It can be overwhelming to take in so much information at once for those who are brand new to the sport of clay target shooting. This page tries to slim down the amount of material in order to cover the very basics of the equipment used in clay target shooting.

Firearms to Consider

Here's a link to a document that goes into great detail about what to consider when purchasing a new firearm.

Firearms to Consider



Using a semi-auto will certainly be easier on your shoulder when you shoot a lot of targets in one outing. Like the pump action, you need to think about noise of the action setting off the microphones. You can take a half step back, keeping your muzzle downrange, to help prevent target launches from the noise. A semi-auto takes a little more effort to unload and show your gun is clear, but if you’re familiar with the operation of your specific gun, go for it!

Over and Under

Keep the gun action open until you are ready to shoot. When the person to your left shoots, drop a shell in the barrel, close your action, and go get ‘em! Just be sure you have your barrel selector set correctly so you know which barrel will fire when you pull the trigger. As soon as you fire, open the action and keep it that way until your next turn.

  • When your turn is coming up, be aware of the shooter to your left. Avoid making noises with your gun action when that person is about to shoot.

  • Whenever you’re not at a shooting position, you want your gun to be visibly clear and unloaded. With a break open like an over / under, keep your action opened so others can see the gun is not able to fire. If you have a semi-auto, lock the action open, so the chamber is visible. With any gun, keep your muzzle pointed at the ground or up into the air.

  • When you step up to the shooting line to start a round, be sure you have a full box of shells and a couple of spares, along with eye an ear protection.

  • When you move from position five to position one (they’re called posts) be very aware of your gun muzzle, so it doesn’t ever point at the other shooters or scorekeeper.

  • Never load your gun until it’s your turn to shoot.

In trap shooting, the targets are launched from a single "house" or machine, generally away from the shooter.


There are several bits of important information on every box of target shooting ammunition.

  1. Gauge: We use 12 or 20 gauge ammunition, and the type of gun you use will dictate which one you need. 20 gauge is the smaller of the two, and tends to be better for younger shooters who are not quite strong enough yet to hold the larger 12 gauge firearms, or they are sensitive to the 'kick' a firearm gives when shot.

  2. Shot: This number represents the size of the shot (the small pellets inside the shell). The bigger the number, the smaller the shot size. The most commonly accepted sizes at the ranges we go to are 7.5 through 9. Some smaller ranges (like our Leonard Range) do not allow the 7.5, because the larger shot travels farther than then smaller shot size. Because of that, the 7.5 size is viewed as being better for longer distance shots, and the 9 is seen as better for shorter shots because the smaller shot size spreads faster. With all that said, some of our athletes use only the 8 shot size for all disciplines just to keep things simple and consistent.

  3. Ounce: This is how much shot is in the shell. The three most common amounts are 7/8 oz, 1 oz, and 1 -1/8 oz. The more shot you have in the shell theoretically means more chances to hit the target, but it also means more kick, which could hinder your chances of hitting the second target in a situation where you are shooting two clays. This is truly a personal preference. We have had state and national champions shoot all different sizes.

  4. Velocity: This is how fast the shot fires from the gun measured in Feet Per Second. The most common ranges we use are from the low 1100s up to the mid 1300s. There are two main things to keep in mind when it comes to Velocity:

    • A low velocity shell may not work well in semi-automatic firearms, because the recoil isn't strong enough to engage the reloading mechanism of the semi-automatic system.

    • Number one tells us that the faster the shot travels, the harder the firearm will 'kick', so you may want to avoid the really high velocities if your are sensitive to heavy recoil.

There is more information on every box of ammo, but the the four listed here, are the most important to understand in order to avoid confusion about what you should be using. If you really want to dive in deeper, there is a mountain of information out there. Here's some more detailed and broader explanations.

The picture of ammunition is a typical type of round used by AECST shooters. Notice the box says "Light Target Load" and not "Game Load".


Here's an excerpt from a helpful site that discusses what a shotgun choke is and why they are necessary. Here's a link to that site if you want to read more than what is presented below...

So what is shotgun choke?

Choke is simply a minute constriction built into the last few inches of the inside of a shotgun’s barrel just before the muzzle. The constriction is so small that it’s measured in thousandths of an inch. Older shotguns have what is known as “fixed” chokes, meaning the choke cannot be changed. Newer shotguns, however, frequently come equipped with choke tubes of various constrictions that can easily be screwed in and out of a shotgun to cover multiple shooting situations. The advantage of screw-in chokes is that one shotgun can be used for various applications, from clay-target games (skeet, trap and sporting clays) to different types of hunting.

Why is choke necessary in a shotgun barrel?
Unlike rifles and handguns that shoot bullets one at a time, shotguns shoot many pellets all at the same time. These pellets are collectively known as “shot” and, depending upon their size, hundreds may be fired from just one shotgun shell. But, for a combination of reasons, shot pellets have a natural tendency to separate rapidly from each other as they fly toward a target. The choke controls the spread of shot, adjusting it for different shotgunning distances.