If you are having trouble breaking chandelle targets, or arcing targets, it is likely because of the unique characteristics of the chandelle that differentiate it from other targets: 1) it is showing either all belly or all face which tricks our brain into believing that it is moving slower than it really is, 2) it is arcing and thus changing trajectory throughout its flight path, and 3) it is in transition, changing speed throughout its entire flight path. Since most shooters choose to break a chandelle at the apex or, more often, at some point after the apex, the target is almost always in transition at the breakpoint. To increase your chances of crushing these sometimes-tricky targets, follow these simple steps:
**** Select and commit to a breakpoint. In other words, pick your breakpoint and execute the shot where you planned to break it.
**** Select the focal point on the target (“leading edge” of the target at the breakpoint) and make sure you are focusing on the focal point through the breakpoint. Don’t focus on the whole target! Focus small!
**** Achieve good flow with the target. Matching gun speed with target speed on this target will actually help you achieve better target focus.
**** Approach the breakpoint at an upward angle so that you don’t get the gun between your eye and the target. For chandelles, and any other type of target that is descending at the breakpoint, it’s easy to miss a target over the top and behind by moving your gun into the target line and interrupting the connection between your eye and the target just before you execute the shot. Whatever you do, don’t follow the line of the target with your shotgun. This is a recipe for frustration with any transitioning target.
So, you step onto a sporting clays station and come face to face with a trap shot followed by a fast left-to-right chandelle at about 35 yards. You determine that you’ll break the chandelle about 5 feet below and to the right of the apex of the arc, so the leading edge of the target will be at about 4 o’clock at the breakpoint. Because the target is descending, it will be critical for you to move the gun barrel at an upward angle to the breakpoint…. in this case along a line that’s about 8 o’clock to 2 o’clock (lower left to upper right direction). This will help you to avoid any interruption of visual focus on the leading edge of the target through the breakpoint. This also means that your hold point will be a bit lower and farther away from the visual pick-up point and closer to the breakpoint than for a crossing target…lets say half way to the breakpoint. For a quartering chandelle, your hold point will be even closer to the breakpoint to avoid excessive gun speed when you execute the shot.
You establish your ready position, call for the pair and break the first target with ease. The chandelle launches, you match gun speed with target speed, move the gun up to the breakpoint while maintaining sharp visual focus on a dime-size piece of the target at the 4 o’clock position…Dead bird.
- Don Currie - Chief Instructor, NSCA
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