“Clay shooting takes patience, commitment and training, but you should try this discipline because it is a beautiful, skilled and open-air sport in which you are always in competition with yourself. When you get the results, it’s a double victory. ” Words by Chiara Cainero, who won two Olympic medals and was the first Italian shooter to win Gold in Beijing in 2008. A unique talent who, like many others, became interested in the sport because it was a family passion, and her father always took her to the shooting fields.
Our first exposure to this world often occurs when we are very young, the result of curiosity handed down by our parents and relatives.
However, taking up a shotgun and hitting the target requires a lot of skill. Nevertheless, this activity continuously attracts newcomers because it fascinates and amuses.
In fact, clay shooting has constantly been growing, so much so that the Fitav President himself (the Italian Federation of reference), Luciano Rossi, at the end of the 2018 enrolment, explained that the association in 2019 is “in excellent health”.
Furthermore, Italy and Italian shooters are the very finest, and the experts in this sector have reiterated that the best competition equipment is made in our country.
Before presenting the basics of clay pigeon shooting, it is important to talk a little about the history of the sport, starting from its beginning, which has a lot to do…with Christmas.
The evolution of clay pigeon shooting, from the “Balltraps” to “clay pigeons”
The origins of clay pigeon shooting can be dated back to the early nineteenth century when British hunters invented a movement in response to the ban on hunting wild birds that were replaced by pigeons.
The “revolution” then started in America, in the second half of the nineteenth century, when Americans started shooting at glass balls, like those on Christmas trees, which were thrown into the air by machines called “Balltraps”. They were the primordial clay pigeons, and the success was so immediate that from a simple pastime, it became a structured practice.
Over time, the targets gradually changed material, passing from “clay pigeons”, oval discs made of baked clay, to products with softer compounds up to the classic clay pigeon.
Shooting was part of the Olympics for the first time at the Paris 1900 Games. Participating for several years, Italy gained a place of honour, receiving one of the most extravagant and envied medals.
Clay shooting in Italy
In the nineteenth century, this discipline was very much in vogue in Sicily and some large cities, while at the end of the First World War it began to expand throughout the nation. The greatest development took place after the Second World War, so much so that in 1926 the FITPA was born, the Italian Federation of Clay Pigeon Shooting, based in Rome which included 30 companies from all regions and which was transformed, the year later, into the current FITAV (Italian Shooting Federation), thus entering CONI.
How to start clay shooting: what is necessary
It is important to know what it takes to start clay shooting. First of all, it is necessary to follow a series of steps to be in compliance with the law and to be able to shoot on the circuits. We must then choose the right shotgun and, last but not least, the right equipment to practice this sport in tranquility and safety.
Firearms license and FITAV membership
To be able to shoot on the platform, you must have a firearms license for sports use, a fundamental prerogative in Italian law. The license is issued by the police commissioner and authorises the holder to hold and transport the weapons and ammunition necessary to carry out the activity. This is also why it is commonly called a license for sports use. It is valid for 5 years.
The license to carry weapons for skeet shooting authorises the holder to use only suitable weapons.
Federal membership costs 50 euros and is valid for the whole year (January 1st – December 31st) and allows access to all shooting fields in Italy. To request it, go to a shooting range, fill out the personal data forms, sign the consent for the processing of personal data and pay the fee.
It is also essential to understand the advantages of federal registration: the card provides insurance coverage that is necessary to use the platform independently. In fact, non-members can only shoot if accompanied by instructors. Another aspect that should not be overlooked is that members can participate in competitions with shooters from all over Italy and beyond.
The right shotgun for beginner shooters
This is the first dilemma for beginners. Indeed, the shotgun is the means by which we test ourselves, and reliability, comfort and manageability make the sport more enjoyable, greatly simplifying the shooter’s life, even the beginner’s.
Previously, we explained in detail how to choose the right shotgun, but it is important to briefly repeat some tips for those who want to start clay pigeon shooting.
There is a vast range of models on the market with varying prices. However, we must remember that each discipline has its own specific shotgun, so we have to consider the specific sport when choosing a shotgun.
Our suggestion, if you are at an early stage, is to try out the various disciplines, so you can orient yourself to the shotguns that best suit you and the sport you choose. Beginners could opt for a product that is as versatile as possible.
It is also necessary to keep in mind not only the basic needs but also personal characteristics: physicality and shouldering are variables that can make a difference. For a professional shot, alignment is essential.
Even though we know that it is not the shotgun that hits the target but the skill of the person, that does not mean you can’t have an “extra shotgun”, choosing a stock that is as compatible as possible.
