Equipment

So you're off to try clay shooting - what should you wear and do you need to bring anything?

The simple answer is - wear what's comfortable and just bring yourself. Everyday clothes are fine and all the equipment you need will be provided, including a shotgun, cartridges and basic ear and eye protection.

For a Have-a-Go day or an introductory lesson, just wear casual clothes that will be comfortable for an hour or two outdoors. In summer, for instance, many shooters wear trainers, jeans and a T-shirt.

Depending on the weather, you might want to add a fleece or jumper, boots and a waterproof coat.

At the shooting ground your instructor will introduce you to the equipment. Typically you will use a double-barrelled shotgun in 12 or 20 bore, low-recoil 'training' cartridges and a shooting vest, which goes over your normal clothes to provide a pad where the gun rests in your shoulder.

The instructor will also issue you with some basic safety gear - eye and ear protection and a peaked cap. Shooting is a very safe sport and we keep it that way by making safety a priority. You can find out more on our Safety page.

If you enjoy your first few sessions and decide to take clay shooting to the next level there will be plenty of time to choose your own kit. Indeed, like any hobby, acquiring the gear is all part of the fun - although you can enjoy clay shooting with just a gun, cartridges and a few inexpensive accessories.

That's for later, though. For now, just relax, let your instructor worry about the equipment and enjoy the thrill of smashing your first clay targets.

 

The Gun

There are different types of shotguns, but clay targets are usually shot with a gun known as an "over-and-under" with two barrels arranged one above the other. The standard size is known as a "12 bore". That's a throwback to the days of muskets, when 12 lead musket balls weighed one pound.

The instructor will show you how to hold the gun, place the stock in your shoulder and lay your cheek against the stock so your eye is looking along the "rib" - the flat piece on top of the barrel. He or she will also look after loading and unloading the gun for you, so you can concentrate on the targets.

 

Cartridges

A shotgun cartridge consists of a plastic tube containing powder, wadding and shot. At one end there's a metal head with the primer "cap" in the centre. When you pull the trigger, the firing pin hits this primer to fire the cartridge. If you pick up one of your fired cartridges, you will see the dent where the firing pin struck the primer.

Note that shotguns don't fire a single bullet, like a rifle. Each cartridge contains around 300 small round pellets or "shot", which fly towards the target in a small cloud known as the "pattern".

With so many pellets you might think you can't miss, but there's a lot of empty space around that target and you'll need all your skill to make your pattern hit the clay.

 

Clay Targets

The targets you'll be shooting are known as "clays" or sometimes "clay pigeons", although they aren't bird-shaped and it's many years since they were made of clay. Modern targets are made from pitch and limestone, shaped like an upside-down saucer, and made to standard dimensions of size and weight. They have to be strong enough to withstand being thrown by a mechanical launcher known as a "trap", but brittle enough to break when hit.

 

The Trap

The clay target will probably appear like magic from behind the bushes or an earth bank, but it has been launched by a device called the trap. In days gone by traps were hand-operated, but nowadays it's all done by electricity. The clays are stacked in a carousel which feeds the targets one at a time onto a launching plate. At the press of a button, a spring-loaded throwing arm propels the clay spinning into the air.

While you are busy trying to hit the clay, an electric motor re-cocks the arm and drops another clay into position ready for the next press of the button. It takes just a second or two, so when the instructor feels you are ready, you can try your skill at shooting two targets in quick succession.

Traps can be moved around and are adjustable for height, speed and angle, allowing the shooting ground to set up a variety of interesting and challenging targets. There are special types of trap for throwing "rabbit" targets and side-on "loopers".