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Starting shooting – how to find an instructor

Instruction from a qualified coach will not only pay dividends now, but it will also mean you're less likely to develop bad habits

shooting clays from cage

It's best to start with a lesson from a qualified shooting coach

Getting going – will you get a thump in the shoulder?

The thought of firing a shotgun for the first time can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’ve talked to someone who didn’t get suitable instruction when they tried their hand at the sport. If you believe what they say, you’ll have it in the back of your mind that when you do squeeze the trigger there will be a deafening bang and a fearsome thump in the shoulder. There won’t. Let’s scotch the doubts here and now.

Before moving to the firing point an instructor will select a gun that suits your size, strength and stature – one which is easy to hold but heavy enough to dampen recoil.  He will also use low-powered cartridges and ensure you wear ear defenders as well as safety glasses.

The duration of a normal lesson is usually an hour, or slightly longer. You will do quite a bit of shooting in your first lesson but before you fire a single shot the instructor will take you through a number of preliminaries.

gun mount

A coach will help you with your gun mount

Clayshooting coaching

The coach will explain how to pick up the target and follow through to hit it

Your local gun shop

Call in at a your local gun shop and ask the owner or staff to point you in the direction of an instructor. A lot of shops actually have their own arrangements with grounds in the vicinity to give instruction and test guns with a client. If you don’t know where your nearest gun shop is, look in Yellow Pages or search the Internet. While you’re at it – look under shooting schools as well!

Eye dominance coaching

The coach will find out which is your “master” eye so he can improve your accuracy

Two useful organisations to investigate

The national governing body for clayshooting is the Clay Pigeon Shooting association (CPSA) based in Bisley, Surrey. It  runs its own coaching scheme and is in daily contact with gun clubs and shooting schools across the country.

The country’s biggest representative body with almost 130,000 members is the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) based near Wrexham, Clwyd. It too runs a national coaching scheme and will happily put you in touch with one of its qualified local representatives.


  • If you’re too shy to go it alone and make that call, why not get a group of pals or work mates to visit as a party and all have some fun. Nothing beats one-to-one instruction, but this isn’t far behind! Group tuition also spreads the cost, and is cheaper.
  • Clay pigeons are made from a mix of chalk and pitch able to be broken easily when hit by two or three shotgun pellets but tough enough to withstand being launched at high speed from spring-powered traps.
  • It is best to hone your skills on  before attempting to shoot live quarry. To do otherwise increases the chances of wounding, not killing cleanly.