In fact, the stock is one of the most important parts of a shotgun, since it allows the shooter to correctly align the rib to the line of sight, direct the shotgun to the targeted point and, and as a result, obtain good results.
Our Futur-K6AM stock, with its infinite adjustments, is ideal for anyone because it works for everyone, experts or not, as it can be adapted to different physiognomies. Furthermore, having six parts that can be tuned, it can be used in a variety of ways.
Shotgun models (especially their configuration) vary greatly depending on the discipline one wishes to practice. For greater clarity, below, we have listed the main disciplines present in the circuit.
The gun and Olympic disciplines. Here they are:
Olympic Trench or Trap
Shooting is done from a straight-shooting area that is fifteen meters behind the trench with the trap. Shooters find themselves crossing five stations, each of which is connected to three traps. The succession of throws is chosen randomly or are set patterns, so the shooter does not know the direction or inclination of the release of the plates from the individual stations.
Thus we await the release of the target with our shotgun and with two shots in charge. In this context, the inclination of the stock is important because the targets start from the bottom upwards. This is why we aim to have a minimal turn. The most used shotgun is an over-and-under with barrels between 740 and 760 mm long.
In this specialty, you make a journey, consisting of eight platforms (three more than Trap) which are located in a semicircle with a radius of 19/20 meters. At the end, there are two traps. The machines always release the target in the same way, but the launch time varies and depends on the shooter’s call. In Skeet, a shotgun overlaid with barrels that do not exceed 710 mm with folds and deviations for the neutral stock is preferred.
Shooters continue to alternate on five platforms as in the Olympic Trench, but two clay targets are launched simultaneously. The trajectory is fixed, and the shooter has two shots to hit both. This discipline is very similar to Trap.
The Sporting Clay
In this activity, we try to approach the typical methods of hunting. Thus the targets are launched following trajectories that simulate the flight or movement of game as much as possible. This is why the targets are thrown in all positions, and the stock must not have too small a fold.
How much is a shotgun?
This is another typical question that arises for those who want to start clay shooting. One of the problems that has always discouraged shooters from starting this sport is the cost of the equipment.
A new, low-quality shotgun is priced at just under 2,000 euros, while mid-range products start at over 2,000 euros, reaching almost 5,000 euros. Higher prices can also be found up to 10,000 euros for high-end rifles.
As an alternative, there is a large second-hand market, but before buying the product, it is always a good idea to check its mechanics. In this case, you should take an expert with you. The prices of used second-hand are affordable, and you can even find a good one for less than 1,000 euros.
The next step is to equip yourself with a specific shotgun. Initially, it is better to have a versatile shotgun, capable of switching to various modes by changing the parameters with chokes and cartridges.
In clay shooting, let us remember, it is fundamental to prepare yourself with the most suitable stock: it has to connect with our body; this is substantial for the alignment of the shotgun. For this reason, we reiterate that the Futur-K6AM stock is the best solution.
At this point, there are only a few aspects left to consider to be ready to start clay shooting.
The argument is extensive because the weight is very different depending on the category. They can range from 24 g to 28 g. In the beginning, it is preferable to opt for a lower weight because they have less recoil, are easier to handle and are more suitable for those who are still trying to get comfortable with shooting. As for the shot, 7.5 is used the most, with a diameter of 2.4 mm.
Even earplugs are fine, but earmuffs are a necessary tool when you go into the field, especially if the shooter requires maximum concentration (eliminating any noise that can be disturbing), and for preserving his/her hearing since firing sequences are prolonged on the platform.
This accessory greatly protects shooters from all weather conditions. Furthermore, technical glasses are equipped with lenses with particular colours that increase the contrast, making the clay pigeons stand out and, therefore, favour the aim.
Gilets are practical for carrying cartridges and everything you need. They are equipped with various pockets to hold any equipment and thus help the shooter in all his actions. Gilets are provided with padding and non-slip to absorb the recoil and stabilise the shotgun. This garment is certainly convenient for this sport.
It is time to get on the platform, but it’s important not to neglect the training
Before starting clay shooting, it is necessary to remember that this beautiful sport requires a lot of practice.
Experience makes the difference, and you have to try and try again before getting points. We must not fall into despair if, in the beginning, we cannot hit any targets. It is important to keep in mind that the more training you do, the more confident you will be with the shotgun.
Furthermore, you can always rely on the experts in the field, who can give excellent suggestions on how to avoid the most common mistakes.