5 Tips for Shooting Clays

by M. Ashley Evans


Clay Shooting


There are very few sports that are more enjoyable and beneficial than shooting clay pigeons, be it in Trap or Skeet. Many of the top marksmen say that shooting is 90% mental. Mathematics, logic and creative thinking are heavily utilized during a match.

Clay shooting also is good for you physically – skeet shooting requires tremendous balance and coordination. It builds strength in the body’s core and arm muscles. Clay shooting is also great exercise for the muscles around the eyes – because you are learning to quickly focus back and forth between objects at different distances.

Dr. Robert DuVall, director of SportsMedicine of Atlanta (SMA), has been quoted in the Hibbing Daily Tribune, saying that the “shooting sports represent the essence of fine motor control in sports … few other sports require the refined motor skill and precision of shooting. Likewise, few other sports necessitate the combined physical and emotional aptitudes that are required for sport shooting a success.”

The first time I ever saw a clay pigeon, I was terribly disappointed that it didn’t resemble more of a pigeon than a tiny frisbee. That disappointment faded quickly as I became hooked on this exciting sport! Here are some tips that have helped me a lot.


1. Proper Mount

Knowing how to properly shoulder your shotgun is one of the most vital aspects of being an accurate shot. Shotguns don’t have a rear sight – your dominant eye will function as the rear sight. So if your eye is sitting higher on the gun than it needs to be, you’ll shoot over your target by a long way.

Pull your gun up to your cheek and then into your shoulder. If you raise it to your shoulder first, you will have a much harder time getting your target in your field of vision. Have the butt of the shotgun right in the little dip in your shoulder – and pull it in tight. Lean forward into your gun, don’t lean back.

You want your eyes to be staring straight down the barrel. Don’t stare at the front bead – look through it and focus on your target. Remember, shotguns are pointed, not aimed.  Aiming a gun takes time, and if you take the time to aim it like you would a rifle, then the clay will begin its descent and will fall out of your range.

This mounting technique needs to be very fluid. You are bringing the gun up to your eyes that are locked onto the target. Practice this motion with your shotgun is empty to get it seamless.


2. Breathe!

It may sound silly – but don’t forget to breathe! Erratic breathing can cause you to feel jittery and fumble around with finding the target.

Breathe deep slow breaths from your belly as you mount the gun to keep yourself steady and calm. Pull the trigger at the natural pause between inhaling and exhaling. Just make sure you keep it at a moments pause – and not a hold. A hold will increase your heart rate and will affect your accuracy too.

There is a rhythm to shooting accurately. You get into the rhythm of your breathing, heart rate and the tempo that the flight of the clay pigeon. It is all a steady, fluid, consistent rhythm.


3. Know when NOT to Shoot

It is really easy to get overly excited – or frustrated! – and shoot knowing that it won’t be your best shot.  While it is great to be determined to hit all the clays you can, knowing when you do have the shot and when you don’t can make a lot of difference in how well you shoot.

This requires you to be very aware of your body – your stance, focus, mount, grip, etc. If you are not tuned in to your body, you won’t have the awareness to tell you that you couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.

Take the shot when you are confident that you are giving it your absolute best attempt.


4. Lead the Bird

Or anticipating the clay pigeons path is another way of phrasing it. Having a proper lead takes a lot of practice. You have to be far enough ahead so that your lead and the clay pigeon collide along their paths of trajectory.  Too far ahead, and your lead will be gone before the bird approaches. Not far enough ahead and your pigeon will sail on over.

Imagine the clay pigeon is the body of an actual bird. Shoot just in front of where you imagine its beak would be. If it is flying over your head, shoot where its feet would be.

The two most common methods for this are the Pull Away Method and the Maintained Lead Method. Pull away is when you have your muzzle pointed at the clay as you are mounting and then pull the muzzle forward ahead enough before shooting. This method is most often taught to beginners. The Maintained Lead Method is when your muzzle is pointing ahead of your clay as you mount and is maintaining that distance as you pull the trigger.

