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Clay Pigeon Shooting Tips - Ultimate Beginners Guide

Your Introduction to Clay Pigeon Shooting


If you've ever been curious about the art of clay pigeon shooting, you've come to the right place. Whether you're an absolute beginner eager to take your first shot or someone looking to fine-tune your skills, this ultimate guide for clay pigeon shooters is designed to equip you with all the essential tips and knowledge to excel in this exhilarating sport. From understanding the basics of shotgun handling to mastering the correct stance, we'll explore the fundamental techniques and strategies that will elevate your clay pigeon shooting game. Get ready to immerse yourself in a journey of precision, focus, and pure enjoyment as we unravel the secrets to becoming a proficient clay pigeon shooter.


Firstly, Hold Your Gun Safely


Even for experienced hands, reinforcing the importance of safety is a good idea, and for novice shooters and newcomers, it's utterly essential. The golden rule? Always treat a closed gun like it's loaded, even if you know it's not. What's more, never aim it close to others or yourself. No matter what type of gun you're shooting or what type of target you're aiming at, it's also important to go equipped with shooting insurance, to keep yourself and others safe.


Finding Your Dominant Eye


Discovering your dominant eye is crucial for determining your shooting style, whether you're a left handed or right handed shooter and also to decide whether you should keep one eye or both eyes open. Interestingly, gender often plays a role in this, with around two-thirds of men having a dominant right eye and two-thirds of women having a dominant left eye.


To determine which eye is dominant, follow these steps:

  1. Bring your hands together to form a triangle, as shown in the image below.
  2. Position an object in the triangle, near you.
  3. Close your left eye.
  4. If the object remains aligned with the triangle, your dominant eye is your right eye. If not, it is your left eye.



Clay Shooting for Beginners - First Steps


Clay shooting is one of the few all-inclusive sports; men, women and children can all compete against each other on an even playing field, making clay shooting a fantastic family hobby. If you are completely new to shooting and looking to have a go there are a couple of ways you can go about this as a novice shooter:


  • Find a clay ground. If you don't have a shotgun licence, the ground will need to have a section 11 certificate, this allows people without the authority to own a shotgun to shoot clay pigeons whilst under supervision. We recommend booking a lesson, an experienced instructor will run through the basics of safe gun handling, help you find a gun to suit you and help you start hitting clay targets!


  • Go to a country show or game fair. Most of the big shooting shows and game fairs will have a ‘try it out' stand. You won't get much tuition but it is a good way to tell if you like the sport!


how to shoot sporting clayssporting clay basics



Now that you've tried clay pigeon shooting and you're captivated, what's next? Concentration is crucial in this sport, regardless of your skill level. If you're not focused, your chances of having a successful day are minimal. The best part about clay pigeon shooting is that there's always room for improvement, no matter how experienced you are.


If you've already taken a few lessons, it's time to give it a shot on your own. Practicing is important, but receiving instruction is the key to improving your shooting skills. We suggest continuing to seek guidance from experienced instructors all the way throughout your shooting journey. After a few lessons, you'll be able to analyse your mistakes and learn from them. If you're unsure why you're missing, don't hesitate to ask other experienced shooters for assistance. Remember, we were all beginners once.


Clay Pigeon Shooting Tips


Many people who fail in their first competition often give up. However, successful clay shooters have faced similar challenges, often with disastrous first competitions. If you're new to competing, it's important to be patient and stay relaxed, this is the best way to overcome competition nerves. When you're standing on opposite side of the shooting stand, with a line of people watching your every move, it can be unsettling and distracting. The key is to wear your ear defenders and concentrate on your target. Try to block out everything else.


The famous phrase 'watch the bird' is something you must learn at the beginning of your clay pigeon journey. To succeed in clay shooting, it's crucial to know how to read the trajectory of the target. This skill, commonly known as "reading a clay", is essential for your success. Your instructor will provide more in-depth guidance, but here are some key questions to consider:


  • Where is the clay coming from?
  • Where is the clay going?
  • How fast is the clay moving?
  • Where do I first spot the clay?
  • Where should I aim to break it?


