Facts Everyone Should Know About Clay Pigeons

In the sport of clay shooting, the special flying targets used during competition are clay pigeons.

Up until 1921, competitors had live pigeons for this sport, but they outlawed this practice for humanitarian reasons. Clay targets replaced the live birds, hence gaining the name “clay pigeons.”

These special clay targets play a vital role in a variety of arrays and shot formations. The largest following of clay shooting involves over 20 different disciplines, including trap, skeet, and English Sporting.

Usually, shooters use a shotgun to fire upon the clay pigeons, which break apart and are disposed of after the competitions.

All About Clay Pigeons

clay pigeons
Image via Lipetsk

There are a number of features of clay pigeons that make them interesting and novel. Before the invention of clay targets, people would use gun targets made of glass, stones, and sometimes even potatoes.

The glass shooting targets would consist of glass balls stuffed with feathers and launched by a trap, like a catapult. When struck with bullets, the glass would shatter, and the feathers would fly all about, simulating a live pigeon.

The first clay pigeons were invented in the 1800s, made of clay and resembling saucers, these targets quickly developed the nickname “mud saucers.” Although glass targets were popular, they created unwanted debris and were gradually replaced by the clay pigeons over time.

How to make the pigeons

Clay pigeons are like inverted saucers, constructed from a mix of pulverized limestone rock and pitch. The design helps them not to break apart when launched at fast speeds. That said, they’re soft enough to disintegrate easily when penetrated by a shotgun blast of a few pellets of steel or lead. These clay targets are usually black, fluorescent orange, yellow, or white. Manufacturers use these colors so shooters can see them against a range of different backgrounds and in various light conditions.

All clay pigeons have precise specifications during creation and are subject to a rigid set of international standards.

Types of clays

Several types of clays exist, and a size of 108 millimeters make up the most often used in the American Sporting, skeet, and trap disciplines. International clay pigeons are 110 millimeters for the same disciplines. Trap and skeet use only either the 108 to 110 millimeters size clay pigeons, but the clay sporting discipline, however, uses a wide variety of different size and type of projectiles for shooting targets.

There are a variety of different clay pigeons for use with all the different clay shooting disciplines.


This standard-sized target is plastic and centered with a two-blade attachment. That causes it to fly in a jagged, irregular flight path, testing the skills of the shooter considerably.


This target is very thin and measures from between 108 to 110 millimeters in diameter. It flies extremely fast and suddenly falls off like a duck, usually more expensive than most targets.


This standard target is 108 to 110 millimeters but is thicker than the rest of them. Shaped like a wheel to run along the ground, these clay pigeons simulate a rabbit’s path.


The standard is the most commonly used of the clay pigeons, with a minimum weight of 105 grams and a regulation size of 110 millimeters. Its height is 25 to 26 millimeters for International competitions. For American competitions, the weight must be 100 grams, with a size of 108 millimeters and a height of 28 to 29 millimeters.


Similar to the shape of the standard, but the size is merely 90 millimeters. Thereby, this target is faster than ordinary clay pigeons.


The mini is about the size of a bumblebee (60 millimeters in diameter and 20 millimeters in height).

How Clay Pigeons Are Used

Clay pigeons and how to use them
Image via Cabelas

Buyers use clay pigeons in a variety of different ways.

Typically, a device known as a trap will launch the clay from a base known as a “house.” Sometimes, people throw them up in the air themselves, and some devices can throw up to 10 targets at a time.

Usually, the trap will launch them either automatically or manually, with the aid of hand-cocked and hand-released action. Some of these machines will hold up to 600 clay pigeons at a time, although people load them manually. They release the clays upon demand, which is ideal for competitions.

The target speeds of the clay pigeons, as well as trajectories and flight paths, can be modified to accommodate the different styles of the various clay shooting disciplines.

Traps are rotational, spring-loaded flywheel devices made for the express purpose of launching automatically for clay shooting. These devices can launch the pigeons either by pressing a remote-control button or by voice activation.

Dakota R.

My name is Dakota, Since I was a little boy, hunting has been my favorite things to do. Being outdoors meant I got to spend more one on one time with my father. I've learned so much from my dad over the years, and I hope you can learn and enjoy following my blog!

Recent Posts