A Complete Guide To Clay Pigeon Shooting

Easy Clay Shooting Guide

Types of Shotgun

There are 3 basic designs of 12 bore gun, Side by Side, Semi-Automatic and Over and Under. Game shots traditionally use side by side shotguns.

The barrels on a side by side are as the name suggests side by side.

Under and overs have their barrels one above the other. Over and unders are normally used for clay pigeon shooting disciplines.

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

Adults tend to favour 12 bores because they are offer the best combination of performance for the weight.

Many youngsters, ladies and elderly shooters looking for a lighter gun with less recoil, opt for a 20 bore shotgun which is lighter and smaller and uses smaller cartridges.

Clap Pigeon Shooting Equipment

Gun Slip

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

Cartridge Carrying Bags

Carrying your cartridges requires a suitable bag or pouch, depending on the shooting discipline you are taking part in.

Suitable Eye Wear

Flying shards of broken clay pigeon are sharp and dangerous. Protecting your eyes from debris is just good sense and mandatory at shooting venues in the UK.

Protection for Ears

To preserve your hearing against potential damage you ought to wear hearing protectors while guns are being fired near you. Ear protection is compulsory at professional shooting venues.

You will find all the accessories and equipment needed in any decent gun shop.

Cartridges for Shotguns

Shotgun cartridges vary in performance, cost and quality. Once you have been shooting for a while you will find a specific cartridge that affords you the quality of shotgun cartridge you need at a reasonable cost. These will often be the specific cartridges that you have shot well with!

Cartridges offer different shot sizes for different targets. Smaller, lighter pellets will not travel as far as heavier pellets do, but you get more leadshot in your ‘pattern’.

Heavier shot has the benefit of traveling further, but you will have less lead to hit the clay with. Experienced shooters tend to use different leadshot sizes for different targets.

The amount of ‘lead’ that a specific target needs will change in relation to the velocity of your specific cartridge. Speeds vary from 1350 – 1650 ft/second, and a specific speed will suit your style of shooting better than others.

Two Main Disciplines

Shooting Skeet

Skeet shooting is the discipline used in the Olympics. Skeet uses two traps which face one another and the targets fly through the same flight path within a small tolerance.

Skeet has 7 shooting stands set out in a half circle between the 2 clay pigeon trap houses, and you shoot a round of 25 targets as you move through the 7 shooting positions. Many skeet shooters will shoot one hundred straight regularly, and it is a competition based on control and repetition.

Sporting Shooting

Sporting Clays simulate game shooting which is why the targets are so different. Different targets require a range of shooting techniques so it can be challenging to read what the clay is doing so you can hit it.

Types of Target

‘Standard’ clays are 110mm dia.

Midi’s are just like standards in shape, but only 90mm in diameter

Mini clays are the same shape as standards, but only 60mm. Frequently called bumble bees!

A Battue is a thin flat target with a stepped rim, measuring 110mm across. They are mainly used as looping targets because they twist in the air as they slow down, always providing an interesting challenge!

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 rabbit.

Principles of Clay Pigeon shooting

The skill of shooting is akin to catching a ball. You don’t position your hand to where the ball currently is, but where the ball is going to be. In the same way, you shoot to place your shot in the path of the flying target.

It is a good idea to have a few shooting lessons when you first start as this will teach you the basics as well as important safety rules. Structured shooting tuition really is important for new shooters.

To shoot well, you just need a couple of basic skills; reasonable hand eye coordination so you can time your shot right, and an understanding to ‘read’ what each clay is doing so you correctly anticipate its flight path.

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

Understanding what the target object is doing in flight is the vital skill that will allow your hand eye coordination to correctly assess the target and kill it.

Many clays are optical illusions, seeming like they are doing one thing, while in fact doing something completely different. This is why many easy looking clays are missed on such a frequent basis.

Once you have mastered the basics you will be confident and proficient enough to be able to accept corporate event invites to shooting events, safe in the knowledge that you know what you are doing with a shotgun and can hit a few clays too!

Shooting Techniques

The precise moment that you squeeze the trigger, along with your gun speed are the two critical factors that will let you hit the clay. The 2 basic techniques used by most shooters are ‘maintain lead’ and ‘swing through’.

Maintain lead is the most popular style to start off with. Maintain lead involves swinging through the clays path of flight, keeping your barrels the distance in front of the target that you feel is the right amount of lead.

Instead of consciously measuring each time using maintain lead, more experienced shooters often use a swing through shooting style. Coming from behind the target, you swing through the clay until you have enough lead in front. Shoot while keeping the barrels moving and watch the clay break.

Basic Target Types

There are 7 different types of clay target used to replicate game in various situations.


Rabbits are unpredictable ground based clays that leap in the air when you least expect it. They are stronger clays than standards so require accuracy to break them.


A Teal clay simulates the flight of Teal duck, and flies straight up in the air, often at great speed, usually falling on a similar path it went up. These fast targets are difficult for many shooters.

Quartering Targets

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

Driven Birds

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

Incoming Birds

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

Going Away Targets

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

Looper Clays

Loopers require maximum concentration to regularly. They are often quartering to make them trickier, and can be hit on the way up or down depending on your personal preference.