View Full Version : Getting started in clay games....

Dave McC
January 9, 2001, 07:51 AM
Some folks have asked, so here's some ideas and suggestions for those who want to get into the clay sports, These are NOT on a tablet of stone, and since I'm a generalist, I hope some of the folks who are better at the various games will contribute what they know also...

One of the vitals is an overview of the sports. Your local library has a number of books under Dewey Decimal System 799. A bit of light reading here can work wonders.

The Big Three of the clay games are trap, skeet, and sporting clays.I won't go into the technical parts here, just suffice it to say that trap guns are choked tight, and usually stocked to hit above POA. Skeet and Clay guns shoot flatter, tho center of pattern may be slightly above POA, and use chokes more open than Modified, for the most part.

Gun weight plays a part,most shotguns for the games run over 8 lbs, for smooth and steady swings as well as cutting that kick a bit.

Balance ties in here, I like a bit more muzzleheaviness on the range than I do on an upland gun. Longer bbls help here, tho I rigged up a bbl weight that also does the job on my bunty 21" bird 870. A standard 28" bbl is a good choice.

And a recoil pad makes sense,tho they seem almost universal these days anyway.

Needless to say, having your shotgun hitting where it's supposed to greatly increases hits and fun.


The most commonly used action types are various semi autos and the O/U. Both have their adherents,as well as drawbacks and advantages.O/Us have a choke selection,Semis can have a little less perceived kick.

Can you use your present shotgun? Of course. Even if it's a riot bbled, accessorized and GR sighted Loudenboomer Mag. You may not score as high, but there's no guarantee that using one isn't fun. Besides, it's fun to see how the Wine and Brie crowd deals with this, especially when you're dusting more than they do(G)....

BTW, many of that Wine and Brie crowd are good folks and dedicated shotgunners,so behave....

Choke tubes are practically universal in the clay games. For clays and skeet, try Skeet I, IC, and Skeet II tubes,and maybe keep a Modified handy for a few shots.For trap, I'd go with IM or Full. I tend to stick with IC for clays, but lots of folks who swap tubes on the course outscore me. It's your call here...


I recommend that everyone start out with 1 oz loads for a simple reason. Most folks have no idea what it's like to shoot 50-200 shotgun shells in one session. Kick gets cumulative, and a 1 oz load kicks way less than a 1 1/8 oz load.

Find a 1 oz load in 7 1/2, 8, (or 9s if you're doing skeet) that patterns well in your shotgun and buy a lot of it. Consistency is a requirement while you're learning,and bulk buys run a little cheaper per shot...

The cheap field loads sold as game or dove loads will work, but usually patterns are better with a trap or skeet load. Harder shot, better wads, etc, all contribute. One can choke a little tighter and use the cheaper stuff, but it can cut down on the pattern size, causing some misses.


Eye and ear protection are mandatory. Plugs are the most common form of ear protection, but some folks use both. I do, to protect what's left of my hearing. I'm 54, and my ears work about as well as those of most 70 year olds.

Vests are a great accessory. Get one with big pockets for shells, and a bit of padding in the shoulder area. The Bob Allen entry level skeet vest is nice,and not that expensive.

If you want to skip the vest, that's your call also, but I do urge you to consider a wearable recoil pad, then. Trust me, this will help you enjoy the sport and counter any flinch building.

Comfortable shoes are mandatory, and they should have a bit of traction.I like Rockport loafers, or a light hiking boot.
Clothing should fit the weather, and not confine your movements. Bean and Orvis have some great shooting shirts, but a polo shirt works well too. Jeans are fine.

For those that hunt, wearing your hunting clothes for a round or two might point out some problems before that NW Territories goose jaunt.

Finally, whine and beg until someone who knows the game takes you through a round or two. Doing beats being shown by miles.

Hope this helps, any questions, sing out...

January 9, 2001, 11:04 AM
Thanks Dave McC. I'll probably have more questions after my first range trip.

January 9, 2001, 01:22 PM
I'm still shooting them down with my 20" Mossberg 590A1 military model. Very satisfying. Been doing it so long, the guys at the club don't even comment on the gun anymore. Take someone else who wants to learn about it along with you so you only look half as stupid when you start out ;).

Regards to all

Dave McC
January 9, 2001, 03:05 PM
You're very welcome,guys. There's no stupid questions, so ask away.

January 9, 2001, 05:41 PM
Oh please, it is more like hamburgers and coke at most clays courses. (No booze untill the guns are put away) The Wine and Brie crowd are shooting with the Vintagers these days.

