Clay Shooting Beginners Guide

A Comprehensive Clay Pigeon Shooting Guide

Three Basic Styles of Shotgun

Over and Under, Side by Side and Semi-Automatic are the 3 main 12 bore gun designs used by the majority of shooters.

Side by side shotguns are regularly used by traditional game shots. As their name suggests, their two barrels are side by side.

Over and under shotguns have 1 barrel above the other. Over and unders are usually used for clay shooting.

Semi automatic 12 bores have just one barrel, and cartridges are loaded into the breech one at a time. Some types hold up to seven cartridges at a time, but the majority of shotgun licence holders are only licenced to own semi automatics that will load 3 cartridge shells at a time.

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

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

Clap Pigeon Shooting Equipment

Gun Slip

It is advisable to carry your gun in a quality protective gun slip. It is also good shooting etiquette.

Cartridge Bags & Pouches

It will depend on the type of shooting you are going to be doing as to which type of cartridge holder you opt for. Different disciplines need different cartridge bags, pockets or pouches.

Protect Your Eyes

Many shooters have protective eye wear with different lenses to protect them while also ideally suiting different shooting conditions.

Protection for Ears

Shot Guns make a quite loud noise, and while it isn’t loud enough to instantly damage your hearing, eventually the noise of a shotgun can cause ear damage. Most reputable shooting grounds will insist that shooters wear ear plugs, which are available in different types, foam plugs, molded inner ear plugs, molded electronic plugs as well as standard head phone type ear muffs and electronic ear defenders.

Cartridge Information

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

Experienced shooters often use different shot sizes for different distanced targets. For long distance targets, a heavier lead shot will give you more chance of breaking the target, while for closer targets smaller pellet size cartridges give you more lead in each shell so you have a bigger ‘pattern’ to break the clay with.

The amount of ‘lead’ that a target requires will depend on the speed of your specific cartridge. Velocities vary from 1350 – 1650 ft/s, and a specific speed will suit your hand/eye coordination better than others.

Two Main Disciplines


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

There are twenty five clays in a round of skeet, which are shot in turn from the 7 gun positions. A good shooter will frequently achieve 100 straight without loss.

Sporting Clay Pigeon Shooting

Sporting clays are a more varied type of target because they simulate game. Each week a ground will alter their targets so there is a continual stream of new targets to challenge you.

The Various Clay Targets

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

Midi targets look like standard clays, but are smaller at 90mm

A Mini is the same design as a standard, but only 60mm dia. They are quite small and often look much quicker in flight than they really are. Many shooters struggle with these little clays.

A Battue is a flat target with a lipped rim, with a 55mm radius. Battues are mainly used as looping targets because they turn as they slow down, always providing an interesting challenge!

Rabbit – 110mm Diameter – Stronger than a standard, designed to bounce along the ground at speed.

Basic Clay Pigeon Shooting Principles

Clay pigeon shooting is like catching a ball. You don’t move your hand to where the ball currently is, but where it’s going to be. In the same way, you shoot to place your lead shot in the path of the clay.

Shooting involves two core skills; hand/eye coordination and being able to correctly read and understand each target.


As your shot leaves your gun barrels, it moves through the air in oval cloud. All you have to do is to make certain that the clay flies through that cloud of shot.

You need to accurately predict the flight path of the clay so that your natural coordination can hit the target.


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

Methods of Shooting

Placing your shot in the right place requires just 2 things to be right, your gun speed and the exact point in time when you squeeze the trigger. There are two basic ways to shoot, ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Maintain lead is the easiest shooting style for beginners to master. It involves keeping a measured distance in front of the target, tracking its flight through the air. When you are satisfied that you have the correct amount of lead, pull the trigger while still swinging your gun.

being taught to shoot at a clay shooting club

Swing through is a technique that is often used by proficient shooters. Instead of measuring the shot, the shooter swings his barrels through from behind, squeezing the trigger when they feel its right to do so.

Different Types of Target

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


Rabbits are the same diameter as standards, but are stronger to withstand having to bounce many times on hard ground.

Simulated Teal

A Teal clay simulates the flight of Teal duck, and flies straight up in the air, often at great speed, usually falling on a similar path it went up. These fast clays are difficult even for experienced shooters.


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 often need less lead than a crossing target.

Driven Clays

Driven clays simulate game on a shoot being driven towards you. Driven targets can be difficult because they disappear from view behind your barrels just when you need to be able to see them! Driven clays need a swing through technique for this reason.


Incomers take many forms, and can appear from all angles, but all basically head towards you, often hanging momentarily before dropping before they reach you. They are often taken for granted and missed through a lack of concentration.

Going Away Targets

To hit a going away bird, you need to address the target quickly before it becomes too far away to break.


Loopers come in many forms. There are several techniques to hit them depending on where you want to break the target. A looper will often be quartering, falling, and moving forwards at the same time, making them particularly tricky targets, especially the further away they are.