Clay pigeon shooting, also known as clay target shooting, and formally known as Inanimate Bird Shooting, is the art of shooting at special flying targets, known as clay pigeons or clay targets, with a shotgun.
The terminology commonly used by clay shooters often relates to times past, when live-pigeon competitions were held. Although such competitions were made illegal in the UK in 1921, a target is still called a “target” or “bird”, a hit is referred to as a “hit” or “kill”, a missed target might be described as a “bird away” and the machine which projects the targets is known as a “trap”.
Clay target shooting has at least 20 different forms of regulated competition called disciplines, although most can be grouped under the main headings of trap, skeet, and sporting.
The English Sporting discipline has the sport’s biggest following. While the other disciplines 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 sportrap, and Compak sporting.
This discipline can have an infinite variety of “stands”. English sporting is the most popular form of clay shooting in the UK, and a course or competition will feature a given number of stands each of which has a predetermined number of targets, all traveling along the same path and speed, either as singles or doubles.
Each stand will feature a different type of target; e.g., crosser, driven, quartering, etc. International (FITASC) sporting gives a much greater variety of targets in terms of trajectory and speed, and is shot by squads of six competitors in rounds of 25 targets at a time. Super Sporting is a hybrid of the two preceding varieties. There are also other formats such as Compak sporting and Sportap in which five cages are surrounded by a number of traps, and shooters fire a specific combinations or singles from each stand according to a program displayed in front of the cage.
This is a new shotgun game that offers sporting clays and FITASC target presentations on a skeet/trap or open field. This is possible by using a movable support system that carries the release buttons (wired or wireless setup) from 6 to 9 traps and the dual safety screen in any place on the field. As a result the shooter can shoot in safe conditions upon target presentations in varying range (10 to 60 yards) and varying angles (sharp to wide).
Targets are thrown either as singles or doubles from one or more traps situated some 15 m 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:
Also known as DTL, this is a popular trap shooting discipline. Targets are thrown to a distance of 45 to 50 metres at a fixed height of approximately 2.75 metres and with a horizontal spread of up to 22 degrees either side of the centre line.
Each competitor shoots at a single target in turn, but without moving from the stand until all have shot five targets. Then they all move one place to the right, and continue to do so until they have all completed a standard round of 25 birds. Scoring of each target is 3 points for a first barrel kill, 2 points for a second barrel kill and 0 for a miss (maximum 75 points per round). Variations of this discipline are single barrel, double rise, and handicap-by-distance.
As its name indicates, this is one of the disciplines which form part of the shooting programme at the Olympic Games. A trench in front of the shooting stands conceals 15 traps arranged in five groups of three. Shooters take turns to shoot at a target each, before moving in a clockwise direction to the next stand in the line. Targets for each shooter are thrown immediately upon his call and are selected by a shooting scheme (program) that ensures all competitors receive exactly the same target selection, but in a unpredictable randomised order to the extent that there will be one straight, two left and two right targets for each stand from any one of the three traps directly in front of him/her; guessing which one is next is impossible unless the shooter is on his/her last five targets.
Olympic trap targets are set to travel 76 metres (+/-1m) at the top of trench level marker peg, unless the terrain is dead flat, at varying elevations and with a maximum horizontal angle of 45 degrees either side of the centre line (being where the target exits the trench). Scoring is on the basis of one point per target killed, regardless of whether this is achieved with the first or with the second barrel unless it is a final where the top six scorers shoot off as a single barrel event, regardless of local club grades if any.
A simpler and cheaper to install variation of this discipline is known as automatic ball trap (ABT) where only one trap is used and target variation is obtained by the continuous oscillation of the trap in both horizontal and vertical directions in order to give the same spread of targets as in Olympic trap. Similarly, the targets are also thrown to a maximum of 76 metres.
A variation on the theme of trap shooting, sometimes known as five trap. Five traps are installed in a trench in front of the shooting stands, all set at different angles, elevations and speeds, and upon the call of “Pull!” by the shooter any one of the five machines, selected at random, will be released.
Horizontal angles can vary from 0 degrees to 45 degrees either side of the centre line and target distance is between 60 and 70 metres. Elevations can vary, as in other trap disciplines (except DTL), between 1.5 and 3.5 metres above ground level.
There are 10 different schemes available.
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 semi-circular 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.
In NSSA discipline, targets are released in a combination of singles and doubles, adding up to a total of 25 targets per round, from the High and Low trap houses on a fixed trajectory speed. Variety is achieved by shooting round the seven stations in a semicircle. Scoring is on the basis of 1 point per target killed, up to a maximum of 25.
In English skeet (by far the most popular of the skeet disciplines), the gun position is optional (i.e. pre-mounted or out-of-shoulder when the target is called) and the targets are released immediately upon the shooter’s call.
In Olympic skeet, the targets travel at a considerably faster speed, the release of the target can be delayed up to 3 seconds after calling and the gun-down position is compulsory. There is also an eighth shooting station, midway between the two houses.
Originating in Belgium during the 1960s, helice shooting is similar to trap shooting, but the clays are equipped with a helice that will give the clay an erratic and unpredictable flight. The helice is composed of two winged plastic propellers with a white clay in the centre.
Plastic propellers holding a detachable centre piece are rotated at high speed and released randomly from one of five traps. They fly out in an unpredictable way; so-said buzzing through the air. It is designed specifically to simulate as closely as possible the old sport of live pigeon shooting. Its original name of ZZ comes from the inventor who made them out of zinc, and had previously shot a specific breed of pigeon called a zurito; hence the term the zinc zurito. It is great fun to shoot, but can also be a very competitive sport with World and European Championships being held on the continent every year.
