Clay pigeon shooting is a great hobby for men and women of all ages, and is quickly becoming one of the nation’s favourite pastimes. We know inexperienced shooters can often feel a bit nervous and unsure where to start, so we’ve created this guide to cover the basics of clay pigeon shooting and hopefully answer any questions and concerns you may have.
Safety and clothing
Safety is the most important factor on a clay pigeon shoot and you should be familiar with the safe handling of guns before you begin. Our shotgun safety courses can help to prepare you for your first clay shoot by equipping you with the skills, knowledge and understanding so that you can use the shotgun confidently and safely.
Hearing protection is essential on every shoot, as the decibel level of a shotgun firing is enough to permanently damage your hearing. There are many options available including custom moulded plugs, digital headphones and foam plugs. You need to wear protective glasses too – most clubs will be able to provide you with these or you may want to purchase your own. Some protective glasses have interchangeable coloured lenses that can improve your accuracy. Prescription lenses are also available if you wear glasses.
As for clothing, it is important that you wear something comfortable and waterproof on your shoot. A shooting vest with large pockets is also recommended to hold your cartridges, but make sure the fit allows for the movement of mounting and swinging your gun. A shoulder pad is also advisable to help protect you from the discomfort of the shotgun recoil. Finally, comfortable footwear is a must! Wellies are a good idea if it’s raining but trainers or walking boots should be fine on dry days.
Find a clay ground and coach
If you don’t have a shot gun certificate, you will need to find to clay ground that holds a section 11 (under the Firearms Act, a person of any age may shoot without a shotgun certificate under two circumstances, under section 11(5), on an occupiers land in his/her presence with the occupiers gun, or at a shooting ground that has obtained a section 11(6) Exemption Permit). If you decide you would like to get your own gun then you will need to apply for a shotgun certificate, you can find out how to do so here.
Most grounds will offer coaching, which is advisable if you’re a total beginner – even if your friends have been shooting for years and have plenty of advice to give you, a professional coach with good knowledge, skill and experience of clay shooting will teach you the basics and help you to avoid receiving conflicting information and picking up bad habits.
Clay shooters often keep both eyes open when shooting, as the perception of distance and angle is enhanced, muscular tension is minimised, and hand to eye co-ordination is improved. The majority of adult men will experience a phenomenon call eye dominance, where your brain chooses one eye or the other to look through without you noticing. Shooters naturally rely more on their dominant eye to properly acquire a target, so a dominant eye can cause you to miss the target if you are using the wrong eye to aim. It is often noticed when a shooter is right-handed, therefore mounting the gun on their right shoulder and trying to aim with their right eye, but they have a dominant left-eye, so their aim is off.
That’s why it’s a good idea to establish which of your eyes is dominant before you start shooting. To find your dominant eye, keep both of eyes open and point your finger at an object. With your finger still pointed, shut your right eye. If your finger is still aligned with the object then you are left eye dominant. If it isn’t, try doing the same thing with your left eye. If it aligns with the object then you are right eye dominant. Your instructor will be able to help you to determine your dominant eye too.
Most men are fully right-eye dominant and right handed or fully left-eye dominant and left handed, although women, young people and left handed people sometimes experience eye dominance that does not match their handedness. Some important things to remember is that eye dominance does not occur in every individual, it can change over time, and factors like tiredness and stress can affect it.
We’ll post part 2 of our guide soon! Please like our Facebook page to stay up-to-date with the latest news and events! If you have any questions or you would like to book a course, please contact us by calling: 0843 289 6040 or visit our courses page.