Of course, Trapshooters Whine and Bray a lot, maybe that is what you meant:)

My recommendations for getting started, an autoloader (Either a Remington 1100 or Beretta 390/391) with 30 " barrels and the following chokes: Skeet, IC, Mod and Full. If you really want to spend money add cylinder, Light Mod and Improved Mod to the mix, but they are not necessary.

You need some way of carrying shells with you, pockets tend to rip holding all the shells and are a pain to get shells out of. A vest is nice, but a couple of pouches on a belt will suffice. An old carpenters apron will work too if money is tight. One guy I have seen has two old shot bags with belt loops sewn on the back hanging on his belt.

A range bag to hold the day's supply of shells is a good thing to have, an old spackle bucket works if you are not too proud or worried about your appearance. Two guys I know use them and nobody complains ( But then they are construction workers and would beat the crap out of anyone who did). You might want to bring a bottle of H2O or gatorade with you and an energy bar ( or sandwich if you are shooting Sporting Clays, a round of which can last 3 or more hours). I also carry extra pens, spare ear plugs, bottle of CLP for the gas gunners when their gun gums up, choke tube wrench, leatherman tool (fixed several trap machines with it) and oddball shells that may come in handy (Spreader loads, etc) Always bring 25% extra ammo with you, especially in Sporting Clays, for the broken second birds on doubles which have to be shot over. Leave the $#@*&% Cell Phone in the car please!

Dress comfortably and wear clothing that lets you move, good footwear is a must. I despise sneakers, but some folks like them (no fun in the mud). I prefer a pair of hiking type boots, or rubber wellies in bad weather. Remember Sporting Clays courses can get muddy, and I have seen skeet fields that are no bargain either. Use common sense, and not Ho Chi Minh's or Birkenstocks.

Ask questions, most shooters will be glad to help. Skeet is probably better for beginners as it tends to be more social because they have to stand around while one guy shoots. It is an easy way to learn. Stay away from hardcore Trapshooters, they are especially nasty when shooting and do not like to be disturbed.

Safety glasses are a must, if you are blessed with perfect eyesight the sexy wrap around glasses are cool and give greater protection. For prescription wearers, consider a set of prescription glasses just for shooting. I wear mine all the time, they are so comfortable, and the orange tint doesn't affect my vision at all.

Of course if you insist on shooting your pump gun, do so. There are now special three bird Sporting clays tournaments designed for auto and pump gun shooters. Try one, they are a blast:)

My $.02 as usual

Geoff Ross

Dave McC
January 9, 2001, 07:10 PM
Geoff, Pintail Point, near Easton Md, has more Beamers and Benzes in the parking lot most days than P/U trucks with EZ Rider gun racks. Even saw a limo parked there once. Good course,nice folks, but very Country Club. The one down in Cheltenham was much more blue collar, and friendly as heck. I felt right at home with my "Party Nekkid" T shirt.

And thanks for kicking in. You filled in some of the things I missed.

One thing about shoes we agree on. Sneakers are not a good idea on any kind of clay course. Here in Moist Md, it's a great way to get distracted as well as sick. Wellies, or the LaCross Burley boots that maybe half the hunters I know use are great for wet days.

January 9, 2001, 11:00 PM
Yeah, we have a course like that up here in NY. Orvis Sandanona is a hangout for yuppies and high rollers from NYC. You can see them daily learning how to fly fish in the stream as you drive up. Beemers, Mercedes the odd Ferrari or Lamborghini on nice days. But the place still allows the great unwashed to shoot there, but it is pricey.

There is one club in the area that is very selective, they would not even let me pick up the trash there. Shot there once with my travelling club, but they won't let us back in.

But most courses are not like that, and welcome everyone. Even private clubs are open with prior reservations if you bring a group. Just remember the safety rules and you will be welcome, even with the 12 shot extended magazine and night vision sights.

Never had Brie but one club usually serves us sausage made from various game members have taken, along with beer on tap. (After we are done shooting of course)

SUVs are most common in parking lots here, not pickups. But that may be just a regional thing. One guy in my club has an original 427 cobra he brings out in the summer, but he is the exception.

I have heard about Pintail Point, but always seem to miss out when the crew decides to go. I much prefer J & P and Hopkins on the Peninsula.

Geoff Ross rambling on as usual.

January 9, 2001, 11:01 PM
Good posts from Dave McC and K80Geoff. The only things I might add are a good hat for winter shooting and a bottle of bug spray for sporting in the summer. Nothing worse than shooting in the woods when the mosquitos are swarming.

You should also go with a relaxed attitude and not worry about how many birds you are breaking particularly at the beginning. Work on your stance, form, foot position. Eventually, you will start hitting. Don't worry about what the other guys are doing or saying. It's just you, your gun and the clay. Don't sweat the misses and enjoy the feeling when you crush a target.

