What is Forward Allowance?

Forward allowance is the gap some people leave when they shoot the clays, some reckon they don’t allow for it  but most of us do it instinctively, whether we apply it consciously or unconsciously.

There are several techniques to applying forward allowance.

  1. You can ‘Swing-Through’ from behind,
  2. Touch the target and ‘Pull-Away,’ or you can
  3. You can ‘Maintain a Lead.’
  4. Or you can spot shoot the targets – this involves bringing the gun straight up to a point in front of the target without much if any swing.

It can all get confusing, so the purpose of this article is to explain some of these different techniques in more depth.

Swing Through

forward allowance swing through

Let’s start with the most traditional way of shooting – Swing Through, or more commonly know as ‘the smoke-trail-method’. The idea, of course, is that you start at a point slightly behind the target and then  traverse smoothly through it, firing instinctively as you come in front. The method works very well. It is especially good for encouraging flowing movement and will allow you to shoot game consistently. Swing through is especially good for establishing line, and it usually ensures that you shoot with a moving gun.

The method is very smooth, but it requires that you develop your basic mount and swing to perfection. As with the panning technique used in fast the sports photography to essentially freeze the action, the momentum for the swing should always come from body rotation or bend with the fine control coming from the hands. Every clay shot should improve your swing through technique but it is important to remember that it must be in concert with a well-balanced gun and good stock fit.

Pull Away

Pull-Away is also a very useful technique. It is taught by the CPSA for clays – the technique involves being on the target, tracking it and then pulling-in-front before firing instinctively. This is a particularly good method for use with beginners.

forward allowance pull away

As far as forward allowance goes the Pull Away can get-you-out-of-trouble. When everything is going wrong on I often suggest to my students that they default to Pull Away. They know that they will be starting on the bird and this technique can work very well with deceptive angles or targets which are slow. It wouldn’t be my method of choice for very fast birds (where there is no opportunity to track).

Maintained Lead

Maintained Lead is well known to many people when discussing forward allowance. It takes two distinct forms though. American skeet and wildfowl shooters employ a version where the gun is kept forward of the target the whole time – the basic idea of maintained lead shooting – but they apply a measured forward allowance.

forward allowance maintained lead

The other form of maintained lead has been developed by John Bidwell with his MOVE:MOUNT:SHOOT technique. This time the target never catches up with gun – but the lead is applied instinctively. If you are clay shooting, get into your preferred ready position and call the target, keep your eyes glued to it and let the rest happen naturally. It’s an excellent system for shooting clays, and John, of course, is its greatest exponent have won umpteen championships with this clever but simple method.

Spot Shooting

This is usually an instinctive technique employed by those who have never had formal instruction. It goes something like this: You see the target, you make an instant decision on its flight path, (there is very little if any concious thought in this process), you bring the gun up and fire at a spot in front of your target. Conscious ambushing can sometimes be required on a clay shoot for fast targets; It is a difficult technique to master but ultimately is worth spending time practising.


I don’t believe that one way is best when it comes to forward allowance. It is best to try several techniques to see which techniques suits you best as an individual. Some people prefer to apply forward lead more instinctively where others need a more deliberate approach.

forward allowance how much lead

Every target has a lead time lead time – the actual distance you must be ahead of it to allow for the velocity of shot and the speed of the target itself. As far as clays are concerned, midis and battues often need far more lead. Minis on the other hand move at about the same speed as a conventional target and are often missed in front.

I hope that this goes some way to explaining the nuances of forward allowance.

Article 1 – Shooting Tips series – Eye Dominance