Often times, beginners will lose their target when learning to lead the bird. This happens when they get the muzzle in front, but the width of the gun covers their target. In an instant, your eyes are no longer focused on the target but now automatically focus on the shotgun barrel – and you will miss. To prevent this – lead the bird in front and slightly under.


5. Always Follow Through

To follow through correctly means that as you are pulling the trigger your gun is still moving. Even as the trigger is completely depressed, you are still honed in on that target and are following it with your muzzle. If you stop momentarily as you pull the trigger – you will miss your target.

You will maintain far more control if you maintain a fluid motion. Don’t rush in front of your target, then stop and shoot – the goal is to “brush” the clays out of the sky with the fluid movement of a paintbrush. There is no need to rush.

Women’s Best Conceal Carry Gun – Four Options Chambered in .380

By M. Ashley Evans

Many Gun Options

When it comes to concealed-carry gun choices, every gun owner has his own opinion – and usually an enthusiastic one at that.

When I began researching for my concealed-carry gun, the lack of reviews by women was frustrating. I wanted to know what it was like to shoot these guns with a smaller hand and body frame than the male reviewers had.

Having smaller hands does not negate the larger guns – I’ve shot a .50cal Desert Eagle while having a fractured wrist without any problems – simple physics demonstrates that it does make a difference in the felt recoil. It all boils down to the direction of energy through the body. This article explains a little about that: (Here)

Remember, training is vital. Your body stance and grip all come into play with how well you shoot and how the gun feels to shoot. We will go over all of that in a future article.

Most .380 guns are considered pocket pistols – small framed guns that are very easily concealable. Frankly, being a woman makes conceal carrying a lot harder – our clothing typically is cut to a more snug fit and the material is often thinner than is marketed for men. So it’s important to make wise clothing choices when concealed-carrying.

These are not guns that I would recommend for a woman who has never shot a gun before, or who is uncomfortable with the idea of concealed-carrying. I would recommend that woman get a revolver and training. The reason is, these pistols are all semi-automatic. The slide has to be pulled to chamber a round and to clear a jam. That takes a considerable amount of practice for it to be second nature while your adrenaline is skyrocketing – and when a threat is coming after you or your family, you have to be able to clear the jam in time. But with a revolver – you point and shoot. If that round doesn’t work, you pull the trigger again to cycle to the next round. It isn’t as much to think about, which is what makes it ideal for someone who is new to shooting.

Gun Choices

1. Smith and Wesson M&P Bodyguard with Crimson Trace Laser

smith and wesson bodyguard

The Bodyguard is a very common handgun choice for concealed carry. I owned a second generation for quite a while, and I plan to buy one again eventually. The Bodyguard is lightweight, at barely over 12 oz, which makes it very easy to carry. It’s smooth and rounded – very snag free.

It will hold 6+1 in the chamber. The overall length is 5.3″ – it fits into my back jeans pocket without any trouble and wasn’t too heavy for a jacket pocket. It has a steel slide and a polymer frame – which is what makes it so lightweight.

Shooting the Bodyguard is one of the reasons why I liked it so much. The felt recoil is much more manageable than other guns of the same size, for example, the Ruger LCP which is extremely front-end snappy. The Bodyguard has a little snap to it, but mostly the felt recoil is straight back into the center of the hand.

The slide is very easy to pull back, a common struggle for women shooters. The sights are not great – but a built-in laser is a nice tool for low light situations. The Bodyguard has a 6+1 capacity and is double action only. The DAO trigger pull is a little long, which can be comforting knowing that it is very unlikely that it will be pulled by mistake. Like most .380’s this gun requires a bit of break-in time at the range to polish it up.

2. Sig P238 – Alloy Stainless Elite

Sig p238 This beautiful 1911 style .380 features an alloy stainless frame. The weight is 15.2 oz unloaded, which is a little heavier than the previous gun discussed. This tiny bit of weight makes a big difference in the amount of felt recoil. I love the sturdy feeling the steel frame gives.

