Clay Shooting For Beginners

Clay Pigeon Shooting – All you need to know

Basic Types of Shotgun

Side by Side, Over and Under and Semi-Automatic are the 3 main gun designs used by the majority of shooters.

Side by side shotguns are regularly used by traditional game shooters. As the name side by side suggests, their 2 barrels are next to each other.


With over and unders, the barrels are positioned on top of one another. Shooters often use an over and under gun for clay targets.

over under shotgun

Semi automatic shotguns have just one barrel, and shotgun cartridges are loaded into the breech one by one. Some models can hold up to 7 cartridges, but the majority of licence holders are only licenced to own semi automatics that will load three cartridges at a time.


The vast majority of shooters usually use 12 bore shotguns as they offer the perfect combination of weight and performance for the majority of targets you will see.

twenty bore are ideal for youngsters, ladies and older shooters wanting less recoil effect through their shoulders because they are smaller and lighter than 12 bores.

Shooting Equipment

Gun Slip

A quality gun sleeve will protect your expensive gun from damage when it is carried.

Cartridge Carrying Bags

It depends on the type of shooting you are going to be doing as to which type of cartridge holder you opt for. Different disciplines need different bags, pouches or pockets.

Shooting Eye Wear

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

Noise Protection for your Hearing

Shot Guns make a noise, and while it isn’t loud enough to damage your hearing instantly, eventually the repetitive bang can lead to hearing loss.

Clay shooting grounds will insist that any shooters wear ear defenders, of which there are many different types, foam disposable plugs, molded plugs designed to fit your ear, electronic inner ear plugs as well as standard head phone type ear muffs and electronic ear defenders.


Cartridges vary from brand to brand. Most regular shooters find a make they are happy with and stick with it.

Experienced shooters often use different size shot for different ranged targets. For longer range targets, a heavier pellet will give you a better chance of hitting the target, while for closer targets smaller shot size cartridges give you more lead shot in each shell so you have a bigger ‘pattern’ to hit the target with.

Cartridges vary in shot velocity from 1350 – 1650 feet/second. Different shot speeds favour different shooting techniques. When using a slower cartridge, you will need to give the target more ‘lead’ so the cartridge pellets have more time to get to the target.

Two Most Popular Disciplines


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

A skeet round comprises of twenty five clays, shot in sequence from the seven shoot stands. Good shots will often achieve a hundred without loss.

Sporting Clays

Sporting Clays emulate game shooting so there is a lot of variety to shoot. Different types of targets require different techniques so it can sometimes be a challenge to correctly read what the clay is doing so you can hit it.

Types of Clay

110mm – Standard Clay – basic domed clay

A Midi is a smaller standard shaped clay, 90mm in dia.

Minis are the same shape as standards, but just 60mm. Often called bumble bees!

Battue – 110mm Diameter – flat, fast and turns and dives when you really wish it wouldn’t.

Rabbit clays ape actual rabbits, so the clays have to be tougher so they don’t break easily bouncing on the ground.

Principles of Shooting

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

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

When your shot leaves your gun, it moves through the air in a cigar shaped cloud. All you have to do is to make sure that the clay flies through that cigar of lead.

Understanding what the clay is doing in the air is the skill that will permit your hand eye coordination to correctly assess the target and smash it.

Often, an simple looking target will be misinterpreted by a shooter, causing them to miss. Clubs like to include optical illusion clays to challenge even the best shooters.

Methods of Shooting

Placing your shot in the right place requires only two things to be right, your gun speed and the exact point in time when you pull the trigger. There are two basic ways to shoot, ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

A target requires an amount of lead in front of it where you need to shoot in order to hit the clay. Maintain lead is a measured technique of tracking the clays path, staying ahead of it by the exact distance of lead that you estimate the target needs.

Swing through is necessary for some faster and more complex clays and is widely used by more experienced shooters. Swing through is a more seat of the pants, gut instinct shooting style.

In the same way that your brain will let you catch a mug knocked off a table, so experienced clay pigeon shooters can break clays without measuring their shot against the target. They just know when to pull the trigger.

Basic Target Types

The 7 different types of clays simulate the many different forms of game.


Rabbit targets bounce quickly along the ground, copying a real rabbit running. The clays are stronger that standard clays although they are the same circumference.


A Teal clay usually flies vertically upwards, quickly. For many shooters these are tricky targets requiring a seat of the pants shooting style to hit with consistency. Many shooters prefer to shoot Teal as they drop rather than rising.

Quartering Clays

A quartering clay will be either coming towards you at an angle, or going away at an angle. Only by assessing where the trap is & where it lands can you really work out the precise path it is taking. Quartering birds normally need less ‘lead’ than you anticipate.


A driven clay simulates game on a shoot being driven over the guns. Driven targets can be difficult because they disappear behind your barrels just when you need to be able to see them! Driven clays need a swing through technique for this reason.


Incomers take many forms, and can appear from many angles, but all basically head towards you, often hanging in the air before dropping before they reach you. They are often assumed to be hit and missed through a lack of concentration.

Going Away Clays

Going away targets get small very quickly so don’t hang on them or you will miss your chance.

Looping Targets

Looping clays start off rising, before falling, and often quarter towards or away from you. Hitting a looper can be tricky & requires practice. Some shooters prefer to hit them rising, while others prefer to wait for them to begin falling before pulling the trigger.