Cadence in Shotgun Sports

Cadence in Shotgun Sports
Author:  Luther Cutts, Head Instructor (NSCA Level 3), Competitor 

Cadence is a noun used to describe rhythm, beat or measure of events, particularly where there is a pattern or sequence.  It is an important concept in music, many of the performing arts as well as the martial arts.  It might therefore be surprising to some people that is also an important concept in shooting a shotgun.

In the context of shooting a shotgun, cadence is used to describe the consistency of movement throughout the shot.  There is no generally accepted set definition of cadence in shotgun circles, but it is common to think of cadence as a 1-2-3 count.  

For many shooters that think in these terms, 1 represents the beginning of the movement to the break point, 2 indicates the shotgun is fully and properly mounted, and 3 is the point at which the round is released.  The 1-2-3 count can happen very quickly, or it can take several seconds to be completed – it will depend on the presentation, the degree of pre-shot planning the shooter has implemented, and the demands the presentation places on the shooter.  

What is important is that the cadence, whether fast or slow, is the same throughout the shot.  This is to say that the internal consistency of the shot is maintained on both fast and slow shots.  For instance, it is less desirable for the shooter to move slowly through steps 1 and 2, and then suddenly speed up for step 3.

In any games where the target presentation is roughly consistent, such as trap or skeet, the shooter does not require a large repertoire of movements to the target, and there will likely be very little change in the cadence of the shot over the course of a round.  Sporting clays, and similar clay target games, on the other hand, have widely varied presentations, and these often require a markedly different approach.

For example, there are presentations that allow for a very small window of opportunity to engage the target.  The reasons for this vary – it can be because of the speed of the target, the terrain, or the relationship with the second target of the pair.  Whatever the reason, the shooter is forced to engage the target quickly.  Alternatively, some presentations give the shooter a great deal of time to execute the shot.  Generally, the best shooters adjust their cadence to match the nature of the presentation.  The most difficult presentations often include significant changes in the presentation, which in turn suggests a different cadence for each of the two targets.

In those instances where the shot requires a faster cadence, the shooter can do several things to facilitate a faster shot, including having a hold point closer to the break point, and having the starting position of the shotgun higher than usual.  These two tactics will allow for a very short time frame between calling for the target and releasing the round.

Conversely, when the shot allows for a slower cadence, the shooter is not well-served to mount the shotgun quickly and disrupt their cadence.  If the target is visible for several seconds before it reaches the break point, the shooter using a consistent cadence will move slowly with the target, make a slow and deliberate mount and break the target where they want to break it.

If the shooter were to verbalize their cadence for these two shots, the first one, the fast cadence would likely not be properly verbalized at all – it would be “pull, Bang!”  The 1-2-3 of the cadence would happen in fractions of a second.  On the second shot, however, the cadence would be quite easy to verbalize – the shooter could easily say, “Pull, one, two, Bang!” over the two or three seconds it takes for the target to cover the distance from the trap to the break point.

Understanding cadence, and making it work for you, is an important concept for competitive shooters as it will inform the Pre-Shot planning process.  Working this into your Pre-Shot planning is critical when facing a target presentation that has both a fast target and a slow, lazy target that seems to take forever to get to the break point.  Presentations such as these require the shooter to change gears between shots, as it is difficult to successfully break both these targets using the same technique.

Good target setters love to provide presentations that take the shooter out of their comfort zone. Understanding the importance of cadence and incorporating it into your Pre-Shot routine is an excellent way to confront these challenging presentations and be successful.

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