Even with my smaller hands, I don’t have any trouble with maintaining a good grip. The slide isn’t difficult to pull back and the magazine spring isn’t so tight that I have to use a reloading tool.

Its a clone of the Colt Mustang – which we will be discussing below. My favorite aspect is that it is virtually a 1911 sized down. Its missing a few parts the true 1911’s have, like the grip safety, so there is some debate as to whether or not it can be truly classified as a genuine 1911. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on – there is no denying the ease of shooting any gun that has that 1911 shaped frame.

The sights on it are definitely better than most pocket pistols – but you’re not going to be relying on them for protecting yourself against a close proximity threat anyways.

Early in manufacturing, there was some failure to feed issues – but don’t worry, these have been resolved! This gun is extremely smooth to shoot. I have read some reviews about it being finicky about ammo, but I have not had that experience. The trigger pull is 7.5-8.5 lbs. The Sig P238 has a height of 3.9″ and a total length of 5.5″. The P238 has a 6+1 capacity.

3. Micro Desert Eagle

micro desert eagle At 14 oz unloaded, this tiny pocket pistol feels extremely sturdy. And when I say tiny, it really is. 3.72″ tall and 4.5″ long. This is a gun that I deeply regret selling – and am itching to find another! It fits into both my back jean pocket as well as the front. The edges have all been nicely rounded. There was not any problem concealed carrying this gun!

It’s basically an American-produced copy of the Czech ZVI Kevin. This is an extremely unique gun. It has a delayed blowback system that utilizes two tiny ports. It does not have a single recoil spring surrounded by the barrel. The barrel isn’t attached to the frame, and the frame rail holds the recoil spring and two guide rods. The guide rods reciprocate with the slide during recoil – all of this makes for a great little gun that is extremely smooth to shoot. It is still a bit more felt recoil than the 1911 style guns mentioned in this article – but it is straight back into the hand so that it isn’t painful or snappy.

Magnum Research doesn’t produce the Micro Desert Eagle anymore, so you’ll have to search the used gun shops for this gem.  This gun is such an ideal women’s carry gun that I could not leave it off the list. My hands are small even for a woman’s, and I had no trouble at all pulling back the slide or maintaining proper grip technique. My husband has large hands for a man, and he really had a lot of trouble properly holding this gun – and keeping the slide from eating some meat off of his hand.

It feeds extremely well and was not finicky with cheap ammo. There are several reviews I read before purchasing the MDE of people TRYING to make this gun malfunction – and not succeeding. If you remove the magazine, it will still shoot the round in the chamber. The MDE has a 6+1 capacity. The trigger pull is smooth as butter – with a slightly noticeable stack just at the end.

4. Colt Mustang / Pony

colt pony

My favorite .380 for conceal carry has to be the Colt Pony 90 series. It also is a 1911 style frame. It like the Sig does not have a grip safety, and the trigger revolves around a pin instead of being pulled straight back – so it isn’t exactly like a 1911 mechanically.

The Colt Pony is no longer in production, but you can still find them used pretty easily. Colt still makes a Mustang – which is almost identical. The solid stainless ones are a little harder to come by – but the Mustang Pocketlight is in most gun stores that I frequent.

The Pocketlight has a steel slide and an alloy frame and only weighs 12 ounces. The length is 5.5″, so very easy to conceal carry and it has a 6 + 1 capacity.  Colt Mustang also for a while made an XSP version, made with black polymer, which is an ounce lighter than the Pocketlight. The XSP also has a small accessory rail right under the barrel and upgraded dovetail sights. But, personally, I’m not a huge fan of polymer guns. Maybe it is just aesthetics.

When I was researching for my ideal carry gun I knew that I preferred a 1911 style frame, double action, and a solid steel frame – and the Colt Pony fit all of my requirements.  Colt Mustang is very similar to the Pony, but there are differences. The Mustang has a rondell-hammer and is single action only.

