the consideration the recoil of the gun as it is fired.  We’ll use two football linemen coming off of the line as an example.  Imagine that you are a defensive end lined up opposite the line of scrimmage from my friend, Tackle Stan Brock.  At 6’ 7” and 300 pounds, Stan will explode off the line with quite a bit of force.  Knowing that this force is coming at you, would you position yourself with your weight back on your heels?  Probably not, as this would allow Stan to plant you somewhere back in the defensive secondary.  No, you would take a rather wide stance, creating a good foundation, getting good balance, and positioning your weight forward to accept the blow.


The shotgun recoil will act in the same manner as a lineman reacting to the snapping of the ball.  Having my weight forward will allow me to better accept the gun’s recoil, while at the same time maintaining balance before and after the recoil is absorbed.  This is imperative for smaller framed shooters, especially children, who have a tendency to lean back from the waist in an effort to counter the weight of the gun.  This positioning, leaning back over the rear foot, is not only poor form, but when taking into consideration the effects of recoil, you’re asking for it.  Therefore, smaller framed adults should equip themselves with a gun that is not too heavy for them, and children should not begin shooting until they can comfortably and competently handle the gun with proper form.


Analyzing our discussion of lower body movement up to this point, one can conclude that the upper body has yet to do anything.  And that is the idea.  The shoulders don’t do anything anymore, because the legs are doing the work.  Significantly, the arms are out of job also.  Since the legs orchestrate the turning, the arms do nothing.  The arms have only one use when in the act of shooting and that is they are gun supports.  The arms keep the shotgun from hitting the ground.


Being that the arms have been subordinated to a lesser role, that being gun supports, there is one important thing that they don not do anymore, and that is push the gun away from the face, i.e. head off the stock.  Although this does not completely eliminate head raising, mental discipline does that, it sure makes the job easier.  Reiterating, a shooter who generates gun movement through the use of the arms will never be able to stay in the gun no matter how much mental discipline he or she can muster.


When I mount a shotgun, my head, chest, shoulders, arms, and gun, all lock in and become one unit.  This can be accomplished because is it the legs that do the turning, the upper body and the gun, just move in the manner that the legs determine.  My upper body and the gun become one.


The use of my legs is a very substantial part of my game.  Easily ninety percent of the students that I encounter in our clinics have an upper body related problems to some degree.  Inevitably though, within a few hours of implementing the lower body method of movement, those problems have disappeared, and the energy required to produce gun movement is less.  Using the legs, the body moves more efficiently with a pre-mounted gun.   This efficiency translates into unrestrained movement to the target, and less fatigue over the course of time.


For information on Todd Bender or the BenderShima Shooting Clinics, go to or e-mail us at


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