Of all aspects of shooting, safety is the most important part of the sport. When you are clay shooting at a club or shooting with friends, safety starts with etiquette and respect. When you go to a club, introduce yourself to the manager, employees, and other members. Make sure that you ask about their shooting rules and any etiquette that is specific to that club. Not only does this help you feel comfortable with the club, but it also helps other shooters get to know and feel a little bit more comfortable with you. Let’s take a look at some other rules that will help you promote a safe clay shooting experience.
Make sure that you have the right shot size
Always ask about the rules that are particular to the club. Many ranges will allow shooters to have 7-½, 8, or 9 as the allowable sizes used when clay shooting and a certain maximum allowable muzzle velocity. The reason for this rule is often that parts of the shot can exit the shooting area if other shots and velocities are used. When a clay pigeon is launched, it is moving at about 42 miles per hour. If you are shooting a 12 gauge, you are going to be fine if you go with something between 1200 and 1300 feet per second.
Ask about the commands that people in the club use for releasing a clay pigeon
Load, pull, and shoot, from post to post, is how the clay shooting regimen typically goes. This gives the person time to load their gun safely, give the command to release the clay pigeon (“pull,” “yeah,” ‘go,” etc.). Then, there is a brief pause where the person at the next shooting post gets ready to shoot. When you visit a new shooting club, meet the person who releases the clay pigeon and ask a few questions about their shooting routine. If you’re on a self-serve course, take a practice lead. It’s also best to watch a round of shooting before you assume a shooting post. This will let you get familiar with the body language that club regulars are used to. This article also has beneficial information that will make your shooting experience better and safer.
Always know where you are pointing your muzzle
Most shooting clubs will have their rules posted on their website, but many clubs will state where you can point your muzzle. For most clubs, the safe muzzle directions will be downrange. Do not walk the shooting line or change posts with a loaded gun. When you are not shooting, make sure that it is obvious to others that your gun is not loaded. Also, do not talk on the shooting line. This can distract other shooters and the person releasing the clay pigeons. When walking with your gun, open the break, point the barrel down with the stock facing backwards.
Know nuances about the “one-in-the-gun” rule
Many clubs have a rule about having one shell in the gun at any given time. In some situations, shooters might like to use an over/under gun. If you see other shooters with different variations on this rule, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask about how many shots you are allowed to take while it’s your turn to shoot.
Be aware of what you are doing with your empty shells
Some shooters will invest in a shell catcher for their semi-automatic shotgun. This will keep the shells from hitting people next to you. If you are using a pump action shotgun, you should consider ejecting your spent shell casings softly. Pick up your empty shells. Many shooting posts will have magnets, so you can safely place your empty cartridges until you are done shooting.
Be exceptionally aware of other shooters on busy days at the club
On busy days, most of the posts will be occupied by shooters and there will be others who are waiting for their turn. Make sure that you are ready to go when it’s your time. Also, don’t take frequent breaks while you are shooting. A very important rule to follow is where to walk if you need to change shooting posts. If you are changing posts, such as moving from post 1 to post 5, always walk behind the shooting line.
Remember that politeness and thoughtfulness are universal
When you join a new shooting club, are shooting with different people for the first time, or are just new to the sport, getting to know other shooters and club members goes a long way. You might get to know some people and they will become your shooting companion. You will get to know the rhythm of the shooting line and enjoy a productive shooting session every time you go to the club.