How Do I Learn Clay Pigeon Shooting?

Learn About Clay Pigeon Shooting

Three Basic Styles of Shotgun

3 different designs of gun exist, Side by Side, Over and Under and Semi-Automatic.

Side by side shotguns are mostly used for traditional game shooting. As the name side by side infers, their two barrels are next to each other.

Over and under shotguns have barrels on top of each other. Over and under shotguns are predominantly used for clay pigeon shooting.

Auto’s have just one barrel and cartridges are loaded into the clip below the breech.

Twelve bore shotguns are the preferred option for most adult shooters.

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

Shooting Equipment

Gun Sleeve

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

Bags for Cartridges

There are many different bags and pouches available, from belt hung pouches designed to hold up to fifty cartridges at a time to large holdall type bags which allow a shooter to carry a variety of different cartridges that might be required for different targets during a competition shoot.

Shooting Eye Wear

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

Hearing Protection

Using ear protection will safeguard your hearing against the loud noise made when shooting. Shooting grounds usually insist on ear defenders being worn at all times.

Cartridge Shells

There are lots of quality cartridge manufacturers to choose from and most people have a preference. Your ideal cartridges will ordinarily be the ones you have had the most success with!

Cartridges have 2 main criteria, the size of the lead shot and the shot speed. The larger each ball in the shot, the further they will fly, but the less there will be in each shell. Cartridges with smaller shot have more individual balls of lead, but because they are lighter, they can’t won’t travel as far. Many experienced shooters will use a cartridge with a different shot size for specific target types depending on their distance.

The amount of ‘lead’ that a target needs will depend on the speed of your specific cartridge. Velocities vary from 1350 – 1650 ft/s, and a specific speed will favour your style of shooting better than others.

Two Main Types of Clay Pigeon Shooting

Olympic Skeet Shooting

Skeet shooting is supposed to be the same wherever you shoot. Skeet clays fly on the same path, so you can practice the discipline with the same (or very similar targets) worldwide.

Skeet is a shooting discipline that needs muscle memory, determination and self control. A round of skeet is twenty five targets shot from the 7 standing positions in sequence and it is not abnormal for top shooters to achieve 100 straight

Sporting Clay Pigeon Shooting

Sporting Clays mimic game shooting so there is a lot of variety to shoot. Different types of targets require a range of shooting techniques so it can be challenging to correctly read what the target is doing so you can hit it.

Types of Target

Basic ‘Standard’ targets have a diameter of 110mm with a domed middle

Midi clays are a smaller version of a standard, measuring 90mm across

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

Battues are 110mm in diameter, flat in design with a lipped outer edge. They tend to turn in mid-air making them ideal ‘loopers’.

Rabbits simulate real rabbits by rolling along at speed. Rabbits are the same diameter as standards (110mm), but stronger so they don’t shatter as easily.

Principles of Clay Pigeon shooting

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

The 2 important skills you need to be a good shot are hand/eye coordination and the experience to understand what the clay is doing so you can predict it’s correct flight path.

Lead shot leaves your gun in a cigar shaped cloud. Your challenge is to read and understand exactly what your clay is doing so that it flies into the path of your lead shot.

Being able to correctly ‘read’ the clays path of flight will allow your hand\eye coordination to break the target.

Many experienced shooters still get caught out by targets that are created to be optical illusions.

Methods of Shooting

The 2 basic shooting techniques are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’. Using either of these methods, the 2 factors that will hit the clay are speed of gun movement & the exact point that you pull the trigger.

Maintain lead is the most popular style for beginners. Maintain lead involves swinging your barrels through the flight path of the clay, keeping your barrels the distance in front of the target that you feel is the right amount of lead.

Swing through is a seat of the pants skill that doesn’t involve measuring the distances needed to break the clay. Instead, you swing your barrels from behind, until your natural coordination takes over and you shoot at the ideal point in time to hit it.

Basic Targets

There are seven basic types of clay targets in sporting shooting, which represent many different types of game.


Rabbit targets bounce quickly along the ground, aping a real rabbit running. The clays are stronger that standards although they are the same diameter.


Teal can be difficult to hit. They fly straight upwards very quickly, requiring a swing through technique that many find difficult. In many instances they can also be hit on the drop as well as rising.

Quartering Clays

You can assess how much a clay is quartering towards or away from you by looking at where the trap is and where the target lands. This angle will affect the amount of lead the target needs.


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 shoot.

Incoming Targets

Incoming clays take many forms, and can come from many 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 Targets

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


Loopers are commonly quite far away, and often ‘quarter’ towards or away from you for added complication. There are different techniques for breaking looping targets depending on whether you want to shoot them as they rise, as they peak, or as they are dropping.