Crash Test Dummy...

Posted by Donna Bilozir on 2020 Mar 9th

There are a lot of accomplished woman shooter’s in Canada, and I’m not one of them. Having said that, I have first-hand experience of the many challenges that may occur when learning to shoot a shotgun or rifle.

I’ve already mentioned the fun you can have putting together a functional set of clothing for hunting “Have You Met the Michelin Woman“. Once you have the wardrobe, the next important item is your gun. The ideal gun would be of proper fit and gauge, with cartridges loaded to suit the type of shooting and ability. Of course, this is not always possible.

Long before I went hunting, I was invited to shoot some clay targets with another couple. Our friend’s wife was considering the sport, and would monitor my progress on this fine, sunny day. So as the crash test dummy, I set out with confidence, convinced I would leave an impression.

Everyone arrived and we set up the clay target thrower. Several different shotguns in various gauges were laid out and I was shown the appropriate cartridges for each gauge. The guys explained how the clay thrower operated and told me the safety rules we would follow for the day. I had been given a well-fitting shooting vest and gloves to wear, along with an additional shoulder pad to cushion any recoil. They handed me a shotgun and told me it was my turn. I was ready………..
Excited and with a rapt audience, I stepped self-consciously into shooting position and said ‘ready’ as I’d been instructed. Nothing happened. I looked over and realized my husband was still waiting for my command.

Sheepishly, and with less confidence, I stepped into position again and said ‘READY‘. The clays flew through the air and were almost on the ground before I took my first shot. In my haste, I had not shouldered the gun properly and experienced a very bad recoil on my shoulder. The guys said the gun ‘bit’ me, however I’m convinced it attacked me. Either way, I was in pain, embarrassed, disappointed and quite convinced I would cry. I had failed as a test dummy and I’m sure this is why our friend’s wife never did take up shooting.

This is what I learned that day……Avoid giving a new shooter a 12 gauge unless they are strong as a tree trunk. A lighter gauge (28 ga), with a light load will give less recoil, allowing more success which builds confidence. Next, a first-time shooter is invariably using a borrowed gun so do your best to provide one that has an appropriate length of stock. If the fit is too long, it will impede how they ‘shoulder’ the gun which can add discomfort. Thirdly, give some basic instruction on stance and elbow position. Teach them to shoot with the gun already on the shoulder until they become used to the recoil. This allows a quicker response as they become adjusted. And last, but most the teacher, you must always miss at least a few shots.

Some time after this experience, I purchased a Model 257 28ga, from the Spanish manufacturer, Ugartechea. A side-by-side shotgun with a custom stock to my measurements. I have found this gun to be easy to shoot with minimal recoil. This allows me to completely relax, enjoy the process and concentrate on technique. Overall, I’ve achieved better success with clay targets and bird hunting as a result.

In fact, in the fall of 2011 I shot my first Canada goose with this 28 ga and a #6 bismuth load. As my confidence as grown, so has the gauge of my shotgun as I now own and am comfortable shooting a custom fitted 20 ga.

A good fitting shotgun is not mandatory but it will help make you a better shot, because it will offer more comfort and ease in developing proper technique.
And remember, crash test dummies always leave an impression!

Donna Bilozir
Bilozir Fine Guns