Giving it both barrels
It’s a phrase that gets batted around time and time again; ‘we all have to start somewhere’. And this is never more true than when it comes to clay pigeon shooting.
I remember learning to shoot an air rifle at quite a young age. Dad taught us to shoot by getting us to aim at mum’s washing line post (all safe and proper but mum was not best pleased)! But I first picked up a shotgun when I was a bit older, I cannot remember exactly how old I was but it was definitely early teens. Dad had taken my sisters and I to a local country fair and one of his friends happened to be coaching on the clay line. We paid up, took our turn in the queue and…I was completely rubbish. But I had got my ‘first time’ out of the way. I wasn’t scared of the shotgun and by trying it young, none of the usual myths that end up in circulation – that shotguns bruise your shoulder/ face, that shotguns are too heavy for ladies, that women were not welcome in the shooting industry – did not have time to ferment. I had found my ‘somewhere’ to start. Fast forward some 15 or so years, I have really embraced the sport and I’m off clay-pigeon shooting almost every weekend across the U.K.
So I have written this post to hopefully give you your ‘somewhere’ to start. If you have ever been tempted to try clay pigeon shooting but felt slightly nervous or maybe just didn’t know where to start, please read on and hopefully by the end of this blog you will have all the information you need!
My Big Sell For Trying Clay Pigeon Shooting…
Shooting sports are both growing in numbers and prominence. It may surprise you to know that the ladies shooting market appears to be the fastest growing of them all. There is a push to get more shooting sports in the Olympics and Commonwealth bills and on the whole shooting sports are becoming more and more accessible.
It’s a common misconception that shooting is reserved for only a small section of society and is often viewed as elitist. I can dispel that misconception immediately! Anyone can try clay pigeon shooting. There is no pre-requisite of land or a title. You don’t even need to own tweed to give it a try. The sport is open to all ages, abilities, sizes, shapes and backgrounds. If you have any particular concerns – maybe you struggle with mobility or you have a youngster with you – call your local ground and check it can accommodate you. There is no start age and there is no age limit.
Clay pigeon shooting is a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors and try something new. It is also addictively competitive! Go with the family, a group of friends or even try it for stag and hen dos! Just having a bit of hand-eye coordination is all you need to thoroughly enjoy this sport. Everything from how to hold a gun, eye dominance and how to shoot particular targets will be explained by your instructor so you don’t need any previous experience before starting.
And it is not season specific so you can try it at any point in the year! That being said there will be periods when your local ground will be busier so it is always worth calling ahead and checking. For example, you don’t want to be trying shooting for the first time if there is a competition on and your stand is nearby. You don’t need to bring anything with you either. Your gun hire, hearing protection, eye protection and cartridges are usually available at your ground
What is Clay Pigeon Shooting?
Clay pigeon shooting involves circular clay targets being flung into the air by a remote controlled trap and being shot at with a shotgun – and watching your first clay break in the air is incredibly satisfying! As a beginner, your shooting instructor or ground will provide you with a shotgun that is suitable for the targets that you will be shooting. The shotguns are loaded with ‘cartridges’, again, these will be provided by your instructor or clay ground.
As a crude example, referring to ‘clay pigeon shooting’ is a bit like referring to ‘athletics’. There are many different disciplines of clay shooting such as Sporting, FITASC, Olympic Trap and so on, but if you are starting out at your local ground you will more likely than not be trying ‘Sporting’. This means that there is a range of targets that are set up in a variety of speeds and directions, with most designed to mimic the flight path of various shooting quarry. So there are endless opportunities to progress in the sport and the ability to grow into different disciplines. It’s one of those sports that is never boring and impossible to stagnate. You can shoot the same target 50 times but it will be slightly different each time if there is a wind or its raining!
How do I try Clay Pigeon Shooting?
Assuming they have one, the easiest way to have a go at clay pigeon shooting (and to see if you take to the sport) is to try the clay line at your local game or country fair. Prices are usually quite reasonable and you can have instruction to hit a small amount of clays.
But if you are looking to really get started with clay pigeon shooting, you can book in for a lesson or taster session at one of the many clay shooting grounds across the U.K. Don’t feel intimidated – remember we all have to start somewhere. Contact your local ground and tell them that you are new to shooting and ask them what they recommend. If you are bringing youngsters with you, let them know. Its that easy!
Again dispelling another myth – shooting is not just for the boys. There are some fantastic ladies only shooting clubs across the U.K. which offer a friendly and supportive environment for ladies to try clay pigeon shooting for the first time. The two biggest ladies only shooting club are The Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club (so called as their format is clay pigeon shooting followed by afternoon tea – think shooting meets Mary Berry) and the Femmes Fatales. Both host events across the U.K. and thousands of ladies have picked up a shotgun for the first time through their events. And there is always the annual National Ladies Shooting Day, which this year will be held on 10 June 2017 – suitable for all abilities from complete beginners to experienced shots!
For youngsters, or ‘Young Shots’ as they are known in the industry, in addition to coming along to shoot at your local ground, there are also ‘have a go’ days through local grounds or BASC (the British Association for Shooting and Conservation).
The CPSA (Clay Pigeon Shooting Association) also has a lot of information on its website for anyone interested in the sport and has a list of grounds to help with your search.
What should I wear when clay pigeon shooting?
Comfortable clothing that is practical for being outside and does not restrict your upper body movement. I would check the weather before you go shooting and tailor your clothing to that – you will still shoot if it’s raining! Try and avoid any tops or jackets which either have embellishment, zips or buttons round the neck or chest and ladies should avoid cowl necks as these can impact your gun mount. I would also wear trousers or jeans and avoid shorts and dresses – we don’t want any Marilyn Monroe moments when you are on the stand and ready to shoot! Keep to flat shoes or trainers if you do not have any wellies or boots and certainly avoid anything with a heel as that can push you off balance. Most importantly, you do not need to go out and buy anything new, whatever you have in your wardrobe is fine.
I tried Clay Pigeon Shooting before and wasn’t very good.
If you tried shooting a few years back and didn’t really like it, know that the industry has moved on so much in the last five plus years. If you struggled with the weight of the guns in the past, mention this to your instructor and they can find you a lighter 20 bore. If maybe you didn’t like the noise when the shotgun was fired, again tell your instructor, they can double up your hearing protection. Or maybe you were scared of recoil, again your instructor may be able to provide a recoil pad for you to use. The shooting industry is doing anything it can to encourage more people to embrace the sport so do let your ground and instructor aware of any concerns you may have.
Maybe try it again one more time, you could be pleasantly surprised…
Do you need a shotgun licence or to have shot before?
No to both. A Shotgun Certificate is not required for shooting under instruction at shooting grounds or at the ‘have a go’ lines at Fairs as they will have been licensed to have non-certificate holders under an exemption in the Law. If you are still a bit unsure – you can always check first! Also, your instructor will talk you through everything so there’s no need to worry if you are a complete and utter beginner. I have actually brought quite a few friends along to try clay pigeon shooting who had never seen or held a shotgun let alone fired one and they ended up really enjoying it! Your instructor will take you through how to hold a gun, how to stand and will have you hitting those clays in no time.
How can I do more?
Get booked on for more shooting! Practice makes perfect as they say. You can book in for more lessons at the ground you shot at – unless you travelled out of your way, in which case have a quick Google for your local ground and get booked on there. You can also book in for future shooting events. The BASC and BASC Ladies websites have a full range of shooting events for all abilities so are a good place to look for shooting opportunities for everyone. Once you feel started and that you have the basics, get your friends and family to take you along too! And of course, if you apply for a Shotgun Certificate you are opening up even more opportunities.