What are SPORTING CLAYS?
You may have heard of sporting clays referred to as golf with a shotgun, and that’s a fair comparison. Like golf courses, no two sporting clay courses are alike, and terrain and background have a lot to do with how targets are presented. Since no two courses are alike, shooters travel to different courses to experience variety.
Sporting clays is the closest thing to actual field shooting of all shotgun sports. Rather than having clay birds thrown from standardized distances and angles as with skeet or trap, sporting clays courses are designed to simulate the hunting of ducks, pheasants, other upland birds, and even rabbits. Since there is no set season and it can be shot at any time, many hunters shoot sporting clays to further their wing shooting skills during the off-season. Targets may be thrown from literally any angle or distance to simulate wing-shooting, and six different sizes of clay targets are used to further give the shooter the experience of actual hunting conditions.
Sporting clays is typically shot in squads of two to six people and played over a course of 10 to 15 shooting stations laid around fields or around the natural features of the land. The course designer is not limited in target speed, angle, or distance, so every course is different.
The most common target used in sporting clays is the clay that is used in skeet and trap. But sporting clays also use speciality targets to introduce the illusion of speed or distance in the eye of the shooter, moving at speeds or in the ways of game birds. All can be thrown as singles or pairs.
Any shotgun that’s in safe working condition, and capable of firing two shots, may be used. Any gauge can be used, but the most popular are 12 and 20 gauges. Many shooters like to shoot an over/under because it gives them two choke choices. Shooters who tend to be sensitive to recoil might prefer gas-operated semiautomatics.
Shooting a Round of Clays
To shoot a round of sporting clays, you’ll start on the assigned first station and shoot each station in order. Before the first person in every squad shoots, the referee will show your squad the targets so you’ll be familiar with what and how the targets are being thrown and strategize how you’ll shoot them.
When the previous squad has finished shooting a station and it’s your squad’s turn to shoot, hand your scorecard to the referee. When your turn comes up to shoot, be ready. Step up to the station. Then and only then do you load your shotgun. Point it safely toward the target firing area. When your gun is ready and you are in position, relax and call pull.
When you shoot, the target will be considered a dead bird if any part of it is broken. The referee will score each shot a hit or miss and has the final word.
When you’re done shooting at a station, open your gun, remove the used hulls, and exit the station. Remain behind the station, out of the way of the scorer, until all shooters have shot that station and are ready to move on.
When waiting your turn, it’s acceptable to talk in a low voice so as not to disturb shooters, scorers, and others.
You’ll find that sporting clays shooters are friendly and always eager to share their sport with beginners. So while you’re learning the sport, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Let your fellow shooters and referees know that you’re a new shooter, and they’ll go out of their way to show you the ropes and help you learn the game. Have fun!
Shooting might sound as if it’s going to be risky, but in fact it’s one of the safest of all sports. We keep it that way by making safety fundamental to everything we do.
When you go for your first shooting lesson your instructor will provide a simple safety briefing that covers everything you need to know. He or she will be supervising you closely throughout the lesson and will be happy to answer any questions, so you’ll never be left wondering what to do.
You’ll notice that the gun is kept in its sleeve or case until you reach the shooting stand. When the instructor takes it from its sleeve the first thing he does is open it and check it’s unloaded. It’s safe habits like this that prevent accidents.
The gun is never loaded until you are on the shooting stand and ready for the target. The barrels remain pointing down-range as you eject the empty cartridges and reload for the next shot. As soon as you finish shooting, the gun is opened, checked, and placed safely back in its sleeve.
During your first shooting experience your instructor will look after all aspects of safety, but if you decide to take the sport further safe shooting and gun handling becomes your responsibility. You will need to know and observe a few golden rules that help to keep our sport’s exemplary safety record.
The CPSA has a range of leaflets that explain safety in more detail. These are available at registered clubs and grounds, or you can download the online versions here.
The CPSA also trains and certifies safety officers and requires that every registered ground has a qualified Safety Officer on duty whenever shooting is taking place.
