The Rise of Sporting Clays!

May 18, 2023 | Ammo Nerds, Staff Writer

The Rise of Sporting Clays!

Sporting Clays is a relatively new shooting sport that has been gaining popularity over the past few decades. It combines the excitement of hunting with the precision and technical skills required for competitive shooting. Like skeet and trap, it also uses clay targets that are typically orange in color. Unlike skeet and trap, there can be target variations from the standard 108mm targets.  Targets can be smaller and thinner which can allow for target presentations to vary widely.  There is no set field for Sporting Clays.  The course typically consists of 100 targets over 10 to 15 shooting stations or stands.  Each station will have anywhere from 2 to 5 pairs of targets(birds) that will either be released simultaneously(true) or one after another(on report). The sport has evolved from its English roots in the early 1900s. It didn’t take long for it to make its way to the United States. Today, Sporting Clays is taking over the shooting world as the game of choice for many shotgun shooters, and here are several reasons why.

Nerd Squad

Why Sporting Clays?

Sporting Clays is incredibly enjoyable and challenging.  Courses can vary widely in terrain and difficulty allowing the shooter to never get bored.  Unlike other types of shooting where the target is always in the same place, the targets in Sporting Clays can be different every time as a course gets reset and trap machines are moved. Course setters can set up courses in a variety of locations, from open fields to wooded areas. This allows for a great deal of customization and creativity, and ensures that no two courses are ever the same. Shooters must assess each target and determine the best way to approach it based on its trajectory and speed. This requires a great deal of focus and concentration, as well as the ability to adapt to changing conditions. Experience also plays a key role as a shooter can think back about how they approached a similar station on another course.

Fun for All Ages

Sporting Clays can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Even a first timer with limited shotgun experience can enjoy the thrill of breaking targets. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there’s always room for improvement.  Like golf, there is no aging out. The sport is also very social with many shooters enjoying the camaraderie that comes with competing and interacting with others. The sport is also very safe, thanks to the strict safety protocols that are in place. Shooters are required to wear eye and ear protection at all times, and there are strict rules about how the course is set up and run to ensure that everyone stays safe.  Sporting Clays is also environmentally friendly.  The sport has no impact on wildlife populations, and shooters can practice their skills without killing real birds.

Youth Clay Shooter

Industry support and innovation

Another factor that has contributed to the rise of the sport is the availability of equipment. Shotguns, ammunition, and other accessories are now more readily available and affordable than ever before. This has made the sport more accessible to a wider range of people who might not have been able to participate in the past.  As more people become interested in the sport, more companies are developing products specifically for shooters. This has led to an increase in innovation and new technologies, making Sporting Clays even more exciting and challenging. Several companies have recently popped up that cater specifically to the sport. Companies that produce ear protection, eye protection, apparel, vests, training aids, and even coffee have popped up to take advantage of the rise of Sporting Clays.  Trap machine manufacturers like Promatic, MEC, Atlas, and Lincoln continue to innovate by finding new ways to launch targets from their latest machines.  Sporting Clays is quickly becoming a multi-Billion dollar industry.

Active Sanctioning Body

Also, consider the NSCA or National Sporting Clays Association.  The NSCA is the sanctioning and rule making body that tournaments big and small are hosted under.  Tournaments range in size from small local events hosting only dozens of shooters to the NSCA National Championships in San Antonio, TX.  The later even hosts close to 2000 competitors.  The NSCA is also the clearing house for score history and ranking shooters by class.  The class system allows even beginners to find success among those with similar ability.

Youth Involvement

Another reason for its popularity is that it is one of the fastest growing High School sports in the country.  Kids as young as 6th grade are competing on school teams, 4-H Teams, SCTP teams, and other similar youth organizations.  As these kids continue to mature and gain experience in the sport they have driven the competitive factor to higher and higher levels.  Youth shooters have grown up in the sport and have moved on to win national and international Championships.   how-do-i-get-my-child-involved-in-clay-target-shooting

Clay Target Team

Camaraderie and Excitement

Sporting Clays is becoming the game of choice for many shooters because it is simply a lot of fun. The thrill of hitting a moving target is unlike anything else, and the sense of camaraderie that comes with competing against others is incredibly rewarding. Sporting Clays is a challenging, adaptable, and social sport that is gaining popularity among shooters of all ages and skill levels. With the availability of equipment and the growth of the shooting sports industry, it is likely that Sporting Clays will continue to be a major player in the shooting world for years to come.

Photo Credits: Moon Jeong, Barepelt Family Photography