Clay Pigeon Shooting

Clay Pigeon Shooting Overview

Basic Types of Shotgun

Three basic types of shotgun, Side by Side, Over and Under and Semi-Automatic.

Traditional Game Shooters tend to use side by side shotguns. As their name infers, their 2 barrels are next to each other.

Over and under shotguns have barrels on top of each other. Over and under 12 bores are mostly used for clay pigeons.

Semi-Automatics are loaded one cartridge after another into the breech, as they only have one barrel.

The majority of shooters prefer twelve bore shotguns.

A 20 bore shotgun uses a small diameter cartridge, is a lighter weight gun, lighter with less recoil, making it ideal for ladies and juniors and shooters looking to reduce the recoil through their shoulder.

Shooting Equipment

Gun Slip

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

Cartridge Bags & Pouches

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.

Shooting Eye Wear

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

Ear Protection

Another sensible precaution is ear defenders. Eventually shooting can potentially damage your hearing so protect your hearing with suitable ear protection from disposable foam plugs through to noise cancelling headphones or molded ear pieces.

Shotgun Cartridges

Shotgun shells vary in cost and quality. Once you have been shooting for a while you will find a favourite cartridge that offers you the consistency of shot you need at a reasonable cost. These will undoubtedly be the shotgun cartridges that you have shot well with!

There are 2 variations of cartridge available; lead shot velocity and size. The faster the cartridge, the more expensive it will be. Lead shot for clay shooting tends to vary from 6 ½ to 9 in size. 6 ½ has a large lead shot diameter, but less pellets per cartridge. Larger pellets will travel further so suit targets further away. In a size 9 shell, the lead is much smaller, but there are more per cartridge. They don’t have the weight to travel as far, but offer a bigger pattern of more pellets at closer distances.

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

Most Popular Clay Pigeon Shooting Disciplines

Shooting Skeet

Wherever you are, the targets will fly on a similar path. This allows you to shoot the same clays at any skeet shooting venue worldwide.

Skeet shooting is a discipline that needs self control and self discipline. A round of skeet is 25 targets shot from the seven standing positions in turn and it is unusual for top shooters to hit one hundred without loss.

Sporting Shooting

Sporting Clays mimic game shooting which is why the targets are so different. Different targets require different techniques so it can sometimes be a challenge to read what the clay is doing so you can kill it.

Clay Target Differences

Standard’ clays are 110mm dia.

Midi clays are a smaller version of a standard, 90mm Dia.

A Mini is the same shape as a ‘standard’ target, but only 60mm diameter. They are small and look far quicker in flight than they actually are, so most shooters miss in front!

Battue clays are flat with a lipped edge, and are often used for loopers because they turn as they fly, creating challenging targets.

A Rabbit is a heavier clay than a standard or a Battue, but has the same diameter. It is designed to roll across the ground to mimic a running bunny.

Basic Shooting Principles

The skill of shooting is like catching a ball. You don’t put your hand to where the ball is, but where the ball is going to be. In the same way, you shoot to place your lead shot in the path of the moving clay.

Hitting clays requires good hand/eye coordination as well as the learned skill of reading what a clay is doing as it flies.

Your shot flies in a cigar shape cloud. Your aim is to position that cloud in the way of the clay pigeon.

Your shot is traveling at between 1350 and 1650 feet per second, and the clay is moving too.

Some targets are designed to mislead you as to what they are doing in flight. Some simple looking targets are often missed for this reason.

Two Simple Shooting Methods

Putting your shot in the correct place requires just two things to be right, the speed of your gun movement and the moment in time when you squeeze the trigger. There are two basic techniques, ’maintain lead’ and ‘swing through’.

shooting lessons

Many novices start with maintain lead, because it is a more measured method of shooting many targets. You choose how far in front you need to be. ‘Lead’ is the distance you point your gun ahead of the target. As it flies through the air, you track it with your barrels, keeping the correct distance ahead. When you feel the moment is perfect, pull the trigger and watch the clay break.

Swing through is a technique that is frequently used by proficient shooters. Rather than measuring the shot, the shooter swings through the clay from behind, squeezing the trigger when their gut instinct tells them it’s right to do so.

Basic Targets

Clay targets come in seven different styles which replicate different game birds.


Rabbit clays mimic running rabbits. The clays are 110mm and are stronger than standard clays as they need to be able to withstand repeatedly hitting the ground.

Simulated Teal

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

Quartering Clays

The positioning of the trap and landing point of the target will show you how much the clay is quartering towards you or away from you. A clay that is quartering will often need less lead than a crossing target.

Driven Clays

Driven targets replicate birds being driven towards you. Your barrels will hide the bird just as you want to shoot, so you have to use a swing through technique to hit them consistently.


Incomers are clays that head towards you at different angles. Unlike driven birds, incomers will drop short rather than flying over your head.

Going Away Targets

Clays going away from you get small very quickly so you need to be prepared when you call pull.

Looper Birds

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


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