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Improve Your Shotgun Shooting with S.A.R.A.

This simple shooting method will have you breaking more targets and knocking down more birds.

S.A.R.A. is an acronym for Set-Up, Action, Respond and Analyze. This process allows you to take quick actions without sacrificing good fundamentals.


We’ve all heard practice makes perfect but we really follow through? This four step process will improve your shooting consistency and increase your hits.

The Set-up consists of creating a solid platform through a good stance, bringing the gun to a high-ready position and scanning the area for safety concerns as well as identifying potential targets. For example: as you walk past your dog anticipating a bird to flush you being adjusting your footing, taking smaller steps and bring your feet to shoulder width apart so you can being a proper gun mount. You bring the barrel of your shotgun up into your line of sight and you have the butt tucked under your armpit.

Dale and shotgun
Photo by Dale Tate

When you’re completing your set-up you should feel comfortable. You may want to adjust your grip on the gun, move your off hand forward or back and check the safety. In a target shooting situation you would now call for your bird – “Pull.”  In a stationery hunting situation the bird would be coming into range or if you are advancing on a bird dog you would expect a bird to flush.


Now it’s time to take Action. Since you are already set-up to take a shot you now complete a proper gun mount, follow through the bird with whatever method of lead you think is appropriate and take the shot.

If you missed, or more birds are still in the air the your action continues. You move your gun to the next bird or stay on the bird you missed and shoot again. If more birds are flying to you, the next action you take may be to reload your gun. In a hunting situation the last part of the action stage is to mark the downed birds and make your gun safe.


Once the action is over it is time to Respond. The most important part of this stage is to make sure everything is safe. Following all firearms safety rules, you might unload your gun and prepare to move to the next station in target shooting. In the hunting field or waterfowl blind you might need to control your dogs and make sure the birds are retrieved.

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The last part of the S.A.R.A. method is Analyze. When the action is over and it’s time to move to the next shooting station, continue through the field or get ready for more birds to fly in you need to analyze what just happened. This is when you make sure your shotgun does not have any barrel obstructions, everyone including dogs are accounted for and communicate with your shooting partner(s).

This is also time to reload. It is during your analysis that you burn the mental image in your mind so you can repeat the success at the next opportunity.

You can read about forming and developing a shotgun shooting process and a full version of S.A.R.A. in the book A Trail of Feathers: A Shotgunning Guide for the Hunter and Shooter

Using the S.A.R.A. process will make your shotgun shooting safe and successful.

What shotgun shooting rituals do you carry out?  Let us know in the comments.


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Improve Your Shotgun Shooting with S.A.R.A.