The Ultimate Guide To Clay Pigeon Shooting

Clay pigeon shooting started as an affordable alternative to competitions that used live pigeons as targets in 1885. Game shooters used clay pigeon shooting as a form of training during the closed season while shooting schools set up courses for people, and the sport quickly became a hit shortly after.

Clay pigeon shooting is a fantastic sport that everybody should try at least once in their lives. The sport involves shooting clay pigeon targets which are discs made from a brittle mixture of materials. The clays come in various sizes and colours, which are used to calculate a competitor’s score.

The sport is enjoyed from local club level right up to Olympic level, and there are many different disciplines to choose from. Clay pigeon shooting is enjoyed worldwide by people of all backgrounds and abilities.

How does clay pigeon shooting work?

Clay pigeon shooting uses a variety of clays in different colours and sizes. These clays are fired out at different angles, ranges and speeds. Your score is built by the number of clays broken or hit.

Shooting grounds and clubs range dramatically in topology too. This presents different challenges in the targets and gives the shooters the chance to improve their skills.

The sport is split into multiple disciplines, with the most popular being sporting clays, which presents every type of colour, size, angle, speed, range and topology. Some disciplines have set targets, speeds, and ranges and can be the perfect challenge for a shooter and a great way to get started.

Most clubs offer the chance of shooting skeet which presents 2 x targets shot from 7 positions and in different combinations.

There are many different types of clay pigeon shooting, so be sure to do a bit of research on which one you’d like to do before signing up for a club. Better yet, you could try your hand at all of them and choose which one you prefer!

How to get started with clay pigeon shooting

When starting your journey into clay pigeon shooting, the first thing you need to do is find out where your local shooting club is. Find out if there’s an accredited coach there who can teach you the proper technique for the sport. It’s essential to get good safety and technical help to put you in the right direction.

When you start clay pigeon shooting, it’s best to develop your own style with the help of a coach. This is because no matter who’s teaching you, you’re going to shoot differently from them. This could be because you’re older, younger, taller or shorter. Also, your shooting style is often affected by your physical attributes so don’t be put off if it takes some time to start building your scores.

For example, if you’re younger and blessed with excellent eyesight, then your shooting might be different compared to somebody who has difficulty reacting to fast-moving objects.

When you use a good coach, they’ll teach you the skills you need to try all the different types of shooting styles. Plus, the more you practice, the easier it’ll be to decide which feels more comfortable for you.

As you advance through the ranks, it’s a good idea to look at other coaches and work with people who can help you develop your shooting further. The more experts you talk to, the more techniques you’ll be able to learn for different target types, and the better you’ll become at the sport.

Five tips for starting clay pigeon shooting

1. Figure out which eye is your dominant eye

One of the first things you’ll want to figure out when learning how to shoot is which eye is your dominant eye. Even before you pick up a gun for your first day of clay pigeon shooting, you should determine your dominant eye.

Your dominant eye will be the one that focuses best on the target. You can quickly figure out your dominant eye by choosing an object or a point on a wall and pointing at it. Point with the index finger of the opposite hand you write with. For example, if you’re right-handed use your left-hand index finger and vice versa.

Close your left eye first, and if you can still see the object at the end of your finger, then your right eye is the dominant one.

If, however, the object moved away from your finger, do the same thing but with the right eye closed. If the object is at the end of your finger, then your left eye is the dominant one. If you’re just off the object then this means you aren’t completely left or right eye dominant, which is quite normal and you might need to get some guidance from a professional.

right eye dominant

2. Learn how to mount your gun correctly

Holding your gun correctly is definitely an essential part of clay pigeon shooting. If you don’t learn how to hold it right, you won’t be able to use the gun comfortably or accurately.

Your coach will help you get comfortable mounting your gun in your shoulder pocket before you start shooting. There’s a groove just inside your shoulder joint, the shoulder pocket, and this is where the butt of your shotgun should sit. Find a comfortable standing position
The position of your gun isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to clay pigeon shooting, you also have to know the correct standing position.

