Spotters and colored wads can lead to better wingshooting

“How’d I miss?”

It’s a common question for shotgun shooters, whether at the range or in the field. Obviously, you shot too high, too low, too far in front, too far behind or a combination of these such as high and behind. A more important question is how can you tell?

You can’t. A better answer is you shouldn’t be able to tell. The eyes of a shotgun shooter should be focused on the target – not on the shotgun’s barrel, not on the sight at the end of the barrel and certainly not on the smoky glimpse of shot and wad coursing downrange. If your eyes are focused properly on the target, the barrel, the sight-bead and especially the cloud of shot flying out the end of the gun will only be seen with your peripheral vision, if at all.

A spotter is the best way to determine, “How’d I miss?”

The “How’d I miss” question can only be properly answered by a second person, standing close behind the shooter, concentrating on watching the track of the shot. It’s the shooter’s job to keep eyes on the target; it’s the spotter’s job to try to see if the missed shots were high, low or where ever.

Is seeing the flight path of a load of shot even possible? Absolutely. Well, some of the time. In certain light conditions, it’s pretty easy to see the path of the shot fired from a shotgun. Other times it’s nearly impossible. When lighting conditions are favorable, the smoke, the wad and even the shot cloud itself can be visible – at least out to 25 or 30 yards for a fraction of a second.

Over the years, ammo makers have attempted to create shotshells with loads that are easy (or easier) to see. I’ve heard of shells partially filled with flour or confetti. Tracer-equipped shells (tracers like you see fired from automatic weapons in old war films) were tried years ago and didn’t work. Sure, the bright, burning fireball was easy to see, but the fire didn’t start burning well until the load was 40 yards or more downrange. They were better at setting grass fires than training shooters.

There’s now a manufacturer putting a tracer chemical (cyalume) in shotshells. On the plus side, they won’t start fires. On the downside, they aren’t at all bright in daylight and cost $2 per shell. They work well at night at lighted shotgun ranges.

The best visual aid for spotters I’ve found are target loads with either bright orange or solid black wads. One manufacturer makes these easier-to-see shells. Note I said easier, not easy.

Most shotshell wads are colored a non-descript light gray. They’re nearly impossible to see against any backdrop, especially in very low light situations or when shooting against a backdrop of trees or hills. The bright orange wad is more visible than a gray, conventional wad. The black shot cups show up best against a bright or lightly overcast sky. Shells with the hi-vis wads are priced similarly to comparable non-wad-tracker shells.

Give them a try the next time you wonder, “How’d I miss?”

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