Tips for Beginners: Gun Club Etiquette for Trap, Skeet, Five-Stand and Sporting Clay Shooting

There are four main clay pigeon shooting sports: trap shooting, skeet shooting, five stand and sporting clay shooting. All are sports of marksmanship, of course, but they require a few skills for success—rhythm, hand-eye coordination, good form and sound decision-making, to name a few. Originally developed as a way to help bird hunters train out of the field, shotgun sporting is now viewed as a challenging way to put a shooter’s skillset to the test and enjoy the great outdoors. And blasting a few fast-flying targets is not a bad way to spend an afternoon, as far as we’re concerned!

man shooting shotguns at clay pigeon outdoors

To get started in shotgunning, the best place to turn is your local sporting, social or gun club. In addition to pre-set courses and equipment, these clubs provide you with all the basic tools you need to learn the sport, from laying the foundation for proper gun-handling skills to perfecting your stance. Despite this fact, many first-time shooters are intimidated by the idea of hitting the gun club as a novice. But if you spend a little time learning proper gun club etiquette before you go in, you’ll be right on target for a successful day of shooting.

Things to Know Before Entering the Club

In all disciplines of clay pigeon shooting, it’s important to focus on safety, preventing shooters from distraction and following club rules. As long as you keep these three fundamentals in mind, you’ll be well on your way to a successful shoot. Here are some more specific kernels of etiquette for shooting trap, skeet, five-stand or sporting clay.

  • Follow Basic Rules of Firearm Safety—Wielding a shotgun comes with massive responsibility, and you should always follow proper gun handling etiquette when you’re shooting in or out of the field. Know the basics before entering, and always ask for additional information if needed. Follow three key rules of gun safety:
    • Show that the action is open and keep your finger off the trigger until it’s time to shoot.
    • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. In five-stand shooting, keep the muzzle over the bar, even when the gun isn’t loaded.
    • Treat all firearms as if they’re loaded. Do not aim it at anything you don’t want to destroy.
    • Keep your action open at all times until you’re preparing to compete.

Sport shooting equipment

  • Keep Your Action Open Until Calling for the Target—When you’re participating in any competitive shooting activity, it’s important that you don’t jump the gun, so to speak. Timing is vital to helping you maintain good rhythm, and it’s also key for safety. When trap and skeet shooting, always load your shells one at a time and keep your gun unloaded until it’s your turn. With sporting clays or five-stand shooting, don’t load your gun until you’re in the cage and always keep the action open when you’re walking to the line.
  • Stay Quiet and Contain Your Shells—Sure, the guy or gal next to you is your competition, but it’s in poor taste (not to mention unsafe) to be a distraction. When it’s not your turn, try to make as little noise as possible and try not to get noticeably excited or frustrated, regardless of how you shoot. You can also prevent distractions by resisting the urge to lean down and pick up shells or empties. To prevent this, invest in a shell holder or pouch so that you always have shells at arm’s reach when you’re on the course. If you shoot with a semiautomatic, it’s important that you have a system in place to prevent shells from ejecting and hitting the ground or the shooter next door.
  • Know the Rules of the Club—In addition to general shooting rules and etiquette, each club has their own rules to follow when shooting. Ask about a dress code—most clubs have safety-focused dress rules, such as no sleeveless shirts or open-toed footwear—and inquire about any restriction on shell sizes. Know that you will need the proper ear and eye protection to enter the course. Most clubs will have this gear to rent or borrow.

Man shooting clay pigeons

Shooting at Brays Island

One of the most important things you should know before heading out for a day of shooting is this: Always ask for help or information when needed. The pros at the gun club are there for a reason, and that’s to help you safely enjoy and learn the sport. Brays Island is a place that offers families an opportunity to learn these shotgun sporting endeavors in a safe and beautiful setting.