Social distancing rules in clay shooting – Ask the experts

Let us know if you have any questions, such as the rules on social distancing in clay shooting – we have the experts to answer them

Meet the experts

Social distancing rules

Question: As the lockdown begins to ease, I am particularly looking forward to getting in some practice during what may be left of the decent weather. That said, I am a little concerned about visiting a gun shop to stock up on cartridges, or going to a ground to practise. I am a veteran shooter with a pre-existing medical condition and I want to stay safe. Can I be sure that staff and other customers will observe the rules, particularly in these early stages of release? 

Grounds are following CPSA guidance to ensure we can enjoy our shooting safely

Stuart Farr says: Any shooter, veteran or not, should be cautious and sensible in these times of early release from lockdown. Precautions like wearing face masks, hand washing and social distancing are not law, they are guidance. However, the vast majority of traders in the shooting industry are complying with the current guidance as best they can, and shooters themselves generally are cooperating fully, as you’d expect for a responsible, law-abiding community.

Shooting grounds are managing to apply social distancing and have found ways to ensure shooters don’t touch anything but their own equipment on the way round a course. The guidance presents different challenges for shops, especially for smaller retail premises which may have only one entrance and exit. 

There is no one size fits all solution to all this, however, and we will all need to ease back into normal life at a speed we feel comfortable with. If you are concerned it is advisable to speak to the venue before visiting. Even if they are unable to offer what you need immediately, they may be able to cater for your specific needs in a different way.

How can I improve my rabbit target shooting?

Question: I am no top shot but I’m reasonably happy with how my shooting is progressing, with one exception – rabbits! These have proved to be a real bogey target for me. It’s not just that I struggle to hit them, I actually have no idea where I’m going wrong. I’ve tried giving them more lead, less lead… all to no avail. Can you help put me on the right track please?

It’s easy to miss a rabbit in front; remember it is slowing down

Becky McKenzie says: When I am coaching a new client, one of our first conversations is about what they want to learn and achieve, and what their problem targets are.

At that point, around 90 per cent of them mention rabbits! My method of coaching on a rabbit target is quite simple, however, and it seems to work for all of my clients. Here’s how it goes:

Don’t forget that as soon as the rabbit hits the floor, it is already slowing down. Select your hold point, call for the target and let the rabbit pass your barrels. Then catch up with it, briefly match its speed so you are sort of aiming at it. Pull to the front edge of the target and pull the trigger, keeping the gun moving – and watch the rabbit break!

If you find you are missing in front, this is probably because you are generating a lot of swing. In this case use the same method, but pull the trigger as soon as you get to the back edge of the target. If you are missing behind, this usually indicates you have stopped the barrels as soon as they reached the clay. Remember to keep the barrels moving forward as you fire.

I find if my clients are going to miss a rabbit it will most often be in front – and the same goes for me too. For rabbit clays, I find that coming from behind has a much higher success rate than maintaining a lead in front.

What is shot ‘balling’?

Question: I have been doing some reading about shooting during lockdown, and as a recent convert to clay shooting I have come across a few terms that I don’t fully understand. One is shot ‘balling’, which was mentioned as something to look out for, particularly when using fibre wad cartridges. I have to use these at both my local grounds so I would like to know what am I looking for, how can I check for it and how will I recognise it?

A splatter like this on the pattern plate indicates shot balling

Richard Atkins says: Shot ‘balling’ is when a number of shot pellets in the shot load fuse together within the gun, leaving the muzzle and travelling as one lump or ‘ball’ of shot. Unless it’s severe, it is unlikely that you will notice when balling is occurring when shooting clays, but it happens more than people realise.

The way to find out is to pattern test your gun, firing your normal cartridges at a purpose-built steel pattern plate. Pattern testing is well worthwhile anyway, as it will open your eyes to the results your gun and cartridges are producing where it matters – at the target.

You can rig something yourself, but it’s probably easier to find a ground that can offer you the facility. Stand around 30 yards from the plate and fire at the centre mark. Then make the gun safe, and walk over and inspect the results. 

Any shot balls will leave a noticeable mark on the pattern plate because they make quite a splash mark as the ball flattens and expands upon impact, as you’ll see in my photo.

Note that it is rare for every shot to exhibit shot balling, so a single shot won’t necessarily show anything. To be certain, I’d suggest you repeat the exercise for five or six shots.

The majority of shot balling I have encountered while pattern testing has occurred with the combination of fibre wad cartridges fired from guns with extended forcing cones. Some combinations of gun and cartridge make shot balling more likely, and this is becoming increasingly recognised.

It happens, quite simply, when the wad and shot emerge from the chamber into a larger bore diameter. If the wad cannot expand sufficiently, then hot gases can blow past it and fuse some shot pellets together into a ‘ball’.

Note that there will usually be plenty more pellets in the pattern, so it’s likely you may get perfectly normal breaks on clay targets – making a pattern test the only way to be sure whether or not your cartridges are ‘balling’.

You definitely want to avoid using cartridges that are prone to balling in your gun. It will disrupt your patterns and cost you targets, and produce heavy and difficult to remove lead fouling in your barrels.

But more importantly, a ‘ball’ of shot will travel much further than any individual clay target size pellets ever could, and can present a danger to others well beyond the normally accepted safety zones for pellet fallout.

Will a prescription insert work for me?

Question: I’ve been shooting for a few years and have suffered on and off with a master eye problem. I had an eye test and it was suggested that I have a reading lens put in one contact and another made for distance, but they make me feel dizzy and I can see all down the side of the gun with my left eye, so it seems to have made it worse? Also sometimes my right eye goes blurred too. I’ve been told I should get the RX insert for my Pilla Outlaw X7s instead. What do you think?

Some single lens designs will take prescription inserts

Ed Lyons says: It’s rare that a ‘monovision’ system like you describe is a comfortable solution, and I prefer not to use it. Having one eye focused for distance and the other for near will be quite disorientating.

It can be very handy for scoring a card but it will be a compromise for walking around and shooting. If the left eye is ‘pulling’, then giving it a reading prescription is more likely to make it focus on or down the side of the gun, which is not what we want!

The insert for the Outlaw X7 is smaller than for the X6, and the prescription value that you have on your right eye is just over the limit that the insert can comfortably take, so I don’t think this will be a viable solution either.

It may be sensible to look at a full prescription lens for both eyes focused for distance; Optilabs do some good budget options and there are a variety of colours available. 

If you’re keen to stay with Pilla then I can help with frame and lens design. I think it would be sensible to see you in person to analyse exactly what is going on with the eye dominance and to come up with a tailored solution.

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