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The Game


Sporting Clays: The Game

Clays IconSporting Clays is a challenging clay target game designed to simulate field shooting. On a Sporting Clays course, shooters are presented with a wide variety of targets that duplicate the flight path of gamebirds, such as flushing, crossing, incoming and other angling shots.

Courses are laid out in natural surroundings and typically include five or 10 shooting "stations" with shooters moving from one station to the next to complete the course. Each station presents shooters with a different type of shot. At a "grouse station", for example, shooters might face flushing "birds" that zip in and out of the trees. At a "decoying duck" station, incoming targets may float in toward the shooter. Most courses make use of natural features such as woods and ponds to create a realistic setting for each type of shot. At any station, targets may be thrown as singles, simultaneous pairs, following pairs (one target right after the other), or report pairs (the second target launched at the sound of the gun being fired at the first). To further challenge shooters, target size may vary from the standard trap/skeet clay bird to the smaller "midi" and "mini" targets, or a flat disc shaped "battue" target. There are even special "rabbit" targets that are thrown on end and skitter across the ground.

Unlike trap and skeet, where a mounted gun is permitted, Sporting Clays courses demand that the shooter start out with a "low gun" (butt of gun below the shoulder) until the target comes into view.

A full round of Sporting Clays usually consists of 50 or 100 targets (depending on the number of stations) with 10 targets normally thrown at each station. When shooting in squads, shooters typically rotate turns from station to station. At most stations, shooters call for each target(s) which may be released with up to a 3-second delay.


Clays ShooterSince no two Sporting Clays courses are alike and target angles and speed at individual stations may be changed from time to time, it is difficult for shooters to "groove in" as they might in trap or skeet. As a result, Sporting Clays scores are generally not as high as the scores in traditional clay target games such as trap and skeet. For example, the average necessary for a AA classification in trap is 97%. In Sporting, the average necessary for a AA rating is 80% for the United States Sporting Clays Association (USSCA) and 75% for the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA). The typical field gunner will break 35-40% of the targets on his first attempt and 50% is a reasonable goal for a shooter getting started in Sporting Clays. New shooters can attain a classification after shooting 300 (classification) targets.

Sporting Clays is by no means an exclusively competitive game. Indeed, more shooters participate just for the fun of it and to get in some excellent practice for hunting seasons.

Firearms: Sporting Clays is essentially a field game and an upland gun is well suited to this shooting sport. The most popular guns for this game, especially on the competition side, are 12 gauge autoloaders and over/unders. Hunters who prefer the 20 gauge may certainly use their smaller gauge guns on the Sporting Clays course. Sporting Clays courses occasionally sponsor 20 gauge shoots. Skeet, improved cylinder and modified, are the chokes most often used in this game. It's not uncommon for the avid Sporting Clays shooter to use interchangeable choke tubes to accommodate different stations during a round.

Ammunition: Trap and skeet shotshells (shot sizes #9, #8, and #7-1/2) are the appropriate loads for Sporting Clays. Rules prohibit the use of shot sizes larger than #7-1/2, more than 1-1/8 ounces of shot or a powder charge in excess of 3-1/4 dram equivalent.

Sporting Clays had its origins in the United Kingdom more than 60 years ago where it was first developed as a teaching and practice layout for developing wingshooting skills. Introduced to the United States in the early 1980s, Sporting Clays is the fastest growing of all the shotgun sports. More than several hundred courses have been established throughout the country and there are many more informal courses at smaller gun clubs and shooting preserves.


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