The first time I stepped up to do some clay pigeon shooting I was nervous to say the least. I was with my dad and a couple of uncles, and I was only 16.
The kickback on the shotgun looked rather intimidating, (I was a slight teenager) and then of course there was the noise, which constantly made me jump no matter how prepared I was.
And all this was putting me off before I had even had a chance to shoot; I had to try to hit the damn clay as yet.
Why do I mention all of that?
Well just to say that I love skeet shooting now, it is something I do regularly and it is perfectly acceptable to find daunting the first ever time.
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It takes a while to pick up the skills, however, with that being said there are a few pointers you can follow to ensure that your early day’s of clay pigeon shooting are not too frustrating.
It is a sport worth persevering with, I can vouch for that almost 30 years after I first picked up that gun with my dad. I’m still here doing it after all.
Here’s 9 tips to make sure you will be too…
1. The most important step of all: Safety first
It may seem like an obvious point to make, but safety has to come before all else. With a safety first mentality you will grow into an experience shooter with enough practice, while at the same time ensuring that you and everyone else with you stays out of harm’s reach.
Industry standard hearing and eye protection needs to be worn at all times.
Anytime you handle a gun, do so as if it is loaded. (At the same time follow the rule that your gun remains unloaded until you are ready to shoot).
When on the move with your gun, (traversing a field, ditches, rivers or banks) it should always be unloaded with the muzzle pointed down.
The last safety warning is to never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to shoot. You follow that and you are immediately following in the footsteps of veteran clay pigeon shooters.
2. Take time to find your dominant eye
Every beginner needs to nail this one early-doors. If you end up shooting with your wrong eye, (either slightly more impaired or naturally more uncomfortable for you); your shooting will be worse as a result.
Don’t just assume that the fact you are right-handed means your right eye is the one to use.
Try both, swap around until you get a proper feel for how you prefer to shoot.
You can check your eye dominance by following this simple procedure:
- Stand upright and point to an object at the end of the room
- Hold this position and close your left eye
- Can you still see the object at the end of your finger? If so, you are right-eye dominant.
- However, if the object has moved open your left eye and close the right.
- If the object is still at the end of your finger, guess what, you are left-eye dominant.
3. Ensure that you focus on the target
Let’s stay with the eyes for a bit longer and talk about focusing on the target.
For many people it feels awkward to focus on the target. The temptation is to cast your eye down the gun barrel instead.
It is not about aiming, it is about pointing – remembering this (and more importantly practicing this) will instantly make you better when out in the field.
4. Take time to find the ideal gun fit
This can be overlooked too. The problem for beginners is that they will very often be borrowing or renting a gun from someone when they first begin to shoot.
This means you are more likely to be using a gun not properly configured for you.
Quite simply, in order for your gun to shoot where at the spot you are looking, it has to fit you correctly. Wrong fit = wrong pointing.
Why put yourself at a disadvantage, especially when starting out.
Take time to ensure that the gun you pick up is configured for you. Follow these simple steps to check:
- Setting up a target board at about 16 yards.
- Mount and shoot a few shots by pointing at the target, (do this without aiming).
- Is the highest density point off center? If so, your gun will need to be fitted.
5. Use the correct stance
As we mentioned earlier, practicing the art of pointing rather than aiming is a skill that needs to be mastered.
One way you can help yourself is to make sure your body is in the correct position.
- Stand with your front leg slightly bent
- Straighten your back leg straight.
- Bend a little at the waist
- Slightly lean forward into your gun
Boom, you are standing the way a veteran clay pigeon shooter stands. It is time to knocking them out of the sky!
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6. Practice your mounts at home
Start by making 10 practice swings/mounts from home every day.
You can even do this in front of a mirror. Watch to make sure that you mount the gun from the same position on your face every time.
Rookie mistakes include mounting to the shoulder, or swinging too far without the smoothness required for a decent shot.
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7. Choose the lower target first
The lower target will often be the one you go for first.
The reason is quite simple. For maximum efficiency, once the gun recoils, it will bring your point towards the higher target.
Always follow this method of lower target first, unless you feel it is too difficult or that the higher target has been launched in a way that means it will disappear first.
8. Keep the barrel moving until that trigger is pulled
A veteran clay pigeon shooter will always keep the barrel moving until the trigger is pulled.
This provides the consistent follow through that you need to hit the target more often
Remember to keep your dominant eye on what you are attempting to shoot; and the barrel smoothly following until that trigger is pulled.
9. Take stock of the misses and have a break to readjust
It is a rare day shooting where everything goes right from the start.
Even us veterans can have a frustrating time.
If you find yourself missing more than normal, gives yourself time to take a breather.
See if your posture is out of sorts for some reason. Take a look at et lead and increase or decrease as needed. Ensure that the fit is as it should be, there are many things you can check to to increase rifle accuracy.
After taking a break and checking a few things, pick up the gun and give it another go.
Chances are you will be right on track.
And there you have it; my pennies worth when it comes to a bit of clay pigeon shooting. Following these 9 top tips should have you shooting better in no time.
Now get out there and enjoy it.