The summer competition season may be over, but that won’t stop the dedicated claybuster. There are plenty of grounds offering year-round shooting, with winter series shoots, floodlit practice and even the Christmas turkey shoots to look forward to.
After our Mediterranean summer, many of us have got used to shooting in T-shirts and the thinnest of shooting vests, but that will soon be a distant memory as good old British weather returns and we’re faced with the perennial problem of what to wear for shooting in wet, chilly and windy conditions.It’s always a compromise. You can’t shoot well if you’re numb with cold or soaked to the skin, but anything too bulky or stiff will affect the fit of your gun and restrict your mount and swing.
Game shooters tend to just layer up with increasingly weatherproof clothing – but then, no one is keeping score on game shooters; a bird missed will be there another day. For clay shooting, we need something that allows us to stay comfortable and still consistently shoot our best.
Most serious clay shots will go for slightly more protective variations of the usual layers, then throw a good coat over the top that they can slip off for the few minutes they’re on the stand. There are plenty of performance sports tops available nowadays that provide warmth with little bulk, and modern materials are stretchy enough that they won’t restrict movement. Over that, you can go for a shooting vest made of solid fabric instead of the airy mesh type. Alternatively, some choose a fleece gilet with leather or suede shooting patches.
My favourite is a well fitting, lightweight sleeved jacket that will keep out the wind and wet. This Musto clay shooting jacket is a good example. It’s waterproof and breathable, and articulated to allow the freedom of movement you need for an unrestricted mount and swing. It has deep double pockets to carry enough cartridges, and keep different weights or shot sizes separate, and the collar is cut so it won’t bunch up between stock and neck and get in the way. This one comes in dark navy or a country green they call vineyard, in sizes from small to XXXL, and the retail price is £225.
With your top half covered, you might want to consider a pair of waterproof trousers that you can pull on over regular trousers when it’s raining, windy or both. Our sport doesn’t demand too much fancy footwork, so just about any lightweight waterproof trousers will do, although of course Musto produce some excellent trousers that will match the jacket described above – I’m a big fan of their Fenland half-lined packaway leggings.
So now we’re covered from top to toe, or at least neck to ankle. I’ll leave the hat choice to you as you’ll no doubt want to advertise your favourite brand of gun or cartridge – either that or use that freebie you picked up from the shooting ground. Boots, though, are a different matter. They need to be practical since, let’s face it, not every shooting ground has tarmac paths to every stand.
Alan Paine offers a great range of footwear that includes leather and tweed brogues, Chelsea ankle boots, and both short and tall leather boots in the style popularised by a certain Irish company. Personally I like a stout walking boot and, yes, they have those too. The waterproof short boot shown here is a great example, with a recommended retail price of £199.95.
Alternatively, you might go for the full rubber wellie-type boot, in which case take a look at the latest offering from Le Chameau, the Prestige collection that they launched at the Game Fair. They’re famed for their comfort and durability, with prices starting at around £200. The range is available through selected country clothing and lifestyle retailers across the UK.
Finally, the hands – not to be overlooked, as numb fingers are miserable and won’t help your shooting one bit. I have long been a fan of MacWet gloves for shooting, but I’m interested to see these new Holik clay shooting gloves from the Czech Republic. They promise a snug fit, with adjustable band and elastic knitted back, with a perforated synthetic leather palm for a sure grip. Prices start at £30 for the Alyssa model.