Beginners Guide To Clay Shooting

July 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Sports & Hobbies

Clay Pigeon Shooting for Beginners

Three Basic Styles of Shotgun

3 different types of 12 bore shotgun, Over and Under, Side by Side and Semi-Automatic.

Side by side shotguns are mostly used for traditional game shooting. The barrels on a side by side are as the name implies next to each other.

With over and under shotguns, the barrels are positioned on top of one another. Over and unders are often used for clay based shooting disciplines.

Semi automatic 12 bores are loaded one cartridge at a time into the breech, as they only have a single barrel.

Adults tend to prefer Twelve bores because they are offer the best combination of performance for the weight.

twenty bore gun are smaller and lighter making them ideal for use by ladies, juniors and any shooter looking for less recoil when they shoot.

Required Shooting Equipment

Shotgun Slip

Keep your gun safe and protected from bangs and knocks when it’s being transported in a padded slip.

Cartridge Bags

Different types of shooting require different shooting equipment, clothing and cartridge bags. For some a pouch or pocket will be sufficient.

Clay Shooting Eye Protection

Eye protection when clay pigeon shooting is critical because occasionally shards of broken clay can hit people as they fall and these pieces are quite sharp.

Ear Protection

Over time shooting can harm your audible senses, so professional shooting grounds insist that you use ear protection while shooting on their premises. These can be throw away foam plugs through to electronic noise cancelling headphones.

Cartridges for Shotguns

All shotgun shooters have their ideal shells that they choose to shoot with, and there are many alternative manufacturers to choose from. Most shooters stick with a shell that they have done well with!

Different range targets often require different sizes of lead shot for the optimum chance of hitting it consistently. Heavier lead shot flies further but there are not as many pellets of lead shot in each cartridge. Lighter lead pellets don’t fly as far but you have a wider ‘pattern’ to break the target with at closer range.

The perfect velocity for your cartridges will relate to how your hand/eye coordination interprets the target. Quicker cartridges need less ‘lead’ in front of the clay, slower cartridges need more lead.

Two Types of Shooting

Olympic Skeet Shooting

Skeet is the discipline used in the Olympics. Skeet consists of two clay traps which face each other and the clays fly through an identical flight path within a small tolerance.

There are twenty five targets in a skeet round, which are shot from each of the seven stands. A good shooter will often achieve 100 straight without missing a clay.

Sporting Shooting

Venues that provide sporting clays put on a mix of targets to simulate different sorts of game. Each club will be different, and will usually change on a frequent basis so you never get bored!

Clay Target Types

Standard’ clays are 110mm dia.

Midi clays are a smaller version of a standard, 90mm Dia.

Mini – 60mm Diameter – often called bumble bees, these look minute and very fast!

A Battue is a flat clay with a lipped edge. They often turn in mid-air and plummet to the ground when you least want it to!

Rabbit – 110mm Diameter – Stronger than a standard clay, designed to bounce along the ground at high speed.

Shooting Principles

Clay shooting is very similar to catching a ball in that you don’t reach out to where the ball is, but where it is going to be. You do the same thing with your lead pellets, so that in effect, the clay flies into your lead shot pattern.

The 2 main skills you need to be a good shot are hand/eye coordination and the experience to understand what the clay is doing so you can anticipate it’s correct flight path.

Your shot flies in a cigar shape cloud. Your aim is to position that cloud in the path of the clay.

Understanding what the clay is doing in the air is the skill that will allow your hand/eye coordination to correctly assess the target and smash it.

Often, an easy looking target will be misinterpreted by a shooter, causing them to miss. Shooting grounds like to set optical illusion targets to challenge even the best shots.

Two Simple Shooting Methods

Placing your shot in the correct place requires just two things to be right, the speed of your gun movement and the moment in time when you pull the trigger. There are two basic ways to shoot, ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

one on one shooting lessons

Many newbies start with maintain lead, as it is a more measured technique for shooting many targets. You decide how far in front you need to be. ‘Lead’ is the distance you point your gun ahead of the clay. As the target flies through the air, you track it with your barrels, keeping the correct distance ahead. When you feel the distance is right, squeeze the trigger and watch the clay shatter.

Swing through is a technique that is regularly used by experienced shooters. Instead of measuring the shot, the shooter swings his barrels through the clay from behind, squeezing the trigger when their gut instinct tells them it’s right to do so.

Shooting is great fun and very satisfying.

Different Clay Targets

The seven different types of targets simulate the different varieties of game.


A rabbit is a strong flat 110mm diameter clay designed to run along the ground often quite fast. Rabbits can be unpredictable with an unexpected hop when you least expect it.


Teal can be difficult to hit. They fly straight upwards very quickly, requiring a seat of the pants, swing through technique that many find difficult. In some instances they can also be hit on the drop instead of as they rise.

Quartering Targets

By looking at where the trap house is and where it lands you can assess exactly how much the target is quartering towards or away from you. Quartering targets normally need less lead than a crossing target, so knowing the clays true flight path is important.


Driven targets simulate game being driven towards you. Your gun barrels will hide the bird just as you want to shoot, so you have to use a swing through technique to hit them consistently.


Incomers are targets that head towards you at different angles. Unlike driven clays, incomers normally drop short rather than flying over your head.

Going Away Clays

Clays going away from you get very small very quickly so you need to be prepared when you call pull.

Looping Targets

Loopers come in many forms. There are alternative techniques to hit them depending on your shooting style. A looper will sometimes also be quartering, falling, and moving forwards at the same time, making them tricky targets, especially if at distance.



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