Harry Winchester


Is Clay Pigeon Shooting For Me?

Clay Pigeon Shooting is a sport for everyone (or nearly everyone), it can be for men, women, well off or not so well off. You don’t need all the equipment to give it a try. There are lots of places you can try Clay Pigeon Shooting out and lots of people you can ask for advice.

Will I Fit In When I Go Clay Pigeon Shooting?

The first thing to know about clay pigeon shooting is that you do not need to be any particular social group, sex or live in a certain area to be able to take it up.  Although the sport is largely done by middle aged men – they are not normally in any particular income bracket. There are a growing number of women and always a number of younger people learning the sport.

It is not elitist. It is largely partaken in the countryside but also on the edge of towns where there is space and local town planning regulations that allow the activity to take place without too much impact on the local residents. My favourite discipline is Sporting and shoots are normally set up with the agreement of the land owner and local government in a wood in a farm a few miles from the nearest housing development. These ‘non permanent’ shoots are often held 1-2 times per month on a Sunday – Shooting will normally only start after 10.00 and finish by 13.00. So the effect on the local area with traffic and noise is minimised. Shoots organisers often know each other well and arrange for the different shoots to occur on weekends that don’t conflict so you can have a ‘circuit’ and shoot every weekend if you desire.

Will I Physically Be Able To Clay Pigeon Shoot?

You don’t need to be particularly fit just need to be able to hold a shotgun comfortably and safely, so even those in wheel chairs or limited mobility can do it although skeet or trap shooting may be better for those that find it difficult ‘walking through the woods’.  You must be able to follow simple instructions and see a moving disc the size of an average hand at about 50 m.

One of the most common questions about clay pigeon shooting relates to whether it hurts to shoot. The answer is not necessarily and hopefully not. The primary cause of ‘pain’ is the recoil from the shotgun and that only has an effect if the gun being used does not fit or is not being held correctly into the shoulder.

There is guidance in some of my articles about how to hold a shotgun correctly but the best way to learn is through practical advice and demonstration at a clay shooting school.  If you don’t want to pay for tuition to begin with and really just want to see whether it is for you. You could either accompany some friends who shoot to an event or find an open shoot (either in the local papers or search on the web) and give the organiser a call. If there is a gun shop in your area, pop in and talk to the owner (they are often the ones that organise the shoots)

What Equipment Do I Need To Shoot Clays?

Well firstly you don’t need to go out and buy a shotgun. Depending upon your circumstances you should be able to borrow a shotgun (whilst being supervised by the lender.)  It is important to get one that fits correctly but it is not the end of the world is you are just trying. (But bear in mind the recoil issues if the gun is a bad fit)

Ear Protection

You will absolutely need some ear protection – ideally ear defenders, although ear plugs (both simple foam ones and sophisticated electronic ones) are acceptable. The sound of a gun for a split second is greater than a jet plane taking off and repeated exposure will result in hearing damage. Well fitted ear muffs are the most popular although foam ear plugs (often for sale at the shoot) are also acceptable. Electronic hearing protection uses digital technology to allow full hearing at all frequencies but filters out harmful noise above 80 dB. This means the shooter can hear the trap being released and react better to the clays. It also means that the shooter is less likely to remove the protection prematurely which is a common mistake.

Eye protection

Shooting glasses are something I do not use, mainly as I already wear glasses to see and over glasses tend to steam up. Shooting glasses do however have some very useful purposes.

(1)  Protection against Debris.

In some situations falling clay debris can fly into the shooter or spectator. Although safety regulations reduce this, strong winds or unusual rebounds from tree cover mean that debris does sometimes hit the spectators. Glasses can protect you for those situations.

(2)  Enhanced contrast vision.

The colour of the glasses (interchangeable but normally yellow), helps the clay contrast with its surroundings and, so, making it easier for the shooter to see the target.

(3)  Protection against UV rays.

Well that’s what it says in the instructions!!

Head Protection

There are always lots of hat wearers at shoots. The most common type of hat is a peaked baseball cap style design which has a peak for added protection against both the flying debris (see above) and the sun’s rays.

 Where should I go to shoot?

This depends upon your circumstances. If you have Clay Shooting friends they will know where to go in your local area. Likewise if you have a local gun shop you should pay a visit and ask for advice. Remember it is in their interest to get you into shooting so they may have a shooting school affiliation or organise a local shoot themselves. Do not be worried by the people in the shop apparently talking about all things shooting (ie the other customers) they too are also likely to be helpful in the prospective shooters quest to begin their sport.

As mentioned, check the local publications or your country’s shooting magazines for organised shoots or clay shooting schools. Email or phone the organiser.

Probably the best way to start, however, is at a shooting school. I am convinced that if you are reading this you already want to do more than just give it a go. I suggest you contact a local shooting school (Look for it in the places above or a quick search on the web or even contact the national clay pigeon shooting association in your country) and arrange a taster session or a beginner’s course.

In the U.K. the National Association is the CPSA (Clay Pigeon Shooting Association) and they have a list of qualified instructors and affiliated shooting schools nationwide.

Enthusiastic though shooters are they can give conflicting advice so it is sometimes best to start getting instruction from a qualified instructor.


Shooting is thus an easy and rewarding pastime to take up, you don’t need all the equipment to start – just the safety stuff and even when you move on the basic equipment will not be more that the cost of golfing equipment.