Both boast a trigger pull of a little over 5 lbs with a very clean break. The magazine fits flush, overall the Pony and Mustang are very smooth and rounded which makes them comfortable to carry.

The Pony weighs about an ounce more than the Mustang, which boasts a solid 18 ounces unloaded. That plus the 1911 style frame means felt recoil is extremely minimal. I have yet to find a .380 with less felt recoil! The Colt Pony / Mustang is truly a joy to shoot on the range.

Women’s Best Conceal Carry Gun – Four Options Chambered in 9mm

By: M. Ashley Evans

First published here

Gun Choices: Caliber Differences

Two of the most common calibers of ammunition for concealed carry guns are 9mm and .380. Side by side, they look a lot alike. They both are the same diameter but 9mm is just a little longer.  But which one is better? That is up to debate, and there are a few other factors to consider.

The .380 ACP is also known as a 9mm Browning. It was first introduced by Colt in 1908 as a self-defense round  – hence ACP for Automatic Colt Pistol. Its also called 9mmX17, 9mm Short, etc.  It is rimless, straight walled, and designed to have less felt recoil. The .380 can hold a maximum of 5.3 grains (that’s grains of water, which is a more accurate measurement than solid grains).  Its velocity is 1050 FPS and a penetration depth of about 9 inches.

In contrast, the 9mm is known as 9mmX19 Parrabellum. It was introduced in 1902 by DWM, a German weapons manufacturer. It was designed for their Luger pistol for the military. The most popular weight is 124 grains, but there are several weight variations available. It can hold a maximum of 10 grains of water. It is rimless and tapered. The 9mm has a velocity of 950-1400 FPS and a penetration of around 13 inches.

The 9mm doesn’t penetrate a lot more than the .380, because the extra energy causes it to expand a bit more – which slows it down considerably. That expansion causes a lot of tissue damage, and that helps to stop the attacker. This isn’t to say that the .380 isn’t a qualified candidate – the differences between the .380 and the 9 are extremely small compared to the differences between a .380 and a .32.

Here is an excerpt from a great article found here

“(About the .380) A typical load carries roughly 3 grains of powder that propels a 95-grain bullet at 845 fps to produce 151 ft.-lbs. of energy from a 2.75-inch barrel. It produces about 2.76 ft.-lbs. recoil energy from a 1-pound firearm… A typical 9mm Luger load contains about 6 grains of powder used to propel a 115-grain bullet to 1,000 feet per second (fps) out of a 2.75-inch barrel. (Velocities increase along with barrel length.) This produces approximately 255 ft.-lbs. energy while generating 5.36 ft.-lbs. of recoil energy from a pistol weighing 1 pound….

“While 255 ft.-lbs. of bullet energy from the muzzle of a 9mm Luger is not a lot in the firearm world—consider that an average .30-06 deer rifle produces around 2,500 ft.-lbs. energy—a 9mm’s energy is far greater than a .22 LR’s piddly 105 ft.-lbs. and many other smaller calibers. It has about 68 percent more energy than the .380 Auto.”

So while the 9mm does have a lot more power, the .380 has 94% less felt recoil when fired from a gun of equal weight. That makes it a lot easier to accurately shoot multiple rounds. But 9mm guns are typically a little larger and heavier than .380 guns, and the extra weight helps to reduce the felt recoil. So when choosing a concealed carry gun there are a few steps to consider:

  1. Make sure it fits in your hand well
  2. Be sure you will be able to conceal it properly
  3. If it comes in multiple calibers, choose the largest one that you can rapidly fire with accuracy.


Gun Choices

1. Kimber Micro

kimber micro 9

This is one of my favorite carry guns. Its overall length is only 6.1″ and it has a height of 4.01″. So while it doesn’t fit into my jeans pocket, it is extremely easy to conceal in a holster. It is definitely one of the easiest 9mm to conceal in my opinion.

