A Guide

You might have heard sporting clays described as golf that comes with a shotgun. This is a fair comparison to make. Just like golf courses, every sporting clay course is different, and the background and terrain significantly influence the way that targets are presented. Shooters like traveling to various courses to enjoy the variety since every course is different.

How to Play the Sport

Out of all of the different shotgun sports that are available, sporting clays come closest to fields shooting. Instead of clay birds being thrown from standard angles and distances like they are with trap and skeet, sporting clay courses have been designed to emulate hunting pheasants, ducks, other upland birds as well as rabbits. Since you can shoot at any time and there is no specific season, sporting clays are shot by many hunters during the off-season to improve their wing-shooting skills. To stimulate wing-shooting, targets are thrown from any distance or angle. Six different clay target sizes are used to provide the shooter with an experience of enhanced actual hunting conditions.

Typically, sporting clays are shot in groups of two to six individuals on a course with 10-15 shooting stations positioned around the land’s natural features or around fields. Each course is different since there are no limits on course designers when it comes to distance, angle, speed, or target.

Clay that is used in trap and skeet is the target most commonly used for sporting clays. However, specialty targets are also used by sporting clays for the purpose of introducing the illusion of distance or speed in the shooter’s eye and moves in the ways or speed of game birds. Clay pigeon launchers are used to throw either pairs or singles.

Any shotgun can be used that is able to fire two shots and is in safe working condition. Any gauge may be used. However, 20 and 12 are the two most popular gauges. Many shooters like shooting an under/over since it provides them with two choke options. Shooters sensitive to recoil may want to use a gas-operated semiautomatic instead.


Safety is always the first thing that must be considered when shooting sporting clays. It begins as soon as you begin to take your shotgun out of your car. Open the breach of your gun to make sure it is not loaded. Look down the gun barrel to ensure there are no obstructions. The breach should be kept open so everyone can see that the gun is safe. if it is side-by-side or over/under, carry it open so that the muzzle is up in the air or facing down.

Your gun should always be treated like it is loaded.

Be sure that the right ammo is used, in terms of both the right shell and right gauge for what you are going to shoot. Contact the gun club management and ask them what the appropriate ammo is for there.

Shotshells should never be put into your gun until you have arrived at the shooting station, you are inside the box and it is your turn, and you are ready to shoot.

If your gun fails to fire or a malfunction occurs, continue to point the gun downrange safely. Then ask for help or unload it. The gun might have a mechanical failure or the ammo may be faulty. If a shot sounds different or light at any time, immediately stop, unload, and then check the barrel of the gun to ensure there is not any obstruction and that the wad has cleared.

Never move away from a station until you are sure your gun is safe and open.

Any time you are out on a sporting clays course it is necessary to wear ear and eye protection.

Shooting a Sporting Clay Round

You begin at the first assigned station, and then in order shoot at each of the stations. Before the first individual in each group shoots, your team will be shown the targets by the referee so that you are familiar with how and what targets will be thrown so you can devise the best strategy for how to shoot them.

Once the previous team completed shooting a station, and it is your team’s turn to shoot, give the referee your scorecard. Be ready for when it is your turn. Step into the station. Then load your shotgun, and not before. Point it towards the target firing area safely. Once you are in the proper position and your gun is prepared, call pull.

Once you have taken a shot if any part of the target is broken it will be considered to be a dead bird. The referee has the final word and scores every shot as either a hit or miss.

Once you have completed your shooting at a specific station, take your gun, open it and take out the used hulls and then leave the station. Stay out of the scorer’s way and behind the station until the station has been shot by all of the shooters and it is time to move to the next one.

While you are waiting for your turn, speak in a low voice so that you do not disturb scorers, shooters, and other people.

You will discover that sporting clay shooters are very friendly and happy to teach beginners about their sport. So if you have any questions while you are learning this sport, do not hesitate. Tell the referees and other shooters that you are new. They will be happy to help you learn how to play the game and show you the ropes. Enjoy!