Shooting

Getting the Best Sporting Clays and Clay Pigeon Equipment for You

Couple skeet shooting

If you want to start shooting sporting clays, then you need the right clay pigeon equipment. There are many options out there for you to choose from, and most things will work pretty well, however, you should make a point of finding the right equipment and clays for you.

I’ve shot clays numerous times. I’ve shot at organized events and just at a friend’s farm. The bottom line is that the equipment you use matters, and you should make a point of buying appropriate equipment for your needs.

For example, there’s no need to buy the absolute best launcher out there if you’re just going to be occasionally shooting on your own land. However, if you plan to shoot a lot a more high-dollar and robust piece of equipment might be worth it.

With that said, let’s take a look at what’s out there so you can decide what you should get.

What to Look for In Sporting Clays

Automatic machine for throwing plates for shooting. Throwing machine for bench shooting. catapult for shooting Skeet (Automatic machine for throwing plates for shooting. Throwing machine for bench shooting. catapult for shooting Skeet, ASCII, 117 comp
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Sporting clays are not all the same. While they may look quite different, there are differences, depending on the type of shooting you’re doing. Let’s look at the types and sizes of sporting clays out there.

The Types of Sporting Clays

All sporting clays look pretty similar. They’re all essentially circular discs made out of clay material. They’re painted bright colors (usually orange), and kind of resemble a mini frisbee. While most of the time you’ll see one standard size, different types of shooting call for different types of clays.

Different Sizes and Kinds of Clays

There are different sizes and types of targets. The idea behind these is that they all have different characteristics once launched. Smaller clays move at a higher velocity but drop faster. Larger clays are a bit slower but sail longer distances.

While the size of clay will be determined by the person launching the clays and the type of sporting clay competition or shooting you’re doing, clays typically fall into the following categories:

  • Super-mini
  • Mini
  • Midi
  • Flash
  • Battue
  • Rabbit
  • Pheasant
  • Standard

Different Uses

There are several different types of sporting clay competitions, events, and styles. Generally, though, targets either fly or skip across the ground. Most of the clays discussed above are launched into the air in accordance with the rules of the competition or for practice purposes.

However, Rabbit clays are launched differently and roll or skip across the ground, essentially mimicking the way a rabbit would run across the ground. These clays are generally thicker and designed to roll on their edge.

When shopping for clays, make sure to get the ones that best suit your purpose. To be honest, I think I’ve only bought mini and rabbit clays one time. The typical standard clays that Gander sells are fantastic for casual shooting.

Choose a Good Brand

Most of the brands you find at big box stores will be good enough. Gander RV & Outdoors also carries top-quality clays. I will say that the brand can matter. I bought some really cheap clays one time, and the darn things had a habit of breaking apart when launched.

If you buy a good brand that makes high-quality clays, you won’t experience any issues. Gander sells White Flyer clays, and those work very well. You can order a box of 135 for a reasonable price and these clays are biodegradable, so you don’t have to worry about hurting the environment by leaving them where the pieces land.

What To Look for In Sporting Clay Equipment

Three men target practising with clay pigeons, on a cloudy day
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In terms of sporting clay equipment, you really don’t need much if you have a place to go. Obviously, you’ll need clays and a way to launch them, but other than that all you’ll need is your shotgun, ammo, eye protection, and ear protection.

Sporting Clay Launchers and Throwers

When it comes to sporting clay launchers or throwers, you have a few options. There are simple hand launchers, more robust mechanical launchers, and even more complicated launchers that can launch multiple clays at once.

If you’re just going to be shooting in your own back yard, I’d recommend something pretty simple. Gander sells a hand thrower and a variety of mechanized throwers.

If you’re looking for a good simple mechanized thrower, I’d recommend the Do-All Outdoors CT101 Competitor Trap Thrower. It can toss out single clays, double clays, or more. You can stack clays or set them side by side.

If you want something powered by electricity, then Gander has plenty of other options, including the Do-All Outdoors FireFly Auto Trap and the Do-All Outdoors Raven Automatic Trap. These take all the work out of the equation and just let the machine do its thing.

Sporting Clay Shotgun

When it comes to sporting clay shooting, over-under shotguns are the choice that most people end up going with. The reason for this is that shooters can have two different chokes on the barrels and use two different loads. This has advantages when shooting.

With that said, you certainly don’t have to have double-barrel, over-under to shoot clays. I have a super affordable Ithaca 20-gauge pump shotgun that I’ve outshot other people with. You can shoot with pretty much anything. However, if you plan to get serious about clay shooting, an over-under may be a smart way to go.

Mossberg, CZ-USA, and Stevens all sell quality over-under shotguns for reasonable prices. However, you should go with one that has a longer barrel and multiple chokes available. This will set you up best for success.

Sporting Clay Loads (Ammo)

If you talk to 10 different sporting clay shooters, you might get 10 different answers about what ammo to buy. Everyone—at least in my experience—seems to favor a different load.

If you’re just getting started, I’d say go with a 7 1/2 shot. The Winchester AA for 12 and 20 gauge is a fantastic target load. I’d start there and then try others as you progress.

Sporting Clay Sunglasses

At the very least, you should wear some clear shooting glasses that meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certification.

It’s a smart idea to protect your eyes anytime you’re at the range or out in the field. If you want something better than some simple clear glasses, look for tinted glasses.

Different color tints have different effects. Yellow, for example, can make things look more vibrant and eliminate blue light. This can be advantageous when shooting. There are also several other tints out there that will make it easier to see the targets depending on the light that day.

If you go with something like the Radians T-85 glasses with interchangeable lenses, then you’ll be ready for pretty much any conditions.

Sporting Clay Ear Protection

Ear protection is arguably more important than eye protection. There are plenty of types of earplugs and earmuffs. Personally, I like the earmuff style protection. However, I always tell people to give both a try and then decide.

I find earplugs annoying, but I know a lot of people feel that way about earmuffs, so it’s completely a personal preference thing.


If you need any sporting clay equipment, head into your local Gander RV & Outdoors or check out the website

Getting the Best Sporting Clays and Clay Pigeon Equipment for You

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