Clay Shooting – Beginners Guide

All About Clay Pigeon Shooting

Three Types of Shotgun

3 basic types of gun, Over and Under, Side by Side and Semi-Automatic.

Game shots traditionally use side by side shotguns. Their barrels are next to each other.

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

Auto’s are only generally only used for pigeon shooting and clay pigeon shooting.

Most shooters favour 12 gauge shotguns.

20 bore are often used by ladies, youngsters and by other shooters who want a less weighty gun and less recoil through their shoulder.

Necessary Clay Shooting Equipment

Gun Sleeve

Keep your gun safe and protected when you are carrying and transporting it in a padded slip.

Cartridge Bags & Pouches

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

Protection For Your Eyes

Protecting your eyes when clay shooting is critical because sometimes fragments of broken clay can hit shooters as they fall and these bits are often very sharp.

Noise Protection for your Hearing

To preserve your hearing against potential long term harm you are advised to wear ear plugs or defenders near to shooting activities. Ear protection is compulsory at professional shooting venues.

Shotgun Cartridges

All shotgun shooters have their favourite shells that they prefer to use, and there are many alternative manufacturers to choose from. Most shooters stick with a shell that they have shot well with!

Shot gun cartridges have two basic criteria, the lead shot size and the shot speed. The larger each of the lead balls in the shot, the greater distance they will travel, but the less there will be in the cartridge. Smaller shot sizes have more individual balls of lead, but as they each have less mass, they can’t won’t fly as far.

Many experienced shooters will use a different shot sized cartridge for specific target types depending on their distance.

Different shooters choose different cartridge speeds. Faster cartridges require less lead in front of your target. Velocities vary from 1350 – 1650 ft/second.

All good gun shops will be able to advise you on the most suitable shooting clothes and accessories for you.

Most Popular Clay Pigeon Shooting Disciplines

Clay Pigeon Skeet Shooting

Skeet shooting is the discipline shot in the Olympics and comprises of two clay traps known as the low and high, at opposite ends of the skeet range facing one another. Wherever you go in the world, skeet clays all fly along a very similar flight path, so skeet is the same wherever you shoot.

Skeet ranges have 7 pegs set out in a half circle between the two trap houses, and you are given a round of twenty five clays as you move around the seven shooting stands. Good skeet shooters will hit 100 straight regularly, and it is a competition based on control and repetition.


Sporting clays are a more varied type of target because they simulate game. Each week a venue will change their targets so there is always a new challenge for you.

Clay Target Differences

Standard -110mm Diameter – a traditional domed clay target

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

Mini – 60mm Diameter – often called bumble bees, these look minute and very fast!

A Battue is a thin flat target with a lipped rim, with a 55mm radius. They are frequently used as looping targets because they turn as they slow down, providing the shooter with a new challenge!

Rabbit – 110mm Diameter – is stronger than a standard clay, designed to bounce along the ground at speed.

Shooting Principles

Shooting is like catching a ball. Your hand eye coordination places your hand where the ball will be as it flies through the air. Shooting uses the same concept because, you fire the lead from a cartridge so that the shot goes where the clay will be.

A few shooting lessons when you first take up the sport will give you a good grounding in the basic shooting techniques as well as important gun safety disciplines.

If you have good hand eye coordination and can correctly understand what a target is doing, you will naturally be able to kill it.

The shot leaves your gun barrel in a cigar shaped cloud. Your challenge is to read and understand exactly what the target is doing so that it connects with the path of your lead shot.

Your lead is traveling at speeds between 1350 and 1650 ft/s, and the clay is moving too.

Many clays look easy but can in fact be doing more complex things, misleading your eyes and causing you to miss.

Basic Shooting Techniques

The two most common shooting techniques are ‘maintain lead’ and ‘swing through’. Using either of these methods, the 2 factors that will hit the clay are speed of gun movement and the timing of the moment you pull the trigger.

Shooting lessons

Maintain lead is the easiest shooting style for learners. It involves keeping a set distance in front of the clay, tracking its journey through the air. When you are happy that you are the correct distance in front, squeeze the trigger while continuing to swing your gun.

More experienced shooters often use swing through as their preferred technique. Swing through involves coming from behind, & swinging your gun barrels through the clay, pulling the trigger when your natural instinct tells you that you have applied the correct amount of lead.

A shooting instructor will be able to help you to refine your technique It is often difficult to swithc shooting styles initially and an expert eye will soon have you shooting like a pro.

Different Clay Targets

The 7 different types of clays simulate the many different forms of game. On many clay shooting corporate events you will encounter a large variety of different targets and so it is important to be familiar with all the different possibilities.


Rabbits bounce quickly along the ground, mimicking a real real rabbit. The clays are stronger that standard clays although they are the same radius.


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

Quartering Clays

The trap house and landing point of the clay will show you how much the clay is quartering towards you or away from you. A target that is quartering will require less lead than you estimate.

Driven Simulated

A clay target that comes straight towards you is called a driven target and imitates driven game. Your barrels will hide the clay just when you need to pull the trigger so you will need to use “the force” to consistently hit driven targets.


Unlike driven birds, which fly over your head, incomers should land somewhere in front of you.

Going Away Targets

Clays that are going away get too small to hit very quickly so you need to be ready when you call pull.

Looper Clays

Loopers come in many forms. There are several techniques to hit them depending on your shooting style. A looper will often be quartering, falling, and moving forwards all at once, making them particularly tricky targets, especially at range.