Clay Shooting

Un­der the In­flu­ence

Of course shoot­ing and al­co­hol don’t mix, but Ethan Lowry says that even a small tip­ple could af­fect your scores much longer than you think

- Ethan Lowry is a phys­io­ther­a­pist and a re­searcher spe­cial­is­ing in pain and nu­tri­tion. He makes it to the clay ground two or three times per month to in­dulge his pas­sion for shoot­ing Lifestyle · Iceland · Belgium · Turkey · Somalia · Austria · Scotland · United Kingdom · England · Wales · Northern Ireland · Ireland · Belarus

Ethan Lowry has some wise words for any­one mix­ing their spirits and shoot­ing

Idon’t know about you, but when the week­end ap­proaches, the one thing on my mind is break­ing clays. It’s not just the shoot­ing it­self that we long for, but also the strong so­cial as­pect that comes along with it. Like any club or com­pe­ti­tion cir­cuit, the ca­ma­raderie of­ten spills out from the sports ground, and af­ter a day’s shoot­ing what bet­ter way of wind­ing down than en­joy­ing an hour or two with friends in the pub. Noth­ing wrong with that, but what about that drink the night be­fore a shoot? Surely just a small one can’t hurt – or can it?

Nowa­days of course we are all well aware of the ef­fects of al­co­hol on driv­ing, and the con­se­quences of driv­ing with al­co­hol in the blood­stream. It goes with­out say­ing that al­co­hol and shoot­ing don’t mix, and I trust that no reader of this mag­a­zine would dream of drink­ing even the smallest amount of al­co­hol be­fore or dur­ing a shoot. But what about the night be­fore, or the night be­fore that? I’m not talk­ing about drink­ing to ex­cess here. Clearly it wouldn’t be much fun to en­ter a 100-bird shoot with a thump­ing hang­over from a heavy ses­sion the night be­fore, and your per­for­mance would inevitably suf­fer. But where do we draw the line? Surely a small glass of wine with a meal, or a half of beer, can’t do our shoot­ing any harm the fol­low­ing day, can it? Well, you might be sur­prised to learn how much even the smallest drink can af­fect your per­for­mance, even long af­ter the al­co­hol it­self has left your body.

What the law says

Let’s deal with the le­gal side of things first. Quite rightly, it is il­le­gal to be drunk and han­dle a loaded firearm. It’s also il­le­gal to hand some­one else a firearm or am­mu­ni­tion if you be­lieve they are drunk, so both of you would be break­ing the law and, if caught, would face se­ri­ous con­se­quences – in­clud­ing a fine and po­ten­tially a prison sen­tence. The sever­ity of the pun­ish­ment in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly if any other crime is com­mit­ted at the same

time. Plus of course the con­se­quences of a neg­li­gent dis­charge at a clay ground, with all the cars, build­ings and peo­ple around, don’t bear think­ing about.

With driv­ing, there are clearly de­fined lim­its for the amount of al­co­hol that can be present in your blood, breath or urine be­fore you are legally de­fined as drink driv­ing. These are lower in Scot­land to the rest of the UK. For in­stance, the limit is 80 mil­ligrammes per 100ml of blood in Eng­land, Wales and North­ern Ireland, and 50mg/100ml in Scot­land. That still leaves the ques­tion of ex­actly how much al­co­hol you can drink be­fore ex­ceed­ing those fig­ures, and how long the al­co­hol will re­main in your sys­tem be­fore lev­els in your body fall be­low the le­gal lim­its. There are pub­lished guide­lines which sug­gest that a pint or two will be gone from your sys­tem the fol­low­ing morn­ing, but it de­pends on fac­tors such as your weight, age, me­tab­o­lism, what you’ve eaten re­cently, and even your stress lev­els at the time.

The law is less clear when it comes to al­co­hol and shoot­ing. There is no ac­tual blood-al­co­hol limit spec­i­fied that would make it il­le­gal for you to shoot; the law sim­ply states that you can­not be drunk, a some­what sub­jec­tive test. If it ever came to that, a court would have to de­cide whether or not you were drunk in charge of a firearm. They would likely rely on ev­i­dence such as wit­ness de­scrip­tions of your be­hav­iour at the time, any man­i­fest in­abil­ity to han­dle the gun prop­erly, such as a neg­li­gent dis­charge, and the re­sults of any blood or other tests car­ried out by the po­lice af­ter the event.

While on the sub­ject of the law, it’s worth not­ing that as shoot­ers we are held to a high stan­dard in our be­hav­iour gen­er­ally, even when we are not shoot­ing. Any of­fence that in­volves be­ing in­tox­i­cated, such as a drink driv­ing of­fence, may well lead to your Shot­gun Cer­tifi­cate be­ing re­voked. If you have been reck­less enough to drink and drive, the po­lice are likely to draw the con­clu­sion that you are not some­one who can be trusted to own a gun with­out en­dan­ger­ing pub­lic safety.

Ef­fects on the body

So as we’ve seen, it’s per­fectly pos­si­ble to have a small drink the night be­fore a shoot with­out break­ing the law. Even stay­ing well within the le­gal lim­its, how­ever, al­co­hol has a wide range of ef­fects on the body – most of which are not con­ducive to good shoot­ing! These in­clude: a re­duced abil­ity to see ob­jects that are far away and mov­ing at speed; blurred vi­sion; re­duced pe­riph­eral vi­sion; de­layed re­ac­tion times; re­duced speed/co­or­di­na­tion and im­paired bal­ance.

That’s not a good com­bi­na­tion for shoot­ing. On the plus side, al­co­hol can tem­po­rar­ily re­duce your heart rate, which might be seen as ben­e­fi­cial to shoot­ing. How­ever that is more than out­weighed by all the neg­a­tive side ef­fects.

In any case, there are bet­ter ways of con­trol­ling your heart rate which don’t in­volve drink­ing al­co­hol!

Any­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced a hang­over will un­der­stand that the ef­fects of al­co­hol can linger on af­ter the al­co­hol it­self has left the body. A heavy ses­sion can leave you feel­ing dread­ful, but even a small amount of al­co­hol will have an ef­fect on things like vi­sion, fo­cus and re­ac­tion times the fol­low­ing day. Even if you con­vince your­self that you feel fine, you’re likely to suf­fer a mea­sur­able drop in per­for­mance.

So what’s the ad­vice?

My ad­vice for any­one who takes their shoot­ing even re­motely se­ri­ously is quite sim­ple: avoid drink­ing al­co­hol al­to­gether for at least a cou­ple of days be­fore shoot­ing. That way, you avoid any pos­si­ble re­duc­tion in your per­for­mance re­sult­ing from al­co­hol’s ef­fects on your body.

For those who take a more ca­sual or recre­ational ap­proach to their shoot­ing, we’re head­ing into more of a grey area.

As with driv­ing, we should never go any­where near the lim­its of what’s per­mit­ted by law. Drink­ing be­fore or dur­ing a shoot is an ab­so­lute no-no.

But if you’re out with friends a day or two be­fore, you’re not driv­ing, you hap­pen to fancy a small one and you’re will­ing to ac­cept the pos­si­bil­ity that you might not shoot your best score ever, well – that’s up to you.

“as shoot­ers we are held to a high stan­dard in our be­hav­iour gen­er­ally, even when we are not shoot­ing”

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