Clay Pigeon Shooting

Clay Pigeon Shooting Overview

Three Types of Shotgun

The 3 main designs of 12 bore gun are Semi-Automatic, Over and Under and Side by Side.

Traditional Shooters often use side by side shotguns. Their barrels are next to each other.

Over and unders have 1 barrel above the other. Over & unders are most commonly used for clay pigeons.

Semi automatic shotguns have a single barrel, and cartridges are loaded into the breech individually. Some models can hold up to seven cartridges at once, but the majority of licence holders are only permitted to own semi automatic shotguns that will accept 3 shells at a time.

12 bores offer the best combination of performance and weight for the majority of shots.

A twenty bore gun uses a lighter cartridge, is a smaller and less heavy gun, lighter with less recoil, making it a common choice for youngsters, ladies and other shooters looking for less recoil through their shoulder.

Shooting Equipment You Will Need

Shotgun Slip

Keep your gun safe and protected when you are carrying and transporting it in a padded slip.

Cartridge Bags & Pouches

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

Eye Wear

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

Noise Protection for your Hearing

Given enough time shotguns can impair your hearing, so shooting grounds enforce the use of ear defenders at their shooting venues. These can be disposable ear plugs through to electronic noise cancelling headphones.

Shotgun Cartridges

All shot gun shooters have their preferred shells that they prefer to use, and there are many alternative manufacturers to choose from. Most shooters stick with a type that they have done well with!

Shotgun cartridges have two important criteria, the load size and the speed of the cartridge. The bigger the diameter of each ball in the shot, the further they will fly, but the less of them there are in each shell. Cartridges with smaller shot have more individual balls of lead, but as they each have less mass, they can’t won’t fly as far. Many experienced shooters will use a different shot size for different types of targets depending on their distance.

Many shooters opt for different cartridge velocities. Faster velocity cartridges need less lead ahead of the target. Cartridge velocities vary from 1350 – 1650 feet per second.

Most Popular Clay Pigeon Shooting Disciplines

Clay Pigeon Skeet Shooting

Skeet shooting is designed to be the same wherever you shoot. Skeet targets fly on the same path, so you can always shoot skeet with the same (or very similar targets) worldwide.

Skeet uses 7 shooting stands, set in a semi circle between the 2 traps. A round consists of twenty five birds shot from the seven different stands in sequence. It is quite common to see skeet shooters frequently hit one hundred straight.

Sporting Shooting

Grounds that provide sporting clays put on a mixture of targets which simulate different sorts of game. Each ground will be different, and will usually change on a regular basis so you never get bored!

Clay Target Types

Standard’ clays are 110mm dia.

Midi – 90mm Diameter – a smaller version of a standard

Mini – 60mm Diameter – often called bumble bees, these look minute and very fast!

Battue – 110mm Diameter – very flat, flies fast and turns and dives when you really wish it wouldn’t.

Rabbit clays ape actual rabbits, so the clays are tougher so they don’t break too easily when they bounce across hard earth.

Shooting Principles

Shooting is just like catching a ball. Your natural coordination moves 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 shot is where the clay will be.

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


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

The skill of shooting is to accurately read what the target is doing so that the two meet.

Some targets are put on to mislead you as to what they’re doing in the air. Some straightforward looking clays are frequently missed for this reason.

Shooting Techniques

The precise moment that you squeeze the trigger, along with your gun speed are the 2 key factors that will make you hit the target. The two main techniques used by the majority of shooters are ‘maintain lead’ and ‘swing through’.


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

Swing through is a seat of the pants skill that doesn’t involve measuring the amount of lead needed to kill the target. Instead, you swing your barrels from behind, until you are happy you are at the correct point in front of the target to hit it.

The Different Types of Clay Targets

The seven different types of targets simulate the different varieties of game.


Rabbits are unpredictable ground based clays that often jump in the air when you least expect it. They are stronger construction than standards so require accuracy to kill them.

Simulated Teal

A Teal clay simulates the flight of Teal duck, and flies straight up in the air, often very quickly, usually falling on a similar path it went up. These fast targets are difficult for many shooters.

Quartering Targets

Quartering targets will be either coming towards you at an angle, or going away at an angle. Only by assessing where it’s coming from & where it lands can you really work out the exact path it is taking. Quartering birds usually need less ‘lead’ than you think.

Driven Clays

Hitting a driven target requires a consistent swing through technique & practice. Driven clays imitate driven game flying towards you. You will lose the clay behind the barrels of your gun just when you want to pull the trigger, so you have to rely on pure hand eye coordination to know exactly when to shoot.


Incomers are targets that head towards you at different angles. Unlike driven birds, incomers will drop short rather than flying over your head.

Going Away Clays

Going away targets become harder to hit very quickly so don’t hang on them or you will miss your chance.


Looping targets start off rising, before falling, and often quarter towards or away from you. Hitting a looper can be tricky & requires patience and practice. Some shooters prefer to hit them rising, while others wait for them to begin to drop before pulling the trigger.