Skeet is a clay target game using a shotgun. It was originally shot as a way to improve one’s bird-hunting skills. Nowadays, most people shoot it either for fun or for competition. It is a very easy game to shoot, as most people will hit some targets the very first time they try it. At the same time, it is a very difficult game to master. Even at a small event, a shooter usually must shoot a perfect score of 100 out of 100 to have a chance at winning. This takes a lot of concentration and practice at the range, as one simple mistake will cause you to miss a target.

In this three-part series, I will first explain to you the basics of the game and the equipment you will need. The second article will go over what to expect when you show up to the skeet range as well as safety rules you will need to know, and the third article will cover what to do if you want to get more serious about the game and some tips that have been passed on to me over the past 35+ years of skeet shooting.

I am not going into the details of how to hit the targets from each station for two reasons: First, there are countless videos on the web that cover that. Many are done by instructors and shooters with much better credentials than I have. Second, it is something that a new shooter will have a hard time understanding, as they are not familiar with the basics. What I am going to cover are the little things that will make your first experience a pleasurable one, which will make you want to come back and shoot again.

Equipment:

Before showing up to the club, there are several pieces of equipment that you will need before you are able to shoot. They are:

  • Shotgun
  • Ammunition
  • Shooting glasses
  • Hearing protection
  • Something to hold your shotgun shells
  • A hat is a good idea

The last thing you will need is a basic understanding of the flow of the game. As I said, there are many videos on the web that can be viewed to show you how to do this. I would highly suggest you watch some of them so that you can concentrate on shooting when you get to the range and not on what you are supposed to do.

Skeet Shooting 101 (Pt. 3)

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Skeet is a game in which clay targets are thrown from a machine called a “trap” and fired at with a shotgun. There are 25 targets in a single round of skeet, shot from seven stations in a semi-circle in between the two traps and one directly in the middle of them. The trap on the left is called the high house, and the house on the right is called the low house. The birds come out of each house and cross in the middle. You start on station one and progress around the semi-circle to station seven, and then out to station eight. Each person shoots each station before moving on the next.skeet-shooting-range

The game is typically shot with 12-gauge or 20-gauge shotguns, though 28 gauge and .410 are also used. Most experienced shooters will use an over/under-style shotgun, although that is not needed. More common are semi-automatic shotguns and pump guns. There is no difference in how they shoot; it is merely a personal choice.

I would recommend that a new shooter start with a semi-auto shotgun for the following reasons. It is easier to operate than a pump and it will have less felt recoil than a pump or an over/under shotgun. I would recommend a 20 gauge for the same reason: less recoil, and they are as common as a 12 gauge. However if you have access to a 28-gauge shotgun, use that. In my opinion, it is the best of all the gauges, and I typically have my best scores with that caliber. It hits the targets hard and has very little recoil. The downside is that ammo can be difficult to find and is more expensive than 12 or 20 gauge.

I would not recommend using a .410 when starting out. Although it has almost no recoil, it is very difficult to hit targets with. Experienced shooters often refer to the .410 as the idiot stick because of its difficulty to shoot well.

You can find ammunition for a 12 gauge or 20 gauge at just about any sporting goods store or major box store. Some will have 28 gauge, but often you have to go to a gun store or even order it. You can use 7 ½, 8, or 9 shot, with 7 ½ being the largest and 9 being the smallest. The numbers represent the diameter of the shot. Remember that #9 is smaller, so that means you will have more shot in a shell than if you used 7 ½ . That said, 7 ½ shot will travel farther and break targets at a longer distance. If using #9 shot, you should be in good shape for all the distances shot in skeet, though it can be hard to find.

Most recreational shooters use #8 shot, which is a compromise and the easiest to find. You cannot use shot larger than #7 ½ because the larger shot does travel farther, and can land outside the safety area of the shooting range. Each box comes with 25 shells, and you can often buy bulk boxes of 100 rounds. I suggest that you bring at least one more box than you plan on shooting in order to have a few extra shells; it is possible to shoot more than 25 shells in a round. You can have misfires or shoot at a clay that breaks right out of the thrower, in which case you will get a retry on that bird.

skeet-shooting-shells
The size difference between the four gauges, starting with the .410 on the left.

Between broken targets and stray shot, you must always wear eye protection. Not just while shooting, but anytime you are close to the skeet field. Over the years, I have been hit in the face with broken targets and stray pellets. The targets usually come from an adjacent field and are partially broken from a shooter. They change direction and can fly right into a shooter not paying attention. The shot from an errant round can bounce off of one of the houses or even a target.

skeet-shooting-eye-protection

You can purchase adequate shooting glasses from any sporting goods store. If you are planning on shooting a lot, I would recommend getting a good pair. You can search for them online and find several manufacturers. You can spend from $100 to over $700 for a pair with different-colored interchangeable lenses. I would recommend getting a lower-end pair with interchangeable lenses. They usually come with three sets of lenses and will give you the ability to change colors to match the conditions. Quality glasses also fit on your face in such a way that gives you a better, more unobstructed view of the target.

Skeet Shooting 101 (Pt. 2)

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Hearing protection falls right in line with eye protection. Wear it at all times. You can get anything from soft foam plugs for a few cents per pair to electronic ear muffs for $500+. Unless you purchase a set of ear muffs made specifically for shotgun shooting, I would not recommend using them for two reasons: First, they are bulky and you will have a hard time mounting your gun properly without them getting in the way. The second reason is, if your earmuffs get in the way, you could break the seal around the ear, rendering them useless for hearing protection. I use custom molded earplugs that cost around a hundred dollars. You can buy do-it-yourself kits to make them as well. Buy a couple if you go this route, as you will more than likely mess it up the first time!

You will need something to carry your shells. This makes it easier and safer for you to reload your gun. You can buy a shell pouch or shooting vest. Like everything else, you can spend a lot or a little. Inexpensive ones can usually be bought at the same place you find your ammo.

I would recommend wearing a hat. It will keep the sun off of your face and out of your eyes, and most importantly, will help protect your face from those stray bits of target. The other reason you should wear one is because the first time you shoot a perfect round (first 25 straight, 50 straight, 75 straight, 100 straight, and even a 400 straight), it is customary for your squadmates to take your hat and shoot it!

skeet-shooting-group_opt

Stay tuned for part two.