New to clayshooting? Here are some tips the beginner will find handy.

clayshooting tips for beginners

Clayshooting terminology you should know


If you’re new to clayshooting then it’s crucial that you understand the topic clearly, including some of the terminology you’ll come across. So here’s our quick and easy guide – which even competent shooters need to be aware of. Here are some clayshooting tips for beginners to get started with.

Kill zone and pick up points

The kill zone is the area – which might be in the sky (or rolling and jumping along the ground if your target is a rabbit) in which you try and smash the target.

kill zone and pick up point in clayshooting

Where you need to try and smash the target

The kill zone and pick up points are decided by several factors: how the bird is presented, how fast it is travelling and how quickly you can ‘visually’ pick up the bird in flight.

The ‘visual’ pick up point is different from the kill point. It is where you catch your first sight of the target.

There will be a short delay before your eyes inform the brain that they’re locked onto the target.  Your brain then communicates this message to the rest of your body so that you can mount the gun and start the swing.

The stance and ready position

Stance is the ideal position to take as you call for the bird.

Right handed? Then your weight should be on the front, left foot, with your toes pointing towards the intended kill zone. If you’re a left hander it’s the opposite way around and the right foot takes the lead.

correct shooting stance

Stance and ready position in clayshooting

Practice and work hard on getting this position right. It is an important part of your technique. If you don’t master it you will not be able to twist your body sufficiently to complete the swing when aiming for certain targets.

So you may well miss.

Placing the stock butt

  • To ensure a quick gun mount this should usually be just out of the pocket of the shoulder if the discipline allows. However when shooting FITASC it has to be considerably lower.
  • Don’t be tempted to hold the gun down by your waist.
  • The muzzles should be on the line of the bird, on or slightly behind the visual pick up point.
  • Make sure your weight is on the front foot. Lean into the target but be ready to alter your weight distribution if you need a second shot.

Shooting gun ‘up’ or gun ‘down’

Gun up is when the shotgun is pre-mounted in the shoulder, the face is hard on the stock and you’re ready to pull the trigger as you call for the bird.

shooting gun up

Shooting gun up and gun down

It is used for speedy sporting targets where there is little or no time to mount the gun, or trap and skeet disciplines, for example.

Gun down is a more traditional way of shooting. It imitates walked up gameshooting. The gun is held out of the shoulder and only mounted when the bird is presented.

Forward allowance

You will probably hear a lot about forward allowance. It is when you fire a shotgun at a moving clay and need to allow for the time the shot takes to get to the target.

forward allowance

To break a target the trigger must be pulled when the muzzles are pointing ahead of the target to ensure that the clay runs into the stream of lead shot.

You might hear the phrase ‘arranging collisions’. So how will you know how much forward allowance is needed? That’s something which comes with skill and experience. Without forward allowance you would be simply aiming at a target, as in rifle shooting.

If you want a rough calculation, a crossing clay travelling at 40mph, 30 yards out from the stand, will have travelled about six feet in the time between you pulling the trigger and the tip of the shot stream reaching the flight line of the bird.

Knowing this you can appreciate that unless the muzzles are ahead of the target when the trigger is pulled you’ll miss – because the shot string is going behind the bird.

Swing through, pull away and maintained lead

These are the three generally accepted styles of shooting and all have their plus points.

Maintained lead is something not always easy for the novice to master.

different styles of shooting

If you are unsure how to proceed the easier option is to use the pull away method when breaking clays. This is the style normally taught to beginners.

Swing through

The gun is mounted and the swing commences with the muzzles pointing behind the target… the muzzles of the gun catch up with the target… the muzzles swing through the bird and the trigger is pulled.

Pull away

The muzzles are pointing at the clay as the swing commences… still with the muzzles pointing at the bird the gun is mounted at the shoulder… then the muzzles are swung ahead of the bird and the shell is fired.

Maintained lead

The muzzles of the gun are pointing ahead of the clay as the swing commences… the muzzles stay ahead as the gun is brought up into the shoulder… when the gun is firmly mounted the trigger is pulled.