By Harry Winchester
The origins of clay pigeon shooting mean that the different categories or disciplines that you may discover are quite varied. This does mean that Clay Shooting is consequently suited for a wide range of people from differing backgrounds: for men, for women, for city dwellers or those who live in the countryside. The popularity of clay shooting throughout the world means that categorising them is difficult so I apologise if I do not cover them all satisfactorily.
In essence, however, there are three main types: Sporting, Skeet and Trap Shooting
Shooting in England in particular was a gentleman's past time for sporting purposes rather than to put food on the table. It was a way by which the upper and aspiring classes could meet and socialise and your inclusion at a shooting party a must for your social standing and up to a point your skill with a shot gun was an important part of how successful you were generally considered. An increasingly urban and middle class population meant that those taking part could not practise on their own estate and the gun makers soon saw that they not only needed to sell their clients guns and equipment they also needed to assist them with their shooting skills and technique. The Clay Pigeons invented in the late 19th century were seen as a perfect way to fill this requirement.
The Sporting category of shooting is the result this requirement and therefore the one that most simulates the rough / live shooting sport. For me this is the most enjoyable category and the one you generally see advertised around the countryside on a Sunday morning. Normally, there are 50 birds (100 in the real pro competitions) spread out over around 10 stands. Each stand or station has been setup to simulate a particular type of bird or combination of bird or rabbit and will be named accordingly such as 'Crossing Pheasant', 'Springing Teal' or 'Rabbit' etc.
Normally the birds will be released in pairs, either 'On Report' (After the first shot is fired), simultaneously from the same trap or from another trap. The course designers will increase the challenge by varying the target size, speed and type of terrain between stands.
Skeet Shooting originates from the U.S.A. in the 1920s. The word 'Skeet' comes from the Norwegian for 'Shoot' (Skyte). There are generally considered to be three variants: English, American and Olympic.
There are two trap houses about 40 m apart, one high, one low. The birds are fired out at a fixed speed and trajectory.
There are seven (depending upon the discipline/rules) stations laid out in a semi circle between the two stations. The shooters each take it in turn to shoot from one of the stations so therefore have a slightly different view of the targets from each stand. Each shooter normally has the opportunity to shoot 25 birds.
The variants only differ slightly. Olympic is the fastest with an extra mid-point eighth stand introduced. The shooters must start with the gun down for American and Olympic but can start pre-mounted with English skeet.
Trap shooting was probably the first simulated pigeon shooting disciple. It was literally a trap in front of the shooter containing the pigeon. These days it is the disciple where the shooter or shooters stand in a row about 15m behind normally one or two traps. Clay Pigeons are thrown either singularly or in doubles away from the shooters at varied speeds and angles. There are numerous sub-categories, the most popular (in the U.K. certainly) being Down The Line (DTL).
Others sub-categories are Automatic Ball Trap, Double Trap, Olympic Trap and Universal Trench.
In this article I will explain just a couple:
For Down the line, there are normally five shooting stations in a row behind the trap, with birds being thrown away to a distance of about 50 m. At a distance of 10m the bird must be at a height of 2.75 m. The angle the bird is thrown must also be no more than that of 22 degrees either side of the central axis but is intended to vary to give the shooter a variety of shots.
25 birds are thrown and the shooter has five birds per station taken singularly in turn before moving to the station to the right. The scoring is such that there are 3 points if the hit is with the first barrel, 2 for the second barrel and 0 for a miss. (ie a possible total score of 75 for all 25 birds.)
Olympic Trap is the disciple followed at the Olympic games (sometimes called '15 Trap'). A trench in front of the shooter conceals five groups of three traps.(ie 15 traps.)
There are therefore five shooting stations with six shooters (one at each with a sixth waiting their turn behind). Each station shoots in turn with one of the three traps in front of them throwing a clay. The shooter does not know the exact flight as it is varied but all shooters have the same pattern over the whole coarse. The shooter has two shots if necessary with the same score for a hit on a first of second shot. (Unless it is a final). A horn will sound if target is missed. After the shooter on the right has taken their shot the shoots move right to the next stand. A total of 25 birds are thrown.
The complexity of some of these formats may seem bewildering to those not familiar with them. All are enjoyable and the shooting community is such that everyone is eager to help, explain and advise.(whether you want it or not.) Further articles are and will be available to explain in greater detail.
The type of shooting you are likely to encounter is largely dictated by the venue. Smaller clubs or shooting grounds are likely to have a small trap set up, with the 'Sunday/Weekend' shoots likely to be set up as Sporting. The larger and more established shooting grounds will include all of them.