Clay pigeon shooting tips

Over and under shotguns are quite common for clay bird shooting
Over and under shotguns are quite common for clay bird shooting

Clay pigeon shooting is quite a fun recreational activity to do with shotguns.For some it may come easy, for others not so easy. It it all depends on the gun you are shooting, the ammunition, the aiming & shouldering aspect,shotgun choke use,and yourself. Some of the mot common shotguns that are used are over and under, however, it does not matter. You can opt to use a semi,pump, or even single shot. Its all personal preference or it depends on how many targets you are planning to shoot.


For single shots it may present more of a challenge because you only got one shot. The only factor here is that if you are planning on shooting more than one clay bird you can not. Of course you could load another shell before the other clay bird fell, but this is only if you are some amazing sharpshooter that reloads in less than 0.5 second.


As for pumps and semis they are great because if you want to shoot multiple targets you have that choice. You can up the ante this way. Many clay birds can be loaded with 2 or the more expensive ones can keep shooting them out. So lets say you got 5 shots your friend can can keep pulling to see if you can hit them all.

Clay pigeon shooting tips "What choke to use"?

   Depending on what type of challenge you want to give yourself this choice is mostly up to you. Most commonly used is the " improved choke ". The thing is with improved choke the shot spreads out first but disperses so fast is that your range is decreased. You may find yourself aiming at a far target and you miss simply cause there was not enough shot to damage it enough or reach it. Then theirs modified choke which I think is the best choke you can use, You get the best of both worlds. A fair amount of spread and a fair amount of distance. Full choke is sort of stupid to use unless you really want to challenge yourself but you normally would only use this for turkey or long distance waterfowl hunting. Ideally, improved cylinder and modified are the best choices.

Clay pigeon shooting tips "Aiming and shouldering"

The most important thing is to make sure you know how to shoulder a shotgun properly. Make sure you cheek is up against the stock and you are looking directly down the barrel and not above or below. You can even practice this having your shotgun down and raising it and quickly looking down the barrel at something. Not necessarily to shoot but just for practice. When you are aiming at a clay bird you have to remember you have to adjust your shooting for the angle it is at. For Example: If the clay pigeon is rising in front of you, you'll want to aim just slightly under it to hit it. If it is falling down you will want to aim below it. You will have to get a feel for this, it all takes practice.


Shooting a clay bird is normally easiest when it is rising because when it is falling its harder to "follow through with it". If you are shooting 2 clay birds you may find yourself shooting one that is rising up at an angle then you aim at the other to see it is falling. Its good to get practice shooting at  these different angles.

2 clay pigeons

Choosing shotgun barrel length

You will find it easier to shoulder and swing a shotgun with a shorter barrel. It is a lot more difficult to shoot clay pigeons with a longer barrel simply because its more difficult to swing with the extra length and weight. You may want to take this into account. As for me I have a 20 gauge Remington 870 and a 12 gauge Mossberg 535. I would rather choose the 870 than the mossberg because the my 870 has a shorter barrel and stock. Try to use what's most comfortable for you. Normally opting to go with a shorter barrel is the way to go when shooting clay birds.

Clay pigeon shooting tips outlined

-Always try to use a shorter barrel


-Follow through, If you just shot one clay and there is another in air to shoot, be sure not to lower the gun: continue to look down the barrel while moving it to the other target


-Practice Shouldering and looking down the barrel


-Improved or modified choke are recommended chokes


-When the clay is rising aim low not above


-When the clay is falling aim lower but lower than you normally would cause it is faster


-Use 2 3/4 shells because you don't want to spend to much money for this purpose (3 inch mags are for hunting purposes)


-Try different angles such as having the clay shoot a little to the right or left to help you get used to shooting at different angles


-Practice practice practice

Clay pigeon shooting tips "What's a good clay thrower to buy"?