There is some basic safety equipment you will be required to use while on the shooting ground, specifically to protect your hearing against the sound of the gun and to protect against the possibility of being hit by fragments of broken target.
The sound of a gun firing is loud enough that repeated exposure could damage your hearing, so hearing protection is mandatory at clay grounds and shooting schools. When you are on the shooting stand, either shooting or watching, you must wear the hearing protection provided. This may be simple foam earplugs, or headphone style “muffs”.
Regular clay shooters buy their own hearing protection and there are many types available – including electronic plugs that allow normal conversation while cutting down the sound of the gun. These can be moulded and cast into the precise shape of the ear making them comfortable to wear all day if necessary.
The targets will be set to minimise the chance of any pieces falling on shooters or bystanders, but it’s impossible to eliminate the risk entirely – so you will be required to wear suitable eye protection while on the shooting stand.
This consists of a peaked hat or cap, and protective shooting glasses with toughened lenses in a wraparound style. These will be provided for you at your first lesson or have-a-go session, but if you decide to take up the sport you will want to buy your own. There are a huge variety of styles to choose from, with interchangeable lenses of different colours, which can help you see the target more clearly against distracting backgrounds. They can also incorporate prescription lenses so you don’t need to wear one pair of glasses over another.
Whilst the sport is growing with women taking it up, there are still few women in Clay Pigeon shooting compared to their male counterparts.
I have taken snippets from various articles and consolidated them.
As the National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of Olympic-style shooting in the United States, USA Shooting (USAS) welcomes the dialogue created by the recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Mark Yost titled: Taking Aim at an Old Debate: Can female athletes compete against men? In shooting, yes – but not in the Olympics.
In this article, Yost points out several interesting facts and observations about our sport. This dialogue allows us to engage the shooting community, expand our thinking and establish pathways for bettering our sport for the future.
You will get little argument from many of today’s top shooters, both male and female, as to the shooting abilities of women throughout USA Shooting’s ranks. The success of the collegiate programs like TCU and many intercollegiate programs in the U.S. only echo these beliefs as do some of the sport’s elite shooters like Kim Rhode, a four-time Olympic medallist in trap and skeet shooting, or Katy Emmons, a three-time Olympic medallist from the Czech Republic who is married to the USA’s most successful rifle shooter, Matt Emmons.
“I am a born competitor and whether it is men or women I want to win,” said Jamie Gray, a 2008 Olympian in Rifle. “In a sport that is equal between men and women I would most definitely enjoy the competition. I started out only knowing that men and women compete against each other. It wasn’t until I learned shooting was an Olympic sport that I realized men and women didn’t compete against each other. It is exciting to me that there are still sports out there that men and women can be equal, however for other reasons it may be better that there are different categories for each.”
From 1968 through the 1980 Olympic Games, Olympic shooting events were mixed, with opportunities for women and men to participate regardless of gender. At the 1980 Games in Moscow, there were six shooting events contested. At the upcoming Games in London, there will be 15 events contested. Opportunities for women to compete in Olympic shooting have not shrunk with the dissolution of “mixed” events, but rather have grown as a result not only in our brand of shooting but across all platforms of the shooting sports.
Recent history also suggests that woman can perform alongside men in shooting competitions. At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, female competitor Shan Zhang of China became the Olympic gold medallist that year in mixed-event skeet competition. Over two days of competition she produced a score of 373 out of 375, a new Olympic and world record. She also became the first woman to topple the men in the history of the Olympic Games’ shooting competition. Since that time, no mixed events have been held in an Olympic shooting competition.
“As a proud American female citizen, participating in a sport where gender-specific characteristics are not advantageous, I would overwhelmingly favour a chance to compete in a mixed event – or at least a women’s event with an equal number of targets as the men,” said Kelsey Zauhar, a USA Shooting National Team member in Shotgun. “But my personal opinion is in a sea of thousands of competitors, and I am not going to be seen as more right or more correct than anyone else just because I speak louder with words. I will let my performance speak volumes and hopefully it will inspire some little girl sitting in her living room, three feet from the television with visions of Olympic glory flashing through her eyes. And hopefully she’ll pull at her father’s shirt tail asking him to take her to the shooting range where she can join the other females already participating.”
