How To Learn To Shoot Clay Pigeons

Everything You Need to Know About Clay Pigeon Shooting

Three Shotguns Designs

Three different designs of 12 bore gun exist, Side by Side, Over and Under and Semi-Automatic. Side by side shotguns are mostly used for shooting game. Their barrels are next to each other.

With over and unders, the barrels are positioned on top of one another. Over and unders are usually used for clay pigeon shooting.

Semi-Automatics are loaded 1 cartridge at a time into the breech, as they only have 1 barrel.

Adults tend to prefer 12 bore shotguns because they are offer the best combination of performance for the weight.

Twenty bores are often used by juniors, ladies and by other shooters who want a lighter gun to reduce the recoil through their shoulder.

Necessary Clay Pigeon Shooting Equipment

Gun Slip

It is advisable to carry your gun in a quality slip. It is also good good manners.

Cartridge Bags

Depending on what type of shooting you will be doing, you will need a cartridge bag, pouch or pocket to hold sufficient cartridges while you shoot.

Shooting Eyewear

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

Hearing Protection

To protect your ears against potential long term harm you are advised to wear ear plugs or defenders while guns are being fired near you. Ear protection is compulsory at all reputable shooting venues.

Cartridge Shells

There are lots of cartridge manufacturers to choose from and most more experienced shooters have a preference. Your favourite shells will usually be the ones you have had the most success with!

There are 2 variations of cartridge available; lead shot size and velocity. Faster cartridges usually cost more. Lead shot for clay targets ranges from 6 ½ to 9 in size. 6 ½ has a large lead shot diameter, but less pellets per shot. Bigger, heavier pellets will go further so are ideally suited to targets further away. In a size 9 shell, the lead is much smaller, but there are more per cartridge. They don’t have the mass to go as far, but offer a larger spread of more pellets at closer distances.

The perfect speed of your cartridges will relate to how your coordination perceives the target. Faster cartridges require less ‘lead’ ahead of the clay, slower cartridges need more lead.

All this shooting equipment is readily available in all good gun shops and shooting accessory stores.

Most Popular Clay Pigeon Shooting Disciplines


Olympic grade clay shooting is skeet based. Skeet shooting comprises a high and low trap that face one another. All skeet ranges provide clay targets that fly through a similar pattern so wherever you are shooting, the layout is going to be very similar.

Skeet uses 7 shooting positions, laid out in a half circle between the two trap houses. A round of skeet is made up of twenty five birds shot from different stands. It is not unusual to see top shots frequently hit 100 without loss.

Sporting Shooting

Sporting clays are a more varied type of target because they simulate game. Each week a venue will alter their targets so there is always a new challenge for you.

The Various Clay Targets

110mm – Standard Clay – basic domed clay

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

A Mini is the same shape as a standard, but only 60mm dia. They are small and often look faster.

Battue targets are 110mm across, flat in design with a lipped rim. They tend to twist in mid-air making them ideal ‘loopers’.

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

Principles of Shooting

Shooting is just like catching a ball. Your natural coordination places your hand where the ball will be as it flies through the air. In the same way, you fire the lead from a cartridge so that the lead is where the clay is going to be.

Hitting clay pigeons requires good hand/eye coordination as well as the ability to ‘read’ what a clay is doing as it flies.

As your shot leaves your gun barrels, it moves through the air in oval cloud. All you need to do is to make certain that the clay flies through that cloud of 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 shooting and lesson number one when you learn to shoot.

Often, an easy looking target will be misread by a shooter, causing them to miss. Clubs like to include optical illusion clays to challenge even the best shots.

Its always a good idea to have a few shooting lessons when you first start to shoot as this will get you started with the right shooting skills, habits and disciplines.

Shooting Methods

Placing your shot in the right place requires only two things to be right, the speed of your gun movement and the exact point in time when you pull the trigger. There are two basic techniques, ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Maintain lead is the easiest shooting style for people learning to shoot. It involves keeping a measured distance in front of the target, tracking its path through the air. When you are satisfied that you have the correct amount of lead, squeeze the trigger while continuing to move the gun.

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

Basic shooting skills can be very useful as clay shooting is a common corporate entertainment activity. Knowing how to shoot and having the skills to handle a shotgun safely will allow you to accept invites to corporate events and activities with confidence.

Different Types of Sporting Clay Targets

There are seven different types of basic targets used to replicate different game in different situations.


Rabbits are unpredictable ground based clays that often jump in the air when you don’t expect it. They are stronger clays than standard clays so require accuracy to break them.


A Teal clay often flies vertically upwards, very rapidly. For many shooters these can be difficult targets requiring a swing through shooting style to consistently hit them. Many shooters opt to shoot Teal as they drop rather than rising.

Quartering Targets

Quartering clays usually require less lead than crossing targets. Look to see where the clay trap is & where it lands to help you to establish the clays path.

Driven Clays

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

Incoming Targets

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

Going Away Clays

To hit a going away clay, you need to get on the target quickly before it gets too far away to break.

Looping Targets

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 shooting style.