Caroline Roddis shows that there’s more to do at university than just your course
As evidenced by the hugely popular – and competitive – BUCS competition, university shooting clubs are thriving. With membership normally between £30 and £40 a year, including access to discounted shooting and equipment, not to mention a friendly social scene, there is every reason to join your university’s clay club. In fact, they’re almost worth going back to school for – and many offer alumni membership. Take a look at these ten great university societies to see why.
The University of St Andrews Clay Pigeon Shooting Club
An intensely social and welcoming clay club practices at Auchterhouse Country Sports, which offers training from the likes of Commonwealth silver medallist Drew Christie and was voted Scotland’s Favourite Shooting Ground by our readers in 2016. Membership is £35 a year and offers access to Auchterhouse (normally £50 a year) plus coaching, use of club equipment and access to all social events, making it perfect for both beginners and experienced shots alike.
The club’s 80+ members are also highly competitive, taking part in a string of competitions that includes BUCS, the Edinburgh Bisley Cup and the Hull Challenge. They also host their own St Andrew’s Challenge in November, which welcomes 240 shooters during the daytime and 400 guests to the legendary Welly Ball afterwards.
Skip lectures for: The Welly Ball, their annual sell-out shindig that’s attended by about 400 students – all in black tie, tweed and wellies!
Extra marks for: Giving discounts to the drivers who ferry people to practice.
The University of Plymouth Shooting Club
“We can make anyone an excellent shot,” boasts the club’s prospectus, and it’s easy to see how that’s possible. The club offers coaching to shooters with every level of experience on Wednesdays and has no selection process for competitions, meaning that every member can experience competitive shooting regardless of their skill level. Don’t underestimate them, either – Plymouth have been thriving in the BUCS competition for more than a decade and managed to come 12th last year. They’re also regulars at other contests and tournaments,
and came first in the Christmas Cup in 2017. There’s also a lively social programme for the club’s 60+ members, including trips abroad and a ‘family-based’ ethos that’s bound to result in friends for life.
Skip lectures for: The free taster sessions for new members.
Extra marks for: The club’s charity shoot, at which only those who are completely new to shooting can take part. The event offers coaching to all Plymouth students from the university and last year was able to raise more than £1,000.
The University of Bath Shooting Club
A great club, Bath’s shoots flit between several nearby grounds so that members can become proficient on a wide range of targets. Not that they’re competitive, or anything…
The club focuses on English Sporting and membership perks include coaching, the use of equipment (including the club’s nine 12- and 20-gauge shotguns) and transport to all shooting venues. Shoots are on Wednesdays and Saturdays, although beginners only start with the former.
Bath University is a big participant in the annual BUCS competition alongside a number of local ‘friendly’ shoots.
Skip lectures for: Watching fellow students compete. In 2017, for example, politics and international relations student Emma Stacey helped England win a team silver in the CPSA/NSCA World English Sporting Clay Pigeon Shooting Championships in the United States.
Extra marks for: Having safe and secure firearm storage for students on the campus.
Royal Agricultural University Clay Pigeon Club
This is, in all likelihood, the university with the most shotguns per number of students. Their Clay Pigeon Club is one of the oldest societies there (it only became a university in 2011, but was a thriving college before that) and welcomes both experienced shots and novices to weekly practices at one of two clay grounds.
Don’t let the club’s strong social side fool you, either. They have four men’s teams and two ladies’ teams that both make a strong showing at competitions such as BUCS – where the ladies, in fact, are actually the current national champions.
Skip lectures for: The Ciren Cup Social. Held after the annual club competition, which is open to teams from other universities. It is also open to all of the university’s students, who are able to enter fun teams into the competition.
Extra marks for: The university is also home to societies dedicated to field sports and sporting rifles so there’s plenty to do.
The Oxford University Clay Pigeon Shooting Club
For more than 30 years, this club has striven to make clay shooting more accessible and affordable to all students, regardless of their previous experience. Taster sessions and world-class coaching at their sponsor’s, EJ Churchill, certainly help them achieve this aim, as does a vibrant programme of social events.
Experienced shots are by no means neglected, however, and all are encouraged to develop their skills and compete. With the outcome of the Varsity match against Cambridge at stake, not to mention the opportunity to win a half blue by competing in it, there’s every opportunity to unleash your competitive side at Oxford.
Skip lectures for: The annual varsity grudge match. (See also: the Cambridge University Shooting Club)
Extra marks for: Sponsorship from EJ Churchill, Eley Hawke, Browning and PatternMaster.
The Cambridge University Clay Pigeon Shooting Club
This is perhaps the most studious of all the clubs here. To shoot with the club, beginners must first take two certificated introductory modules, designed by the club itself, which provide a laudably thorough introduction to everything from gun safety and laws to practical skills and the different disciplines.
Once you’ve passed these, you can shoot with the club on their fortnightly outings at the Cambridge Gun Club in Chittering. You will also be able to compete against other universities – most notably Oxford in the annual Varsity Match.
For experienced shots, there are a further four possible modules to complete, covering topics like shooting methods and competition skills. Needless to say, there’s also individual coaching available to keep you at your peak.
Skip lectures for: The expert coaching sessions – never again will you have such a great and affordable way to hone your shooting skills.
Extra marks for: BASC and Browning providing the sponsorship.
Loughborough University Clay Pigeon Shooting Club
This club practices at the beautiful 39-acre Lakeside Sporting, which offers everything from Sporting clays to high Skeet, all for discounted student rates. This society is a haven for those who want to explore different styles of shooting and offers experience in all disciplines, as well as competitive opportunities at county, regional and national programme levels.
It’s certainly not all work and no play, however – and nor is the club just for experienced shots. Beginners are welcome and there’s a wide-ranging social programme that runs alongside the shooting, which is aimed at both competitive and non-competitive types alike.
Skip lectures for: Hanging out at Fenways, The Kelso and The Orange Tree – the club offers membership cards to these to every member.
Extra marks for: The university’s overall sporting ethos. It has some of the best facilities in the country for a wide variety of sports, and your student years are the best time to give these a go!
Hull University Clay Shooting Club
Providing storage facilities on the campus for license holders and plenty of equipment for everyone else, Hull’s shooting club offers a warm welcome to anyone interested in breaking clays. Practice takes place every Wednesday, followed by a social, and members attend a variety of competitions every year. They even host their own: the Hull Challenge.
Taking place every spring, this popular event consists of a 75-bird Sporting layout, followed by 25-bird compak. Teams of four come from a variety of universities to take part – not just in the challenging shooting, but also in the weekend of festivities organised around it. Definitely one for the calendar.
Skip lectures for: The evening socials before and after the Hull Challenge. From bar crawls to dinners to VIP club access, there’s certainly something for everyone to enjoy.
Extra marks for: Can you guess which cartridge brand they partner with?
Facebook: Hull University Clay Pigeon Shooting Club