Outdoor Articles

Squad Leader

by Pursue The Outdoors on November 30th, 1999 in Competition Shooting

What Is The Squad Leader?

Those brave souls who dare to take on the added responsibilities to enhance the harmony of the squad. They shoot Post #1 starting the competitive event.

Why Many Shooters Don’t Want To Be Squad Leader

There are good reasons for not being a squad leader. Let’s look at a few:

  • There is no doubt that by starting on post #2, 3 or 4 you will likely gain a higher score. Why? Because the angle targets are not as severe as post #1 and #5. When starting that first trap it’s sort of nice to not be presented with those tough angles right off the deck to give you a chance to warm up a bit.
  • By not starting on post #1 you don’t have to do any visual checking to see if all shooters are ready. You only have to prepare yourself so there is less distraction involved.
  • Concentration is less likely to be broken from a groove of shooting. Many shooters find it very difficult to recover from interruptions of any sort and even more if having to speak to correct a problem then go back to shooting.
  • It is no secret that being a Squad Leader can damage your scores. You have to be a better shooter, having a stronger mindset, to shoot lead off.

Are there benefits to being a Squad Leader?

  • Yes. The prime benefit is you learn how to shoot with enhanced concentration ability…it’s called “concentration management.” When you develop the ability to instantly recover from distractions you learn how to turn concentration on and off like a light bulb. You remain in complete control of the game.
  • You also learn how to manage the squad timing factors. As Squad Leader you can set the pace of the squad and set the target break zones. It doesn’t matter if the other squad members deviate from the plan…you won’t! This awareness is very powerful so you yourself can’t be influenced by a machinegun squad or a squad that has become overly cautious and allowing the targets to escape the zone.
  • You learn how to manage the subconscious event of when someone misses a target and all the other shooters miss it too…you can recognize the problem instantly. Why? Because as Squad Leader you are in tune with the happenings with the squad’s timing and zone like feeling a pulse. You lead, you do not follow!
  • You learn to shoot the hard left angles right away. This monster you are facing right off the bat, especially if you are a left-handed shooter, will increase your concentration to a high level immediately. Shooter’s who start posts #2, 3 and 4 have a tendency to feel more relaxed and often miss at this stage then run the other posts. It’s best to turn up the heat right away so you won’t miss the first targets out.
  • You also have more opportunities to select a squad. If you want to shoot in the morning or whatever there is usually a post #1 slot available. Not many shooters cherish the position and will pick any post but #1 and that gives you, the Squad Leader, a good opportunity for flexibility in selecting squads and times of day.
  • You will learn how to handle interruptions and return to a fine focus on a dime. You won’t learn this until you become a squad leader yourself.
  • You gain the opportunity to shoot with other shooters instead of the same people all of the time. Shooting with strange squads will help you develop a strong self-confident force as you won’t need a familiar squad to shoot well. You also meet many new friends too!
  • You don’t need to walk from post #5 to #1. This extra delay of time and bodily motion can create a mind-set shift to break the groove. You will notice the pros walk this walk slowly just for this reason. If you don’t lead the squad then don’t rush when changing to post #1. The squad will wait for you!
  • You will recieve all of the fame, respect honor and glory as other squad members look up to you, genuflect with reverence as you pass by and ask for your autograph (fat chance).

What Does All This Mean?

It means being the Squad Leader is something that must be “learned” as it will not be the same as shooting any other post. Responsibility, awareness and enhanced concentration management must be developed. It means that if you are not shooting post #1 lead-off you are missing out on a learning experience that can ultimately raise your scores and shooting performance.


It also means to adapt and learn to shoot post #1 and take on the added responsibility your scores are going to suffer until you get the hang of it. But it is well worth the temporary reduction of scores! The squad leading skills you learn help a lot in shootoff situations and can often make the difference between winning and losing.

Now how do you start? You have to take the full plunge and go all out. You start at practice at your local gun club and then you do it at your next registered shoot. You don’t do it at practice then chicken out and not follow through at the registered competition. If you have to cut playing the options for awhile, then that’s just the roll of the dice. So, you either do or you don’t. All or nothing. Once you shoot squad leader position you stay in that position thereafter. Shifting to other posts to start an event some other day can cause enough of an upset to hurt your performance.

How To Be A Good Squad Leader

The official rule books basically say you are responsible for picking up score sheets and call for first target but there is more to maintain proper etiquette and courtesy when being the Squad Leader…even though it is not in the rule books!

