How to Hold your Shotgun for Clay Shooting?

How to hold your shotgun for clay shooting

Summer is quickly approaching, and for those in the shooting world, it’s high time you bring out those shotguns and rifles and start practicing for the upcoming hunting season.

And even if bird hunting doesn’t tickle your fancy, clay pigeon shooting or rifle shooting is still a great way to have a day out with friends and family while taking part in an exciting sport.

This article clarifies the various steps on how to hold your shotgun for clay pigeon shooting. So, no matter your relationship with shotguns, these clay pigeon shooting tips will help improve your aim, break bad habits and fix any flaws in your shooting form before opening day!

To give you a head start, a good gun mount/hold means being restful and comfortable while still being in control. Beginners sometimes make the mistake of holding the gun too tightly out of fear of recoil, but this only ends up stiffening up the muscles of the arms, making it harder to aim and shoot accurately.

You should focus on being able to mount, support, and swing the shotgun confidently without having to strain your muscles. Your hands, arms, and, wrists, should all be comfortable without awkwardly twisting any of your joints. Here is a more detailed step-by-step guide:

Maintain a Good Stance

Maintain a Good Stance

Taking a good stance is important for taking a good shot, and certainly, something that you should frequently pause to evaluate. Even for the more experienced shooters, perfecting your stance is worth the effort.

A weight-forward stance is recommended for a more comfortable and controlled feel. Your front foot should be carrying almost 60% of your body weight.

Be aware and in control of your arms and legs before taking your shot. Also, make sure you are balanced and not swaying side to side. You can further ensure accuracy by aiming your front foot towards the intended breakpoint.

Additionally, deep breathing is important for shooting as it helps you to stay calm and focused. If you watch any top shooters, you’ll realize that they never rush their shots. Note that it takes a few seconds for the human eye to settle down and focus on the target, so patience is key.

Poor shooters often make the mistake of rushing their shots. They call out as soon as the gun butt hits their shoulder, without taking the time to steady their aim, resulting in missed targets and wasted shots.

If you want to improve your aim in sporting clays, forget about trying to match the rhythm of the squad. Instead, focus on perfecting your stance and taking your time with each shot.

Fore-end Hold

Fore-end Hold

Now that we know the basics of how to grip a shotgun, let’s break it step by step starting with the fore-end hold or the leading hand. For right-handed shooters, the leading hand, or rather the hand grasping the fore-end would be the left hand.

Rest the fore-end of the gun on your cupped palm with your thumb on one side and 3 fingers on the other side, and ensure that your forefinger is pointing fairly in the same direction as the barrel. It’s best to only use your forefinger and not try to bind all four fingers around the fore-end as it will cock your wrist uncomfortably and restrict arm movement.

Note that there’re two main types of grips that shooters use with their leading hand – the forefinger grip and the Vulcan salute. The first one (forefinger grip) is when you use your forefinger to aim/point at the clays, and the second one (Vulcan salute) is when one or two fingers rest around the fore-end nearby the thumb.

You may realize that you’re doing great with a slightly conventional grip, especially after more practice, but experts suggest that you cling to a customary grip as the starting position, with your forefinger beneath the fore-end.

After knowing how to hold the fore-end, the next thing is to determine where you should grip it. Well, the standard chequering can be a helpful guide, but everyone is different so don’t get too caught up on where your hand “should” go.

Instead, focus on what’s comfortable for you and be consistent with your grip.

Several factors like how the gun fits you and how much weight is distributed between your hands can also play a role in finding the best grip for you. As you gain more experience, you may find that you want to adjust your grip for different situations.

For beginners, however, you’ll be wise to find a starting position that is relaxed and then try to remain consistent. Just make sure your elbow is bent and relaxed so that you can comfortably swing the weapon up/down without having to move the leading hand.

Trigger Hand

Trigger Hand

With the trigger hand, the point is to achieve a hold that doesn’t restrict your movement. The thumb should be wrapped around the grip, such that it’s pointing down the rib–not up.

Otherwise, if it is pointing up, it would be right behind the top lever, and this could lead to a foul bruise due to recoils.

The 3 fingers (the outside fingers) should bind around the grip, kind of like how your thumb is, and the little finger should be close to the bottom of the grip rather than hanging below it.