Keep your face on the stock and your eye on the rock.

January 10, 2001, 07:30 AM
Thanks for the posts, guys. Many of my colleagues shoot clays of one sort or another. I'm a PD kinda guy but have been very tempted to give it a try.


Dave McC
January 10, 2001, 08:14 AM
LJLC, there's no better way of attaining proficiency with a shotgun than by shooting it, obviously, and the clay games involve lots of shooting. And it's fun.

Back when I instructed, I noted that the only people that achieved more than basic knowledge of the duty shotgun were those that shot recreationally, and LIKED to shoot.

I use, as everyone must know by now, an 870 for clay games, an 870 for hunting, and an 870 for HD and WIHTF. At this point, it's like a body part rather than a good tool.

While they're set up differently according to mission, loading, making safe, firing,etc, all have the same "Chops", and that uniformity of control means practice with one is very close to practice with all.

And, most of the very good shotgunners I know who do it as part of a job, like cops and executive protection people, shoot some form of clay games, or plenty of the IDPA/IPSC stuff, or both.

January 11, 2001, 09:47 AM
Very interesting post. I just started trap shooting about 3 months ago and am having a great time. The weather in North East Ohio has not been the greatest, but that doesn't stop us from enjoying this great sport.

A few adjustments on my 1000 Classic Trap and lots of help from the shooters at the gun club and I'm hooked!!!


Dave McC
January 11, 2001, 08:35 PM
Enjoy, Carol, it's fun, healthy and keeps me young.

January 12, 2001, 09:13 AM
Pardon my typo, that is a "1100 Classic Trap" I mentioned in my earlier post. I'm sure you knew that though.

Also a good instructor and videos from the Experts helps and lots of practice!! It's so much fun.;')

May all your targets be broken ones.


Dave McC
January 12, 2001, 09:31 AM
Figured it was an 1100, not a hard thing considering their ubiquity.

All the clay games are fun, you might want to try skeet, and sporting clays also, but one thing at a time.


January 27, 2001, 11:07 PM
I'm glad to come across this post. I've shot trap on and off for several years with my standard 28" barrel 11-87. Last year, I hit as many as 17/25 a few times. Went to shoot today, hit about 5 in 3 rounds (el stinko).

I was looking at the fancy shotguns in the rack, and starting to wonder if a new gun would make a big difference.

I've always liked the idea of using the same weapon for practice as in the field (I bird hunt), so I would like to stick with the 11-87 (I've also got other things to spend my money on).

For now, I think I will try some consistent practice.

However, I do wonder if a shotgun like the 11-87 is suitable for fitting? I've read so many times that fitting is necessary that I'm starting to think I should try it. I've got a real wide face - can't even see down the barrel on some shotguns (like Citoris). Remington's seem to fit OK if I press my cheek down.



Dave McC
January 28, 2001, 08:21 AM
Russ, fit is so important that little comes close. Form does, and the two are inextricably entwined.

First thing, get that patterned and see where it's hitting. If you shoot RH, and have a wide face,my guess is your shotgun hits right of where you're looking BUT only patterning will make sure.

That 11-87 will do the job if you do yours, and part of yours is making POI and POA coincide.

January 31, 2001, 12:22 AM
I was playing around with my shotguns in the garage tonight (one a Remington, the other a Winchester). Both have about the same stock profile, but the Winchester has a bit longer LOP, and seems to fit my face better.

Then a light bulb went off: Since the top of the stock slopes down toward the butt, if I extend the LOP, there will be more room for my fat face. Sure enough, when I inserted a 1 inch spacer between the stock and recoil pad, the SG seems to fit MUCH better (i.e. I can see down the barrel). The longer LOP feels OK - I'm about 6 feet tall, so a bit longer arms than the "average person". I also have read in a few places that most people shoot better with a LOP on the long side. Something about extending the sight radius, or something along those lines.

Another trip to the range should give some indication if I'm on the right track.


Dave McC
January 31, 2001, 07:58 AM
Russ, a brief stop at the patterning board, first, will save you lots of time, money and aggravation.And the confidence factor of knowing your shotgun is hitting where it's supposed to let's you concentrate better.

And there's obviously practical limits. A game where premounting is permitted, like trap, has no disadvantage for a stock a little on the long side, but trying to get that same stock up fast on a late season quail might cause you to invent new cuss words.

January 31, 2001, 11:26 PM
Couldn't have asked for more info if I'd posted the thread myself, thanks so much!