In large part, equality for woman at the elite level often comes down to participation numbers where men still far exceed women in the sport. Effort to get more women shooting is a collaborative effort for all within the firearms industry.
“Boys learn to shoot in Scouts or with their Dads,” National Take Your Daughters to The Range Day co-founder and firearms instructor, Lynne Finch, said. “Often, the girls are left behind because shooting isn’t ‘girly.’ Well, we can, and do shoot, and well. Learning to shoot gives young women confidence, helps to build self-esteem, and introduces them to a sport they can participate in their whole lives.”
“I think that anytime you have competition where size or strength is not a factor, females can absolutely compete with the males,” said USA Shooting National Team Pistol shooter and USAS Board member Sandra Uptagrafft. “The fundamentals of executing a good shot work the same regardless of gender, size or age.
The question of why females no longer compete with males or why we have differing number of shots in the same events comes up often when I explain our sport to new people.
It does seem sexist, but the fact that we have separate events from males in the Olympics actually is a good thing since more females can compete this way. There can only be so many people on the shooting line at one time. Since I am not tall enough, fast enough or strong enough to compete in most other Olympic sports, I personally am just happy to have a sport like shooting in which I can excel.”
“We now have marketing specifically to attract our demographic and manufacturers are more sensitive to our needs,” Uptagrafft added. “I am particularly happy about this since I can now find weapons, clothing, gear and other accessories made for someone my size.”
For competitive shooters, the debate isn’t centred on whether men and women should be competing on a level playing field however. The changes made to the Olympic program allow more women to compete internationally and likely encourage greater participation among all females at the elite levels of competitive shooting. Getting even more women involved both competitively and within the leadership ranks of the major shooting sports organizations domestically and internationally is the next step. In addition, so too is looking at the match disparities between the two and trying to move toward greater equality in that sense.
“I would love to shoot against the men for all of these reasons,” said Amy Sowash, a USA Shooting National Team member in Rifle. “I think it’s a chance for women to shine in a world often dominated by men. Not only are there sport stereotypes to overcome, but also gun stereotypes.
Many people think men are better at shooting just because hunting and military careers are dominated by them. In building role models for young women, I think it’s important to highlight skill sets that are not only good, but world-class. This is a chance for women to be seen in a completely different light where they are not valued based on appearance. In other women’s Olympic sports the focus often drifts to the most attractive players and teams. Men are praised for their skills, women for their looks.
Mothers, daughters and sisters have more opportunity to experience the shooting sports than ever before given the growth and interest of firearm ownership worldwide. With growth comes greater debate and awareness along with intensifying advocacy. Those ingredients have always provided the foundation for the enhancement of our sport.
As other industries begin to look closely at their treatment of women — questioning gender pay gaps, inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment — some in the shooting community are wondering if it is time to do the same.
“The way that shooting is going, it’s going to end up being licensed,” says gamekeeper Jonathan Davis, who works on the Babworth estate in Nottinghamshire. “You can talk about biodiversity and sustainability all you like, but there needs to be equality throughout and that includes a equal number of male and female Guns on each of the drives.”
Women shoot few days a year than men, but their average bag size on a driven day is likely to be bigger
There are a variety of causes of growing perceived inequality in shooting. Jonathan blames social media in part. “I’m sick of seeing genuine comments from women who want a little bit of advice, then straight away there’s 150 men jumping in with their patronising comments,” he says. “I’m not some raving liberal, but there has to be equality within the game shooting industry.”
Liam Stokes, head of shooting at the Countryside Alliance, urges critics to look upon commercialisation of the sport as a positive not negative idea. “When I first got involved in shooting about 14 years ago, it was a lot harder to go shooting than it is now,” he says. “You had to know the right people. If you want to go shooting now, you can find a day that suits what you can afford.” With more people shooting, more women are inevitably going to join in, he says. “Increasing the accessibility will increase the diversity in terms of women over time.”
