Clay shooting

I was a guest at a simulated game day recently and one of the stands turned out to be a real heart-breaker for a lot of the shooters.

Shot by teams of three, this stand featured a flurry of high driven birds, presented off the top of a hill over a wide ride between two banks of trees.

The birds were presented in such a way that the majority would be taken almost overhead by the line of guns. At any one time there were four or five clays in the air – remember this was a simulated driven day – so regular clay shooters would simply call this a flush.

Anyway, I reckoned that the majority of the targets presented, say, nine out of 10, were either minis or midis.

Clay shooting - driven bird

But occasionally, though, the course designer had decided to throw out a single, standard size clay amongst the rest.

This particular target hugged the side of the trees as it flew overhead.

Interestingly, most of these standards were missed – hence this article.

The clay – when shot as a single on any other ground in the country – probably wouldn’t present any problem whatsoever to the average club shooter.

In fact, I thought it was a real dolly of a bird; not fast, it had a consistent flight line about 25 yards up, coming almost straight towards and then over the shooter.

What else could you ask for?

All anyone had to do was track the target, pull in front of the bird and rely on instinct to tell you when to pull the trigger. Easy.

Generally speaking, each team of shooters managed to dust the majority of the higher, faster (and generally harder) smaller targets that were whizzing above them.

I found this surprising. Why then, were most folk missing the easy-peasy standard? Maybe size does matter after all!


If you ever have to tackle more than one or two types of target at the same time, it’s best to have an understanding of how each type of bird will travel through the air.

The standard clay target we know and love is just over four inches in diameter and will generally fly on a reasonably true path.

As with all targets, though, its path through the air can be affected by strong wind.

The beauty of the standard clay, however, is that because we’ve seen them in flight maybe thousands of times we all know what to expect.

The midi, however, is physically smaller than the standard clay, being around three and a half inches in diameter, and it can often exhibit different flight characteristics when released from a trap.

Clay shooting - clays

The midi will fly relatively ‘true’ as it is released, can often appear to perform unexpected ducks and dives when it’s no longer ‘under power.’

The mini is often thought to be a really tricky target to hit because of its small size – just under two and a half inches in diameter.

It appears to leave the trap like a bullet but it will travel on a consistent line until its velocity drops when it can be seriously affected by any strong wind.


I’m desperately trying to think of an analogy that can summarise the impression of size and speed… and failing miserably.

Maybe looking at it from the target’s point of view will get the message across better.

Think of the last time you were travelling in a big Rolls Royce at 100mph (like you do.) You’d hardly think you were moving.

Consider the scenario though when you’re doing the same speed in a Reliant Robin. Well, the impression of speed in the latter will be considerably greater than that in the former.

It’s the impression of speed, not the actual velocity, that’s important. This was the crux of the problem at the simulated game day.

Because the shooters were shooting more midis and minis, their sight pictures adjusted for these types of birds. By chucking in the odd standard target, the course designer lured them into giving the ‘perceived’ slower bird not enough lead.

Couple this with the fact that, compared with the smaller targets, the standard looked closer than it really was and it’s easy to see why confusion reigned and most birds were missed!


I reckon the midi is one of the best sporting targets you can possibly get. The clay itself is heavy enough to maintain a good speed over quite a long distance but, because it’s lighter than the standard target, it tends to come out of the trap slightly quicker than its big brother.

Clay shooting - Midi target

Although the initial speed will soon decrease, the general problem a lot of shooters have with the midi is interpreting the range, and thus the amount of lead needed to break the clay.

Because of the target’s smaller size it’s often quite easy to confuse the midi with a standard.

I reckon that a standard clay crossing at, say, 40 yards, will appear to be pretty similar to a midi travelling at just 30 yards away.

This in itself can confuse a shooter as it’s not in the general library of sight pictures they’ve built up over the years.

The bottom line for shooting the midi is not to get flustered.

Don’t forget; on a Sporting layout if it isn’t obvious or stated on the stand what type of bird you’re shooting at, ask the referee or the trapper.

Take your time and don’t try to rush your shot.

Don’t let the thought of a midi put you off before you even get on the stand – take it exactly as you would any other bird.


Minis are super little targets. The slight problem you can get with this type of bird, though, is that because they’re so small and light, they struggle to maintain any sort of speed beyond 25 or 30 yards or so from the trap.

Anything further than this and the bird starts to slow down considerably, even when it’s not windy, before starting to float gently forwards.

When launched into a strong headwind, however, I’ve seen the clay float backwards when it loses its momentum – almost back to the trap it came from!

Clay shooting -the mini.

Even for an experienced shooter this can cause problems.

The trick here is to try and take the bird as early as you can, when it’s still under power. Obviously I don’t mean rush the shot, but the longer you leave it the more it’s going to be affected by the wind.

On a plus note, because the mini is such a small, almost delicate target, even just one pellet from a cartridge is usually enough to break it and enable you to claim a kill.