Mastering these details will help improve your aim and increase your chances of hitting the target accurately.


sporting clays tips beginners



Once you have answered these questions, you will know how to position yourself, aim the gun correctly (also known as 'picking up the clay), and determine the appropriate amount of lead. Mastering these techniques is key to success. If you encounter a stand with an unfamiliar clay target and struggle, don't let it discourage you. Everyone has experienced a challenging stand before. We recommend visiting multiple shooting grounds to gain an advantage. The more varied stands you practice, the better your skills will become. Additionally, it is a fantastic opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals.


To learn more about the visual point (where the clay first come into your line of sight), pick up point (where you start to follow the clay) and kill zone (when you pull the trigger), read our article  'Three Steps to Hitting Your First Clay'.


The Best Guns for Clay Pigeon Shooting


Once you have gotten into the swing of shooting, you'll need a gun! We have a huge selection of suitable guns listed on our site, which fit all budgets from small to large. We would recommend if you're looking at guns that aren't brand new, that you read this article on buying a second-hand shotgun safely.


When it comes to shotguns, there's a wide array to choose from. If you're into game shooting, your needs will differ from someone interested in trap shooting. The three main types you'll come across are Side by Side (barrels are next to each other), Over and Under (barrels are on top of each other) and Semi-Automatic (single barrel with a magazine). The most common style you'll see at the clay ground is an over and under. Although semi-autos are becoming more popular, they are sometimes frowned upon in competitions.


A few best guns for clay pigeon shooting:



Once you have decided on a gun, there are a few other necessary accessories you'll need:



What to Wear When Clay Shooting


When attending a clay shoot, it may seem like everyone is decked out in expensive shooting gear, but it's not necessary for you to follow suit. While it's nice to have all the fancy equipment, don't forget that your main purpose is to shoot, not to look fancy. However, there are a few essential items you should consider investing in.


First and foremost, make sure you have good footwear. You'll be covering a lot of ground between shooting stands here, and some shoots may have challenging terrain. A solid pair of walking boots is highly recommended.


Next, a decent shooting jacket or vest should be on your shopping list. There are plenty of options available, so find one that suits your style. It's a good idea to stick to wearing the same outer layer every time you shoot, at least in the beginning. This way, you won't have to adjust to different jackets each time you're out.


Don't forget to protect your ears! A good pair of ear defenders or earplugs is essential. Without them, you may not be allowed on the range. While you can spend a lot of money on fancy earplugs, a £20 pair will do just fine for the average shooter. It's wise to buy them from a gun shop so you can test them out and ensure they don't interfere with your shotgun mount.


Lastly, consider wearing shooting glasses to protect your eyes from any debris when clays are hit, fire or break. Most gun shops have a variety of options for you to try.


Remember, it's not about the fancy gear, but about being well-equipped and safe during your clay shooting experience.


Final Thoughts


Clay pigeon shooting offers an exhilarating and rewarding experience for beginners and seasoned shooters alike. By prioritising safety, mastering the fundamentals, understanding target flight patterns, and maintaining a positive mindset, newcomers can rapidly progress in their shooting journey.


In conclusion, what tips would we offer to someone starting out?


  • Watch the bird! Stare it to death.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Make sure you get a gun that fits.
  • Take regular lessons.
  • Ask the advice of other shooters.
  • Don't just go to one ground.
  • Don't let a few misses get you down.


Embrace mistakes and shots as opportunities to learn, seek advice from experienced shooters, and participate in shooting communities to foster camaraderie. Remember, every step counts, and with dedication and practice, you'll witness substantial improvements in your clay pigeon shooting skills. So, head to the range, take these tips to heart, and enjoy the thrill of smashing those clay pigeons out of the sky - happy shooting!


To continue your clay shooting journey check out our article  'Three Steps to Hitting Your First Clay'.