Complete Guide To Clay Pigeon Shooting

Clay Pigeon Shooting – All you need to know

Basic Shotgun Designs

Three basic types of 12 bore shotgun, Side by Side, Semi-Automatic and Over and Under.

Game shooters tend to use side by side shotguns. On a side by side, the barrels are next to each other.

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

Semi automatic 12 bores have only one barrel, and shotgun cartridges are loaded into the breech one at a time. Some versions can hold up to 7 cartridges at a time, but the majority of shotgun licence holders are only permitted to own semi automatics that will accept 3 shells at a time.

In the main adult shooters favour 12 bore shotguns.

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

Clay Pigeon Shooting Equipment You Will Require

Gun Slip

Gun slips come in a variety of materials, designs, colours and styles including canvas and leather.

Bags for Cartridges

Carrying your cartridges requires a suitable bag, depending on the specific type of shooting you are taking part in.

Eye Protection

Many clay shooting grounds insist that eye protection must be worn while shooting. This is because there are often sharp fragments of flying clay landing near to shooters.

Protection for Ears

Shotguns make a loud noise, and while it isn’t dangerously loud enough to instantly damage your hearing, over time the repeated bang can cause damage to ears. Most reputable shooting grounds will insist that all shooters wear ear protection, which are available in different types, foam disposable plugs, molded plugs designed to fit your ear, electronic inner ear plugs as well as passive ear muffs and electronic ear defenders.

Cartridges for Shotguns

All shot gun shooters have their preferred shells that they choose to shoot with, and there are many manufacturers to choose from. Most people stick with a cartridge that they have done well with!

Shotgun cartridges have 2 main criteria, the lead shot size and the shot speed. The larger each of the lead balls in the shot, the further they will fly, but the less there will be in each cartridge. Cartridges with smaller shot have more individual balls of lead, but because they are lighter, they don’t travel as far.

Many more experienced shooters will use a different shot size for specific target types depending on the distance involved.

The speed of each cartridge tends to be individual preference. Quicker cartridges are more expensive, but help some shooting styles. To shoot with a slower cartridge, all you have to do is to allow more time for the shot to reach the target…. Simple! Lead speed varies from 1350 – 1650 ft/s.

Two Disciplines: Skeet and Sporting

Shooting Skeet

Skeet shooting is designed to be the same wherever you shoot. The two clays fly on the same path, so you can always shoot skeet with near identical targets anywhere.

Skeet is a discipline requiring muscle memory, determination and self control. A round of skeet is twenty five targets shot from the seven standing positions in sequence and it is unusual for top shooters to achieve 100 straight

Sporting Clay Shooting

Sporting targets are designed to mimic different game shooting. You will see a range of targets and each stand will offer you a new challenge.

Different Clay Types

Standard -110mm Diameter – a basic clay

Midi clays are a smaller version of a standard, 90mm Dia.

Minis are only 60mm across, but are the same design as standards and midi’s.

Battue’s are flat clays with a lipped edge, and are usually used for looping targets because they turn as they fly, creating challenging targets.

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

Principles of Shooting

Shooting is a hand eye coordination discipline. In the same way as you catch a ball, you gauge your shot so it intersects with the clay as it flies through the air.

Hitting clay pigeons requires good hand/eye coordination as well as the learned skill of reading what a clay is doing as it moves.

As your shot leaves your gun barrels, it moves through the air in oval cloud. All you have to do is to make sure that the clay flies through that cloud of lead.

Your shot is traveling at between 1350 and 1650 feet per second, and the clay is moving too.

Often, an straightforward looking stand will be misinterpreted by a shooter, making them miss. Grounds like to include optical illusion clays to challenge even the best shots.

Shooting Techniques

The moment that you pull the trigger, along with your gun speed are the 2 key factors that will let you hit the clay. The two common techniques used by the majority of shooters are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Maintain lead is the easiest shooting style for learners. It involves keeping a set distance in front of the target, tracking its path through the air. When you are happy that you have the correct amount of lead, pull the trigger while still swinging your gun.

Swing through is a style that is often used by proficient shooters. Rather than measuring the shot, the shooter swings through the clay from behind, squeezing the trigger when they feel its right to do so.

The Different Types of Clay Targets

Clay targets come in seven different styles which imitate different types of game birds.


Rabbits are unpredictable bouncing clays that leap in the air when you least expect it. They are stronger construction than standard clays so require accuracy to smash them.


Consistently hitting a rising Teal requires a good swing through technique. Teal are fast moving vertical targets that require practice to hit consistently.

Quartering Clays

Quartering targets will be either coming towards you at an angle, or going away at an angle. Only by studying where it’s coming from & where it lands can you really work out the precise path it is on. Quartering birds normally need less ‘lead’ than you anticipate.


Consistently hitting driven clays requires a consistent style of swing through. The targets replicate driven game flying towards you, and your gun barrels will hide the target just when you want to pull the trigger.

Incoming Birds

Unlike driven birds, which fly over your head, incomers will drop in front of you.

Going Away Targets

Targets going away from you need confidence and quick shooting so you can hit them before they become too small to hit.

Looping Targets

Loopers need concentration to hit. They are often quartering to make them trickier, and can be hit rising or dropping depending on your personal preference.