The Kimber Micro 9 comes in several variations. I like the stainless one. It has a weight of about 15.6 ounces unloaded. The 1911 style frame and the heft of this pistol are definitely something required – a +P round of 9mm can have a pretty steep felt recoil. But it was absolutely manageable with this gun. It isn’t my first go-to for a fun time on the range, but I can put a lot of rounds through it without any trouble.

The Kimber Micro 9’s dovetailed, dotted sights are fantastic. Its single action trigger is crisp and clean and will break between 5-6 lbs.  To safely clear a malfunction, you can still engage the safety and then pull the slide back. It can hold 6+1 and there is an optional magazine extension available.  While Kimber can be a little finicky about ammo, I have not noticed any problems with this one.


2. Sig P938

sig p938

This Sig and the Kimber Micro 9 are often considered the best of the mini-1911’s. The 938 looks just like a slightly larger 238.

The night sights are very nice – but there is not as much light on either side of the front sight as I prefer, but that may be because I have short arms. This too holds 6+1 unless you buy the extended magazine plate. The trigger reset is much better than many other 9mm’s and is about 7.5 lbs.

The Sig P938 weighs 16 oz unloaded. It is 5.9″ long and 3.9″ tall. It is almost identical to the Kimber Micro 9, just a TINY bit shorter. Sig uses a Nitron coating which helps to prevent the moisture from your skin from rusting it. All in all, it is a beautiful little gun that would make an excellent carry weapon.


3. Springfield EMP

springfield emp

This is probably one of the most enjoyable guns I have ever shot. The frame is a forged aluminum alloy and the slide is forged stainless. It is heavier than the other 9mm’s mentioned so far – weighing in at 27 oz. The EMP 9 is 6.6″ long and 5″ tall. The 3 dot Tritium sights as standard make for very easy target sighting.

The EMP (Enhanced Micro Pistol) is the smallest TRUE 1911 created so far. From barrel bushings to the trigger traveling straight back and even the back strap safety – its a 1911 through and through. Everything has just been scaled down to fit the 9mm. It is a beautiful gun – the Cocobolo grips, satin finish steel slide. The trigger is very clean and only about 3.5 lbs. This gun is a bit pricier than the other two options.

The earlier models (until 2009) were prone to failure to feed problems, but all of this has been resolved. I have read a lot of reviews from people who were not very happy with it – and each review is by a man who said that the gun felt a little small. It all goes back to how the gun fits in your hand. The EMP is my first go to for a fun day at the range and definitely what I reach for when competing.


4. Dan Wesson Valkyrie

dan wesson 9mm

This is a gun that I can’t wait to get ahold of but have done a lot of research on. It is absolutely on my must-have list. Its price is a little more than the Springfield EMP, but everyone who has shot one that I’ve talked to says that it is worth every penny.

The Valkyrie is top quality and every part is tight fitting, which makes for some very accurate shooting. A lot of people are crazy about the finish – but the Duty Finish actually something that I’m not extremely crazy about the looks of. However, I do love the concept for a conceal carry weapon. Moisture will rust a gun extremely quickly – so a ceramic coating that will do a great job in protecting the gun from the moisture and salt in your skin is the way to go.

The Valkyrie is 8 inches long and 5 inches tall. It weighs 28 ounces unloaded. It is a little longer than the EMP, so as a short woman I would probably open carry or use a Can Can holster around my waist as opposed to an IWB holster. The trigger is shorter than a  lot of other guns of this size – which is why my small hands fit around it so well. The trigger is light, at about 4 lbs. The Tritium night sights are a little different than what is on the other guns listed. These are a stacked two dot system – you line up the dots to form a figure 8. If you’ve never shot a gun with those type of sights, takes a little getting used to, but it is really great for low light situations.


Choosing the Firearm that Fits – for Women

When it comes to choosing the right firearm, everyone has an opinion. Yet choosing a firearm that fits properly is key to a successful and enjoyable day at the range.

