Syren Savvy: How to Choose the Right Shotgun Instructor

If you’re looking for the right shotgun instructor, it’s important to ask the right questions. I visited Syren’s stellar Facebook group and asked this question: “If you’re an instructor, what do you think students should find out about their future instructors?” Also, as the topic progressed, you’ll see that the respondents delved into other aspects of shooting instruction. What these two instructors advised will benefit you in how to choose the right shotgun instructor. It might save you some money, too!

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Choosing a Shotgun Instructor

Cindi Hubbard

Cindi Hubbard is a Level II NSCA Certified Instructor at Triple B Clays in South El Monte, California.

Make Goals

She wrote, “Clearly discuss your goals beforehand so the shotgun instructor is equipped to help you fulfill them.” She added that goals might include if you’re new to shooting, want to shoot in tournaments or want to start hunting. Cindi included that you should tell an instructor if you’re fearful of guns and why. 

Shotgun Instructor Syren
Dorothea and a student

Find the Right Shotgun Instructor

Cindi also recommended, “Find an instructor that makes you feel comfortable and answers your questions. Your instructor should prepare you in advance on what to wear (for instance, I recommend wearing a sports bra to my ladies to prevent hardware on the shooting shoulder) and what not to wear (big jewelry, camisoles), and what to bring (eye and ear protection, water). Look for an instructor that can teach you with guns that fit you and in appropriate gauges for your size and experience.”

Dorothea Dotter

Another shotgun instructor who answered the call for this post is Dorothea Dotter, a pro-staffer for Syren. 

She wrote, “As a shotgun instructor at Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays, I have the opportunity to introduce many people to the amazing sport of sporting clays. I additionally coach the Quarry Crushers, which is our kid’s team. I find it extremely important to connect with my students and put them at ease. I ask questions at first and find out where the students are at. These students usually come back for follow-up lessons and I find it very rewarding to watch their progress. I love when a student sends me a text or picture of a score card and I truly share the excitement of their successes. I continue to grow as an instructor and love to learn. Instructing is a passion of mine.”

Shotgun Instructor Dorothea Dotter on range
Dorothea Dotter on range

Understand Your Potential Struggles

Dorothea can relate to struggles that people might bring to the shotgun sports, especially since she originally competed in pistol disciplines. She even qualified as a pistol instructor. She explained, “We are taught to ‘aim’ and ‘use our front sight.’ Once I dove into the sporting clays/clay shotgun world, I realized how different these worlds were. I feel that my experience in pistol actually allows me to help students because I know how they are processing the different discipline information. Because I started in pistol and relied so much on my front sight, I closed an eye to shoot at first. I had to retrain myself and learn from scratch ‘two-eye’ shooting. Once I trusted my gun fit and that it was there, I was able to get away from the muzzle. This took work.” 

Dorothea elaborated on the struggle of going from shooting pistols to shotguns, and explained, “I feel that my struggles with learning to shoot two eyes and trusting to look only at the target, helps me to translate the information to my students. I am proud to have been able to help many students get away from squinting or closing an eye.”

Instruction how to choose shotgun instructor

She then related this story: “I had several students come from the same, well-known instructor. This instructor placed a dot on the student’s glasses even though they were already shouldering under their dominate eye. Once we worked through what to look at and how to see the target, we were able to get the dot off their glasses and have them shoot two eyes open with huge success. Without this ‘Band-aid,” we were able to truly correct the problem.”

Get One-on-One and Group Instruction

Dorothea hearkened back to what it was like to be an adult shotgun student: “As a student, I looked for and appreciated an instructor that listened and didn’t want to just talk at me. We worked through issues, and I learned a lot from lessons.” She believes that one-on-one instruction is worth the time, but if you have a group lesson or partner with someone, you can also observe and listen and absorb. She added, “Sometimes this is when it all clicks. When we are shooting, we don’t always see or catch what we are doing and practicing what you preach doesn’t always happen. Nothing replaces practice, but perfect practice is crucial. This is why lessons from a certified instructor are so important. We never want to practice the wrong thing or reinforce a bad habit.” 

group of Syren shooters

Dress According to Weather

When Dorothea prepares to teach a new student, here’s what she advises: “If someone were to be coming for a lesson, I would have them dress accordingly to the weather. Because I live in a sometimes colder area, I dress in layers and advise that as well to the student especially if it’s a little chilly out. We are out there year round and bundling up is the key.”

Syren Demo shotguns

Rent a Gun

She also finds out about a student’s shooting experience, and whether they already own their shotguns. She said, “If so, I have them bring it along with the correct ammo. (We recommend 7.5 or 8 shot.) Lehigh Valley has ammo for purchase if they need it. If they are using our rental guns, they must use the clubs ammo.”

Although she always carries extra eye and ear protection, she recommends that students bring their own, tailored to their needs if necessary.

Get Critiqued

Dorothea stressed the importance of having an instructor who will analyze your shooting. She wrote, “As I start my students out and watch them shoot, I am reading them and always analyzing so I can decide which kind of targets to take them to next. My goal is for my student to be safe and able to shoot without me with them, so I work on a variety of target presentations and we break down each target as it is shown. Learning to read the targets is the first step in breaking them. I try to enable my students with enough foundation so they can go out and practice what we learned and continue to build their knowledge through perfect practice.”

More on the Importance of Gun Fit

Kate Ahnstrom on range -KristenMurrayPhotography
Syren pro-staffer Kate Ahnstrom on range instructing. (Kristen Murray Photography)

Women have different body types than men, obviously, which is why “gun fit” is so important. Most shotguns are designed for the average male shooter with a large grip radius (reach) for bigger hands, and a longer length-of-pull. Since women typically have smaller arms and hands than men, having a shotgun designed with a shorter length-of-pull and reach to the trigger means you will have a much more comfortable and enjoyable shooting experience. Women also typically have higher cheekbones than men, and a Monte Carlo stock can help bring the gun up to allow a shooter to acquire the target more easily without having to adjust to the gun and put unnecessary stress on their neck and back. These design considerations help the shooter to focus on the task at hand, which is breaking targets, rather than focusing on fighting bad gun fit that often results in bruised cheeks and frustration from missed targets. A proper fitting gun makes all the difference. A good shooting instructor should acknowledge this, and work with you to find a solution that best suits your needs.

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  • About Barbara Baird

    Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. Her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at