Beginners need to understand a topic clearly and even competent shooters can need reminders! So here are some clayshooting tips for beginners to get started with.
Kill zone and pick up points
The kill zone is the area – which might be in the sky (or on the ground if your target is a rabbit) in which you should try and smash the target.
It is decided by several factors: how the bird is presented, how fast it is travelling and how quickly you can ‘visually’ pick up the bird in flight.
The ‘visual’ pick up point is different from the kill 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.
The stance and ready position
Stance is the ideal position to take as you call for the bird.
If you’re right handed your weight should be on the front, left foot, with your toes pointing towards the intended kill zone. If you’re a left hander it’s the opposite way around and the right foot takes the lead.
It is important you get this basic position right. Otherwise you will be unable to twist your body sufficiently to complete the swing when aiming for certain targets. Which means that you will probably miss.
Placing the stock butt
To ensure a quick gun mount this should usually be just out of the pocket of the shoulder if the discipline allows. However when shooting FITASC it has to be considerably lower.
Don’t be tempted to hold the gun down by your waist.
The muzzles should be on the line of the bird, on or slightly behind the visual pick up point.
For most targets my advice would be to make sure your weight is on the front foot. Lean into the target but be ready to alter your weight distribution if you need a second shot.
Shooting gun ‘up’ or gun ‘down’
Here we are talking about two completely different approaches to mounting and being ready to fire.
Gun up is when the shotgun is pre-mounted in the shoulder, the face is hard on the stock and you’re ready to pull the trigger as you call for the bird.
Gun up is generally used for speedy sporting targets where there is little or no time to mount the gun, or trap and skeet disciplines, for example.
Gun down is a more traditional way of shooting. It imitates walked up gameshooting. The gun is held out of the shoulder and only mounted when the bird is presented.
When you fire a shotgun at a moving clay you need to allow for the time the shot takes to get to the target. This is called forward allowance.
There are no hard and fast rules to the amount of allowance, but physics and mathematics state that the shot from a cartridge will always take a certain amount of time to reach a set distance.
As such, to break a target the trigger must be pulled when the muzzles are pointing ahead of the target to ensure that the clay runs into the stream of lead shot.
You might hear the phrase ‘arranging collisions’. So how will you know how much forward allowance is needed? That’s something which comes with skill and experience. Without forward allowance you would be simply aiming at a target, as in rifle shooting.
If you want a rough calculation, 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.
Knowing this you can appreciate that unless the muzzles are ahead of the target when the trigger is pulled you’ll miss – because the shot string is going behind the bird.
Swing through, pull away and maintained lead
These are the three generally accepted styles of shooting and all have their plus points.
I tend to shoot maintained lead, but this is something not always easy for the novice to master.
If you are unsure how to proceed the easier option is to use the pull away method when breaking clays. This is the style I normally teach beginners.
The gun is mounted and the swing commences with the muzzles pointing behind the target… the muzzles of the gun catch up with the target… the muzzles swing through the bird and the trigger is pulled.
The muzzles are pointing at the clay as the swing commences… still with the muzzles pointing at the bird the gun is mounted at the shoulder… then the muzzles are swung ahead of the bird and the shell is fired.
The muzzles of the gun are pointing ahead of the clay as the swing commences… the muzzles stay ahead as the gun is brought up into the shoulder… when the gun is firmly mounted the trigger is pulled.