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How To Shoot Skeet

Learning how to shoot skeet can be a fun, challenging, and highly addictive outdoor hobby that challenges your timing, concentration and coordination. In skeet shooting, the shooter attempts to break clay disks as they fly through the air. Devices known as “traps” launch the disks into the air. In a typical range setup there are usually two traps located at either end of a semicircle. Shooters stand at the perimeter of the semicircle and shoot the clay disks as they are launched at a variety of angles and trajectories.

Skeet shooting, in part, simulates bird hunting. This is why the clay targets are known as clay pigeons. While learning how to shoot skeet is an enjoyable hobby, the sport is also highly competitive – you may have even seen skeet shooting during the last Olympics. Skeet shooting is a great hobby because you can do it both purely for leisure and fun or take it to the next level and compete in any number of regional or national tournaments.

The History Of Skeet Shooting

Skeet shooting began in the early 1900’s as a way for hunters to compete with each other. It also was a way for them to become more adept at hunting game birds in real life situations. Formally named Skeet Shooting in 1926, the sport has evolved into an Olympic event, as well as being used by the military in WWII as a way to teach new recruits the basics of marksmanship.

As the hobby took on popularity, a formal skeet course was designed. The layout resembles a half circle, with a firing house at the right and left edge of the half circle. Imagine laying a clock on the ground, and putting a small shed at the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions. The marksman stands at the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 o’clock locations, and shoots downrange at the flying clay targets.

Talented marksmen can shoot more than one target out of the sky at a time, with trick shooting performers able to break more than half a dozen clay targets in a single attempt.

Skeet Shooting Fun Facts

  • The terminology commonly used by clay shooters often relates to times past, when live-pigeon competitions were held. Although such competitions were made illegal in the UK in 1921, a target is still called a ‘target‘ or ‘bird,’ a hit is referred to as a ‘hit‘ or ‘kill,’ a missed target might be described as a ‘bird away‘ and the machine which projects the targets is known as a ‘trap.’
  • With approximately 15,000 members and 700 affiliated member clubs, the National Skeet Shooting Association is the largest organization in the world dedicated solely to the sport of skeet shooting.
  • Charles Davies, an avid grouse hunter, invented skeet in the 1920’s as a sport called Clock Shooting.
  • In Olympic skeet competitions, there is a random delay of between 0 to 3 seconds after the shooter has called for the target. Also, the shooter must hold his gun so that the gun butt is at mid-torso level until the target appears.
  • Safety always comes first when using any firearm. Always know the rules of the range and know how to properly hold, carry, and fire your shotgun.

How To Shoot Skeet – Getting Started

If you’re a complete novice learning how to shoot skeet, it helps to learn some key terminology:

  • Skeet – the clay saucer used as a target.
  • Over-under shotgun – a double-barreled shotgun with the two barrels aligned vertically, one over the other, rather than horizontally.
  • Barrel choke – an adjustable design feature of the shotgun, which affects how wide a target area will be covered when the gun is fired.
  • Firing House – the small building from which the skeet are flung into the air.
  • Downrange – the direction of fire, away from any spectators toward the flying skeet, which are moving away from the marksmen.

How To Shoot SkeetA newcomer to this sport can typically learn how to shoot and can get into the hobby for under $500. Once a firearm is purchased, the ongoing expenses are the cost of the clay pigeons and ammunition. Like any hobby, a beginner or amateur will spend much less than an enthusiast. Skeet shooters can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on their personal hobby habit.

When entering the sport, one valuable question to ask is how much time will be spent shooting. The casual marksmen will be happy with the results of a smaller budget. On the other hand, a hunter who is using the sport to sharpen his skills, or the professional marksmen who travels to skeet shooting competitions will want to plan on budgeting accordingly.

For an entry-level shooter, the best option for finding a firearm is to search legally licensed, used firearm dealers. Well-regulated, reputable dealers can guide the newcomer to the best firearm based on skill level and intended use. If you want a new firearm, you can expect a range from $1,000 to $2,000 for an over-under type shotgun.