  • You should identify the shooters on deck waiting to shoot to insure all are present. If someone is late you’ll know of it before it’s your turn to step on field. Conduct a basic search for the shooter to announce over the Public Address system. A small delay won’t kill anybody and it’s just plain kindness.
  • Tell the scorekeeper the yardage so they can adjust seating behind the squad (some can’t read).
  • Look at the shooters on the posts. Do you see any fumbling with thier guns? If so, don’t call for the test target until all are ready. Ask, “Ready?” And don’t forget to ask the scorekeeper and puller if they too are ready. Call for the test target then look at the shooters and ask, “Okay?” Then start the event if the test is legal. Don’t start the event if the target is illegal. Ask to have the trap set.
  • Do not abuse the test target sequence. The term, “Let’s see one” means, “Let’s see one target.” Not two three, four or five.
  • When there are two broken targets exiting the house in succession stop the shooter and ask the puller to throw “One bird” to clear the house. This usually happens when the squad is shooting too fast for the trap setter to snugly install the targets onto the trap arm. Don’t say nothing. Don’t tell the squad to slow down. They know better. But if the squad is acting real reckless, which is rare, then ask the referee to tell the squad to slow down a bit. Why? So the target setter will not be injured and you will recieve better targets.
  • If you see a target chip and the target is called lost speak up. Correct the error.
  • When trap fails you are the one to call out, “Unload, guns down” and make sure the guns are unloaded and pointined downward before trap help walks into the field. Be the Safety Officer!
  • When changing posts make sure the score is read out aloud and there are no objections. If someone objects to the score remain silent. If the situation starts to escalate then step in to resolve the problem. Don’t argue or fuss. If it can’t be resolved and no referee is available? Ask the scorekeeper to put a question mark next to the score box affecting that target and resolve it later.
  • If a shooter shoots at a broken target it’s your job to call it down and request the shooter shoot again.
  • If a gun misfires you can be the inspector if you wish, but usually the puller can handle that chore as you don’t want to be walking post to post with your shotgun, even if it is unloaded.
  • If a shooter fails to shoot and the referee calls it lost, speak up and explain the “fail to fire” rule and let the shooter shoot again. Usually this must be indicated on the score sheet.
  • As Squad Leader you must be emotionally mature. You, of all people, must never raise your voice in anger or frustration. Be professional at all times and others will act accordingly. The other shooters will match your tone of behavior.
  • When you are on post ready to shoot, always check the other shooters to make sure they too are ready after changing stations. Don’t forget the shooter on post #5 must walk the extra distance to post #1 and may not be ready. This is especially important when you are on post #5 as post #1 shoots after you. So always check this carefully.
  • You will notice most all of the shooters will be “into themselves” and not being aware of what is going on in the squad. As Squad Leader it’s your job to be sure everyone is ready when they are ready and to start the shooting when all are ready. A hasty shooter, or one who is oblivious to the squad, should not be a squad leader. It takes that ability to switch concentration on and off and to be aware of other shooter’s needs to be a good squad leader.
  • If the puller is sitting down that’s okay, but the moment slow pulls arrive politely request the puller to stand up and pay attention and to walk behind each shooter to hear the calls. If slow or fast pulls keep on? Replace the puller. You ask the Field Captain for this change. A good method that does not offend is to simply tell the puller, “You must be tired. Why don’t you take a break and get us someone else who can pull for us, okay?” Often, the puller is dog tired and needs a rest.
  • When leaving the trap you check the scores and if there are no objections you initial the sheet and take the scoresheet to the next trap. Don’t rush. The other shooters will tend to leave you behind and will be ready to shoot before you will be. Take your time and stay in mental control. The moment you start to play catch-up you blow your nervous system out of whack and you won’t shoot well. You have extra duties to perform and that always places you last to be on deck.
  • If the squad is talking too loudly while the another squad is shooting, remind your squad to speak softly so as not to disturb the other shooters. Do so politely.
  • A good squad leader leads with a silent sense of authority but never flaunts authority, scolds or yells at other shooters or trap help. Maintain a smooth emotion. Remember, you are not a “boss.” You don’t have actual authority over other shooters. But you can take charge simply by acting and being professional and others will listen and conform.
  • If a shooter is falling apart real bad and is having a “bad hair day” a word of encouragement will help. Nobody else is going to do it, so you do it. After all, you are the squad leader. You may want to tell the shooter, “Relax and shoot with confidence…not with doubt.” Don’t say, “You’re lifting your head, stupid!”
  • If a gun keeps jamming or other malfunction and it’s disturbing the harmony of the shoot call for timeout to have the gun fixed. Don’t put the shooter and the squad through misery. Take the time out allowed.
  • Be supportive and friendly. Don’t be afraid to smile and introduce yourself by name. It’s all supposed to be fun still even if it is serious business.
  • The rest is all common courtesy. Never get into any arguments with any shooter and never raise your voice. Speak gently and firmly. Never go beyond your authority. Read the rule book! Follow the above rules here and you will receive many compliments on being a good squad leader and others will want to shoot with you. Why? A good squad leader can have a powerful influence on the shooter’s subconsciousness and scores usually rise when a squad leader is behaving appropriately and running a smooth operation.

Are you willing to take a drop in scores to “learn how” to be a squad leader? That’s a big decision as scores will certainly drop as you learn and it may take an entire season of shooting to get it down where you feel comfortable and confident. Not everyone will want to be a squad leader, but if you wish to have a little bit more control over your shooting it can pay off good dividends. For others it will simply not be their cup of tea.

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