Shooting Sporting Clays

Being a certified shotgun instructor, I’ve read several good books on the sport.  Here is what I gleaned from my latest read:

  • Targets are thrown at 40 to 45-mph.
  • Trap is broken between 15 and 20-yards from the trap machine, making it a 30 to 35-yard shot from the 16-yard line.
  • It’s a game of intense focus and concentration.
  • Trap shooters use a come-from-behind swing to break the target.
  • Sporting clays has many trap-like targets, making trap perfect practice for learning how to control your gun in a swing-through situation.
  • We recommend a 12-gauge gun for everyone except those weighing less than 100-pounds, who will be better suited with a 20-gauge.
  • Ammo with 8-shot is a good choice for most close to medium-distance targets up to 30-yards.
  • The king of target shot is 7 ½ shot, retaining its energy better that 8, meaning it will travel farther at a faster speed, which equates to long-distance target-breaking power.
  • Use premium ammo in competition such as Winchester AA or Remington STS Premier.
  • Use economy target ammo for practice such as Remington Gun Club or Winchester Super X.
  • An autoloader reduces felt recoil and will feel like a push against the shoulder, rather than a punch.
  • A solid-lockup gun over-and-under or pump will transmit all the recoil the instant it’s generated as the shell fires, feeling more like a punch in the shoulder.




  • Faster targets break easier than slow targets.
  • There is no room for error with a shotgun; you must always respect its lethal power.
  • Never load the gun unless you are on the shooting station, keeping the barrel pointed downrange.
  • Don’t be shy when it comes to correcting the unsafe gun-handling habits of others.
  • A standard dome target seen on edge presents only about a 4-square-inch surface area to shoot at.
  • Your brain cannot determine the distance to an object unless both eyes are focused on the object.
  • Hard focus means to concentrate so hard on seeing the target that you are oblivious to visual distraction.
  • During the preview, mark where you first see the target, even as just a flash of orange.  This is the target pickup point.  Mark where you obtain a solid focus on it – the focus point.
  • Look for the perfect spot to break the target and your gun hold point, where you will position the gun when you call for the target.  When you are done previewing targets, you should be able to draw an imaginary line through the sky that duplicates the target’s travel.
  • When you’re ready to call for the target, your eyes should be looking at the target pick-up point, that is, where the target first becomes visible.
  • Where you position the gun when you call for the target, your hold point is based on the type of swing you’re going to use to break the target, whether it’s swing-through, sustained lead or pull-away.




  • The best safety glasses have no rims, sit high on your face and are only as dark as needed to eliminate squinting.  Light yellow is accepted as the best color for low-light conditions.
  • Many women have NO dominant eye!
  • Limiting how long you ride a target with you gun fully mounted, is that less time is better.
  • Good shooters have smoothness, consistency and economy of motion.
  • The shooting stance should be the classic nose-over-toes posture.
  • Relaxed muscles are the key to smooth, fluid movement.
  • The single biggest reason people miss the first bird of a pair is because they feel rushed and cut-short their follow-thru.  If you don’t follow-thru, you basically stop the gun as you shoot, which removes much of the forward allowance (lead) needed to break the target.
  • Smoothly swing thru the target, firing as you pass the target and continue with follow-thru.
  • The hold point is about halfway between the target visual pickup point and intended break point.  By holding out in the flight path, you can use a slow, controlled swing.
  • When you call for the target, your eyes should be looking at the target pick-up point.  When you see the flash of orange, begin to smoothly accelerate the gun along the target’s intended line, guiding the gun with your forward hand.  With eyes focused on the target, continue to accelerate the gun until the desired lead is visible between the barrel (in your peripheral vision) and the target.




  • Good follow-thru ensures integrity of the lead.  Lack of follow-thru eliminates lead.
  • A bad hold point can make you feel rushed.
  • In the time it takes the shot swarm (shot string) to get to the target, the target may have moved as much as 15 to 20-feet.
  • To hit the target, you must shoot in front of it, to where it’s going to be, not where it’s at.
  • Longer barrels appear to require less perceived lead.
  • A 40 to 45-mph target takes 4-feet of lead at 20-yards distance, and that 4-foot of lead looks like a 3-inch gap between the target and barrel.
  • Remember the adage – “lead for speed, not for distance.”
  • In a classic swing-thru shot, you fire the gun as the barrel passes through the target.
  • Almost all mistakes are mistakes in form, bad hold point, bad feet position, bad visual pickup point.
  • Far and away the most common mistake new shooters make is to shoot with head off of the gun stock.
  • The second most frequent mistake is stopping the gun as you fire.
  • Continuing to move the gun after shooting is critical to ensure adequate forward allowance to break the target.
  • The third most common mistake is setting feet to the hold position and not the break point.  The front (lead) foot should be pointed at the anticipated shot break point.
  • Your focus on the target drives the entire move-mount-shoot process.  Your ability to move your gun in sync with the target is the basis for all target-breaking success and starts with a hard focus on the target.
  • Approach every station with enthusiasm, stay in the moment by concentrating.
  • With quality practice comes proficiency, which leads to confidence, which then breaks targets.