The Sports Archives – Everything You Need To Know About Clay Pigeon Shooting!

Clay Pigeon Shooting Basics

    • Two basic types of Shot Gun
    • Side by side and Over and Under.
    • Side by side shotguns are mostly used for shooting game, as their name suggests, their two barrels are side by side.
    • Over and under shotguns have one barrel above the other. These are commonly used for clay pigeon shooting disciplines.
    • The majority of adult shooters tend to used 12 bore shotguns as they are the ideal combination of weight and performance for the majority of targets you will see.
    • A 20 bore uses a small diameter cartridge, is a small gun, is lighter with less recoil, making it ideal for younger shooters, lady shooters and people looking for less recoil through their shoulder.

Shooting equipment

Gun Slip

Gun slips come in many different styles, designs, colours and materials including canvas and leather.  And while there are so many myths about concealed carry in the US, it is important to have the gun in the slip when it is not in use.

Cartridge bag

There are many different cartridge bags on sale, from belt hung pouches designed to hold 50 cartridges at a time to large hold all type bags which allow shooters to carry a variety of different cartridges that they might require for different targets during a competition shoot.

Eye protection

Protecting your eyes when clay shooting is very important because occasionally fragments of broken clay can hit shooters as they fall and these can be very sharp.

Many shooters have protective glasses with different types of lenses to suit different shooting conditions.

Different tints, orange, yellow or clear lenses will help you to pick out a flying clay against different backgrounds or light conditions.

Ear Protection

Shotguns make a loud noise, and while it isn’t loud enough to cause instant damage to hearing, over time the repeated bang can cause harm. Most reputable shooting grounds will insist that shooters wear ear plugs, of which there are many different types, foam disposable plugs, moulded plugs, moulded electronic plugs as well as standard head phone type ear muffs and electronic ear muffs.


Clay Pigeon Shooting LessonAll shooters have their favourite cartridges that they prefer to shoot with, and there are many manufacturers to choose from. Most people stick with a cartridge that they have shot well with!

Cartridges have two basic criteria, the load size and the load speed. The larger the individual lead balls in the shot, the further their range, but the less of them there are in each cartridge. Smaller shot sizes have more lead balls, but because each one weighs less, they don’t travel as far. Many shooters will use a different shot size for different targets depending on the range.

The speed of the cartridge tends to be personal preference. Faster cartridges tend to cost more, but suit some shooting styles. To shoot with a slower cartridge, all you need to do is allow more time for the lead shot to get to the target…. Easy! Cartridge speed varies from 1350 – 1650 feet per second.

Two Most Popular Types of Clay Shooting


Skeet is the Olympic discipline and consists of two traps called the high and low, at opposite ends of the range facing each other. Where ever you go in the world, a skeet range should provide targets that all fly along a very similar flight path, so it is the same where ever you practice.

Skeet has 7 stands set out in a semi-circle between the two trap houses, and you shoot a round of 25 birds as you move through the 7 stands. Many skeet shooters will shoot 100 straight on a regular basis, and it is a competition based around control and concentration.


Sporting is more like simulated game shooting in so far as each ground will put on a large variety of different targets. From week to week there is always something new to try, and the variety is endless.

Types of Clay target

    • Standard -110mm Diameter – a traditional domed clay target
    • Midi – 90mm Diameter – a smaller version of a standard
    • Mini – 60mm Diameter – often called a bumblebee, these look tiny and very fast!
    • Battue – 110mm Diameter – very flat, flies fast and turns and dives when you really wish it wouldn’t.
    • Rabbit – 110mm Diameter – Stronger than a standard, designed to run along the ground at speed.

Basic Shooting Principles

Clay pigeon 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 position your lead shot in the path of the flying target.

Shooting involves two basic skills, hand-eye coordination and being able to correctly read and understand each target.

Lead 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 the clay flies into the path of your lead shot.

Because of the speeds and distances involved, accurately ‘reading’ what a target is doing in the air is the most important skill in clay pigeon shooting.

Many targets are optical illusions, looking like they are doing one thing, while actually doing something completely different. This is why simple looking targets are missed on such a frequent basis.

Two Simple Shooting Methods

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

Many novice shooters begin with maintain lead, as it is a more measured method of shooting many targets. You decide how much ‘lead’ you think the target requires. ‘Lead’ is the distance you point your gun in front of the target. As the target flies through the air, you track it with the barrels of your gun the correct distance in front. When you feel the moment is right, pull the trigger and watch the clay break.

Swing through is necessary for some faster and more complex targets and is widely used by more experiences shooters. Swing through is a more seat of the pants, gut instinct shooting style. In the same way that your brain will work out how you can catch a mug you knock off a table, so experienced shooters can kill targets without measuring their shot against the target. They just know when to pull the trigger.

Different Types of Sporting Clay Targets

There are 7 basic types of clay targets for sporting shooting, which simulate many different types of game.


A rabbit is a strong flat 110mm clay designed to bounce along the ground at speed. Often unpredictable with a bounce when you least expect it.


A Teal clay simulates Teal duck, and flies straight up in the air, often at great speed, usually falling on the same path as it went up. These fast clays are challenging for many shooters.


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


A driven clay simulates game on a shoot being driven towards you. Driven targets can be tricky because they disappear behind your gun barrels just when you need to be able to see them! Driven birds need a swing through technique for this reason.


Incoming clays take many forms, and can come from all angles, but basically head towards you, often hanging in the air before dropping to the ground. They are often taken for granted and missed through a lack of concentration.

Going away

Clays that are going away get small very quickly so you need to be on your toes when you call pull.


Loopers are very often quite far away, and often ‘quarter’ towards or away from you for added complication. There are different techniques for hitting loopers depending on whether you favour shooting them as they rise, when they reach their peak, or as they are dropping.

Featured images:
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Dave Holland has been shooting at Sporting Targets for many years. It is a Premier Plus registered clay pigeon shooting ground in Bedfordshire in the UK. Offering a huge variety of targets to suit all skill levels. He got started by having shooting tuition to learn the basic skills needed.

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8 Responses to The Sports Archives – Everything You Need To Know About Clay Pigeon Shooting!

  1. Pingback: The Sports Archives – Safety Regulations for Airsoft Guns | The Sports Archives Blog

  2. gleedan says:

    This is a very exciting side of clay shooting. You are learning at the same time enjoying. I really want to try with this, unfortunately there is no available shooting clay event in our country.

  3. Pingback: The Sports Archives – Bag More Ducks By Avoiding Bad Shooting Habits! | The Sports Archives Blog

  4. Pingback: The Sports Archives – Do You Know that You Can Reload Your Own Ammo Effortlessly? | The Sports Archives Blog

  5. The blog was absolutely fantastic. I am looking forward for more contents. Great job, keep it up.

  6. Pingback: The Sports Archives – Hunting Deer: 5 Guidelines | The Sports Archives Blog

  7. Very interesting blog. Thanks for sharing great piece of information on clay target shooting. I am providing training to athletes and professionals so that they can hit more targets in sporting clays

  8. Jimmy Muller says:

    Thanks for telling the basics of clay pigeon shooting. Thanks for sharing very interesting post with us. If anyone needs best quality of choke tubes then contact us. We are offering superior quality of choke tubes. Our choke are designed to be the best shotgun choke tubes in the world.

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