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Article 5 – 2018 (June)

people posing and smiling with shotguns

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 5 – 2018 (June)


Question: I have been shooting clays for many years right across Australia, but have settled now in South-East Queensland where there are plenty of choices to shoot Trap or Sporting. One thing that really annoys me in Queensland is the whining about what brand of clays is being thrown. Trap and Skeet shooters seem to be the worst, but lately I have heard exactly the same comments coming from Sporting competitors. My question is; does it matter? Is there any advantage or disadvantage to anyone as long as everyone is shooting the same target? I believe it doesn’t and the people complaining are looking for excuses for their bad shooting, but sadly are damaging the reputations of some clubs. I am curious to your opinion.

Name and address withheld


Answer: It is a hot topic and sure to get you into many heated debates so I have decided to withhold your name from publication.

I can only assume that the criticism of the clay targets is about their breakability. It is the most common complaint I hear. Target color can often be a close second gripe.

Clay targets that are hard to break are usually caused by the composition of the materials within the clay. It can be the shape of the clay and also driving bands moulded into the clay, serrated cuts underneath the clay etc, but let’s stick to composition in terms of this explanation. These days there are is a huge variety of clay targets and compositions within those targets available on the market. There are many environmentally friendly targets appearing that replace the old “pitch and lime” mixture that most clay targets were originally made of. Not all of these targets are visually pleasing to the shooter and I don’t say that as a criticism, but simply as a fact. We have been brought up in a culture where targets are often judged by the amount of black “soot” left in the sky after they have been centered. With some of the new targets available that is impossible due to the simple fact that these targets have no pitch in them to leave that hanging cloud of smoke above the horizon. Are these enviro targets harder to break? No not always from my observations, but there are very few ways to definitely prove this. The International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) now has released a target breakability device and I actually have one and have tested many brands myself. It is a tool that determines how many Newton-metres of torque can be applied to a target before it cracks. The results have been interesting and there are certainly some targets that consistently break with less stress than others. The question is; are harder targets unfair on some competitors?

In Trap shooting there is a distinct advantage to a faster shooter if a harder target is being thrown. It is simply the laws of physics in motion as the closer the target is to the shooter before he hits it then the more force is applied to the surface area of the target. Many experienced shooters will opt for tighter chokes if the target is hard therefore in theory applying more pellets onto the targets surface area. The real experienced shooters opt for slightly larger shot, which I believe, is actually better than tighter chokes. In Trap and Skeet scores of hundreds in a row are required to win anything at the elite level so everyone is looking for a scapegoat if this isn’t achieved. Blaming the clay target is often the first excuse in a game where repetition and perfection is commonplace.

Generally in all types of Sporting events missed targets are expected and accepted due to the difficulty of the sport, but in theory the same principles apply. Harder composition targets will be harder to break at greater distances and you will always notice the best Sporting competitors trying a variety of ammunition and choke sizes to compensate for this.

As many ranges are experimenting with targets that are both environmentally friendly and indeed cheaper I expect this topic will be discussed more and more. In the end the consumer will win by voting by the attendance or non-attendance based on these factors mentioned above.

Be warned. You often get what you pay for in life and clay targets are no different. Cheaper is not always better and above all there is no substitute for accuracy.

Questions to:

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