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Clay Pigeon Shooting for Beginners

Lady With Shotgun

Don’t sweat if you’re not a pro or even if this is your first time shooting as, like many great sports, it is friendly towards newcomers if you focus on the basics. Most can come to our shooting grounds and enjoy themselves if they pay attention to these key clay pigeon shooting tips.

Clay pigeon shooting is an incredibly deep and competitive sport, making it challenging to master. Despite this, it is a fantastic sport to get involved in. It can be done in large groups, which often makes it a favourite outdoor activity for organisations, clubs and parties. If you’re going out with groups, you’ll want to impress. 

Essential Tips for Beginners

There are a number of more advanced tips we will address later on but to ensure you can carry out those, you must first make sure you’re doing the fundamentals properly. 

Shoot With a Qualified Instructor

Whenever out on a shoot for the first time, we would always advise shooting with an instructor. Our instructors will asses whether you are right eye dominant or left eye dominant as this is the first step to perfecting your technique. By shooting with an instructor you will always be safe and create good basic fundamentals from the start. This will set you on the right path to shooting correctly and confidently.  

Gun Selection

One thing you must determine first is whether the gun fits you, looking at both the length and measurements as well as the weight of the gun. Here at Honesberie, we provide you with guns for shooting days and ensure that the gun is appropriate for you. We have over 40 school guns available for use to ensure that everyone practices with a correctly fitting gun.

If you shoot somewhere where this is not the case, you should try a few out to ensure it is suitable for you. There are a number of factors to take into consideration such as stock configuration, whether you are left or right eye dominant gun weight and calibre. 

Ladies physique usually demands a different shaped stock to that of men.  Their higher cheekbone structure generally requires a higher comb and the stock may need to be shorter. The pitch of the stock may need to be altered to accommodate the different chest shape and dimensions.

Determine Eye Dominance

Following the flight of a clay is obviously half the battle when clay pigeon shooting. To do so properly, it’s important to first determine your dominant eye. The simplest way to do so is to point at an object on the other side of the room, then cover one of your eyes. If you no longer appear to be pointing at that object, the eye you have closed is your dominant one.

If you find out you are right eye dominant, then you will need to shoot from your right shoulder so your dominant eye is looking down the barrel of the gun. You should keep both eyes open when shooting to ensure your peripheral and depth of vision is maintained, so don’t close your left eye! 

Adopt the Right Stance

You shoot on the side of your body of your dominant eye. With the gun raised up to your stronger visual guide, you will have a greater success rate with the clays. By getting your feet in the right position and holding your body correctly you will be able to maintain accuracy when firing shot after shot. The best way to perfect your stance is to lead with the opposite side to your eye. If you have your gun on the right-hand-side of your body, start with your left foot forward and vice versa, with the weight on the front of your foot and toe pointing towards the break point

Moving the head away from the shotgun is often a problem for new clay pigeon shooters. Instead of keeping the body steady and bringing the gun into position, it can be tempting to lean back or slouch the body to be positioned. Your instructor will correct you, however, you’ll get extra bonus points if from the start you bring your gun up to position while maintaining your posture. When you bring your gun up to your face you should be able to see right down the barrel and have clear visibility of the bead. 

Watch the flight of the Clay Target

Make sure to plan the flight of the clay pigeon, this term is usually called ‘reading the clay.’ Try following the flight of the target through the air with your finger – work out in your mind if it’s dropping or rising. Is it veering to the left or the right? How fast is it going, and how quickly is it beginning to slow down? Where is the best place to try and break it? How should I stand? Ask your instructor. Being able to read the clay is one of the top clay pigeon shooting tips.

Keep Swinging

It’s easy to forget when you have a gun in hand that the target is moving, so your shot will have to travel to hit the target. Simply following the clay, pausing and firing when you’re locked on is likely to result in a miss behind nine times out of 10. Therefore, you should always keep swinging until the target is broken. Try not to stop the gun once you have squeezed the trigger. 

Having fired off your shot, it’s important to continue the movement of the gun’s muzzle on the same axis on which you were previously moving. Think of it like any other swing in sports, such as golf or cricket, where the follow-through is equally as important as the initial swing to continue the smooth process.  

Trust Your Instincts

We will touch on more advanced techniques, such as identifying the dead zone etc, but one of the core parts of clay pigeon shooting is to trust your instinct and go a lot on feel. It may sound like a cop-out answer but our instincts and ability to identify the ideal time to shoot is very innate, too many beginners hesitate and get inside their own heads. Learn to visualise the path of the clay and, once your instructor has set you up correctly, trust your instinct. The key is to relax, enjoy the game and not hesitate. 

Advanced Terminology and Techniques

The basics are essential to hitting a target and enjoying your day at the clay ground but there are a number of different terms and ideas you can delve into if you wish to take it further. 

The Break Point and Pick Up Points

Simply put, the break zone is the area of a target flight which will result in you smashing the target. The break point and pick up points are decided by several factors: how the target is presented, how fast it is travelling and how quickly you can ‘visually’ pick up the target in flight.

The ‘visual’ pick up point is different from the break point. It is where you catch your first sight of the target. There will be a short delay before your eyes inform the brain that they’re locked onto the target. Your brain then communicates this message to the rest of your body so that you can mount the gun and start the swing.

Forward Allowance

This links in nicely with the break point and pick-up points as this is how much time is needed to allow for your shot to reach the target. You allow for the target to move forward into your shot. This is something that you often work out with experience and skill but there are some rules. 

For example, a crossing clay travelling at 40mph, 30 yards out from the stand, will have travelled about six feet in the time between you pulling the trigger and the tip of the shot stream reaching the flight line of the bird. This changes depending on speed and the trajectory in which the clay moves. 

Swing Through, Pull Away and Maintained Lead

While you probably will figure out your own technique or your instructor will show you, there are three recognised styles of shooting in clay pigeon shooting. Let’s quickly look at the different types and what they offer. 

  • Swing Through – the gun starts behind the target and follows it in the air, with the swing gradually overtaking it and shooting
  • Pull Away – the gun follows the target level until the shooter pulls the gun away ahead of the target to shoot
  • Maintained Lead – the gun maintains a lead throughout the swing and eventual shot

Have Your Shooting Experience Today

Here at Honesberie, we offer a huge selection of game shooting and clay shooting day experiences. Alongside this, we have a well-stocked gun shop to take your interest to the next level. Arrange for some shooting lessons and tuition to hone your skills and get more into the sport. Get in touch today.