My Clay Shooting Journey by Ben Wells.

Part 4 January 2023 - The Last Pair

After I had been shooting a year my parents could see how passionate I was about the sport, and they bought me my first gun for my 13th birthday – a second-hand Browning 424 Grade 1 – which I stored at Bisley.

My instructors were now starting to really get me into the swing of shooting and introduced a competition practice round within my weekly practice sessions.  These were great......until they called out “last pair” and I would miss every time, even if I had straighted the first three or four pairs!  This was my first test in the mental strength that you need for the sport – being able to block out everything else and shoot each pair in exactly the same way. I’ll be honest it has taken me years to be able to control that “fear” of missing one or both of the final same pair, through complacency, lack of focus or concentration, or just stabbing and not following the shot through smoothly.

Suddenly I was doing this on my own

May 2017 I was 13 years old and competed in my first  monthly Club Shoot competition at Bisley, and I was terrified. It was the same ground, the same stands, the same instructors scoring on the stands, but suddenly I was doing this on my own. Having to find the stands, wait in line for my turn to shoot, hand in my score card, load for myself, work out how to hit the clay and if I missed it, having to work out by myself what to change for the next shot. 

My Mum came round with me, and everyone was very supportive and encouraging, but when I stood in the stand it was me alone. I scored 50/100 and I was exhausted at the end of the competition, but I knew that I could do better, and I wanted to try again.

So, every month I entered the monthly Club Shoot competitions and gained more experience. I also entered the annual Surrey Police Shoot which is held at Bisley and has about 300 people shooting, to give me more competition experience. In November the hard work paid off and I achieved 77/100 and won the Junior Club Shoot that month.  I was so excited when the letter and voucher came through the door addressed to me, announcing me as Junior High Gun for November 2017, it was as if Christmas had come early!

I was starting to block out the last pair

During 2018 I continued with a weekly instructor practice session and continued entering the monthly Club Shoots at Bisley. It was fierce competition in the Juniors, and I came second overall for the year.  I’ll be honest I was disappointed, but I had learned a lot and was starting to block out the “last pair” syndrome and become mentally stronger and more prepared, and went into 2019 extra determined to win the Junior Champion.

I kept my mind centred on the end goal

I continued with my weekly instructor practice sessions, worked hard on consistency and channelling my emotions into focusing on the targets.  I entered all 12 monthly Club Shoots, and kept my mind centred on the end goal, to be the Junior Club Champion for 2019.  I entered the annual Surrey Police Shoot Competition again and was in the same squad as Roger Keightley a Bisley Instructor, who mentored me around the competition and provided me with so much insight and knowledge of how to cope with the pressures of competitions.

I did it! What a buzz!

It really helped as that year I won 11 out of the 12 Club Shoots, increased my average to 86.08 and achieved my goal of winning the Junior Club Championship at Bisley.  Receiving the trophy and seeing my name on the Champions Board in the Reception area of the Club House – what a buzz – I was so happy and everyone was pleased for me.  All the instructors, the ground staff, everyone who works in the office – everyone congratulated me, and I am so grateful for all the support that they gave me over the year to make my dream come true and the moment a reality.