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
Semi-automatic shotguns come in two flavors: gas-operated and inertia-driven. Your decision on which one to buy is largely affected by its use.
These types of shotguns are called semi-automatics because they automate several functions. With a break-open shotgun — such as an over-and-under or a side-by-side — you have to manually load the gun, generally after two shots. Semi-automatics got their name by mechanically ejecting a spent shell casing after each shot and self-loading a new shotgun shell.
When it comes to clays shooting, some people prefer the semi-automatic because they are less expensive than most break-open shotguns — lowering the financial barrier to entry. Also, certain types of semi-automatic shotguns deliver less felt recoil than a break-open.
Whether it's a gas-operated or inertia-driven semi-automatic shotgun, the shell itself is the driving factor in completing the self-loading shot cycle. When a shotgun shell is ignited, it produces two byproducts: expended gases from the gun powder and recoil (or kick) from the explosion. Some semi-automatic designers believe that controlling the gases is one way to cycle the next shot into the empty chamber, while others opt to harness the energy from the recoil (inertia-driven actions).
Naturally, both shotguns have different internal components and often provide distinctive shooting experiences. That means you should really know the primary use of the shotgun before going into your purchase.
With a gas-powered semi-automatic, the expanding gases from the shell move up the barrel into a gas port that regulates how much pressure is exerted against a piston under the forend. This piston drives back the bolt to cycle the shotgun for the next shot. Siphoning off the gasses to operate the gun provides a low-recoil and balanced shooting experience. In the clays sports, where a shooter can fire hundreds of shots per day, the reduced recoil contributes to more control and less fatigue than an inertia-driven shotgun or even a break-open shotgun.
Without gas ports and carbon-gunked pistons that could potentially clog, the inertia-driven semi-automatic tends to stay much cleaner and therefore more reliable. The chief downside, though, is that inertia-driven shotguns can kick hard. If you're wingshooting, the infrequent number of shots you'll take won't matter that much in terms of recoil fatigue.
Over/Under or Break-Action
An over-under shotgun is a double-barreled, break action shotgun. Where most double-barreled shotguns have the barrels placed side by side, this shotgun has one placed on top of the other.
The specific features will vary based on gauge. Common gauges are 20 gauge, 28 gauge, and 12 gauge. The one chosen should always be based on what works best for you, and suits your preferences. Some will have two triggers, while others will have a single trigger and a switch that allows you to select which barrel will be fired so you can alternate between double and single shots.
There are very few moving parts to these shotguns, which makes them reliable, particularly in areas with inclement weather. They aren’t limited in their ammunition as these shotguns can process any shell that fits, without jamming or short stroking. Each barrel can be loaded with a different shell, which gives the shooter additional choices and the ability to use strategy in competitions.
Having the barrels one on top of the other improves the balance and overall handling of the piece, which makes shooting accurately easier. In cases of wet weather or dust, the action is fully enclosed which leads to it being relatively weatherproof, as long as the firearm isn’t dragged through the mud.
With the lack of moving parts, this also leads to increased durability, as there’s very little that can go wrong with a break action shotgun. With proper care, break-action shotguns can last thousands of rounds. Even cleaning is simple, as it requires only opening the gun, then the barrels are readily available.
Even More Firearm Information
Here's a link to a document that goes into great detail about what to consider when purchasing a new firearm.
The team will be able to make group ammo purchases at different times of the year. Watch for announcements on our TeamSnap Chat and FaceBook page.
There are several bits of important information on every box of target shooting ammunition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rules for Ammunition
For trap, the ATA regulates maximum speeds.
See the chart below.
ATA Shot Charge Speed Maximums
Shot Charge 1 ⅛ oz. Maximum FPS - 1,290
Shot Charge 1 oz. Maximum FPS - 1,325
Shot Charge ⅞ oz. Maximum FPS - 1,350
Standard ammunition: 12 gauge; 1 ⅛ ounce of shot; 1,145-1,200 feet per second; 7 ½ or 8 size shot.
For lighter recoil:
● 12 gauge; 1 ounce of shot; 1,150-1,200 feet per second; 7 ½ or 8 size shot.
● 20 gauge; ⅞ ounce of shot; 1,200 feet per second; 7 ½ or 8 size shot.
Typically, shot size 9 is reserved for skeet.
● 12 gauge; 1 ⅛ ounce of shot; 1,145-1,200 feet per second; 8 or 9 size shot.
● 12 gauge; 1 ounce of shot; 1,150-1,200 feet per second; 8 or 9 size shot.
● 20 gauge; ⅞ ounce of shot; 1,200 feet per second; 8 or 9 size shot.
● 12 gauge; 1 ⅛ ounce of shot; 1,200-1,300 feet per second; 7 ½ or 8 size shot.
● 12 gauge; 1 ounce of shot; 1,200-1,350 feet per second; 7 ½ or 8 size shot.
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... https://www.nrafamily.org/content/shotgun-choke-explained-simply-no-math-we-promise/
So what is shotgun choke?