Clay Pigeon Shooting

A Complete Guide to Clay Pigeon Shooting

Shotgun Types

There are 3 basic designs of 12 bore shotgun, Side by Side, Over and Under and Semi-Automatic.

Traditional Game Shooters quite often use side by side shotguns. The barrels on a side by side are as the name infers side by side.

Under and overs have their barrels vertically one above the other. Over and under shotguns are predominantly used for clay pigeon shooting.

Semi automatic 12 bores have only one barrel, and shotgun cartridges are loaded into the breech one at a time. Some models hold up to seven cartridges at once, but the majority of shotgun permit holders are only licenced to own semi automatic 12 bores that will accept 3 cartridges at a time.

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

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

Shooting Equipment

Gun Sleeve

Protecting your gun from knocks and bangs while you are not using it it is good practice and a quality slip will keep it safe.

Cartridge Carrying Bags

There are many different bags and pouches on sale, from belt hung pouches designed to hold 50 cartridges at once to large holdall type bags which allow shooters to carry a variety of different cartridges that may be needed for different targets during a competition shoot.

Shooting Eye Wear

Eye wear when clay pigeon shooting is very important because sometimes bits of broken clay can hit the shooter as they fall and these can be very sharp.

Ear Protection

Using ear plugs or defenders will safeguard your hearing against the repeated bang noise made when pulling the trigger. Shooting clubs normally insist on hearing protection being worn at all times.


Shotgun cartridges vary in quality and cost. After a while you will find a specific cartridge that gives you the consistency of shot you desire at an affordable cost. These will often be the specific cartridges that you have performed best with!

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

Cartridges vary in velocity from 1350 – 1650 ft / second. Different shot speeds favour different shooting styles. When using a slower cartridge, you will have to give the clay more ‘lead’ so the cartridge pellets have more time to reach your target.

Two Disciplines: Skeet and Sporting

Shooting Skeet

Skeet is the Olympic discipline and is made up of two clay traps known as the high and low, at opposite ends of the range facing one another. All over the world, skeet should provide targets that all fly along a very similar flight path, so it is the same wherever you shoot.

Skeet shooting uses seven stands, laid out in a half circle between the two traps. A skeet round is made up of twenty five targets shot from the 7 stands. It is not uncommon to see the best shooters regularly hit 100 without loss.

Sporting Clay Shooting

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

Clay Target Differences

Standard’ targets have a 110mm diameter and are domed.

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

Minis are just 60mm across, but are the same design as standards.

Battue’s are flat with a lipped rim, and are usually used as looping targets because they turn as they fly, creating challenging targets.

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

Basic Shooting Principles

The skill of shooting is akin to catching a ball. You don’t put your hand to where the ball is, but where the ball is going to be. Using the same concept, you shoot to place your shot in the path of the flying target.

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

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.

Understanding what the clay is doing in the air is the vital skill that will enable your hand eye coordination to correctly assess the target and kill it.

Often, an straightforward looking target will be misinterpreted by the shooter, making them miss. Clubs like to include optical illusion targets to challenge even the best shooters.

Shooting Techniques

Putting your shot in the correct place requires only two things to be right, the speed of your gun movement and the exact point in time when you squeeze the trigger. There are 2 basic techniques, ‘swing through’ and ‘maintain lead’.

Most shooters start by using maintain lead as their basic technique. This involves shadowing the clay with your gun barrels the distance ahead of the clay that you think is required. When you feel you are the correct distance in front, shoot and watch the clay turn to dust.

Instead of consciously measuring each time using maintain lead, more experienced shooters often use a swing through shooting style. Coming from behind the target, you swing through the target until you have enough lead. Shoot while keeping the barrels moving and watch the clay shatter.

Different Types of Target

Clay targets come in 7 different styles which imitate different types of game birds.


Rabbits bounce quickly along the ground, aping a real real rabbit. The clays are stronger that standard clays although they are the same size.


Hitting rising Teal requires a consistent swing through technique unlike any other. Many shooters prefer to kill Teal as they drop. Either way, they require lots of practice to hit consistently.

Quartering Targets

Quartering clays need less lead than crossing targets. Look to see where the target comes from and where it lands to help you to establish the flight path of the clay.

Driven Clays

Hitting a driven target requires a consistent swing through technique & practice. Driven birds imitate driven game flying towards you. You will lose the target behind the barrels of your gun just when you want to shoot, so you have to rely on a seat of the pants feel for when to shoot.

Incoming Targets

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

Going Away

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

Looper Birds

Loopers come in many forms. There are alternative techniques to hit them depending on your shooting style. A looper may also be quartering, falling, and moving forwards all at once, making them tricky targets, especially at range.