Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A Beginners Guide To Clay Shooting

April 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Sports & Hobbies

Learn About Clay Pigeon Shooting

Shotgun Types

The three main designs of shotgun are Side by Side, Semi-Automatic and Over and Under.

Side by side shotguns are frequently used by game shooters. The two barrels are next to each other.

With over and under shotguns, the barrels are positioned on top of one another. Shooters often use an over and under for clay pigeons.

Semi-Automatics have a single barrel and cartridges are loaded through the clip below the breech.

The bulk of adult shooters normally use twelve bore shot guns as they are the perfect combination of weight and performance for the vast majority of clay targets you will see.

Twenty bore shotgun are ideal for juniors, ladies and older shooters looking to reduce the recoil effect through their shoulders because they are smaller than twelve bores.

Required Clay Shooting Equipment

Shotgun Slip

Gun sleeves come in a variety of colours, designs, styles & materials including leather and canvas.

Cartridge Carrying Bags

Depending on what type of shooting you will be doing, you will need a pouch, pocket or bag to hold enough cartridges while you shoot.

Protection For Your Eyes

Eyewear when clay shooting is very important because often fragments of broken clay can hit shooters as they fall and these can be very sharp.

Ear Defenders

To preserve your hearing against potential damage you ought to wear ear defenders near to shooting activities. Hearing protection is mandatory at all reputable shooting venues.


All shot gun shooters have their ideal shells that they like to use, and there are many manufacturers to choose from. Most shots stick with a shell that they have shot well with!

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

The amount of ‘lead’ that a target requires will depend on the velocity of your cartridge. Velocities vary from 1350 – 1650 ft/second, and a particular shot speed will suit your style of shooting better than others.

Skeet and Sporting Shooting


Olympic grade clay shooting is all skeet based. Skeet shooting consists of a low and a high trap that face each other. All skeet grounds provide clay targets that fly on a similar pattern so wherever you shoot, the skeet targets are going to be the same.

A round is made up of 25 clays, shot in sequence from seven shooting pegs. The best skeet shooters will regularly hit a hundred without loss.

Sporting Clay Shooting

Shooting clubs that provide sporting clays put on a mixture of targets which mimic different game. Each ground will be different, and will usually change on a frequent basis so you’re never bored!

Different Clay Types

110mm – Standard Clay – basic domed clay

Midi – 90mm Diameter – a slightly smaller version of a standard

Minis are the same shape as standards, but only 60mm. Sometimes called bumble bees!

A Battue is a thin flat clay with a stepped outer edge, measuring 110mm across. They are often used for looping targets because they turn as they decelerate, providing the shooter with a new challenge!

Rabbit clays ape actual rabbits, so the clays are tougher so they don’t shatter too easily when they bounce on the ground.

Basic Shooting Principles

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

Hitting clays requires good hand/eye coordination as well as the ability to ‘read’ what a target is doing as it flies.

Shot from your load flies in a cigar shaped cloud. All you have to do is to place that cloud of lead in the flight path of your target.

Your lead is moving at between 1350 and 1650 ft/s, and the clay is moving as well.

Some targets are designed to mislead you as to what they’re doing in the air. Some easy looking targets are often missed for this reason.

Basic Shooting Techniques

The two key factors that will let you hit the clay are your gun speed and the timing of pulling the trigger. The 2 main styles of shooting are ‘maintain lead’ and ‘swing through’.

Maintain lead is the most popular technique new shooters. Maintain lead involves swinging through the flight path of the clay, keeping your barrels the distance in front of the target that you feel is the right amount of lead.

Instead of consciously measuring each time using maintain lead, advanced shooters often use a swing through shooting style. Coming from behind the target, you swing through the clay until you have sufficient lead. Shoot while keeping your gun moving and watch the clay shatter.

The Different Types of Clay Targets

Clay targets come in seven different styles which imitate different types of game birds.


A rabbit is a strong flat 55mm radius clay designed to run along the ground often quite fast. Rabbits are often unpredictable with an unexpected hop when you least expect it.

Simulated teal

A Teal clay simulates Teal duck, and flies straight up in the air, often at great speed, usually falling on a similar path it went up. These fast targets are difficult even for experienced shooters.


By looking at where the target comes from 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 its true flight path is critical.

Driven Simulated

Driven clays simulate game on a shoot being driven towards you. Driven targets can be difficult because they disappear from view behind your gun barrels just when you need to be able to see them! Driven birds need a swing through technique because of this.

Incoming Birds

Incoming clays fly towards you from a variety of directions. Unlike driven targets, they normally fall before reaching the shooter rather than flying on overhead.

Going Away Targets

Going away targets get small very quickly so don’t hang on them or you will miss your opportunity.

Looper Birds

Looping targets start off rising, before falling, and often quarter towards or away from you. Hitting a looping target consistently can be tricky & requires practice. Some prefer to hit them rising, while others prefer to wait for them to begin falling before pulling the trigger.