Some people take sporting clays a little too seriously. Me? I'm just out there to admire other people's guns, relax and generally have a good time. Because let's face it friends, there are champion shooters—and then there's us.
So, on occasion, you'll spot me puffing on a cigar during a round of clays. It may not improve my score, but it is something I enjoy and it provides an additional, ready-made excuse for my poor performance.
However, smoking a cigar and shooting a shotgun at the same time is not easy. It's taken me years to perfect and has posed numerous health risks—I've singed much of the hair on my left forearm while mounting the gun, and it's yet to grow back. However, you don't have to suffer my fate. Here's how to safely and effectively smoke a cigar and bust clays at the same time.
Avoid Cigar Awareness
To hit clays consistently, most experts advise maintaining intense focus on the front edge of the clay. Should your eyes become distracted by your shotgun barrel, the motion of your arms—or that big fat cigar protruding from your mouth—you won't shoot up to your potential. So, always move your cigar to the 6 o'clock position before calling for the bird. That way it will dangle from your mouth safely out of your line of vision.
Proper Cigar Size
The ideal shotgunning cigar is one that is under five inches in length, as anything longer will require you to modify your mount in order to avoid singing your forearm. My personal size preference is a short, fat cigar known as a robusto. It's 4 inches in length and of 50-gauge width. Plus I can smoke one in exactly two rounds of skeet.
To Ash or Not to Ash
There's a current fad in which participants see how long an ash they can create without it falling from the cigar. This is silly, and it is detrimental to the cigar-smoking shotgunner. Be sure to gently rotate your cigar so any loose ash falls away. Always do so between stations. Otherwise your ash will crumble under recoil and make a real mess of your shooting vest.
The truly refined cigar-gunner matches his/her cigar to the wood of his/her shotgun. For instance, a friend of mine who works for Beretta sent me a Camacho cigar (complete with a Beretta label—see photo, below). The amber color of its Connecticut tobacco wrapper perfectly matches my Beretta shotgun's Turkish walnut. Corojo is another good pairing for Turkish walnut. For English walnut you'll want a lighter cigar, perhaps a Colorado claro. However, American walnut is rather dark. Go with a maduro.
So, follow these guidelines, have fun, and you're on your way to a pleasant day of shooting. Just don't forget to bring an extra stick or two for your fellow shooters.