Clay Pigeon Shooting Tips

Clay Pigeon Shooting – Everything you need to know

Basic Types of Shotgun

There are three basic designs of gun, Side by Side, Semi-Automatic and Over and Under.

Side by side shotguns are frequently used by traditional game shooters. The barrels on a side by side are as the name suggests side by side.

Under and overs have their barrels one above the other. Clay pigeon shooting favours over and under shotguns.

Auto’s are only used for pigeon and clay pigeon shooting.

The bulk of adults usually use 12 bore guns as they offer the ideal combination of weight and performance for the vast majority of clay pigeon targets you will see.

twenty bore shotgun are often used by ladies, youngsters and by other shooters who want a lighter gun to reduce the recoil through their shoulder.

Required Equipment

Gun Sleeve

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

Cartridge Carrying Bags

Different types of shooting require different shooting equipment, clothing and cartridge bags. For some a pocket or pouch will be sufficient.

Clay Shooting Eye Protection

Many clay pigeon shooting grounds insist that eye protection must be worn while shooting. This is because of flying clay debris potentially injuring shooters.

Ear Defenders

Over time shooting shotguns can impair your ears, so most shooting grounds insist that you use ear protection at their shooting venues. These can be throw away foam plugs through to noise cancelling headphones.


Shooters tend to have their preferred cartridges and these are usually a cartridge that they have shot well with in the past.

Different targets often require different sizes of shot for the optimum chance of hitting it time after time. Larger shot goes further but there are less pellets of lead shot in each shell. Smaller lead pellets don’t fly as far but you have a larger ‘pattern’ to smash the target with at closer range.

The perfect velocity for your cartridges will relate to how your hand/eye coordination interprets the target. Faster cartridges require less ‘lead’ in front of the clay, slower cartridges need more lead.

Two Most Popular Disciplines


Olympic grade clay shooting is skeet based. Skeet shooting is made up of a high and low trap that face one another. All skeet venues provide clay targets that fly on a similar path so wherever you are shooting, the layout is going to be the same.

Skeet ranges have 7 stands set out in a semi circle between the two trap houses, and you are given a round of twenty five targets as you move through the seven positions. The best skeet shooters will hit one hundred straight regularly, and it is a competition based on control and concentration.

Sporting Clays

Sporting clays are more varied because they mimic different types of game. Each week a shooting ground will alter their clay traps so there is always a new challenge for you.

Clay Target Types

Basic ‘Standard’ targets are 110mm in diameter with a domed middle

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

Minis are the same shape as standards, but only 60mm. Frequently called bumble bees!

A Battue is a flat target with a lipped outer edge, with a 55mm radius. They are frequently used as looping targets because they twist in the air as they slow down, providing the shooter with a new challenge!

A Rabbit is a heavier 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.

Basic Shooting Principles

Shooting clays is much like catching a ball. Your natural coordination will automatically reach out with your shot to where the clay will be when the lead reaches it.

To be a good shot, you just need a couple of basic skills; reasonable hand/eye coordination so you can correctly time your shot, and an understanding to ‘read’ what each clay is doing so you consistently predict the correct flight path.

The lead shot from your cartridge flies in a cigar shaped cloud. All you are attempting to do is to place that cloud of lead in the flight path of your target.

Because of the speeds and distances involved, accurately interpreting what each target is doing in the air is the most important skill in clay shooting.

Many clays look easy but are often doing more complex things, confusing your eyes and causing you to miss.

Two Simple Shooting Methods

The two factors that will permit you to hit the clay are gun speed and the precise moment in time that you decide to pull the trigger. The 2 common shooting styles are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Maintain lead is the most popular technique new shooters. Maintain lead involves swinging through the clays path of flight, keeping your barrels in front of the clay by what you perceive to be the correct lead.

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. Shoot while keeping the gun moving and watch the clay break.

Basic Target Types

There are seven types of clay bird which are used to mimic different game in a variety of situations.


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

Simulated Teal

Hitting rising Teal requires a swing through technique unlike any other. Many shooters prefer to shoot Teal as dropping targets. Either way, they need practice to hit consistently.


The trap house and landing point of the clay will show you how much the clay is quartering towards you or away from you. A target that is quartering will usually need less lead than a crossing target.


Consistently hitting driven clays requires a consistent style of swing through. The targets copy driven game flying over guns, and your gun barrels will hide the clay just when you want to shoot.


Incomers are targets that head towards you at a variety of different angles. Unlike driven clays, incomers normally drop short rather than flying over your head.

Going Away Clays

Going away targets get small very quickly so don’t hang around or you will miss your chance.

Looping Targets

Loopers need concentration to hit. They are often quartering making them much harder to read, and can be hit on the way up or down depending on your shooting style.