By getting your feet in the correct position and holding your body correctly, you’ll be able to shoot more accurately and more comfortably.

If you want to remain balanced at all times, have the majority of your weight leaning on the foot in front. This will keep you steady and prepared for the next clay.

Standing in this position also helps your body naturally absorb the gun’s recoil without making you feel as though you’re being pushed back.

mounting the gun

3. Remember to bring your head to the shotgun

A problem a lot of beginners have when they start clay pigeon shooting is that instead of keeping their body steady and bringing their head into position, they tend to lean back or slouch into position instead. If you’re unsure whether your position is correct, just ask your instructor for some help. They’ll be more than happy to assist you.

4. Be steady and calm when firing your gun

There are two secrets to hitting your target and they are:

  1. Correct positioning
  2. Not hesitating

Your instructor will give you plenty of tips, starting off with the perfect position for shooting, but here’s a little advice to help you position yourself in a way that will help with good shooting.

Always follow the clay as it comes out of the trap. Keep the focus on the clay and away from the gun – the gun should always be in your peripheral vision only

What equipment do you need for clay pigeon shooting?

Having the right equipment for clay sports is key to improving your game.

For example, getting your hands on a clay sports shotgun that’s the correct size, weight and balance for your statue, along with a cartridge that reduces the felt recoil, will help you learn quickly and reduce fatigue.

There is an endless list of equipment that you could buy, and the essentials vary from shooter to shooter, but the most essential thing to buy is a gun that suits you and your shooting style.

Top Tip: Your technique will change as you learn and develop, so you’re going to need to buy different guns in the future. We’d recommend not spending too much on your first gun and focusing more on getting one that fits. This will help you develop your technique, and as soon as you’ve decided on your discipline, you can buy a more expensive gun.

Apart from the gun, what other equipment is essential for your success with the sport?

clay pegion shooting

Essential clay pigeon shooting equipment

Clay pigeon shooting glasses

Clay pigeon shooting glasses are not only vital for beginners but for everybody who is partaking in the sport. Always make sure that the glasses you’re purchasing are the correct safety level.

Most shooting grounds require you to wear glasses, and they’re always worn during competitions. They’re there to prevent rare stray pieces of clay debris or pellets from hitting you. Clay pigeon shooting glasses, unlike other glasses, won’t shatter or splinter like regular lenses, making them perfect for protecting your eyes.

You can get prescription glasses as well as prescription inserts for glasses. There’s a range of colours to choose from too so you’ll always be able to get a pair to suit your taste. Test out different lens colours too, to find the perfect pair for your eyes.

Top Tip: Before you even start worrying about buying expensive glasses and multiple coloured lenses, get some help with visual pick up points, hold points, and shooting techniques. These will all alter how well and how you see the clay target.

Ear protection for clay pigeon shooting

Just like your eyes, your ears need to be protected at all costs while shooting. Hearing protection is a requirement on most grounds and during all competitions.

There are lots of options for ear protection, from ear defenders to electronic earplugs that allow conversation while still protecting your ears.

Everybody has their personal preference when it comes to ear protection. Always try out ear protection while holding your gun to make sure it’s still comfortable.

Shooting earplugs are often the standard foam type, or they can be specifically moulded to your ear.

Gun slips for clay pigeon shooting

un slips are also an essential piece of equipment to have, and most grounds will request that you keep your gun in a gun slip when moving between stands. This lets them know that you’re being gun safe, and the gun will be pointed towards the ground to ensure the safety of those around you.

Having your gun in a gun slip will also help protect it from accidental knocks on stands and areas around the ground.

You can buy gun slips relatively cheap too, or you can go for the high-end custom leather slips. Whichever type you go for, always remember to make sure your gun will fit in the slip properly. Longer and high rib guns can often be too big for your standard slip, so it’s always worth checking before purchasing.

Range bags for clay pigeon shooting

Range bags are the final piece of essential equipment that you should invest in for clay pigeon shooting. You’ll often be shooting for an hour or more, so you’ll have to keep a lot of cartridges and refreshments on hand. You’ll also have your glasses case and a cap to carry as well.

