Clay Shooting on a budget, can it be done?
Clay shooting is the gateway that many take at the start of their shooting lives. Much like going to a driving range to take up golf, the clay pigeon ground serves the same purpose. It’s a place to practice your technique and over time push for perfect scores. The biggest hurdle most will face with clay shooting will be the initial financial outlay. Clay shooters will tell you there are a lot of things you need however this is rarely true. We believe that clay shooting can be done on a budget and it may be easier than you think.
What you definitely should and shouldn’t buy
While this piece is all about starting clay shooting on a budget we don’t want to cut corners with safety. If there’s one thing you should undoubtedly buy it’s a very good pair of hearing protection. Something that we’ve noted a couple of times is that damaged hearing won’t heal. Using a shotgun without hearing protection is a sure fire way to deafen yourself with incredible ease. Investing in some over or in ear protection should be the only time you have to do it if you pick well and definitely worth the effort.
With budget in mind there are a few things you certainly don’t need. The very top of that list is a shooting vest or clay shooting glasses. At the very beginning of your shooting journey, these items will not help you hit more clays. These two items will offer some very marginal benefits, perfect for the expert chasing one or two clays in a round but less important to the beginners. Don’t be fooled by the friendly salesman, when starting out the only thing you need is more practice.
Beg, borrow and steal
Clay shooting is a well trodden path and there is a lot you can do to get yourself up to speed without doing all the outlay yourself. We suggest that you beg anyone you know who already shoots clays to let you know when they’re going next. This is normally hugely effective as these people are probably looking for someone to go with as well. Hopefully, this can become a regular experience where you can go and get some time behind a gun.
Here you could also borrow that person’s gun which is undoubtedly the most expensive outlay for a beginner. This may prove to be the best thing to do as when you come to buy your own gun you’ll know what you do and don’t like. Unless your friend is of a very different build a borrowed shotgun should give you enough runway to build your passion for clay shooting. Equally, at this point you may be able to put off applying for your shotgun certificate until you wish to buy your own gun and cartridges.
By steal we definitely don’t mean steal people’s things and possessions but we do mean knowledge and experience. Going into clay shooting without any experience can be very daunting. The whole concept of lead and gun speed is alien to most people but it can be coached and explained. The key is to be inquisitive and ask as many questions as possible. If you can steal just a couple of snippets of helpful information then you’re doing a good job. We’ve already written some tips that may help before your first trip clay shooting.
Tuition is key in a sport like clay pigeon shooting where little practice can be done away from home. It’s not a sport of fitness or intensity but laser focus and repeatable processes. The focus comes with time as you learn to focus and read the key variables. The processes on the other hand require some natural talent but ideally tips and ques from a professional coach. They may note some habits you have that are impacting your shooting or give pointers to adapt your technique.
As an absolute beginner, you likely don’t want to pick the most expensive coach you can find. Those top coaches are looking at the most nuanced parts of technique looking to eek the very best out of you. For a beginner, you need to be more worried about safety and building these fundamentals. Gaining more shooting time should be the focus and this can be done with your local coach. As you gain more experience then you may want to look for a more experienced coach further afield.
Its not surprise that in this digital age that there’s a virtual option for clay shooting. An increasing number of these shooting simulators have been popping up across the country. Used for corporate days, gun fittings and training its a low cost relaxed way to give clay shooting a go. These work in two ways, one uses a headset and the other uses a screen and sensor in a shotgun. Each have their merits but using a headset allows people to do this practice in the comfort of their own home.
The fantastic thing about simulators is that they give you instant feedback on shot placement and allows you to repeat shots and fine-tune technique. The screen and sensor option let you use your own gun allowing everything learned to translate into your shooting. The headset doesn’t require you to have your own gun or a screen. This suits the beginner far better as you can order everything you need online and have it at your house in no time. Options like the GAIM or Dry Fire are the two leaders for personal use. If you really wanted to break the bank for a total simulator option you’d look at the Marksman Training System.
Should you buy your own gun for clay shooting
This is somewhat of a contentious issue but it’s entirely down to the user and what their budget allows. Many people aren’t in the possition to buy their own clay shooting gun straight out of the blocks. However, for those that can then this can be a really important decision in helping your shooting progress faster. Getting something that fits properly and suits your needs and requirements can make shooting much easier. Equally, rather than using the loan guns from the schools you get used to one specific gun and repeated processes become much more fluid.
The obvious barrier here is having a shotgun certificate. If you are entering the sport with a parent with an existing certificate then this barrier is removed. However, as a true beginner you will need to start afresh with your own certificate application. This was the case for myself and it wasn’t as daunting as it seemed at first. After a pair of referees and a letter from my GP we were pretty much there. After the visit from my FAO I had my certificate in the post not much later. From this point, you are free to go out and choose any shotgun that you like. As a beginner, there are some shotguns that we’d certainly recommend for clay shooting over others.
Clay shooting can be incredibly expensive or rather cheap depending on your approach. If you walk into a central London gunshop and visit their school then you can quickly get into house deposit money. This needn’t be the case and if you’re sensible can be a fun hobby that doesn’t break the bank. Clay shooting with a friend is the best way to start. If you can borrow the majority of the equipment then clay shooting can only be the cost of the cartridges.
When considering a budget its best to differentiate between what you need and what you want. You definitely need good hearing protection when you begin your clay shooting journey. However, you certainly don’t need a shooting specific pair of glasses or vest. At this point the priority should be on getting as much shooting time as possible. Step one should be find a ground and tutor that you like, secondly build confidence and thirdly commit to getting your own license and equipment.
We’ve written a handful of guides that you can read as you go through these steps. There are some budget guns that we very highly recommend to anyone as well as some tips to get the most out of your clay shooting trips.
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