“Glock is the best all around pistol for every shooter!” some people have told me… but until the Glock 43, there wasn’t one that I felt was a decent fit for the shape and size of my hand.  Sure, I could shoot the Glock 26 with great accuracy – but it wasn’t the right fit.  

“Every female shooter needs to start with a revolver” … well yes and no.  I do strongly advocate all new shooters start with a revolver – especially women who are a little hesitant to conceal carry due to their concern in remembering to pull the slide to eject a stovepipe in the heat of a life or death situation.

I have shot a lot of different kinds of guns in my life.  That is one of the many blessings of being raised in a very pro-gun family.  During all the courses I have attended, there has been precious little mentioned in regards to GUN FIT – for women.

Most avid shooters say  “just go try a few and you’ll know” – yes this is true, to an extent.  This is true for people who know what they are feeling for, who have a keen grasp of bodily awareness.  But I’ve taken several women to the range who severely lacked this skill. Not because they didn’t have the intellectual capabilities – but because listening to your body is a skill that has to be taught.

This article will be the first in a series of small pistol reviews for women, and to briefly outline what the proper fit is, and why it is important. Granted, this is a subject that can have numerous books written about it – because there is so many details involved.  The physics of gun recoil,  and how it travels through the body, the positioning of your hands, the tenseness in your wrists and elbows – all of this comes into play and is absolutely fascinating!  All this, combined with the science of ballistics – each weight of powder, the shape of the powder grains, each caliber bullet all come into play in a very delicate art that has a tremendous impact (pun intended) in choosing a firearm that fits.


When I was researching for my conceal carry weapon, I wanted the best of both worlds – I wanted a gun that was not only a JOY to shoot, but one that I could conceal easily, and still trust to be a sufficient tool to protect my loved ones. I was told such a gun didn’t exist – that you have to sacrifice less felt recoil in order to have it small enough to conceal carry.  For the most part – this is true. But after trial and error, I found a few exceptions. More on that here.

Newton said, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction.” In brief, recoil is the brief interaction of two objects, causing them to move in opposite directions.  Just like two ice skaters pushing off of each other causes them to each move backward. Felt gun recoil, is the result of momentum conservation. The exploding gunpowder propels the bullet forward.  The bullet has mass and speed – which is momentum going in the forward direction.  Felt recoil is the balance of momentum being pushed in the opposite direction.  If the gun has a larger mass, the felt recoil is much less. Now, this energy doesn’t just stop at the butt of the gun – it travels through your hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and throughout your body.  I’ve had family and friends tell me how funny it is to watch my hair fly back when shooting large caliber rifles – all because of the balancing momentum traveling backward through me.

The pistol should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.  A good feel has a bit of heft in the grip, and balanced – not so forward leaning that it threatens to fall out of your hand. You want the grip to be centered in your palm – so that the energy flows through you in a central direction.  If the grip is so wide that the center is over the meat of your palm, it will be felt with a sharper, harsher, felt recoil.  We will discuss grip style and stance in a post about accuracy, here.



In the image above I am documenting how the pistol is sitting in my hand. The top left is a Ruger LCP .380.  The grip is narrow and centered in my palm. It feels a bit front-wards leaning – which gives it a very snappy felt recoil. The recoil doesn’t hurt in my arm, but it is front end snappy, which makes for a sharp sensation in my palm. In the top right is a Colt Pony .380. The stainless frame gives it a nice heft. It is centered in my palm and feels balanced in my hand. In the bottom left is a Springfield XDS 9mm.  Even though it is a single stack, the grip is SLIGHTLY too wide for my hand and the center of the back part of the grip is more over the meat of my hand.  So even though I can shoot it accurately, the felt recoil is MUCH harsher than the Kimber Micro 9 shown in the bottom right image. The Kimber, as you can see, is centered over my palm, has a nice heft, and a great balance.

So go head to the range – and notice how the gun fits in your palm.  This will go a long way in helping you find a gun that fits YOUR hand.

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