Getting Started with Sporting Clays

by Michael Satterfield

Sporting Clays is one of the fastest-growing shooting sports in the U.S. and has been described as "Golf with Shotguns." The game is quickly becoming a popular past time for those looking for something a little more adventurous, or for those who like the thrill of the hunt, but don't want to harm animals. Unlike in Trap and Skeet shooting, where the shooter stands in the same position shooting at targets on the same trajectory, Sporting Clays is a course with a series of shooting sites.

Each site has different terrane features that make it unique, and clays are released at different angles, directions, and distances, creating a situation similar to an actual bird hunt. Courses are guided and controlled so groups don't cross paths, unlike in golf you don't want someone playing through on an active course.

A typical round consists of 100 shots, with each station giving shooters the chance to hit two targets. Some stations will have two clays released simultaneously while others may have the clays released at random intervals. The score is kept like golf and the shooter with the fewest shots and most targets destroyed is the winner. Like golf almost all Sporting Clays events are part of a local club and like golf, there is a range of prices and experiences. Public clubs offering rounds as low as $34 per-shooter and private clubs offering entire day-long experiences including catered lunches in air-conditioned tents on private reserves that can cost thousands per-shooter.

Trying Sporting Clays is easy, even if you don't own a shotgun as most clubs and ranges will rent you a gun for between $10-$20 plus the cost of shells. The majority of clubs also have an introductory course with an instructor who will take you through each station giving you input along the way to help familiarize yourself with the game. Private lessons can also be requested but generally are between $200-$300 per hour of instruction. I recommend getting a few friends, renting the guns, and taking an introductory course together, before jumping all in on buying a gun and taking private lessons.

If you have already tried shooting and are ready to get your own shotgun to pursue the sport for fun or competition here are my top five Sporting Clay shotguns.

Remington Model 1100

An American classic, the Remington 1100 Classic Trap, has been one of the best all-around shotguns you can buy for the last 40 years. The walnut finish with blued steel and gold embellishments gives it an elegant look with legendary performance and reliability.

Starting at $1,334
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Mossberg International Silver Reserve II Super Sport

The Mossberg Silver Reserve line of more affordable over/unders have been some of the most popular with entry-level clay shooters. Simple, rugged, and includes five extended choke tubes, an adjustable comb, and automatic ejectors.

Starting at $1,163
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Benelli Legacy Sport

One of Benelli's most popular autoloaders, the Legacy Sport has a proven track record of performance and a wide range of both factory and aftermarket options for choke tubes and modifications. Featuring  Benelli's proprietary crio-barrel treatment, the super reliable Inertia Driven system, and it features a beautiful AA_Grade Walnut Stock.

Starting at $1,879
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Browning Maxus Ultimate

Featuring a top-quality gloss walnut stock and laser engraved satin nickel finish aluminum alloy receiver, the Browning Maxus Ultimate is one of the pretties autoloaders on the market. The lightweight construction and recoil reducing PowerDrive gas system also make the Maxus one of the most comfortable shotguns to shoot for a day of Sporting Clays.

Starting at $1,940
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Winchester Model 101 Pigeon Grade Trap

An evolution of the original model 101 introduced in 1963 this gun has been a favorite of trapshooters for over 55 years. While retaining the classic charm of the original with the walnut stock and engravings, the modern 101 features a lighter weight barrel, fiber-optic front sight, and .742" Back-Bored Technology that is world-renowned for ideal shot patterns.

Starting from $2,680
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Of course, there are dozens of great shotguns you can choose to use for Sporting Clays, Skeet, and Trapshooting, but these are a few of my personal favorites. Also if you would like more information on how you can take part in the Sporting Clays and other shotgun shooting sports check out the National Sporting Clays Association.

This was not a paid or promotional post.