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March 05, 2008

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Paper Versus Meat

Back when I was young and knew everything, I was convinced that a good shot was a good shot, period, and that anyone who could shoot well at paper targets had to shoot well on game, and vice-versa. Now I am not so sure.

Shooting well at targets and shooting well at game require different skill sets. The target shooter must be able to control his breathing and heartbeat, be able to read mirage and wind, have a perfect trigger squeeze, have his shooting positions down to perfection, and be thoughtful and deliberate at all times. Being a good game shot requires that you shoot quickly, from awkward positions, at ill-defined and/or moving targets, and above all, that you be able to kill without hesitation.

This last is a big thing. Taking a life does not come easily to many people, and I have seen many, many otherwise fine shots become completely unhinged when the time came to drop the hammer on something that was breathing. About the only thing you can do about this is shoot until you do everything automatically, but even that is no sure solution.

Probably the best example of the "bad target/great game" shot is an African PH. The ones I've seen shoot at paper can sight in a rifle OK, but that's about it. However, if you want someone to stick a big bullet up the nose of a Cape buffalo that is 10 feet away, coming at full speed, and has payback on his mind, he is the guy to see.


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Back in the old days before it was politically and environimentally incorrect we used to shoot Coca-cola bottles using the "hang time" method you described. A guy can get pretty good at it with some practice. If you happen to shoot one straight overhead you had to run like hell to get out from under the falling glass. Anything smaller than a pop bottle was out of my league.
I had a friend once, have not seen him in years, that could hit 8-10 pop or beer cans out of 10 at 100 yards shooting a Walther PP .22 LR. Give that a try sometime. I was lucky to hit the log the cans were sitting on once or twice with the same pistol. I could equal him using my Model 41 most of the time but not the little German gun with virtually no sights.


I am a rookie in the hunting and fishing arena.I am a good shot, not great but good,I can take no credit for my skills as I have very little experience and almost no practice, my skill is God given(and amazes me still). Two years ago a buddy invited me to shoot a round of sporting clays with he and another of our friends. My buddy loaned me his 12ga. Rem. 810? pump with a full choke...I broke 22 out of 100, but I was hooked, bought a cheap Stoeger 12ga. and started shooting Trap/skeet and clays, this is my 2nd "season" and I now average 20-23 trap, 12-15 at skeet and 70-80 at clays...not great but I have since been on 3 South Georgia quail hunts and I killed 20 birds this trip and only missed 2. I went on my first deer hunt back in February, got on stand with a brand new Tikka 3 .270 which a friend sighted in for me and which I had never shot(never shot any high power rifle) on the last morning I killed a buck at 130 yds quartering away dropped in his tracks...I didn't get the "fever" until several minutes after the shot, then I got very excited indeed, I had let several deer pass over the course of the 3 day hunt waiting for the one, I got excited but not gittery, had the hairs steady on many but didn't shoot, got busted by 2 big bucks and I froze waiting to see if they would settle down and let me get off an ethical shot...they did not cooperate, my rookie mistake I guess, I need to practice "field shots" such as quick drops and sight aquisition to prevent this in the future. I can put 5 rounds inside a paper plate at 100yds off hand, but I have not been able to attain 1" groupings from the bench rest. I find that with both the shot gun, rifle and my Sig 40 ca.I am a far more accurate shot when reacting as opposed to "aiming".I play golf the same way...Too much thinking kills my game.I really enjoy reading all of your posts , I learn a bit each time, and as rookie I need allthe help I can get,...I love this "new" hobby .


Please, please do not tell sarge any politically incorrect stories. You might be responsible for bringing on an incurable case
of the willy-willys, or another
melange of incoherent rambling, compounded by unproper English and
typos extremis.
I'm glad to find another fan of the 41 Smith out there, I thought it the epitome of .22 auto
handguns. Another trick you can use to practice shooting at thrown
objects is use charcoal briquets.
They are a good size, and either give off a puff of dust, or shatter like a clay pigeon.

Chev Jim

I really do believe that shooting at paper targets is like "test anxiety" for many people--call it "target anxiety," if you will. You know that the paper target will pitilessly reflect your marksmanship. On the other hand, you can hit a game animal less than perfectly and still get away with a fairly quick kill. Also, paper targets are boring for younger shooters--but I would advise against getting younger shooters into the "plinking" mentality, where they don't know or really care where their bullets hit, as long as they get a reaction from the target. You can mix "reactive" targets with paper ones--cookies or balloons will work, but clean up any non-biodegradable residue. Also, I want to resume skeet shooting, but I need to get a nice Beretta over-under in 20 or 28 gauge first!

Brian T

Paper and clays provide confidence and familiarity with the firearm. In the field, I can afford to ignore the gun and concentrate on my head.
Love those herbivores. Please pass the peas.

Del in KS

Chev Jim,

The ammo is much cheaper for the 20 but I do love my Beretta 28. You can save lots of $ on ammo with a MEC 9000G in 28 ga.


