Clay Pigeon Shooting For Beginners

Clay Pigeon Shooting for Beginners

There are Three Different Styles of Shotgun

The 3 main designs of 12 bore gun are Side by Side, Semi-Automatic and Over and Under.

Side by side shotguns are frequently used by traditional game shooters. On a side by side, the barrels are next to each other.

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

Semi automatic 12 bores have just one barrel, and cartridges are loaded into the breech individually. Some versions can take up to 7 cartridges at a time, but the majority of licence holders are only licenced to own semi automatic shotguns that will load 3 cartridge shells at a time.

The bulk of shooters tend to use 12 bore shot guns as they are the ideal combination of weight and performance for the majority of targets you will see.

20 bore shotgun are often used by ladies, youngsters and by other shooters who want a light weight gun to reduce the recoil through their shoulder.

Necessary Clay Pigeon Shooting Equipment

Shotgun Sleeve

Protecting your gun from knocks and bangs while you are carrying it is good practice and a good quality gun slip will keep it safe.

Cartridge Carrying Bags

It will depend on the type of shooting you are going to be doing as to which type of cartridge bag you opt for. Different types of shooting need different pouches, pockets or cartridge bags.

Eye Wear

Many more experienced shooters have protective eye wear with different tints of lenses to protect their eyes while also ideally suiting different light conditions.

Ear Protection

To protect you against potential long term harm you ought to wear ear defenders while guns are being fired near you. Ear protection is mandatory at all reputable shooting venues.

Cartridges for Shotguns

Shotgun shells vary from company to company. Most shooters find a manufacturer they are happy with and stick with it.

Experienced shooters often use different size shot for different distanced targets. For greater distance targets, a heavier pellet will give you more chance of hitting the clay, while for closer targets smaller shot size cartridges give you more lead shot in each cartridge so you have a better ‘pattern’ to kill the target with.

The shot velocity of the cartridge comes down to individual preference. Quicker cartridges tend to cost more, but favour certain shooting techniques. To shoot with a slower shot load, all you have to do is to allow more time for the lead shot to get to the target…. Easy! Lead speed varies from 1350 – 1650 feet/second.

Two Most Popular Types of Clay Shooting

Shooting Skeet

Skeet clay shooting is the discipline used in the Olympics. Skeet consists of two clay traps which face one another and the targets fly through an identical flight path within a small tolerance.

Skeet ranges have 7 stands set out in a half circle between the 2 clay trap houses, and you shoot a round of twenty five targets as you move around the 7 shooting positions. Many skeet shooters will shoot 100 straight regularly, and it is a competition focused on control and repetition.

Sporting Clay Pigeon Shooting

Shooting clubs that provide sporting clays put on a variety of targets which mimic different kinds of game. Each ground will be different, and will alter their traps on a regular basis so you never get bored!

Types of Clay Target

‘Standard’ clays are 110mm dia.

Midi targets look like standards, but are smaller at only 90mm diameter

A Mini is the same design as a standard, but only 60mm dia.. They are quite small and often look far quicker than they actually are, so don’t say you weren’t warned!

A Battue is a flat clay with a lipped rim, with a 55mm radius. They are mainly used as looping targets because they twist in the air as they decelerate, providing an interesting challenge!

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

Basic Shooting Principles

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

The 2 main skills you need to be a good shot are reasonable hand eye coordination and an understanding of what the target 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 flying clay pigeon.

Because of the speeds and distances involved, accurately interpreting what a target is doing in the air is a vital skill for clay shooting.

Many targets are set up to be optical illusions, seeming like they are doing one thing, while in fact doing something different. This is why simple looking clays are missed on such a frequent basis.

Methods of Shooting

Putting your shot in the correct place requires only 2 things to be right, the speed of your gun movement and the exact point in time when you squeeze the trigger. There are 2 basic ways to shoot, ’maintain lead’ and ‘swing through’.

Many newbies begin with maintain lead, as it is a more measured technique for shooting many targets. You decide how much ‘lead’ you think the target requires. ‘Lead’ is the distance you position your gun ahead of the target. As it flies through the air, you track it with the barrels of your gun the correct distance in front. When you feel the distance is correct, pull the trigger and watch the clay shatter.

Swing through is a seat of the pants skill that doesn’t involve measuring the amount of lead needed to break the clay. Instead, you swing your barrels from behind, until you are happy you are at the correct point in front of the target to hit it.

Types of Clay Target

There are 7 different types of basic targets used to replicate game in various situations.


Rabbits are unpredictable ground based clays that often jump in the air when you least expect it. They are stronger clays than standard clays so require accuracy to smash them.

Simulated teal

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

Quartering Clays

You can assess how much a clay is quartering towards or away from you by looking at where the trap is and where the clay lands. This angle will affect the amount of lead the clay needs.

Driven Simulated

Consistently hitting driven clays requires a consistent style of swing through. The targets mimic driven game flying towards you, and your barrels will hide the clay just when you want to shoot.


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

Going Away Targets

To hit a going away target, you need to attack the target quickly before it becomes too small to hit.

Looper Clays

Loopers are frequently quite far away, and often ‘quarter’ towards or away from you making them even harder. There are different techniques for hitting loopers depending on whether you prefer shooting them as they rise, when they reach their peak, or as they drop.