What Gil Ash Taught Me

After a lesson from Gil Ash, I'll never shoot or think about shooting the same way again.

Gil Ash took me under his wing a couple months back, and I've been remiss in relaying what I learned about the "Optimum Shotgun Performance" system. Ash and his wife, Vicki, tout the most instinctive style of shooting I've ever experienced, and reliance on instinct is good because I think most would agree that if you think, you miss. For proof, check out this video on the American Hunter Facebook page.

The biggest break from tradition the OSP system makes is in its removal of lead from the shooter's thought process. Gil cringes at the very mention of the "L-word." He told me that the human eye is incapable of accurately determining the speeds of two objects at once (such as a gun barrel and a clay target). Makes sense.

"Our eyes and brains are, however, extremely good at observing an object's path and determining where it will be at some point in the future," Gil said. "That is, unless we look away from the object and interrupt the information our brains are receiving about it."

Gil's system is based on the fundamentals of human perception. I would summarize it thusly:

1. Focus extremely hard on the target with both eyes open. Don't just look at it. Really see it. Try to see the divots on a clay or a duck's eye.

2. The barrel is the enemy! If you look at the barrel for any reason, be it to determine lead or even accidentally, you interrupt the information your brain is receiving about the target's path and speed. And you miss.

3. If you're shooting clays, pick a break point along the clay's path (after you've asked to see it first).

4. Smoothly mount your gun to the break pointnot to the claywhile focusing hard on the target. Gil calls this "insertion" in his books and videos. You don't swing with or through the clay the way you would traditionally. As you're mounting the gun, you insert the barrel ahead of the clay to where you intend to break it. It sounds counterintuitive, but by mounting the gun in this manner, you can move more slowly and actually have more time to break the clay or kill the bird. Gil repeatedly told me to slow down. It's amazing how mounting the gun slowly while keeping intent focus on the clay causes the clay itself to appear to slow down. It also keeps your eyes on the target, whereas a rapid gun mount attracts your eye to the movement of the barrel.

5. Shoot the clay at the break point. Your brain almost magically knows when to pull the trigger based on the target's speed and distance. Don't even think about the lead. When I was shooting with Gil, it felt like I was shooting directly at the claysobviously I was leading them, because they were breaking. My brain put the barrel where it needed to be.

With game birds you can't pick a break point because their flight is less predictable. Gil advises focusing on the bird, smoothly mounting the gun and killing the bird when the stock meets your face. Again, your brain instinctively puts the barrel where it needs to be. Don't swing with the bird or you'll look at the barrel or think about lead. Either way, the message your eyes are giving your brain about the bird is interrupted, and you miss.

It's worth noting that a good gun mount is essential to the system. If you can't mount your shotgun smoothly and consistently, start there.

Gil and Vicki Ash's system is unconventional, for sure. In fact, it's so different that a few traditionalists are up in arms. You won't find me among those jealous souls, however. The OSP system is a good one. And I'm a better wingshot because of it.

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