The targets used for the sport are usually in the shape of an inverted saucer, made from a mixture of pitch and pulverized limestone rock 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 or steel pellets shot from a shotgun.
The targets are usually fluorescent orange or black, but other colours such as white, or yellow are frequently used in order that they can be clearly seen against varying backgrounds and/or light conditions.
Targets 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 that are used for the various disciplines, with a standard 108mm size being the most common used in American Trap, Skeet, and Sporting Clays while International disciplines of these same games use a slightly larger 110mm diameter size. Only the standard 108/110mm 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 that is a hallmark of the discipline.
All three sports use a shotgun, and in the sporting disciplines are sub-classified by the type of game the clay target represents (pigeon, rabbit, etc.). The two primary methods of projecting clay targets are airborne and ground (rolling).
Naturally, the simplest method of throwing a clay target is by hand, either into the air or along the ground. This method is the simplest, and many “trick shot” shooters throw their own targets (some able to throw as many as ten birds up and hit each individually before any land). However, a multitude of devices have been developed to throw the birds more easily and with more consistency. A plastic sling-like device is the simplest, though modern shooting ranges will usually have machines that throw the clay targets in consistent arcs at the push of a button.
The most commonly used target of all, must weigh 105g and be of 110mm overall diameter and 25–26mm in height for International competitions and for American competitions they must weigh approximately 100g (3.5oz) and be of 108mm (4.3in) overall diameter and 28.0–29.0mm (1.10–1.14in) in height.
Same saucer shape as the standard but with a diameter of only 90mm; these targets are faster than the mini and standard types.
This target is sometimes likened to a flying bumblebee at only 60mm in diameter and 20mm in height.
A very thin target measuring about 108–110mm in diameter, it flies very fast and falls off very suddenly simulating a duck landing. They are generally more expensive than other targets.
A thicker, but standard 108–110mm diameter flat target in the shape of a wheel designed to run along the ground.
This is a plastic, standard sized target attached to the centre of a two-blade propeller of different colour designed to zigzag in flight in a totally unpredictable manner.
Traps are purpose-made, spring-loaded, flywheel or rotational devices especially designed to launch the different types of targets in singles or pairs at distances of up to 100 metres.
These machines vary from the very simple hand-cocked, hand-loaded and hand-released types to the highly sophisticated fully automatic variety, which can hold up to 600 targets in their own magazine and are electrically or pneumatically operated. Target release is by remote control, either by pressing a button or by an acoustic system activated by the shooter’s voice.
Target speeds and trajectories can be easily modified and varied to suit the discipline or type of shooting required.
Clay target shooting is performed with a shotgun. The type of shotgun used is often a matter of taste and affected by local laws as well as the governing body of the sport in competitive cases.
All types of shotguns are suitable for clay pigeon shooting, however the ability to fire multiple shots in quick succession is generally considered important. Some skilled shooters will use a single shot firearm in order to add to the challenge. Traditionally Over and Under and Side by Side shotguns have been popular, however semi-automatic and to a lesser extent pump-action have been making gains, particularly as the cost of reliable, accurate semi-automatics have come down over the last decade.
(Sometimes shortened to OAU or O/U) As its name indicates this gun has two barrels aligned horizontally and stacked vertically. There is usually one trigger however some models have two. Within this type there are three sub-groups of specification: trap, skeet, and sporting. Trap guns are generally heavier and longer barrelled (normally 30in/0.76m or 32in/0.81m) 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 28in (0.66 to 0.71m) and with fairly open chokes. Sporting models most often come with an interchangeable choke facility and barrel lengths of 28in (0.71m), 30 in (0.76m), and 32in (0.81m) according to preference.
This is a single barrelled gun that chambers a new shell from a magazine automatically after each shot, but which requires the shooter to press the trigger for each shot. This design combines reduced recoil and relatively low weight with quick follow up shots.
(Sometimes shortened to SS or SXS) Like the over and under, there are two barrels, however instead of being arranged in a vertical stack they are next to each other on a horizontal plane. Side-by-sides are harder to aim for new shooters, as the two barrels does not provide the same instinctive feedback as the single visible barrel of a semi-automatic or O/U. Modern production of SXS weapons is limited, in favour of O/U, and older weapons are usually not rated for steel shot, preventing their use on many shooting ranges.
This is a single barrelled gun that reloads from a tubular magazine when the user slides a grip towards and then away from themselves. Pump-actions are popular with casual shooters in the US. It is far less common in Europe. The pump-action is inherently slower than all but the single barrel break action and thus follow up shots are more difficult. In addition to this they have the mechanical complexity similar to the semi-automatic but lacks the recoil reduction.
Virtually all single shot shotguns are break action; they operate similarly to the over and under and the side-by-side except they have only one barrel and can hold only one shot. They are very inexpensive, and not popular for clay pigeon shooting. Also their low weight and solid actions result in excessive recoil which further diminishes their appeal for high volume clay shooting.
Shotgun cartridges are readily available in gun shops and at shooting grounds, and within limitations as to the shot size and the weight of the shot load are suitable for clay shooting at CPSA affiliated grounds and for use in events coming under CPSA rules. Though home loaded cartridges allow the user to customize the ballistic characteristics of their shells, they are generally not allowed at clay pigeon shooting events unless specified otherwise.
The instructions and specifications are printed on the boxes. For clay competition, shot size must not exceed 2.6mm/English No. 6. The shot load must be a maximum 28g (0.99oz) for all domestic disciplines; or 24g (0.85oz) for Olympic trap, Olympic skeet, and double trap; up to 28g for FITASC sporting (from 2005); and 36g (1.3oz) for helice.