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About Clay Shooting

The Disciplines
Clay pigeon shooting has at least 20 different forms of regulated competition called disciplines. These can be roughly divided into three main groups:

Targets are thrown either as singles or doubles from one or more traps situated some 15m in front of the shooter and are generally going away from the firing point at varying speeds, angles and elevations. The most common disciplines in this group are:- Down-the-Line (DTL) Single Barrel, Double Rise, Automatic Ball Trap (ABT), Olympic Trap, Double Trap and Universal Trench.

Skeet is a word of Scandinavian origin, though the discipline originated in America. Targets are thrown in singles and doubles from 2 trap houses situated some 40 metres apart, at opposite ends of a semicircular arc on which there are seven shooting positions. The targets are thrown at set trajectories and speeds. The main disciplines in this group are English Skeet, Olympic Skeet and American (NSSA) Skeet.

The English Sporting discipline has the sport's biggest following. Where the previous two groups only use standard targets, in Sporting almost anything goes! Targets are thrown in a great variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations and distances and the discipline was originally devised to simulate live quarry shooting, hence some of the names commonly used on Sporting stands: Springing Teal, Driven Pheasant, Bolting Rabbit, Crossing Pigeon, Dropping Duck, etc. Disciplines in this group include English Sporting, International (FITASC) Sporting, Super Sporting and Compak Sporting.

The Clay Pigeons
The targets used for the sport are usually in the shape of an inverted saucer, made from a mixture of pitch and chalk designed to withstand being thrown from traps at very high speeds, but at the same time being easily broken when hit by just a very few lead pellets shot from a gun.

The targets are usually black, but other colours such as white, yellow or fluorescent orange are frequently used in order that they can be clearly seen against varying backgrounds and/or light conditions. Clay pigeons are made to very exacting specifications with regard to their weight and dimensions and must conform to set international standards.

There are several types of targets which are used for the various disciplines, as follows. However, only the standard 110mm target is used in all of the trap and skeet disciplines. Sporting shoots feature the full range of targets (except ZZ) to provide the variety which is a hallmark of the discipline.

Standard: The most commonly used target of all, must weigh 105 grammes and be of 110 mm overall diameter and 25-26 mm in height.

Midi: Same saucer shape as the standard but with a diameter of only 90mm.

Mini: As it's name indicates this is like a flying "Aspirin" at only 60mm in diameter and 20 mm in height.

Battue: A very thin, flat, wafer of a target of about 100mm diameter which flies very fast and falls off very suddenly.

Rabbit: A standard sized (but thicker) flat target in the shape of a wheel designed to run fast along the ground.

ZZ: This is a plastic, standard sized target attached to the centre of a 2-blade propeller of different colour designed to zig-zag in flight in a totally unpredictable manner.

The Guns
Although virtually any type of shotgun from 410 (very small), through 16 guage, 20 guage, up to 12 gauge are capable of being used to shoot clay pigeons, the wide variety of types and models on the market can be bewildering to the newcomer to the sport. Prices can also vary enormously from a couple of hundred to many thousands of pounds, although price alone is no indication of the suitability of the gun for clay pigeon shooting. Most gun shops and registered firearms dealers will be pleased to advise prospective buyers as to the most suitable weapon for their needs. Also most gun clubs and shooting schools and existing CPSA members will be more than happy to advise and even let newcomers have a go with one or more of their guns, under close supervision, so that they can judge for themselves whether they would enjoy it or would like to look further into the sport. There are three main types of shotgun which are suitable for clay shooting:

Over and Under: By far the most popular gun used by regular participants in the sport. As it's name indicates this gun has it's two barrels superimposed on each other and it has usually just a single trigger which can be selected to fire either barrel first. Within this type there are three sub-groups of specification i.e. trap, skeet and sporting. Trap guns are generally heavier and longer barrelled (normally 30" or 32") with tight choking and designed to shoot slightly above the point of aim. Skeet guns are usually lighter and faster handling with barrel length from 26" to 28" and with fairly open chokes. Sporting models most often come with an interchangeable choke facility and barrel lengths of 28", 30" and 32" according to preference.

Semi - Auto: This is a single barrelled gun capable of firing several rounds in quick succession, but which requires the shooter to press the trigger for each shot. The current shotgun law requires these guns to be limited to a maximum capacity of 3 cartridges. Due to their firing mechanism they are fairly easy to handle and their low recoil makes them particularly popular with ladies and youngsters. Consequently, though not as popular as the over-under, they are a fairly common sight at clay pigeon shooting events and shooting grounds.

Side - By - Side: The original and traditional game shooting gun, with it's barrels placed alongside each other in a horizontal plane, is generally a lighter gun with double triggers. Few side-by-sides are used for clay pigeon, their lightness proves a disadvantage compared to the shooting stability and pointability of the over-under.

Hearing & Eye Protection
Hearing protection, either muffs or plugs, are advisable at all times when shooting or in the company of others who are shooting. Indeed it is compulsory to wear some form of hearing protection at CPSA registered competitions. Damaged hearing cannot be restored - prevention is the answer.

Shooting glasses are also advisable whilst shooting or in the company of shooters and as of the 1st January 2004 they will be mandatory at all registered shoots. Glasses will not only protect your eyes from stray pieces of broken clay but also from falling lead and any gun malfunctions. Glasses can be additionally beneficial in difficult light conditions, with appropriately tinted lenses.

The Cartridge
Unlike rifle ammunition with shells or single bullets, shotguns use cartridges with lots of small shot or pellets. Also, contrary to popular belief, cartridges are not explosive outside of a gun. In the modern cartridge, the shot is propelled up the barrel by the gas (generated by the propellent powder being ignited by the primer)and the pressure generated by the gas expanding very quickly in the barrel behind the monowad. This leaves the wad and shot (being pushed by the expanding pressurised gases) only one direction to go - up towards the open end of the barrel! The shot leaves the barrel faster than the speed of sound (which causes most of the 'bang' when a gun goes off!) but slows down very quickly. The effective range of a shotgun is less than 60 yards. The shot will travel further, but with minimal (and fast diminishing) velocity.

Any shotgun cartridges currently available in gun shops are quite acceptable for clay pigeon shooting, although certain limitations as to the shot size and the weight of the shot load are enforced by the CPSA for use in events coming under their jurisdiction. Home manufactured or re-loaded cartridges can be dangerous and are therefore not acceptable at comptitive clay pigeon shooting events. Care should be taken that cartridges to be used are compatible with the shotgun which is going to fire them and the instructions and specifications printed on the boxes should be meticulously checked and adhered to. For clay competition, shot size must not exceed English No. 6 (2.6mm). The shot load must be a maximum 28gram (1oz) for all domestic disciplines, or 24gram for Olympic Trap, Olympic Skeet and Double Trap, and up to 36gram for FITASC Sporting and Helice.