Clay Pigeon Shooting

Clay Pigeon Shooting – All you need to know

Three Shotguns Designs

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

Side by side shotguns are mostly used for game shooting. The barrels on a side by side are as the name suggests side by side.


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

over and under shotgun

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


Twelve bore shotguns are the preferred option for the vast majority of adult shooters.

twenty bore gun are often used by youngsters, ladies and by other shooters who want a less weighty gun and less recoil through their shoulder.

Shooting Equipment You Will Require

Shotgun Slip

Keep your gun safe and protected from bangs and knocks when it’s being transported in a padded gun sleeve.

Bags for Cartridges

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

Protect Your Eyes

Many regular shooters have protective glasses with different UV lenses to protect their eyes while also ideally suiting different shooting conditions.

Protection for Ears

It is wise to use hearing protection. Given time firing a shotgun can affect your hearing so protect your hearing with effective ear protection from disposable foam plugs through to electric noise reduction head phones or molded ear pieces.

Shotgun Cartridges

All shot gun shooters have their ideal type of cartridges that they choose to use, and there are many different manufacturers to choose from. Most people stick with a shell that they have shot well with!

Shotgun cartridges have two main criteria, the size of the lead shot and the load speed. The bigger each of the lead balls in the shot, the greater distance they will travel, but the less there will be in each cartridge.

Smaller shot sizes 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 different targets depending on the range.

Cartridges vary in shot speed from 1350 – 1650 ft / second. Different speeds favour different shooters and shooting disciplines. For a slower cartridge, you will need to give the target more ‘lead’ so the shot has more time to get to the target.

All good gun shops will be able to advise you on the right shooting equipment for your needs.

Two Main Disciplines

Skeet Shooting

Wherever you are, the clays will fly on a similar path. This enables you to practice the same targets at any skeet shooting ground worldwide.

There are twenty five targets in a skeet round, which are shot from the 7 shooting positions. A good shooter will often hit one hundred straight without loss.

Sporting Shooting

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

Variety of Clays

Standard -110mm Diameter – a traditional domed clay

Midi targets look like standards, but are smaller at only 90mm diameter

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

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

Rabbits are designed to simulate real rabbits by bouncing along at speed. They are the same diameter as standard clays (110mm), but stronger so they don’t shatter as easily.

Principles of Shooting

The skill of shooting is like catching a ball. You don’t position your hand to where the ball is, but where the ball is going to be. In the same way, you shoot to place your shot in the flight path of the moving clay.

To shoot well, 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 correctly anticipate its flight path.

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

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

Many experienced shooters still get caught out by clays that are designed to be optical illusions.

Shooting Techniques

The moment that you pull the trigger, along with the speed your gun is moving are the two critical factors that will make you hit the target. The two common shooting styles used by the majority of shooters are ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Maintain lead is the simplest shooting style for people learning to shoot. It involves keeping a set distance in front of the target, tracking its path through the air. When you are happy that you are the correct distance in front, pull the trigger while continuing to move the gun.

Swing through is a style that is regularly used by experienced shooters. Instead of measuring the shot, the shooter swings his barrels through the clay from behind, pulling the trigger when their gut instinct tells them it’s right to do so.

Different Types of Target

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


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


A Teal normally flies vertically upwards, usually quite quickly. For many shooters these can be tricky targets requiring a seat of the pants shooting style to consistently hit them. Many shooters opt to shoot a Teal as it drops rather than rising.

Quartering Clays

You can tell how much a target 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 clay requires.

Driven Birds

Driven clays simulate game on a shoot being driven over the guns. Driven targets can be difficult because they disappear behind your barrels just when you need to be able to see them! Driven clays need a swing through technique because of this.

Incoming Targets

Incoming targets fly towards you from a variety of angles. Unlike driven birds, they normally fall before reaching the shooter rather than flying on overhead.

Going Away Clays

Clays that are going away get small very quickly so you need to be ready when you call pull.

Looping Targets

Loopers require maximum concentration to hit. They are often quartering to make them trickier, and can be hit on the way up or down depending on your personal preference.