Learn About Clay Pigeon Shooting

Learn About Clay Pigeon Shooting

The Three Different Shotgun Types

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

Side by side shotguns are usually used by traditional game shots. Their barrels are next to each other.

With over and unders, the barrels are positioned on top of one another. These are often used for clay pigeon disciplines.

Semi automatic 12 bores have only one barrel, and the cartridges are loaded into the breech one by one. Some models hold up to 7 cartridges at a time, but the majority of shotgun permit holders are only licenced to own semi automatic shotguns that will load three shells at a time.

Adult shooters tend to prefer 12 gauge shotguns because they are offer the best performance for the weight.

twenty bore shotgun are often used by ladies, youngsters and by other shooters who want a light weight gun with less recoil through their shoulder.

Required Shooting Equipment

Shotgun Sleeve

A good quality gun sleeve will protect your shot gun from damage while you are carrying it.

Cartridge Bags

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

Protect Your Eyes

Flying pieces of broken clay pigeon are sharp and dangerous. Protecting your eyes from debris is important and mandatory at clat shooting grounds in the UK.

Protection for Ears

Shotguns make a quite loud noise, and while it isn’t dangerously loud enough to necessarily cause instant damage to hearing, given time the noise of a shotgun can contribute to ear damage. Most reputable shooting grounds will insist that all shooters wear ear plugs, which are available in different types, foam plugs, molded plugs, electronic inner ear plugs as well as passive ear muffs and electronic ear muffs.

Cartridges for Shotguns

Shooters tend to have their favourite type of cartridges and these are more often than not a size and brand that they have shot well with in the past.

Shooters often use different size shot for different ranged targets. For long distance targets, a heavier lead shot will give you more chance of breaking the target, while for closer targets smaller shot size shells give you more lead in each shell so you have a bigger ‘pattern’ to smash the clay with.

Cartridges vary in shot velocity from 1350 – 1650 ft/sec. Different velocities favour different shooting techniques. For a slower cartridge, you will have to give the target more ‘lead’ so the lead shot has more time to reach your target.

Two Disciplines: Skeet and Sporting


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


There are 25 clays in a complete round, which are shot in turn from each of the seven stands. The best skeet shooters will frequently hit one hundred straight without missing a clay.

Sporting Clay Shooting

Grounds that provide sporting clays put on a mix of targets which simulate different game. Each club is different, and will usually change on a frequent basis so you never get bored!

Types of Clay Target

Basic ‘Standard’ targets are 110mm in diameter with a domed centre

Midi targets look like standards, but are smaller at just 90mm

A Mini is the same design as a standard, but only 60mm across. They are small and look faster as they fly through the air than they actually are, making them tricky little blighters to hit!

A Battue is a thin flat target with a lipped outer edge, measuring 110mm across. Battues are often used for looping targets because they turn as they slow down, always providing the shooter with a new challenge!

A Rabbit is a stronger clay than a standard or a Battue, but is the same size. It is designed to roll across the ground to mimic a running rabbit.

Basic Shooting Principles

Clay shooting is very similar to catching a ball in that you don’t put your hand out to where the ball is, but where it is going to be. You do the same thing with shooting, so that in effect, the clay will fly into your pattern of lead shot.

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

Your shot flies in an oval cloud of lead. Your goal is to position that cloud in the path of the clay.

Due to the speeds and distances involved, accurately interpreting what a target is doing in the air is the most important skill in clay shooting.

Often, an easy looking stand will be misinterpreted by the shooter, causing them to miss. Shooting grounds like to include optical illusion targets to challenge even the best shots.

Methods of Shooting

The speed that you move your gun along with squeezing the trigger at exactly the right moment are the 2 vital factors that will decide whether you hit or miss the target. The two main shooting techniques are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.


Maintain lead is the easiest shooting technique for beginners to master. It involves keeping a precise distance in front of the clay, tracking its path through the air. When you are happy that you have the correct amount of lead, pull the trigger while continuing to move the gun.

Instead of measuring each target using maintain lead, advanced shooters often use swing through as their preferred technique. Coming from behind the target, you swing through the clay until you have sufficient lead in front. Shoot while keeping your barrels moving and watch the clay shatter.

Different Clay Targets

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


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

Simulated Teal

Teal are considered one of the more difficult targets to hit consistently. 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.


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


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


Incoming targets fly towards you from a variety of angles. Unlike driven birds, they normally fall before reaching you rather than flying on overhead.

Going Away Targets

Targets going away from you need confidence and speed so you can hit them before they are too small to hit easily.

Looper Clays

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