To get a good grip on your gun, you’ll need to wrap your outside three fingers around the grip, with your thumb opposite them. Your little finger should be close to the bottom of the grip rather than hanging below it.

Your wrist should be fairly straight and the elbow kept out from the body. All these will help to rest the gun comfortably on the shoulder.

The position of your forefinger is also important when it comes to operating the trigger. If the trigger is way too near, you’ll be cladding the first joint of the forefinger around it; too far and you’ll be struggling to make a perfect shot.

Fortunately, most modern guns are designed with a customizable trigger that allows you to move back and forward to secure a suitable position, eliminating the need for costly gun fitting. This is something to keep in mind next time you go to the gun range.

For safety reasons, it’s important to keep your finger off the trigger when getting in the ready position. Many instructors will tell you that your finger should be resting on the metal above the trigger guard.

You can also wrap your finger around the rip with the other fingers or simply just set it on the rim of the trigger guard. All these options are acceptable; the main point is to make sure your finger is off the trigger unless you’re absolutely ready to make the shot.

Shoulder and Cheek

Shoulder and Cheek

There are three points of contact to think about when mounting and shooting a gun – your hands on the gun, the gun butt on your shoulder, and your cheek on the comb of the stock.

Raising the butt of the gun on your shoulder will help straighten your head, making it easier to achieve a better aim. Just be careful so you don’t end up overdoing it. If you raise the gun too high, the muzzle could jerk up and hit you in the face when you fire.

Moreover, it’s important to keep your cheek close to the gun when you shoot. This will help you stay more accurate and decrease the chances of getting hit in the head with the gun or squirming your ear protection. You should also press the butt gun firmly against your shoulder to help control the recoil.

Be Sure Not To Tilt Your Gun Sideways

Be Sure Not To Tilt Your Gun Sideways

When you’re shooting, whether it’s trap shooting, skeet shooting, or sporting clays, it’s important to hold your gun level. If you tilt the gun to the side, it is called canting, and it can ruin your shots and make breaking clays much harder.

Many shooters do this unconsciously, so you need to be aware of it. The best way to shoot is with the gun perpendicular to the ground. You may need a friend to help you check this, as it is difficult to do on your own, both physically and logistically.

Be Patient

Be Patient

In clay shooting, as with most things in life, patience is a virtue. It can be tempting to make the shot right away, but this is a rookie mistake.

Hang fire and wait for at least a second, so that you can consider the target’s direction and height. The more patient you are with the call and shot, the higher your score will be.

Also, you’ll need to dump all the instructions at this point. This can be difficult, but it is necessary in order to truly concentrate on the target. Clearly, you won’t be able to focus on the target if you have other things crossing your mind.

Make a habit of thinking only about the target as you call and shoot. One way to work on this is to incorporate these tips into your shooting routine slowly. Choose one tip and work on perfecting it before moving on to the next step.

Additional Tips for Beginners

Additional Tips for Beginners

A great way to start learning how to shoot clay pigeons is to sign up for some lessons with a qualified instructor. This will not just help you avoid developing any bad habits, but it’ll also be a great chance to meet other people who are just starting out.

The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association can help you find a shooting instructor near you, and they also offer some really helpful courses. In most cases, you’ll be able to borrow a gun from the clay shooting range, so there’s no need to get your own or have a shotgun license. Just give them a call ahead of time to check.

Since having the right gun is important for your safety and hitting the clay pigeons, your instructor will help you select the one that fits you and teach you about the gun mount.

Before you shoot, get a feel for the clay. Try to follow its flight path through the air with your finger. Work out if it’s dropping or rising, if it’s veering to the right or left, how fast it’s going, and how quickly it’s beginning to slow down.

Also think about where would be the best place to try and hit it, and how you should stand. In case you’re unsure about anything, ask your shooting instructor or a range safety officer. Being able to read the target is one of the most important clays pigeon shooting tips.

Before you start shooting, make sure to take note of the bird’s movements. If you do this, you’ll be more likely to hit the target. Slow down and listen to your intuition; only through practice will you be able to shoot well on a consistent basis.

Once you’ve decided that you want to purchase a gun, ask your instructor for advice on which shotgun would be best for clay pigeon shooting. Otherwise, relax and enjoy the lessons. It’s okay if you don’t hit the clay pigeons right away. Just listen to the instructions and have fun.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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