In this issue of Target Tactics, we are going to examine the strategies for crushing the chandelle target. The chandelle, or arching target, is thrown vertically off of the trap’s arm, usually showing full face or full belly to the shooter.

Why the weird name? The word “chandelle” originated from the aircraft aerobatics world. It designates an aircraft maneuver where a pilot executes a steep climbing turn accompanied with a simultaneous change in. It is a maneuver designed to show the pilot’s proficiency in controlling the aircraft while performing a minimum radius climbing turn at a constant turning radius. The chandelle target mimics this movement.

General Technique

There are essentially three different ways for a target setter to utilize the chandelle – quartering in, quartering out, or crossing. Determining the line of the chandelle target at your breakpoint is critical. Pat notes that “it is the line that throws people for a loop with the chandelle.” So, the question becomes: where do I break it? In general, Pat claims that “the chandelle is most reliably broken near the top of its flight path, as it is there that its line is easiest to intercept.”

“Most times, I think the best spot to shoot a chandelle, whether it is quartering or crossing, is just before it gets to the peak.” At this point in its flight path, it has a fairly steady line for a period of time. With a chandelle’s complex flight path, an inexperienced shooter will often try to track the arc of the bird, usually with disastrous results.

Thus, it is critical that you pick a break point and say to yourself, “that is where I am going to break that bird.” The benefit of shooting the chandelle under power, just before the apex, is that if you are a tad early or a bit late, it’ll still be doing the same thing.

Pat encourages shooters to address the chandelle using minimal gun movement. If you plan to shoot the chandelle just before its peak, you’ll want to start your muzzle just under the line of flight and make a short move into your break point. The more angle the chandelle has, the more gun movement you should plan to have. This is true in general.

Which Method?

The two methods that Pat advocates shooters use on the chandelle are maintained lead and pull-away. Personally, Pat holds his muzzle on the line of flight, mounts to the breakpoint, and pulls the trigger. “Pull-away also works well, especially if the target is dropping.” It is however important to note that regardless of which technique you choose, you should make a smooth and deliberate move. For those of you that prefer pull-away, envision your gun as a paint brush and gently brush through the target. Don’t move so fast as to spray paint all over your canvas, but slow and succinct.

Pat does not recommend pass through on the chandelle for two reasons. Firstly, because the chandelle has an ever-changing line. Secondly, because of the chandelle’s changing speed. “If it is going up, by the time you catch it and pass through, the target might not be going up anymore.” The more gun movement you have with a target that has an ever-changing line, the more chance of making a mistake,” Lieske adds.

The Crossing Chandelle

A true crossing chandelle gives you the most amount of options when it comes to the proper breakpoint. You can shoot it dropping, at its peak, or while it is under power before its peak. According to Pat, “it is up to you to choose the spot that’s best suited to your game.”

As a rule of thumb, individuals which use maintained lead as their primary method usually have the most consistency prior to its peak. Those who prefer pull-away usually like the apex breakpoint.

As with any target, be sure to focus hard on the leading edge. The leading edge is the part of the target that you really want to hit. Identifying this spot is essential and can be accomplished by observing the target’s line of flight in relation to a clock face. We discussed how to use the clock face a few installments ago, in the teal article. As a quick synopsis, this technique consists of visualizing the target as an analog clock and choosing a certain time at which to focus on.

If you follow Pat’s advice and take the chandelle either under power on its way up or at its apex, the leading is usually 1 or 2 o’clock. The chandelle is deceptive in that it continues to rise as it hits its apex. Pat notes that “it is all too common for shooters to think the chandelle is on it ways down when in actuality it is still rising.” The more angle the target has, the more perceived lead it will require. Thus, perceived lead on the chandelle is greatest when it is crossing. Keep this in mind. Consider extending your forward allowance after a miss, especially if the angle is accompanied with speed.

The Quartering Chandelle

The quartering away chandelle is best shot one of two places, on the way up or at its apex. Taking the quartering chandelle on its decent is a bad idea. “If you shoot a quartering away chandelle on the drop, it is going to be very difficult to read,” says Lieske. The target’s speed will increase, it will start to close up, and become edgy. Pat tries to shy away from this option whenever he can.

An important thing to note is that shooting the quartering chandelle early necessitates more lead than shooting it late. The earlier you shoot the quartering chandelle, the more angle it has.

The incoming chandelle, on the other hand, is often a different story. “A chandelle that quarters in starts to show more face, or belly, the closer it gets. So, shooting the chandelle on the drop might be a great in this situation.” With this approach on the incoming chandelle, you’ll get the opportunity to read the line of flight as it approaches.

The Biggest Mistake

The largest gaffe that shooters make when they shoot the chandelle is attempting to track the line. Despite the fact that the chandelle is indeed an arching target, it is not desirable to move your muzzle in an arching motion. Lieske says, “I think if you are trying to put the gun into the flight path for the whole period of its flight, you are going to miss.” Instead, determine your insertion point and make a direct path to your breakpoint.

About the Author: Drew Lieske is the oldest son of Michigan Shooting Centers’ founder, Pat Lieske, and the Director of Sales for Michigan Shooting Centers. He started competing in sporting clays at age 12 and by 15 became Michigan’s youngest ever Master class shotgun shooter. Drew is an 8-time NSCA All-American and a member of the Kolar Arms pro team. Drew can be contacted at