About Clay Target History

In the second half of the nineteenth century shooting live pigeons, starlings and sparrows became popular. The birds were released by remote control from collapsible boxes called traps.

Shooters were closely handicapped on their known shooting ability. This was done by a "yardage" where the not so good shooters stood closer to the traps and the shooters who won and took the prize stakes (which were often very high - sometimes many thousands of pounds) shot from further away from the traps.

By1870 there had been many attempts to produce artificial targets and machines to throw them. Glass balls, plain or stuffed with feathers, brass balls, small metal propellers and many other weird and wonderfully shaped targets had all been tried and found lacking.

In 1880 and person called Ligowski watched some youths skimming clam shells across the water in America. This gave him the idea of the saucer-shaped clay target. These original targets were made from clay and fired in brick kilns.

Because they were baked hard they were not easy to break with the 1.25 oz shot used at the time

Modern clay targets are made from a mixture of lime and pitch. There is an assortment of targets that vary in diameter and thickness, although all are circular. The targets are given names such as mini clays, midi clays, battue, clay rabbits. These varying targets are used for Sporting Clays.

Clay targets may vary in colour but black is still the most used colour. The colour thrown varies to suit the background against the target the shooter is shooting at.

All targets are thrown from a machine called a trap. The trap is a spring-loaded throwing arm, usually made of metal. Targets can be thrown for distances of up to 135metres. The spinning action of the target is imparted by the trap arm and its running rail that helps to maintain a reasonably stable flight trajectory for at least the first 50m.

There are today many variations of the sport in the way that targets are presented to the shooters with variations consisting of changes in the speed of the target and the direction of flight which may vary from travelling straight away from the shooter to travelling almost straight towards. Height above ground level is another factor that can be varied.