Most range bags have plenty of room for 50 cartridges but consider getting a bag that can easily carry at least four boxes (100 cartridges), snacks, water and anything else you think you’ll need on your day at the range.

Optional clay pigeon shooting equipment

Clay shooting clothing

This is a personal preference. Generally, you can wear whatever you like to a range but the best type of clothing to get is any waterproof clothing. Waterproof trousers and a jacket are ideal, but we would also recommend investing in sturdy waterproof footwear.

Most grounds do have well-established paths, but some grounds, especially for competitions, might be on grounds where there are no paths at all. Just a wet, damp field and that’s not going to be great without the right footwear

Think of it this way, what footwear would you wear on a walk in the great British weather? Be prepared and get yourself some suitable footwear.

Waterproof over-trousers are also a wise idea as standing waiting to shoot in the rain can get quite cold if you don’t have the proper clothing.

Skeet Vests

Skeet vests are beneficial for carrying cartridges but aren’t necessarily essential equipment, especially for a beginner.

They can be bought to suit all tastes and to suit both right-handed and left-handed shooters.

Shooting cap

Caps are typically optional but they’re great to help with sun glare and rain. They can also provide protection from any clay debris.

Top Tip: It’s never the wrong weather. You’re just wearing the wrong clothing. By always having suitable clothes that will keep you warm and dry for hours, you’ll always be able to have a good time at the range.

How do you fix eye dominance issues with clay pigeon shooting?

We spoke earlier about how figuring out which eye was your dominant eye was the first step in learning to shoot. This is an area that’s often overlooked when it comes to learning how to shoot straight.

Shooting straight depends on the alignment of the eye that matches the side you shoulder the gun (right eye for right shoulder), the rib of the gun and the target.

There are a lot of tests to confirm eye dominance, but it should be noted eye dominance does fluctuate, which means that this should only be seen as a rough guide.

If your gun fits you properly, then it will shoot straight. Clay pigeon shooting though should always be done with both eyes open to ensure you have complete information on the target, including speed, distance and angle.

Trying to influence your vision will only confuse you over time as your brain will subconsciously try and work around the “fix”.

Unfortunately, everybody will be impacted by eye dominance while shooting and managing it is as crucial as getting the right gun fitted for your style and body type.

The only solution on the market to manage eye dominance and help you shoot with both eyes open and without distraction is the SP eye dominance solution.

What is the SP eye dominance solution?

The SP eye dominance solution has been used by shooters worldwide and has won multiple national titles. It’s seen shooters make national teams and helped club shooters enjoy their hobby for years after they were going to give up.

The key to solving eye dominance issues is not to affect your vision or gun, it's to:

The added advantage of the SP is that it’s discreet. It doesn’t affect the aesthetics of your gun and works from a gun down mount.

How does the SP shooting aid work?

The fundamentals of shooting include:

This means that there shouldn’t be any element of the gun that draws the eye. It’s natural to just focus on the fast-moving target, but if your vision is on your gun, then you’re going to focus on the gun and not the target.

The SP shooting aid has been developed from the scientific discovery that proves if the brain is presented with two similar images, but one has a unique feature, the brain will favour this eye for information. This is unmeasurably powerful for shotgun shooters because it allows us to trick the brain into favouring the eye over the rib, letting us overcome any typical dominance issues we usually experience.

Where does the SP shooting aid go on the gun?

The SP is added to the end of the barrels and creates a unique picture in the eye’s peripheral vision over the rib. This ensures we always form the shot with information primarily from this eye which means we’re always shooting straight.

Proven at all levels the SP has taken shooters to world silver medals, European DTL category places, multiple county titles in various disciplines and national Fitasc titles.

The SP is used by coaches to solve problems at all levels. From absolute beginners through to seasoned competitors all of them have benefitted from this simple solution.

If you’d like to learn more about the SP shooting aid or have any questions about it feel free to get in contact with our team today.