So you’ve decided to venture onto a clay ground with a view to taking up the sport. Congratulations. It’s a popular pastime for good reason, as you’ll discover.
However starting out clayshooting needs to be done properly if you want to blossom into a decent Shot – so here are some tips so you start off on the right foot.
Starting out clayshooting – some tips
- Try and steer away from being taken to a clay ground by a friend. Although well-meaning you could pick up some bad habits almost immediately.
- It’s much better to invest in some lessons with a qualified instructor from the word go. You’ll get the foundations of your shooting off on a solid base right from the beginning. You’ll also be taught the shooting safety rules correctly.
- A shooting instructor will also explain gun fit, gun mount and eye dominance.
- A good clay shooting school will be able to lend you a suitable gun for your lessons and a good instructor will pick out the right one for your size and build.
- In the fullness of time your instructor will also be able to point you in the direction of the type of shotgun you should buy, depending on the clayshooting discipline you decide to specialise in (which might be English Sporting, Skeet or Trap).
- Shooting has its own terminology and you can learn what some of the terms mean here.
Finding a ground to learn
Clayshooting is an extremely accessible sport and many grounds have good facilities for shooters in wheelchairs.
What gun is best for a clayshooting novice?
- When I recommend a shotgun I suggest the heaviest gun the novice can handle while retaining good posture.
- I go for shorter barrels to begin with because they are more manoeuvrable, and then move to longer barrels at a later stage.
- I would also recommend a shotgun with a pistol grip which aids control of the gun
- To being with I would also recommend those starting out clayshooting use an over-and-under.
What about cartridges?
Buy the less expensive range you can when starting out clayshooting and with the lowest recoil. As a novice you will not be shooting long targets where more expensive cartridges come into their own.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on guns and cartridges at the novice stage.
There is no hurry
- It is better to have fewer shots concentrating on posture and technique rather than rattling off cartridges without really learning anything. Quality not quantity is the name of the game.
- I normally start a novice with the gun in the ‘gun up’ position before looking to move to ‘gun down’ as soon as possible. The reason for this is because as a shooter progresses, it is highly likely that they will be required to start from a gun down position in certain disciplines or in the game field.
- The ability to control the timing of the shot is the most important thing. It is easier to speed up a slow shooter than to slow down a fast one.
At this stage I load the gun with only one round. As confidence builds I let the pupil handle it themselves and would look at the safety aspects of shotgun shooting as the lessons progress.
The rhyme I teach them is ‘On the wood is good’, i.e. keep your forefinger extended on the woodwork above the trigger until it is time to shoot.
First time lesson
One of the clays I would normally show a first-timer is a ‘floppy crow’. It is a slow, near vertical incomer which teaches muzzle-to-target awareness because there is plenty of time to become visually aware.
Floppy crow technique
This target is a slow, near vertical, incomer which teaches the beginner muzzle to target awareness as there’s plenty of time to become visually aware.
Practising on clays
People often think that practice is going out and shooting 50 or 100 targets around a layout. In fact this does very little.
Practice should be disciplined, concentrate on a minimal number of targets and experiment with different shooting techniques.
This way you can really start to understand what works for you as an individual. A good instructor will tell you what you should be focusing on.