Clay Pigeon Shooting – All you need to know

Basic Types of Shotgun

There are 3 basic designs of shotgun, Semi-Automatic, Over and Under and Side by Side. Traditional Shooters often use side by side shotguns. The barrels on a side by side are as the name implies side by side.

With over and unders, the barrels are on top of each other. These are often used for clay pigeon shooting disciplines.

Single barreled auto’s are often used by game shooters for shooting pigeons.

The majority of adult shooters normally use twelve bore shot guns as they offer the ideal combination of performance and weight for most of clay pigeon targets you will see.

twenty bore are ideal for ladies, youngsters and older shooters looking to reduce the kick back through their shoulders because they are smaller and lighter than 12 bore models.

Clay Shooting Equipment You Will Need

Shotgun Slip

It is advisable to carry your gun in a protective slip. It is also good etiquette.

Cartridge Bags & Pouches

Different shooting disciplines require different shooting clothing, equipment and cartridge bags. For some a pocket or pouch will be better than a bag.

Clay Shooting Eye Protection

Different tints, orange, yellow or clear lenses will help you to pick out a flying clay against different backgrounds or light conditions, while also protecting your eyes from bits of clay.

Noise Protection for your Hearing

Guns make a loud noise, and while it isn’t sufficiently loud to necessarily cause instant damage to hearing, given time the noise of a shotgun can cause ear damage. Clay shooting grounds will insist that all shooters wear ear defenders, which are available in different types, foam plugs, molded plugs designed to fit your ear, molded electronic plugs as well as passive ear muffs and ear defenders with electronic sensors to muffle noise and provide protection.

Shotgun Cartridges

Shotgun cartridges vary in cost and quality. Once you have been shooting for a while you will find a favourite cartridge that gives you the reliability of cartridge you need at an affordable cost. These will usually be the cartridges that you shoot best with!

Different types of target often require different sizes of pellets for the best chance of hitting it with consistency. Larger pellets travels further but there are not as many pellets of leadshot in each shell. Smaller lead pellets don’t go as far but you have a bigger ‘pattern’ to hit the target with at close range.

Different shooters choose different cartridge velocities. Faster speed cartridges require less lead in front of the target. Velocities vary from 1350 – 1650 ft/s.

Any good gun shop will be able to guide you on the most suitable shooting accessories for your needs.

Two Primary Shooting Disciplines


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

Skeet is a shooting discipline that needs self control and self discipline. A skeet round is 25 clays shot in order from the seven stands in turn and it is quite common for shooters to kill 100 straight

Sporting Clays

Venues that provide sporting clays put on a mixture of targets which simulate different sorts of game. Each club will be different, and will alter their traps on a frequent basis so you never get bored!

Types of Target

110mm – Standard Clay – basic domed clay

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

Mini targets are just 60mm across, but are the same design as standard clays.

A Battue is a flat clay with a lipped outer edge, measuring 110mm across. Battues are often used as looping targets because they twist in the air as they decelerate, providing the shooter with a new challenge!

Rabbit’s are thicker and tougher than standards and ape a running rabbit, hopping, bouncing and running along the ground.

Principles of Shooting

Clay pigeon 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 moments later. You do the same thing with your lead pellets, so that in effect, the clay flies into your lead shot pattern.

The two important 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 predict it’s correct flight path.

A few shooting lessons, or ongoing shooting tuition will help you to pick up these basics quickly.

To smash a clay, the cigar shaped ‘string’ of lead shot needs to meet the clay as it flies forwards.

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

Often, a straightforward looking stand will be misinterpreted by the shooter, causing them to miss. Shooting grounds like to set optical illusion targets to challenge even the best shooters.

Basic Shooting Techniques

The speed of gun movement along with squeezing the trigger at exactly the right moment are the two vital factors that will decide whether you connect with the target. The 2 most popular shooting styles are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Many newbies start with maintain lead, as it is a more measured technique for shooting many targets. You estimate how far in front you need to be. ‘Lead’ is the distance you point your barrels ahead of the clay. 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 right, squeeze the trigger and watch the clay shatter.

Experienced shooters often use swing through as their preferred technique. Swing through involves coming from behind the target, and swinging your gun barrels through the clay, shooting when your natural instinct tells you that you have applied the correct amount of lead.

Clay pigeon shooting is a common corporate hospitality event, so it is always useful to have an understanding of how to shoot safely so you can take part in events when invited.

Types of Clay Target

Clay targets come in 7 different styles which replicate different types of game birds.


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


Consistently hitting a rising Teal requires a good swing through technique. Teal are fast moving vertical targets that require lots of practice to hit consistently.

Quartering Targets

Quartering clays need less lead than crossers. Look to see where the target comes from and where it lands to help you to correctly interpret the flight path of the clay.

Driven Birds

Hitting a driven target requires a good swing through technique & practice. Driven targets imitate driven game flying towards you. You will lose the target behind the barrels of your gun just when you want to pull the trigger, so you have to rely on pure hand eye coordination to know exactly when to shoot.


Incomers head towards you, but unlike driven clays, they drop before reaching you rather then flying over your head.

Going Away Targets

Going away targets become harder to hit very quickly so don’t hang on them or you will miss your chance.

Looper Clays

Loopers are doing several things at once making them tricky little blighters, especially if at range. Quite often they quarter towards or away from you as well, which can deceive your eyesight, as they move through the air.