A friend recently passed away who had 2 Model 41s, one short, one LR, the LR with two barrel lengths. I was hoping to buy them from the widow but his two non-shooting non-hunting sons came and got them. They are probably pawned in Cleveland and Columbus by now. I like the briquet idea and wonder why I never tried it. Dave, my expert shooting friend, also prefers M-41s to all others and has one that is still new in the box plus one that has probably had at least 100,000 rounds through it with one trip to the factory. They are a little pricy but will bring you as much happiness and satisfaction as any gun I know of.
Del in KS
Don't you love the look on your 12 gauge buddies' faces when you drop a rooster just as neatly with the pipsqueak 28 as they do with their 12s? Sure makes walking easier with the small shotgun and minature shells. Mine is a seventies vintage SKB (yeah the one with South American fence post grade wood but I don't care).


Hey all,
Been working day shift for a while now so I haven't been able to keep up as I'd like but it sounds like you all are still kickin' up dust! Try this for some snap shooting practice: If you have a spot in the country near a wet or low area where the cattails grow, try taking a .22 out and trying to hit the heads of the cattails as they wave in the breeze from the offhand position. It's easy to tell when you've hit one as they puff out seeds and just as easy to tell when you miss.
Plus it's great fun!

Clay Cooper

Shooting well at targets and shooting well at game require different skill sets

O’Really give me a break!

That’s as “OXYMORONIC” as you can get!

How about, a excellent game shooter be able to control his breathing and heartbeat, be able to read mirage and wind, have a perfect trigger squeeze, shoot quickly, get into setting or knelling shooting position within seconds, at ill-defined and/or moving targets, and above all, that you be able to kill without hesitation, know your rifle intimately and ballistics, be thoughtful and deliberate at all times!

O’David Petzal, only if we knew each other when I was in New Mexico, you would be singing a different story for sure!


Go with a 28-ga, Chev!

The old, old boys will quip the 28-ga is only good for meadowlarks and bumble-bees, but that claim is nonsense. For me if there’s any actual field and target difference between a 20 an 28-ga I’m not good enough to tell. Both have available 1-oz hunting loads.

28-ga shotguns are always “elegant”. Even a 28-ga built on a light 20-ga frame is still elegant. The small frame 28-ga…such as a Beretta o/u….is a dream to carry and shoot.

Good luck and let us all know the purchase. We’ll light the candle.

Clay Cooper

Just bought my Grandson Alex birthday present, a Youth/Adult Mossberg 500 20ga. doesn’t know it yet, even his mother ok’d it. I’m still in shock over that!

Chev Jim

This target vs. game shooting reminds me of a deer hunt I was on. I hadn't even planned to go deer hunting, but I arrived at my brother-in-law's and he suggested we go. He lent me a rifle--a .257 Weatherby Magnum built on a Mauser action. The scope was a 4x12X. I wasn't really expecting to connect with a deer. Shortly after I climbed up the icy ladder to the tree stand, however, I saw a buck coming toward me. What amazed me was how quickly I swung into action . . . I saw the buck approach, and when he came out of a line of trees, I had the crosshairs waiting from him. It was hard to find him at 4X, as he was only about 25 yards away, but I quickly guesstimated the buck's body in relation to the reticle and fired. I hit the buck a little far back, and he ran 40 yards before piling up. If the scope hadn't been unnecessarily powerful, I'm sure the shot would have gone exactly where it should have. The point of this vignette is that on a deer, I shot quickly without employing surgical precision. The shot was a little off, but was nonetheless a telling one. If I had fired that quickly at a paper target, I would have probably hit the equivalent of the seven ring at 9 o'clock--and I would have been very dissatisfied with the shot. Game forces you to shoot quickly--at least in the dense woods of the Eastern US, and you don't have time to get into a sling or carefully arrange your jacket into a rifle rest. If you are hunting in dense woods and are waiting for the perfect shot, you will go home empty-handed virtually every time. The "tempo" of most target shooting and most game shooting varies markedly. If you shoot at targets like you shoot at game, you'll be a sloppy target shooter. And if you shoot at game like you shoot at targets, you'll most likely watch your game disappear back into the treeline!


I've been a "gunner" since I was a kid but I got a late start at hunting and just killed my first deer only last year. This was after 5 years of successfully discovering how not to hunt...

By that time, my hunting knowledge and understanding had increased to at least "passable" but my personal determination was unbendable.

I'm certain that in my mind's eye I had shot and field dressed at least a hundred deer! Almost every step through the forest equaled a mental review of what I would do when I finally out smarted a black tail.

The moment came and the buck presented the shot. As the butt stock hit my shoulder everything went to some kind of mental "hyper drive" and the scenario I'd played over and over in my mind just simply played out in real life!

I don't think I've ever been so steady without a shooting rest in my life!!

Del in KS

Another example of tooo much scope. I rest my case.

Del in KS

Good choice. When I bought the same gun for my nephew also looked at the 870 Rem and liked the mossberg better.

