If you’ve ever wondered how to clay pigeon shoot, it can seem like a daunting prospect to get started. There’s plenty to take into consideration, and you might think that you’ll never get to the level of those who are able to take out targets at will. But everyone has to start somewhere, and if you persevere, you can quickly develop your skills in the right way.
This guide tells you all you need to know about how to clay pigeon shoot if you’re a beginner. We’ll cover all the key facts around clothing, technique, licensing, safety and more, so that you can maximise your enjoyment of this fantastic sport.
Is clay pigeon shooting difficult?
To begin with, it can be very difficult to learn how to clay pigeon shoot. There are lots of things to take into account, from how to stand and how to aim, what to wear and how to maintain your swing. It’s very easy to focus on improving your technique in one area and in doing so, forget about some of the others (like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time!). But stick with it, put the practice in and take the advice in this guide, and eventually it will come much more naturally to you.
What do I need to know before I start?
Probably the first thing to remember is that safety is of the utmost importance. Guns are extremely dangerous if not used responsibly (hence the stringent regulations around shooting as a sport), while there are multiple health and safety risks involved if shots aren’t taken correctly. If you ever have any doubts about what to do or not to do when shooting, then don’t make any assumptions: ask someone more experienced for help and advice before doing anything you aren’t sure about.
Do I need a licence to clay pigeon shoot?
You don’t necessarily need a licence to take part in a clay pigeon shoot itself, but you do need a licence to own a shotgun or buy shotgun ammunition. If you don’t own a gun and are travelling to shoot at a venue where guns and ammunition are provided, then you won’t need a licence if the venue has police permission (as set out by the Firearms Act 1988). As part of that legislation, you may need to be supervised when you shoot if you don’t have your own licence.
If you have any uncertainty in any of these areas, then get in touch with your chosen shooting ground before you visit to get clarity on responsibilities.
What is recoil when shooting?
Recoil is the force that moves the gun backwards when a shot is fired out of it. This is because ammunition travelling at several hundred metres per second generates a substantial amount of reactive force. Recoil can be extremely dangerous if you aren’t aware of it or take proper precautions: it often causes bruising to shoulders and cheeks and has been known to break bones in particularly bad cases.
The correct handling and stance is vital to avoid injuries caused by recoil (as is the padded shooting vest mentioned in the next section). However, if you’re a novice, you may also want to start out with smaller guns and lighter ammunition that reduces the amount of recoil generated.
What should I wear when I’m clay pigeon shooting?
Firstly, it’s important to make sure that you’ve taken all suitable safety precautions, because shooting can be a dangerous sport in a number of different ways. You should always make sure that your eyes, ears and head are protected: eye shades to defend against falling clays, ear defenders to muffle the sound of the bang, and a cap to keep the sun out of your sight. Many venues will provide some or all of this kit, but it’s good to have your own, too.
In terms of clothing, you’ll normally need to wear a shooting vest with a padded shoulder section to protect against recoil, gloves that keep your hands safe from the heat of the barrel, and footwear to ensure your stance is solid and steady. You can learn more about the apparel you need in our guide to shooting attire.
How to clay pigeon shoot: what’s the technique?
Once you’ve done all the preparatory work, then you can start to focus on the act of shooting itself. If you thought it was as simple as picking up a gun, aiming and firing, then think again. Hitting the clay targets on a consistent basis requires not only precision, but also a refined and well-practised technique that combines every part of the body. To get your technique right, follow these tips:
Work out which eye is dominant
As with any target sport, it’s vital to work out which of your eyes is the ‘dominant’ eye: the same principle also applies to darts, for example. And there’s a very simple exercise that you can do to work it out.
Look across to the other side of the room you’re in, point towards an object on the other side of the room, then close one of your eyes. If it now seems that you’re no longer pointing at that object, then the eye that you’ve closed is your dominant eye. If you’re still pointing at it, then the eye that’s still open is dominant.
Once you know which is your dominant eye, then you know which eye to raise your gun to so that you have a much more accurate aim – and therefore a more successful shot.
Set out your stance
Standing in the right way is just as important as having the right visual approach. Start by ensuring that your front foot is on the opposite side to your dominant eye, e.g. if you are right-eye dominant and put your gun on the right, then you should put your left foot forward.
Then you should ensure that you shift your weight onto the front of your foot and point your toe towards the intended target, and place the butt of your gun in the groove next to your shoulder joint. If you can get this right, then it becomes much easier to consistently swing your body to follow the target in flight.
Clay targets move fast and it can be easy to forget to take speed of flight into account when you’re taking the shot. Because of this, you need to consider the amount of time (however small it might be) that it will take your shot to reach the target, and therefore aim marginally ahead of it. ‘Reading’ the flight of a clay does take some time and experience to master, but it’s a critical part of consistently hitting the target.
Keep on swinging
Just because you’ve picked out your target and squeezed the trigger doesn’t mean that your shot is over. Coming to an abrupt halt as soon as you’ve taken your shot is a common mistake, and one of the most frequent reasons that shots get missed.
The same principle applies to a gun here as it does to a golf club or a snooker cue. If you carry on with the same smooth movement before, during and after your shot, it will be more controlled and therefore more accurate. For this reason, your swing should be one long, smooth movement with the shot taken in the middle of it.
Practice makes perfect
Perseverance is key in learning how to clay pigeon shoot. As you get up to speed, you’re most likely going to miss lots of shots and make some mistakes, because this isn’t an easy sport to master.
All you can do is practise, practise and practise again, and gradually pick up the skills and techniques you need. If you’re struggling or you feel that bad habits are creeping in, then it may be worth revisiting the tips above for a ‘back to basics’ approach, or seeking out professional tuition and getting some one-to-one advice.
Get shooting insurance with SportsCover Direct
Whether you’re just starting out with how to clay pigeon shoot, or you’re gaining more experience, you never know what might go wrong. That’s why it’s critical that you always have good quality, specialist insurance cover in place every time you shoot.
With a shooting insurance policy from SportsCover Direct, you can select the most suitable cover you need. We can provide protection for your valuable guns and equipment when they’re outside the house, as well as up to £10 million of public liability insurance, which some ranges require as a condition of shooting there. We can also provide personal liability insurance in case you suffer any accident or injury.
Our shooting insurance can cost as little as £14.99 a year. Take a moment today to have a more detailed look at our shooting insurance policies.