Shotgunning Togs 101, by Dave McCracken
To the best of my recollection, I've never fired a shotgun naked. I did deploy one while Au Natural during an attempted break-in, but no shots were fired. Near universally, we fire our shotguns while dressed.
But dressed how...?
I have shot a round or two of trap in a tuxedo, returning from a wedding. One of my jobs is driving a limo, and the opportunity was too good to pass by. The limo caused more chatter than my outfit.
Most of my shooting is in more prosiac duds. Believe it or not, some clothes can add or detract from our shooting.
Let's start at the bottom.
We all vary in size, shape and where the center of gravity falls. A Local Legend I know slightly shoots in cowboy boots. He claims the heels give him a bit of forward tilt that aids his form. Since he grinds clays into a fine dust nearly all the time, there may be something to it. Other trapshooters I know like footgear with a bit of heel too. Some Sporting Clays types swear by athletic shoes. I prefer hiking boots for range work, and the Bean rubber bottom leather top boots for hunting.
Those last, by the way, are one of the finest inventions technology has yet blessed us with.
In my opinion, wearing shoes or boots that are well broken in and comfortable is important. When fatigue sets in, performance falters. And bad footwear will tire you amazingly fast.
Besides, life is too darn short to wear uncomfortable shoes.
Moving up, the Brits and those fun folks at the Vintager shoots like knee length pants, oft with Wellington type rubber knee boots. In wet meadows, these have merit, but worn on a Texas dove shoot they may get you strange looks from Bubba and Earl. Tweeds and woolens in general are good stuff for shooting in wet times. I favor Woolrich and Bean woolies myself, giving me an Early Lumberjack style statement when it's cold and/or damp.
Blue jeans suffice for most range work, but I live in them most of the time anyway.
Upper body garments have lots of leeway. Just make sure they do not bind you up on the swing and have nothing that can inhibit a mount. This would include right side pockets (For RH folks), wide collars or unneeded bulk. When buying outer garments for extreme weather shotgunning like goose or duck hunting, it's a very good idea to try a few shots BEFORE the season to see how the garment will affect your swing.
Vests and shooting coats are better now than in days of yore, but I still have trouble finding ones that do not inhibit my swing. Those of us built more like a silverback gorilla than Lance Armstrong have things harder. Again, try some shots and see how things go before committing time and money.
One buddy dropped a hundred or so on a super fancy turkey vest that has a built in seat, more pockets than a flyfisher can use and camo so good he's lost it twice. Fine vest, but when he's cuddled up to a tree wearing it he can't mount his 1100. Rather than change the stock he takes off the vest. That's how he loses it. Shoots a gobbler, runs up to it, leaves the vest behind.
A trapshooter's pouch and belt set is a viable alternative for the range, unless you feel you need the extra padding a vest or coat can offer.
On the "Serious" side, make sure any body armor or clothing doesn't screw up your mount also. I need make no changes when wearing my Level II vest, but "your mileage may vary." Again. test before action.
In fact, any outer clothing that will be used while shotgunning should be worn through range training to eliminate problems.
And ladies, be advised that wearing those old fashioned bras with the metal thingies to adjust the straps can be a really bad idea. I've seen some folks bleed.
Gloves are used by lots of us, especially driving and golf gloves. Something thin enough to allow a fine touch but strong enough to protect the skin is what's needed. Again try them before taking them out in the field. I've seen folks have trouble getting fingers in some trigger guards with bulky gloves and small trigger guards. I used a set of combination mittens and gloves for deer and waterfowl hunting for a decade before I lost one.
Hats can be a good idea. A bit of bill or brim can shield the eyes from stray powder granules and shot. It also helps eliminate distractions, like blinders on a horse.
The ubiquitous ball caps have a bit more brim than needed, and can block out too much area. For cold weather the old GI helmet liner (Think Radar O'Reilly from M.A.S.H.) is hard to beat.
The Jones hat of old (Think Red Green) is another fine choice. Or, the low built cap one associates with English shooting. Both have enough brim and do not get in the way of the eyes.
Dave McCracken has been shotgunning longer than many shooters have been alive. He regularly posts on TheHighRoad.org and TheFiringLine.com. This article is reprinted here with his permission; reprinting or redistributing this article without his permission is expressly prohibited.