Clay Pigeon and Field Shooting Gun Safety
Clay pigeon shooting is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, with the CPSA (Clay, Pigeon Shooting Association) having increased is membership by more than 40% over the last ten years. It's become very popular as a corporate activity, and many companies offer shooting days to executives and companies, for team building days.
There is a difference between clay pigeon shooting and field shooting. With clay pigeon shooting you use a shotgun to fire at discs called clays which are released into the air from a machine called a trap. The shooter tries to hit the target as it flies through the air.
In field shooting you also use a shotgun, but the targets are live, usually game birds like pheasants. Professional shoots employ men called "beaters” to chase the birds towards the guns, and the shooters try to hit the birds as they fly into the air to escape the beaters. However, there are also "walk up" shoots, where the shooters walk along, disturbing birds in the undergrowth themselves, and the use of "hides" where shooters remain concealed to shoot at birds flying overhead.
Whichever style of shooting you try, it's an exciting experience that requires a keen eye, concentration and quick reactions.
No matter what kind of shooting you are participating in, or what kind of gun you are using there are gun safety measures that need to be followed.
- All guns must be licensed. Police have control over who is issued with a firearms certificate, and only people who they see as being fit to hold a license will be issued with one.
- Never be tempted to drink alcohol and shoot. Even one beer can impair your reactions.
- Never point a gun at anyone! Whether the gun is unloaded or not, you must never point it in the direction of anyone. Instead it should be held "down range," as the CPSA calls it, to eliminate any possibility of injury, death or destruction should a gun be accidentally fired.
- Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
- Never load the gun until it is ready to use.
- Keep ammunition separate from the gun until ready to load and use.
- Before putting the gun down, or passing it to another person, make sure that it is unloaded.
- When walking or resting carry your shotgun "open and empty" and unloaded over your arm.
- Always check you are shooting into an area that is safe and free from any obstacles or people.
- Always treat a gun as if it were loaded.
- Never shoot without full insurance cover. The £30 cost of membership of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association includes insurance coverage, as does the British Association for Shooting and Conservation and the Grand National Archery Society.
- Wear the correct safety clothes and equipment. Ear protectors or plugs should be worn at all times, if you are shooting, or if you are in the company of others who are shooting. Shooting glasses are mandatory. They are worn to reduce glare and to protect the eyes from any debris like twigs or branches if in the field. They are also beneficial in protecting the eyes from any stray broken pieces of clays, or from gun malfunctions. For the same reasons it's also advisable to wear head gear, too.
Clay Pigeon ShootingThis sport can be enjoyed by anyone from the ages of 9-90 of either sex. Before starting the shoot there are some specific safety measures that need to be put in place, in addition to the basics of gun safety.
- A minimum "exclusion zone" of at least 275 metres must be set up in front of the shooting stands, in the direction in which shooting is taking place.
- The general public must be restricted from entering the exclusion zone.
- The exclusion zone cannot be set up in an area that has public footpaths, bridleways etc.
- Don't shoot in the vicinity of overhead power or telecommunication cables.
- Try and shoot in a North or North Easterly direction as this avoids any intrusion from sunlight.
Field ShootingNormally there will be shoot organisers who will brief you and go through safety procedures before the shoot takes place. It's important you take note of any special instructions that are issued to shooters during the briefing.
- Always shoot into a safe background. If shooting game birds this means a clear sky.
- Always be aware of other shooters and their position in relation to yourself. Don't walk into their line of fire, and don't shoot if anyone is directly in front of you.
- Do not fire at a low flying bird if you don't know what is behind it. Beaters or other people may be in close proximity.
- Wear high visibility vests or clothing.