Del in KS


The best is being in a field full of dove hunters, having a lone bird fly the guantlet, see 3 or 4 empty their 12's and fold him with one shot from my little Beretta. Yeah, did it with a Rooster too but smaller audience.


ishawooa, Del, AWAI,
Posting a link to CZ USA.If the Bobwhite in .28 gauge ain't the sexiest thing ya'll ever saw, I'll
eat my Resistol! They also make a
SxS in .16 gauge that gets me drooling. http://www.cz-usa.com/products_shotguns.php
Hadn't thought about cattails as
a target, but you can really get
your mind and trigger finger in sync shooting pecans out of trees with .22 shorts. In Oklahoma, they are never still, and it is a lot like shooting at a chicken's
head. Shoot where it's gonna be next!!

Clay Cooper

Chev Jim

There’s no perfect solution for cover all scenarios such as what’s the best equipment to use. Know your rifle intimately and ballistically and it will deliver. Fine shot Sir!


My friend Dave, the superb shootist, is a petroleum engineer by profession. Last year he spent about 9 months somewhere in Turkey and had the opportunity to visit the factory that manufactures the CZ guns. He was very much impressed with the cleanliness, efficiency, and care that these Turks incooperated into each aspect of making these weapons. He said that the individual workers took great pride in whatever piece of the gun they were in charge of creating or putting togather. They often stopped as he approached and proudly displayed their work and demonstrated their role in the production process (apparently no OSHA there). He had numerous good comments and little in the way of negative findings regarding his factory inspection. I wish Winchester had modeled their factory and workmanship after this one, maybe we would still be buying guns from New Haven. When Dave got back to the States he immediately purchased a couple side by sides. We intend to do a little testing with them soon. They certainly are hard to fault per my casual examination of fit, finish, and workmanship. A 28 or 16 S x S would either make a fantastic upland gun. I bet DEP would even like the 28 CZ...in your dreams...

Del in KS

crm 3006,

The Bob white is pretty but I couldn't fall out of a boat and hit water with a side by side. For me it would the the Woodcock with a wood upgrade in 28" 28 ga.

Clay Cooper

Got to run to Kansas City, will give tips on how you can shot like a real pro later, C’Ya Sports Fans!


With all the yak about accuracy, I was once sitting on a private range sighting in a rifle. I went down to retrieve a 100 yd target with a three round group of probably 3/8 inch, 1 1/2 inches above the bull. Not bad for a .270. When I got back to the bench a gentleman walked up and said, "Nice group, but it ain't gotta be THAT accurate to kill a deer!"
"No," I agreed, "but if the gun will shoot this well, if a deer gets away, I'll know it was MY fault, not the GUN'S!"
Exactly what you guys were talking about. MOA don't mean squat out of a blind or stand at 30 yards! Keeping 'em all inside a 8" paper plate at a hundred yards WILL kill a deer!



I have 3 of the DeHaan S2 (made in Huglu Turkey) shotguns in 20, 28, & 410. The 410 has 30" barrels, the others 28". The fit, finish and attention to detail on these guns is superb; much better than on guns costing much, much more. They shoot extremely well. By the way, the $4-5,000 Kimber Valier is made in the same village of Huglu, Turkey.


I know exactly what you mean about that MOA vs 8 inches or pie
plate or whatever standard the person puting forth the argument wants to use. Old Ugly will shoot
three 165 gr. '06s into a three in. Birchwood Casey target at 200 yds. Probably would do better than that if I had a sharper eye and a steadier hold. More accuracy
than you need to kill a deer?
Not hardly. I have had to shoot
through mesquite trees, broomweed,
prickly pear patches, etc. at a
patch that I knew was a deer, knew
was the right deer, but just never
would pause long enough to offer a
shot out in the open.
I've had to take the occasional
running shot. Don't like to do that, but it is either shoot, or lose the deer, or worse, a cripple
that has already been hit. Having
full confidence in the rifle takes
away half the worry, so you don't
over do it mentally, trying to
compensate. You just know that if the crosshairs are there, that is
where the bullet will hit. All that is left is to put the cross-
hairs there.
Also read in this section or
somewhere on DEP's blog about some
one who used a light trigger. Most
of mine are in the 2 lb. range. I
don't want a five minute trigger
squeeze after I am on target. Still, you don't need all that to kill a deer. You need the ability
to hold offhand, or from awkward positions, in the cold, in the rain, hold for wind, improvise a
rest if possible, keep one eye on the deer, keep the deer in the scope, control breathing, trigger
squeeze,"buck fever" AND STILL hit that shoulder, neck, or heart/lung area. Full confidence in the accuracy of the rifle is just the first step.


Hey Ish,

Saw your mention of CZ and your friends visit to their factory. Probably not the right thread, but I've been itching to ask if anyone else has had any difficulty communicating with the folks at CZ America.
I purchased a CZ carbine in 7.62x39 about a year ago. It's a nicely turned-out miniature mauser that I intend to use a calling rifle. The interesting thing is that high quality (WW) factory loads have given me problems with about 25% failure to detonate, and then backed out primers on those that go "boom". Three emails to CZ- no response. One phone call and I got a kid who didn't know the first thing about their products. I like their guns, but their service absolutely blows.

Anyone else?

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