I shot my first round of trap yesterday at the club I just joined. They have pistol and rifle as well, and since I'm mainly a pistol-rifle kind of guy, the club made sense. One of the fellows there lent me his Beretta-umteen-thousand dollar gun for a round and I'm hooked. I was upset with myself with a 12 of 25 until one of the guys told me the guy shooting next to me got 16 with 30 years experience and an $8000 gun! I told my new friend who lent me the gun I'd be spoiled since I'm going to have to settle for an inexpensive pump to get me into the sport most likely.

Any thoughts on the Mossberg 500? Seems to come with all of the bells and whistles despite being a pump. Is it a pipe dream to want to shoot doubles or skeet with the thing? As much as I'd love to wait to get a nice over/under I'll have to wait until the next pay raise from George W. since I'm in the military.

Thanks again for the insight, look forward to what you have to say about my gun selection.

La perte des armes est la fin de la liberte.

January 31, 2001, 11:31 PM
Incidentally, the reason I'm "hot" for the Mossberg is the price: Just under $200 n.i.b. with two additional choke tubes, wrench, and double bead sight. Seems like the best deal I've found other than the potential of shooting a side-by-side double barrel Charles Harvan (can't read my handwriting on the business card) 12gauge stainless w/wood stock model 114 with a double trigger. The pawn shop wants $250 for this gun but I'm not sure it would be a good gun for me to go and shoot at the trap and skeet ranges.


La perte des armes est la fin de la liberte.

Dave McC
February 1, 2001, 07:47 AM
A coupla things, Adventurer...

Doubles can be a trap for the unwary and inexperienced. I've never heard of a Harvan and regard unknown makers as unknown factors. A decent pump gun( Mossies qualify) will give you years of service, maybe decades or generations. I opine the Mossy isn't the best choice, but it is a viable one, especially considering military pay scales.

Of course, if you can locate a used Remington 870, that would be the one to go with.

Hope this helps...

February 1, 2001, 09:21 AM

Try this web site http://www.trapshooters.com. A wealth of information for any question you might have. They also have a discussion forum.

Good shooting,

February 1, 2001, 10:54 AM
One minor issue about clay games and autoloaders. At some clubs, any hull which hits the ground belongs to the club. So if you want to reload, then you'll need to use either a pump or a break-open. Even if you don't want your hulls, with a pump or a break-open, you don't have to go picking them up...


February 1, 2001, 11:40 AM
Are you sure it wasn't a Charles Daly. Very common name for Imported shotguns.

One thought about autos/pumps on the trap field. Be sure you do not pelt the shooter to your right with empty shells. This happens with some autos and Pumps and is considered poor etiquette.

If you are considering getting into trap I suggest looking into a used remington 1100 or 870. Mossys and other lesser brands just do not hold up. A lot of trophys have been won with the 870.

Geoff Ross

February 1, 2001, 10:03 PM
Dave McC:

I went to the range this evening, shot a 11, 11, and a 16 under the lights. Not exactly Olympic scores, but far better than what I shot last time. I think I'm definately on to something with increasing the cheek-to-comb clearance so I can see down the barrel. You're right about the stock length, though - even pre-mounting the gun was a bit difficult.

I think I will try one of the Jack West adjustable stocks. I hate to start carving on my factory stock, just in case I decide to sell it someday.

The pattern board was unavailable today, but I definately will try it soon.

Regarding the thread about gas guns: I've got a small metal "clip" (can't remember where I got it) that prevents ejection of spent shells. Won't work for doubles, but works pretty good for singles trap. I suppose you could do the same thing with a heavy rubber band.


February 2, 2001, 12:24 AM
Thanks for the notes, I wish I could read my handwriting better but I'm pretty sure it WASN'T a Charles Daly!

The Mossberg is head of the line for the moment, although I've decided to hold out until the Spring Grand comes here to Phoenix with all the associated vendors a week from Monday.

C'mon down, it should be a great shoot from what I understand.

La perte des armes est la fin de la liberte.

February 2, 2001, 05:30 AM
Well you guys said that if I bought an 870 for all around use, you would not get snobby when I showed up with my plastic 28" black pump. I have trap shot 3 boxes to date with a modified choke and have broke 30 total (or so) (ouch). I have never shot the gun at a non moving target and have no idea where it its, I have never had a lesson (really, 30/75, we thought you are a teacher). I still love it though.

It feels great when the clay disappears into an orange dust cloud. It feels lousy when a small piece breaks off and the path is diverted a tiny bit.

Dave McC
February 2, 2001, 07:37 AM
Hube, glad you've having fun. I suggest getting a lesson or two from someone that knows both wingshooting/shotguns and how to teach same. Not all good shots know WHY they're good.

BTW, have you patterned that fine, outstanding shotgun? Once you know that it's shooting where you're looking, more clays explode and morale improves(G)....