In addition to a firearm, accessories that will be helpful in this hobby are:

  • Portable gun case
  • Gun cleaning kit
  • Folding table to use in the field, so that the firearm will not be resting on the ground.
  • Box of clay pigeons, or clays, for a day in the field.
  • Clay throwing device. These also range in price and complexity. A poly-vinyl simple clay-throwing handle can cost as little as $29, while a foot-activated, or mechanized automatic clay thrower can cost upwards of $350.

The time it takes to get started in this sport is completely dependent on the individual, and the local firearm sales laws in any given area. Some states require waiting periods, and proof of gun safety classes before a firearm can be purchased. If a person wants to try out the sport, and has friends with the time and equipment, any sunny afternoon can be spent out in the field firing away at clay Frisbees

There are also skeet ranges that provide instruction, gun rentals and shooting facilities for a nominal fee. These ranges are ideal for someone learning how to shoot skeet because the shooter can learn if he likes the hobby before spending money buying his own firearm and other accessories.

How To Shoot Skeet

Step One

The most important step in learning how to shoot skeet is becoming familiar with the firearm. A valuable first step would be to take a firearm safety course, especially if you have never handled guns before. You will also want to set up a safe storage area for your gun and its ammunition, especially if there are others in your household. Check your local laws as many cities and towns specify how firearms must be stored.

Step Two

Spend time with your firearm shooting at static targets like empty cans, boxes, and other disposable items. Know how to clean the gun, what causes it to fire well and how it will react if it needs to be cleaned. Get to know how the weather, such as heat, cold and humidity can affect the gun’s performance. Since the goal of skeet shooting is successfully shooting a small, rapidly moving target out of the sky, being comfortable with a firearm’s performance will greatly increase your enjoyment on the firing range.

Step Three

Find a place where you can shoot. If there is a skeet shooting range nearby, you can go there to practice. Be sure to never shoot alone, as this is dangerous and risky. It is also helpful to have someone along to give you pointers and to help you develop your skills. If you have the chance to take a class or to learn from someone who is very experienced. This would be a great time to do so. You may also want to consider filming yourself as you shoot so you can review your technique later.

Step Four

When you are done, be sure to thoroughly clean your gun and other equipment. This will ensure that everything stays in premium working order. If you had a chance to film yourself, this is a great time to review the film and take notes on how you did. This will give you a better idea of what to work on next time.

Skeet Shooting Tips and Tricks

The following tips and tricks can help you get the most out of learning how to shoot skeet…

  • Locate and join a network or professional skeet organization. Nothing will open doors to increased performance and higher levels of enjoyment like developing skeet shooting skills with those who have a personal passion for the sport.
  • If you know someone involved in the skeet shooting (or who just likes guns and has a few) you may be able to borrow a gun and thus reduce the startup cost for the hobby. As mentioned earlier, many ranges also rent equipment.
  • Film yourself shooting if possible, so that you can see what you need to work on. This assumes you understand the basics of skeet shooting technique.
  • Find someone to shoot with. This will make the sport more enjoyable and will help you grow a relationship with someone who enjoys the same things you do.

Your Skeet Shooting Passion

Skeet Shooting has a huge following, and skeet shooting ranges and contests are held across the country on a regular basis. For the individual who wants to grow with the sport, attending contests and rubbing elbows with masters is the best way to increase your interest and desire. Pros and contestants will know the tricks to improve accuracy, become faster at targeting and firing, and more.

Here are a couple other ideas for ways to take your skeet shooting to the next level…

  • Join a local skeet club, if there is one. In many areas of the country, skeet shooting is very popular. Local, statewide and national organizations exist to promote the safety, popularity, and performance of the sport.
  • As you master skeet shooting you can teach novices proper safety and technique.
  • Challenge yourself through time trials and other individual competitions. There are always ways to improve your form and quickness.

Related Skeet Shooting Resources

Learn more about how to shoot skeet by checking out the following online resources…

National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA) -Dedicated to the development of shooting sports at all levels of participation.

Shotgun World – Firearm site that provides a wealth of shotgun information and showcases shotgun classifieds, forums and more.

Skeet Shooting Tips – Skeet blog that has several articles about how to shoot skeet.

Related YouTube Videos

Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.