"If they don't fear your guns they'll just drive up next to you and start blowing you away." Someone told me this in 03 when my guns and gun skills sucked.
What are guns skills and how to you develop good ones? First you need to start with getting the guns on your ship to work all the time. Having guns that work sometimes (getting jams, low tweaks) is the easiest way to make yourself a target. If the enemy doesn't have the fear of receiving damage from your ship they can do "stupid" things, like chase your stern sidemount, to try and damage you. Winter and spring are the time of year you need to spend some time getting a good tweak on your guns. Put the ship on the bench and shoot off 3-4 mags of bbs from each gun to make sure everything works. Take your ship to the pond and make sure your sidemounts go into the water and don't skip off the top of the water. A bb that skips is not going to make a hole in anything. Adjust the range on your stern guns to a place where you feel comfortable and works well with your ship. Know where the stern guns hit. Again, once they hit the water and skip you have just wasted a bb. Get into the water and watch the bbs as they come out of the gun. You can see them hit the water and bounce up 1"-24" then hit the water again 2'-20' behind your ship. The skipping bbs are the ones that hit you on the shore and knock the pretty stuff off of Dana's POW. I have a hug n slug ship and like to be in close. I have my guns ranged very close off the stern. Cruisers and run n gun (big, bad turning) battleships need to open the range to a foot or two. Once you have your guns aimed make sure they are held in place tightly. Use the ugly stern block to hold them in place if you have too. If they move all of your practice is no good. Having a bb bounce off your deck also is a waste.
Get out and practice on the pond. Shoot at another ship or something else that floats. We aim our ships several feet from shore. The only way to get good at this is lots of stick time. The more you battle and practice the better you are going to get. Even if you had good gun skills in your last ship it takes time to get them back in a new ship.
You need to be thinking when you start shooting. Stern guns are the easiest to learn and have the highest scoring chance. High angle shots once and a while will make a nice tear in a hull. But most of the time they just bounce off the bow hard area or a rib. Make sure your ship is 90-45 deg to the other ship when you fire your stern guns. Know where you are shooting. Is that a VDT behind you; is it even worth a shot from your sterns? They have so many casements there is only 1"-2" of above the waterline space you can hit. If you shoot make sure you can hit this spot. Most ships don't have a lot to shoot at after the B turret. Don't take a shot now that might hit, save your bbs for a better shot latter. Nagato's and Bismarck’s are not worth shooting past the amidships. But if you can get 50 holes into the bow of a Nagato, right where the hull flairs out, they are toast. Sidemounts have a low chance of hitting but are the most dangerous guns. Use them wisely. Make sure you are in a spot to give damage not take it. Know where the other guy’s guns are. For the last few years Finster has used twin bow sidemounts off the port side, stay away from there. Your best bet is to hit him with a bow to bow pass on the starboard side at a long range. Keep his haymaker away from your ship. Take 4-5 quick shots at full speed and move on.
I HATE coming off the water with bbs in my guns. Drives me NUTS! Many times I have not called five even though most of my fleet had and I knew I was low on bbs. It does not turn out very good after that, typically I have to get my ship off the bottom of the pond. If you're low on bbs and most of your fleet mates are calling 5 you do it too and get off the water, live to fight the next sortie. Make your bbs count, don't waste them on spray and pray shots. Only do this if you have a lot of damage or low batteries and need to get off the water fast. The fleet with bbs left at the end of the battle is the fleet that wins that battle. In 2005 I was not doing my typical side to side see who sinks first battling. I saved my bbs. It was not as fun. Until I heard the call from down the pond "Any Allies with bbs sink this Scharny" Off I went, the only one on the fleet with bbs. Finished off a sitting duck and felt great. Had I sprayed and prayed earlier in the battle I would not have had the bbs to put him down.
Make sure your stuff works and battle smart. Don't think we have to go out and sink 3-4 ships every battle. If we can take good high percentage shots the sinks will come. Think of it as a points game give more holes then you get, don't worry about sinking anyone. Shoot smart, get ready, KILL KILL KILL!!!!