Depending on how much you are willing spend, the answer is up to you. You can get hand thrown throwers that you have to have someone throw for you. These are cheapest but not the best. You can get single arm thrown ones which would is probably the standard thrower. You pull back the arm and pull back the string and it launches. Most of these should be able to shoot 2 but beware sometimes they will break with the force of the launcher. In my experience this will happen sometimes. You will have to find the "sweet spot".For the more luxurious throwers there are ones that stack a large quantity of pigeons and can be continually launched by a pedal. These can be quite expensive though.


Also be sure not leave throwers outside such as the single arm ones cause this can cause rust or it will irritate the spring. I left mine out for quite a few years, it lasted a while but it got worse over time. The spring is no longer good. Its best to put them back. Its okay to have them out for days at a time just don't leave them out when its real cold. I had mine underneath a table which helped a bit but it will last longer stored properly.



A great activity

I hope I provided you with some information on clay bird shooting. It is a fun activity that takes practice. For some it will come faster than others. Just remember to shoot a gun that your comfortably following through with and try different shot sizes and chokes. Determine what is the ultimate combination for shooting clays. This will also help you in the field when shooting real birds. It gives you practice.


Just something to add. If you find you miss some of the clays thrown they may not be broke when hitting the ground. You can check and find some that are unscathed and use them again. This saves some money and is like recycling them again since you missed them. Also be sure to carry clay pigeon boxes carefully as they are very fragile and break easy.


Trap shooting is a sport that has been going on for decades. It will live on just be sure to be safe when you are shooting. Choose a safe location and be safe with firearms.

What action do you prefer for shooting clay birds?

  • Single barrel shotgun
  • Double barrel over and under
  • Double barrel side-by-side
  • pump action
  • semi auto
  • lever action
See results without voting

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Comments 13 comments

larry 5 years ago

what shotgun shell should i use when shooting clay targets my shot gun is a 12 ga. pump


headhunter 5 years ago

be sure to keep your head on the stock, and make sure you load the shell with the primer facing the barrel exit, (front).


jon 4 years ago

I am pretty good considering that my shotgu is a bolt action with full choke. After enough practice, I can reload almost as quickly as a pump and shoot doubles.


Richard 4 years ago

Very helpful site. Thanks for the good tips!!


shane 4 years ago

all your tips are spot on,very good site for people starting off or improving their shooting.


WebscapeOutdoors profile image

WebscapeOutdoors 4 years ago from Michigan, USA

Shooting clay pigeons is something I haven't done in years but remember it was great fun! I'll have to give it a go next summer.


lizstevens profile image

lizstevens 4 years ago from Houston Texas

Nice Hub, thumbs up from Cottage Craft Works.


Forsheebrk 4 years ago

Thank you for the tips. BSA NeTseO is having their fourth annual clay shooting classic to benefit the council and it is nice to have some good info to share.


Peter Geekie profile image

Peter Geekie 4 years ago from London

Dear David 470

Following a serious illness I am now confined to a wheelchair

I was a quite passable clay shot in both English sporting and skeet

Does anyone have any tips on how to adjust to shooting from a wheelchair please

Kind regards peter


keyman 4 years ago

on a rising target why would you aim under it ? You will miss low every time . You should cover or lead the rising target .


David 470 profile image

David 470 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States Author

@ keyman, it is because of the angle. While it looks like you should aim above a rising target, you actually need to aim below as the pellets will be on an angular path to hit the clay birds.

You might be able to get away with aiming above it. But it depends what type of chock you are using modifyed, improved etc.. and how far the target is and what size pellets you are using


Eric 3 years ago

Using 12ga pump wat shell should i use


Bart 3 months ago

Most trap shooter use modified choke, but I use full choke with my shot gun... Every shotgun is slightly difference , so you need to pattern your gun to see the spread and choose the choke best for you and your gun. Also the shot use will be a factor in the choke use use. Even inexpensive target lads have various muzzle velocity.

Most serious trap & skeet shooters use a shot gun with a 30-32" barrel.

Ant shot gun can be used and I lighter gun is easier to swing, but a heavier gun reduces felt recoil.

A key point for new shooter when shouldering a shotgun is to make sure it is firmly against your shoulder, so the recoil pushes your shoulder, instead of hitting your shoulder.

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