Clay pigeon shooting is a popular shooting sport around the world and may also be known as “skeet shooting” or “Trap Shooting” – although they are technically different disciplines of the same sport. Clay pigeon shooting is the sport of shooting clay targets as they are flung through the air by a mechanical launcher.
Originally and as early as the 1860s, people began filling small, glass balls with feathers and flinging them into the air in order to shoot at them. Shooting at small glass balls was cheaper than a full weekend of shooting at live quarrel and so was accessible to more and more people. In addition, it meant that people could practice more, by allowing more shots per shoot and by allowing them to shoot out of season.
Today, we use “clays”. Clays are small (commonly 110cm diameter), saucer-shaped targets made from a clay-like material. They are flung into the air incredibly quickly by a machine known as a “trap”, which is essentially a mechanical throwing arm. Clay targets are brittle, and so they burst into dust when hit with a shot from a shotgun.
There are a huge number of different disciplines of clay shooting, depending on experience level and what kind of challenge you’re looking for from a day’s shooting. Some disciplines have the trap a large distance away, firing the clays up, into the air, and towards you; some have the trap very close, and fire the clay away from you; some across your field of view; some bounce along the ground; some through dense woodland. Ultimately, there’s very little chance to find clay pigeon shooting boring, as there’s a difference challenge offered at every shooting ground.
What is a trap?
A trap in clay pigeon shooting is where your clay target originates from. It’s a machine which uses a heavily sprung arm to “swing” a clay into the air. When live pigeons were used for shooting sports, they would be caught in a trap and a released when needed, hence the use of the term “trap”.
Clay shooting has a number of other “call backs” to old shooting sports. Clays are referred to as pigeons, a hit is often referred to as a “kill” and a missed might be called as a “bird away”.
What do you shoot clay pigeons with?
It may not be obvious to everyone, so we’ll cover it here. Clay pigeons are shot with a shotgun. Typically, a double barrel shotgun of some variety. The guns will be loaded with a shell known as “bird shot”. Bird shot is a shell filled with small and relatively lightweight projectiles, which offer a good spread.
How to get into clay pigeon shooting
Shooting sports can be quite daunting to get into. There’s a stigma that shooting sports are filled with old, pompous men who would tut endlessly at new-comers, but that’s not the case. Shooters are a friendly bunch, especially if you’re joining a club and showing a genuine interest in learning. Your best bet is to visit a local shooting club and join in.