Wednesday, 13 July 2016

1-2-1 Clay Pigeon Shooting

My late grandfather was a) President of the Skegness Lifeboat for what seemed forever to me as a child b) A decent fly fisherman verging on a Trout magnet (ponassed Trout here) and c) Owner of two shotguns and I never really had the chance to get involved with him with any of the three. I decided to get myself sorted on the last one and headed to meet Alex, secretary of the Lea Valley Shooting Association LVSA (Facebook page here).

After an email chat I sorted out a date for a 1-2-1 and had no problem finding the well signposted site. The drive in was decent (ie no potholes) and the expansive parking area the was on solid ground/ grass. I had kind of envisaged a more modest sized site up to this point to be honest. I was also surprised to see that folk could grab some grub in a small cafĂ© although it was a peak time thing. 

I met Alex and after sorting some paperwork formalities he asked me if I had any experience and proceeded to tell me a little about the firearm and associated paraphernalia. The above picture shows a yellow twenty bore, and a larger green twelve bore cartridge. The sizing is that if you take a pound of lead, divide it into (in this case) twelve or twenty equal pieces and roll them up the ball would fit in the appropriate barrel. A device called a choke at the business end determines the optimum shot spread distance and both barrels can be set independent of each other distance wise.

Having never fire a gun in my life my learning curve was rather steep, even to the fact that I found out that this launcher is called a Rabbit which launches a 'clay rabbit' sideways across the ground.

And so to my first session. This launcher has coloured clays for busy backgrounds, and the one in my hand became a souvenir in the knowledge it was safe from me bestowing it  harm.


This is the over-and-under (as opposed to side-by-side) twelve bore that I would be using. The protruding shapes around part of the barrels are to help eject the spent cartridge. Previous to that a tool was needed which is shown on a penknife that my Father-in-Law's dad once owned. I posted this image  on a Bushcraft forum to find out. 

And this is Alex, who posed for me to set my camera up on time lapse mode to take some pictures for posterity. He was very calm and clear with instruction as I set about taking out some clays from a Teal launcher (mimicking the duck's up-and-down flight). 

I was similar to Alex in that I'm sort of right-handed but hold the gun left-handed and I tested my eyes to find that my left was dominant which was good. So I start going through the process; make sure the gun was comfortable and in the correct position, eye down the barrel, re-position it to a set point down the range, open both eyes...

The first 'Teal' got away as I rather hurried my shot and didn't wait until it reached the apex of it's trajectory, the second one didn't fair so well and I got the empty cartridge which resulted in my first clay. It was very satisfying and in a way that took the pressure off a little, without being complacent or cocky. Oh, the headphones we used had microphones in to help communication-Brilliant.

I felt at ease with Alex's tuition and whilst safety ruled at all times there was the occasional moment of conviviality. If I was about to, or looked liked I was about to do something out-of-turn, he would subtley step in with a correction or suggestion.

We had moved on to a Crow launcher (again a flight mimic) which added a second trajectory to think about. Initially I'd found the gun quite heavy but had really got used to hlding it by this stage. My grandfather had said to me that if the gun fits you follow the look at the target, not down the barrel and he was right.

I'm guessing that the gun was primarily for right-handed usage as the top lever (to open the gun) moved from left-to-right towards me and try as I might most of my efforts to open the gun fully and successfully remove the spent cartridge weren't overly smooth or even successful. The first shot shows my first success which was almost as pleasing as my first hit. the second shows me ejecting the cartridge over my shoulder with a whiff of smoke included. It looks a bit Hollywood but was just one of those Mr Bean like moments I kept having. 

And for the latter part of my session I started to have both barrels loaded and in this instance I had to shout 'Pull', fire the first shot and then adjust myself to take the second shot upon the second 'Pull' command.

Even now Alex was suggesting tweaks and helping me it was in the both barrels loaded part that I hit my first clay full on which resulted in a big, satisfying smile, I should perhaps have kept that shell too and made one of these. The picture on the right shows my holding adopting a stance to hold the gun for an extended period. The barrels are visible and empty and pointing down, the stock is secured under my arm, the barrel is held with one arm supporting the other. A triangle is the strongest shape. 


The session drew to a close and it had absolutely flown by. For the last time I packed the firearm away with a well worked routine of it going in open to show that it wasn't loaded, it then gets balanced on your foot, then closed and then zipped up. I took my two souvenirs and asked about the possibility of Scouts attending which would not be  a problem. As we walked back it occurred that the area for shooting matched the larger-then-expected size of the parking. 

I bid Alex farewell and said that I'd sort some pictures out for him. I was pleased that I had a reasonably successful stint and I know this sounds cheesy but I thought that I hadn't disgraced my grandfather's legacy. If he was watching I don't think I would have drawn a Captain Manwaring-esque 'You silly boy' from him...Except for the cartridge ejection perhaps!

Plenty more pictures here

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