Gender is irrelevant
Fieldsports writer Kate Fensterstock agrees. “It’s not that [men] don’t like [women being in the field], but it’s not something they are used to and often they don’t know how to handle it. They want to be able to make you feel included but [some of them] are not quite there yet. Every day that I show up with a gun they assume that I’m beating or loading for someone, and then I [stand] next to them on the peg.”
Kate is pretty robust about the whole thing. “When you get a bunch of guys together doing something ‘manly’, they’re going to be men no matter what. I don’t think that’s limited to shooting, it has to do with how men are.”
While all-female environments offer new opportunities for women who fancy a go at shooting, they are not going to solve the problem overnight. “Girls are being given the opportunity to shoot, but only with each other,” says Kate. “The most important part of the process is making sure that girls will feel that they can shoot alongside the boys. That’s the biggest hurdle — they can feel confident with women, but they still won’t shoot with boys, and that isn’t going to change anything.”
Encouraging women into shooting
There is still more to do to encourage more women to go into the shooting world, playing whatever part they like best. “A positive way to take women off peg-stand duty is to get them beating or doing something productive to feel like a part of the process, then they have their own role,” says Kate.
Liam Stokes turns the question of how to encourage more women into shooting around: “In the shooting magazines, the vast majority of photographs are of men but when you ask the shooting community to submit their pictures, as we do in our Love of Shooting campaign, 80 to 90 per cent of the entries are women.”
As for the terminology, “lady Gun” is beginning to sound dated. “It does annoy me because deep down I don’t think there should be a distinction,” says Kate. “At the same time, I encourage people not to read so far into it. We’re still at a stage with women in shooting that if that distinction has to be made, at least girls are involved.” Tracy adds that, with reference to the actual equipment, “a lot of people use the term ‘ladies’ gun’, but its simply smaller bore”.
Lady Violet doesn’t take the term to heart. “I don’t think we should get too prissy about the title that we give ourselves,” she says. “There’s something incredibly refined and chic about being called a ‘lady Gun’. There’s nothing more glamorous than a woman standing on a peg with her own gun.”
You will always have discrimination, sexism and racism in these sports.
The prize money is different for men and women.
There will always be men and women teasing women about their manliness and heaven forbid, should a women miss a target, the negativity will spread like wild fire!, But if a man misses, that’s acceptable.
There is more Media coverage for men than women in advertisements in magazines, books, and TV.
Men do get sponsorship deals, much easier than women
A lot of companies and sponsors don’t want to take a gamble with women, for fear that their reputation will be in the spotlight, if women don’t win medals.
There are very few people of colour in the sport, both men and women. Take a look at this article:
When talking about female athletes, time and time again commentators focused on their appearance, rather than their skill, discipline, commitment, and performance. Much of the talk was about their hairstyles, makeup choices, physiques, or “girliness.”
We know that many cultures stigmatize and marginalize girls and women during their periods, confining them to the home, or even sending them away. This natural physical occurrence is highly associated with shame. A survey IWHC collaborated on earlier this year found that misconceptions and stigma around menstruation stubbornly persist in many, if not most, parts of the world. As the writer Abby Norman explains, period-shaming is rooted in fear of women: “They had power and not just any power: a power that men couldn’t understand. An experience that men could not match… Powerful women frighten and disgust a patriarchal society, and menstrual stigma doesn’t serve and protect women — it exists to serve and protect men.”
So what will it take for us to overcome the oppressive structures that dehumanize women and uphold men’s experiences as the paragon of normalcy and achievement? For starters, we need more young women speaking out and breaking barriers. One of the best ways to enable this is to provide comprehensive sexuality education. I’m not talking about stereotypical junior high health class with human reproduction lessons and scary images of sexually-transmitted infections. I’m talking about lively classroom discussions on gender roles and norms, power dynamics in relationships, human rights, and leadership and life skills.
These are very interesting articles for women:
Suggested manufacturers, accessories and products for Clay Pigeon Shooting – just to name a few:
South African suppliers:
To all you avid gamers out there. Here are a Shooting games for you to enjoy!
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When you are ready to take on those mounts, Please take a moment and bow to people that are disabled, that cannot take part in such sports.
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