Clay Pigeon Shooting – All you need to know
Three Types of Shotgun
Side by Side, Over and Under and Semi-Automatic are the 3 main 12 bore shotgun designs used by the majority of shooters.
Side by side shotguns are often used by traditional game shots. On a side by side, the barrels are next to each other.
Under and overs have their two barrels one above the other. Over and under 12 bores are mostly used for clay pigeons.
Auto’s are only generally only used for pigeon and clay pigeon shooting.
The majority of adult shooters favour 12 bores.
Many juniors, ladies and other shooters looking for a lighter gun with less recoil, opt for a twenty bore which is smaller and lighter and uses smaller cartridges.
A good quality gun slip will protect your shotgun from damage while you are carrying it.
Cartridge Bags & Pouches
Carrying your cartridges requires a suitable bag or pouch, depending on the shooting discipline you are going to be doing.
Clay Shooting Eye Protection
Flying shards of broken clay pigeon can be very sharp and fast moving. Protecting your eyes from debris is just good sense and mandatory at clay pigeon shooting venues in the UK.
Protection for Ears
Using ear protection will safeguard your hearing against the loud noise made when shooting. Shooting grounds should insist on hearing defenders being used while shooting.
Shotgun Cartridge Information
All shooters have their ideal cartridges that they prefer to use, and there are many alternative manufacturers to choose from. Most shots stick with a type that they have shot well with!
Cartridges have different lead shot sizes for different sorts of targets. Smaller, lighter shot won’t travel as far as heavier pellets, but you get more pellets in your ‘pattern’. Heavier shot has the benefit of going further, but you will have less pellets to hit the clay with. Experienced shooters tend to use different lead shot sizes for different types of target.
The perfect speed of your cartridges will relate to how your hand/eye coordination perceives the target. Higher velocity cartridges require less ‘lead’ ahead of the target, slower cartridges need more lead.
Two Main Disciplines
Clay Pigeon Skeet Shooting
Skeet shooting is designed to be the same wherever you shoot. Skeet targets fly through the same path, so you can always practice the discipline with near identical targets anywhere.
Skeet shooting is a discipline requiring self control and self discipline. A round of skeet is 25 targets shot in order from the 7 standing positions in turn and it is unusual for the best skeet shooters to hit 100 without loss.
Sporting clays are more varied because they simulate game. Each week a ground will alter their targets so there is always a new challenge for you.
Different Clay Types
‘Standard’ clays are 110mm dia.
Midi – 90mm Diameter – a slightly smaller version of a standard
Minis are the same shape as standards, but only 60mm. Frequently called bumble bees!
Battue targets are 110mm across, flat in design with a lipped outer edge. They tend to turn in mid-air making them ideal ‘loopers’.
Rabbit’s are stronger than standard clays and ape a running rabbit, bouncing across the ground.
Basic Clay Pigeon Shooting Principles
Shooting clays is much like catching a ball. Your natural coordination will automatically reach out with your shot to where the clay will be when the lead reaches it.
If you have reasonable hand eye coordination and can correctly understand what a target is doing, you will naturally be able to smash it.
To break a clay pigeon, the cigar shaped ‘string’ of lead shot needs to meet the clay as it flies through the air.
Your lead is moving at between 1350 and 1650 feet per second, and the clay is moving as well.
Some targets are put on to mislead you as to what they are doing in the air. Some easy looking targets are regularly missed for this reason.
The speed that you move your gun along with squeezing the trigger at the right moment are the 2 most important factors that will decide whether you hit or miss the clay. The two most popular shooting styles are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.
Most shooters start by using maintain lead as their basic technique. This involves tracking the target with your barrels the distance in front of the clay that you think is required. When you are the correct distance in front, squeeze the trigger and see the clay turn to dust.
Swing through is necessary for faster, more complex clays & is widely used by advanced shooters. Swing through is a more seat of the pants, gut instinct process. In the same way that your brain will work out how you can catch a mug knocked off a table, so experienced shooters can kill targets without measuring their shot against the target. They just know when to shoot.
Different Types of Target
The seven different types of clays simulate the different varieties of game.
Rabbits bounce quickly along the ground, copying a real real rabbit. The clays are stronger that standard clays although they are the same diameter.
Consistently hitting a climbing Teal requires a good swing through technique. Teal are fast moving vertical targets that require practice to hit consistently.
A quartering clay will be either coming towards you at an angle, or going away at an angle. Only by looking where the trap is and where it lands can you really work out the precise path it is taking. Quartering clays usually need less ‘lead’ than you think.
Driven targets replicate game being driven towards you. Your gun barrels will hide the target just as you want to shoot, so you have to use a swing through technique to hit them consistently.
Unlike driven clays, which fly over your head, incomers will drop somewhere in front of you.
Going Away Targets
To hit a going away target, you need to address the target quickly before it becomes too small to hit.
Loopers come in many guises. There are alternative techniques to hit them depending on where you want to break the target. A looper will often be quartering, falling, and moving forwards at the same time, making them tricky targets, especially at range.