Clay shooting is the popular and growing sport of shooting flying clay targets with a shotgun. Hitting the target requires skill, timing and hand-eye coordination and you can enjoy clay shooting at any level, from local club shoots all the way through to national and international competitions and the Olympics.
There are a range of different forms of clay target shooting disciplines which tend to be roughly divided into Trap, Skeet and Sporting. All three types of clay pigeon shooting challenge a shooter to hit moving targets, but they each vary according to structure, rules and style. Although all of these shooting disciplines originated as hunting simulations, they have evolved to become unique versions of the same sport.
Differences in Types of Clay Pigeon Shooting
Trap clay pigeon shooting challenges the shooter by flinging the target straight in front and away. The marksmen fire five shots from each of the five different positions for a total of 25 shots per round. The shooter on station one fires the first shot, followed by each of the shooters on the other stations. Once all shooters have fired their total of five shots, each shooter moves to the next station. This means that the marksman at station five, walks behind the others to station one. All station changes are made with unloaded guns and open actions for safety.
Skeet clay pigeon shooting involves the crossing over of the targets. Two target machines, 40 metres apart, launch the clay targets across a semi-circular arrangement of positions at a constant trajectory and speed. One target launcher, referred to as the ‘high house’, is 10 feet above the ground, while the second, called the ‘low house’ is just 3 ½ feet above the ground. This difference in height creates a greater challenge for the shooters as they move around the stations. A round of skeet shooting includes both single (one target at a time) and double (two targets at a time) target presentations. Similar to trap shooting, skeet involves the shooters moving through the various positions to complete a round. Also like trap, the different shooting positions in skeet create alternative angles relative to the targets.
Sporting clays is thought to offer the greatest approximation to an in-the-field hunting experience as it is classed as the most unpredictable. A sporting clays course tends to include a range of different stations, each with unique target presentations and machine setups. For instance, one station might send a single target straight up into the air, while a second could send two targets simultaneously, one rolling across the ground and one heading towards the shooter.
So how did clay shooting start?
- The first clay pigeon shoots started around 1885 as an affordable alternative to competitions using live pigeons as targets.
- Shooting schools – particularly those owned by London gunmakers – set up courses to simulate the flight of live birds. The new sport quickly became a hit with Victorian and Edwardian game shooters as a form of practice during the closed season.
Tips for beginners
- Your first taste of clay shooting will almost certainly be on a Sporting range where targets are thrown to simulate the flight of game birds.
- In Sporting you will shoot from a number of different “stands” each offering a different target. These targets vary greatly in terms of trajectory, angle, elevation, distance and speed and it’s that variety that makes Sporting so popular with clay shooters.
- Determine your dominant eye - Determining your dominant eye is important- some right –handed people will shoot left-handed if they have a left master eye and vice versa. Likewise some people who are right handed but who have a left master eye will close one eye to help their aim. Either way it will help you decide which eye to use to look down the barrel of the gun to focus best on your target.
- Comfortable and strong standing position - By getting your feet in the right position and holding your body correctly you will be able to maintain accuracy when firing shot after shot.
- Mounting the gun correctly - By holding the gun in the correct position you will be able to fire your shot comfortably and accurately.
- Bring your head to the shotgun - This is often a problem for new clay pigeon shooters. Instead of keeping the body steady and bringing the head into position, it can be tempting to lean back or slouch the body to be positioned.
What do you need for clay shooting?
The different forms of clay pigeon shooting do have an ‘ideal’ shotgun type that works best. However, if you’re just starting out in clay shooting, do not let a lack of the ‘right’ equipment stop you. You can start in any of the three shooting disciplines with virtually any form of shotgun, as long as it can fire two shots without reloading.
Clay season shooting Essential accessories:
- Ear Defenders - Safety first, whatever discipline of shooting. We recommend wearing a pair of ear defenders.
- Eye Protection - All clay shooters should wear eye protection.
- Shooting Vest - This is the most essential piece of kit for most clay shooters.
- Shirt or Polo Shirt - As most clay shooting is within the summer months, a light shirt will be sufficient - or even a polo.
- Hat / Cap - Especially if it is a really sunny day, a baseball cap or flat cap will keep the sun out of your eyes.
- Footwear - In wet weather, wellingtons are ideal.
- Jacket (waterproof) - If you are going to wear the coat while clay shooting, it needs to fit well and not restrict movement.
- Shooting / cartridge Bag - To carry cartridges, chokes and any extra clothing you think you'll need for warmth would be ideal.