The terminology commonly used by clay shooters often relates to times past, when live pigeon competitions were held. Although such competitions were made illegal in the UK in 1921, a target is still called a 'target' or 'bird', a hit is referred to as a 'hit' or 'kill', a missed target might be described as a 'bird away' and the machine which projects the targets is known as a 'trap'.
A shotgun, as defined by UK law, is a smooth barrelled gun - not being an air gun - with barrel length in excess of (24inches) and a barrel with a bore not exceeding 5.08cm (2 inches) - and either has no magazine, or a non detachable magazine incapable of holding more than two cartridges - and is not a revolver gun.
For clay pigeon shooting at CPSA registered events and CPSA affiliated grounds, the maximum permitted bore of shotguns is 12, equivalent to 0.729 inches diameter. Barrel lengths typically vary from 26 to 32 inches, and side-by-side, under and over and single barrelled two shot semi-automatics are commonly used. Pump action guns are generally considered unsuitable for clay pigeon shooting.
Shotgun cartridges are readily available in gun shops and at shooting grounds, and within limitations as to the shot size and the weight of the shot load are suitable for clayshooting at CPSA affiliated grounds and for use in events coming under CPSA rules. Home loaded cartridges can be dangerous and are therefore not acceptable at clay pigeon shooting events.
Care should be taken that cartridges to be used are compatible with the shotgun that is going to fire them. The instructions and specifications are printed on the boxes and should be meticulously checked and adhered to. For clay competition, shot size must not exceed 2.6 mm, English No 6. The shot load must be a maximum 28 gram (1 oz) for all domestic disciplines, or 24 gram for Olympic Trap, Olympic Skeet and Double Trap, and up to 28 gram [from 2005] for FITASC Sporting and 36g for Helice.
The targets used for the sport are usually in the shape of an inverted saucer, made from a mixture of pitch and pulverized limstone rock designed to withstand being thrown from traps at very high speeds, but at the same time being easily broken when hit by just a very few lead or steel pellets shot from a shotgun.
The targets are usually fluorescent orange , but other colours such as black, white, or yellow are frequently used in order that they can be clearly seen against varying backgrounds and/or light conditions.
Clay pigeons are made to very exacting specifications with regard to their weight and dimensions and must conform to set international standards.
There are several types of targets that are used for the various disciplines, with a "standard" 108 mm size being the most common used in American Trap, Skeet, and Sporting Clays while International disciplines of these same games use a slightly larger 110 mm diameter size. Only the standard 108/110 mm target is used in all of the trap and skeet disciplines. Sporting shoots feature the full range of targets (except ZZ) to provide the variety that is a hallmark of the discipline.
All three sports use a shotgun, and in the sporting disciplines are sub-classified by the type of game the clay target represents (pigeon, rabbit, etc.). The two primary methods of projecting clay targets are airborne and ground (rolling.) Rolling or "rabbit" style is usually considered the more difficult.
Naturally, the simplest method of throwing a clay target is by hand, either into the air or along the ground. This method is somewhat dangerous, as the person throwing has to be near the person firing the shotgun. A multitude of devices have been invented or appropriated to make this task safer and more reliable. A plastic sling-like device is the simplest, though modern shooting ranges will usually have machines that throw the clay targets in consistent arcs at the push of a button.
These are purpose made, spring loaded, flywheel or rotational devices especially designed to launch the different types of targets in singles or pairs at distances of up to 100 metres.
These machines vary from the very simple, hand cocked, hand loaded and hand released types to the highly sophisticated, fully automatic variety which can hold up to 600 targets in their own magazine and are electrically or pneumatically operated. Target release is by remote control either by pressing a button or by an acoustic system activated by the shooter's voice.
Target speeds and trajectories can be easily modified and varied to suit the discipline or type of shooting required.
Clay pigeon shooting has at least 20 different forms of regulated competition called disciplines. These can be roughly divided into three main groups:
Targets are thrown either as singles or doubles from one or more traps situated some 15 m in front of the shooter and are generally going away from the firing point at varying speeds, angles and elevations. The most common disciplines in this group are:- Down-The-Line (DTL) Single Barrel, Double Rise, Automatic Ball Trap (ABT), Olympic Trap, Double Trap and Universal Trench.
Skeet is a word of Scandinavian origin, though the discipline originated in America. Targets are thrown in singles and doubles from 2 trap houses situated some 40 metres apart, at opposite ends of a semicircular arc on which there are seven shooting positions. The targets are thrown at set trajectories and speeds. The main disciplines in this group are English Skeet, Olympic Skeet and American (NSSA) Skeet.
The English Sporting discipline has the sport's biggest following. While the other disciplines only use standard targets, in Sporting almost anything goes. Targets are thrown in a great variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations and distances and the discipline was originally devised to simulate live quarry shooting, hence some of the names commonly used on Sporting stands: Springing Teal, Driven Pheasant, Bolting Rabbit, Crossing Pigeon, Dropping Duck, etc. Disciplines in this group include English Sporting, International (FITASC) Sporting, Super Sporting Sportrap and Compak Sporting.
Originated in Belgium during 1960's, Helice shooting is similar to Trap Shooting, but the clays are equipped with an helice that will give the clay an erratic and unpredictable flight. The helice is composed of two winged plastic propellers with a white clay in the center.
This is a new shotgun game that offers Sporting Clays and FITASC target presentations on a Skeet/Trap or Open field. This is possible by using a Movable Support System that carries the release buttons (wired or wireless setup) from 6 to 9 traps and the dual safety screen in any place on the field. As a result the shooter can shoot in safe conditions upon target presentations in varying range (10 to 60 yards) and varying angles (sharp to wide).
The rules and disciplines are normally the same as the traditional sport using live weapons.
The activity can be done indoors. In most equipment the register of hits and misses is recorded electronically, and the sounds of the shotgun firing and the clay being hit can be played from simulated sounds. It is intended as a fun sport and can be played by children.