Skeet Shooting Range

Sign for skeet shooting range at annual highclere castle fair.

I got the idea for this article at the annual Highclere Show at Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey).

So, if you like shooting, used to shoot, or stumbled on this potential hobby article through some other route, you’re in luck!

This article covers anything and everything a novice needs to know about the skeet shooting range.

As far as shooting sports go, clay shooting is one of those fun activities for the entire family. I mean, shooting is fun, but shooting fast moving targets is really fun!

When someone says they shoot skeet, that could mean shooting clay targets from a hand or simple launcher at the farm, to competing in registered shoots.

Sure, each end of the spectrum is using a shotgun to try to break a clay target, but I want you to be armed with some simple terminology before we go further.

Person shooting with simple launcher at farm with a view.
Shooter using simple launcher. Photo credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

Clay Target Ranges

Although novices will generally call most shotgun ranges a skeet range, there are different designs available at many skeet shooting ranges.

The basic ranges you’ll hear in conversation are skeet, trap, five stand, and sporting clays shooting.

Trap

Trap shooting is very popular, and most skeet ranges are actually skeet trap or trap skeet ranges.

If you see a cement bunker at the center of a skeet range in front of station 8, it’s probably a trap thrower.

Trap has five side-by-side stations, and the thrower launches clay targets away from the shooter at various angles.

A round is 25 shots, 5 shots at each station.

Five Stand

Five stand is another popular shotgun range with five side-by-side shooting stations.

Unlike trap and skeet, it’s normally a completely separate range. This is because a series of throwers are placed around and behind the shooter to mimic different wildlife patterns.

A round is 25 shots, 5 shots at each station.

Sporting Clays

A Sporting clays course is the most extravagant range design of them all. These shotgun ranges have generally 10-15 stations.

Each station is separate from one another, and again mimics different wildlife patterns.

There’s a bit of walking involved from station to station.

Don’t worry, most ranges have golf cart rentals available. That’s probably why they call it golf with a gun.

A round is 50-100 shots, depending on the number of stations and shots per station.

Skeet Shooting Range

A skeet shooting range is a half-circle with eight numbered shooting positions and target throwers on each side.

If you’re looking downrange, the target thrower to the left by station 1 is higher. It’s called the high house.

The target thrower on the right by station 7 is called the low house.

The target throwers launch single and double clay targets on the same path and at the same speed every time.

The eight stations are designed to change the shooter’s angle and distance to the targets, thus making some stations harder than others.

So with all that, if you’re wondering, here’s how to shoot that perfect round of skeet.

My Retirement Doc in front of the high house on the Skeet Shooting Range.
At high house on the Skeet Shooting Range. Photo credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

A Round of Skeet

A round of skeet is 25 shots from 8 different stations along the half-circle course. Stations 1,2, 6, and 7 throw a high then low house single on the shooter’s command.

After those two shots, the shooter reloads 2 rounds. When ready, they give the command, “Pull!”

The second two clay targets are a true double that launch simultaneously from the high and low houses.

If the shooter is quick enough, the optimal impact point for all targets is prior to or over the center of the range.

Stations 3,4, and 5 are high and then low house singles on the shooter’s command. These are the hardest stations on the range.

Station 8 is in the center front with a high house single on the shooter’s command. Normally, shooters will adjust their position and then call for the second low house target.

If you’re counting, that’s 24 shots.

Not if, but when you miss your first shot, the shooter repeats the missed shot before leaving the station. Skeet shooters call this an “option.”

A round of skeet used to cost about $5 for the targets and $5 for a box of shells, but the last few years have driven up prices.

So, budget about $6 for targets and $8-10 for shells per round.

Shooter and manual controller at station 3 on the Skeet Shooting Range.
At station 3 on the Skeet Shooting Range. Photo credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

How to Get Started

If you’ve ever handled a gun before, skeet is an easy hobby to pick up. Don’t worry if you haven’t, feeling comfortable on the skeet shooting range is only a lesson or two away.

Warning, the first few months will be frustrating until you figure out lead, and fine-tune your mount, stance, follow through, and so on.

The first thing you need to do is find a range. Many skeet shooting ranges are private, so you might need to go with a friend to see if you like it.

Once you’ve found a range, you’ll need a shotgun, vest or shell bag, 7-9 shot ammunition, and eye and ear protection.

The only expensive item is the shotgun. If you don’t have a shotgun, ask to use your friend’s, or, if available, rent one from the range.

If you like it, you’ll need to buy a gun of your own.

What Shotgun Should I Buy?

I recommend a multipurpose shotgun if your intention isn’t working your way up to the national team and the Olympics.

Trap only uses 12 gauge, and shoots singles moving away from the shooter. So, trap guns often have a single barrel and raised sighting rib.

Not what you want for skeet or hunting.

Most skeet shooters use single trigger, over/under shotguns.

Side-by-side double barrels are also fine, but you don’t normally see them on the skeet range, unless someone inherited one from their grandad.

Occasionally, you’ll see a hunter using an autoloader or pump, but if you only intend to shoot clay targets, stick to an over/under.

Over/under and side-by-side shotguns have an added safety check bonus when the actions are open on the skeet shooting range.

It’s reassuring for others to easily see these guns are unloaded and in a safe mode when they’re broken open. The same can’t be said for an autoloader or a pump.

How Much Should I Spend?

Luckily, you don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Holland and Holland, Purdey, Fabbri, or Peter Hofer to break clay targets!

But I personally think there’s a sweet spot in the $1,000 to $2,000 range.

My friend Ric swears by Stoeger Condor. In the $1,000 or less range, I personally like CZ, especially the Cabela’s CZ Teal model that you can get on sale multiple times a year.

The next grouping is my friend Bob’s Winchester 101, or if you can find a used one, my cousin Paul’s Ruger Red Label. The 101 is just over $1,000 in field grade.

Finally, there are Browning Citori or Beretta 686 Silver Pigeon. My friend Jerry and skeet competition friends Frederick and Jim only shoot Citori, but I prefer Beretta in the $2,000 range.

This recommendation may be sentimental since my grandad, dad, and I all used Berettas. Either way, the Citori and Silver Pigeon perform like much more expensive shotguns.

I recommend multi-purpose 28” barrels, and each of the shotguns mentioned above have removable chokes.

You can buy skeet chokes, but I just use the cylinder and improved cylinder chokes that come with the shotgun.

Bottom line, each of those shotguns feels a little different. So, do your homework and test shoot anything you’re interested in before you buy.

What Gauge Should I Buy?

If you dream of shooting skeet competitions, there are four categories: 12 gauge, 20 gauge, 410 gauge, and 28 gauge.

Many competition shooters use a 12 gauge as their base gun and then insert tube sets to scale down. But 12 gauge is the largest and heaviest frame among the four.

Remember, trap only uses 12 gauge, and that’s the easiest gauge to find shells for. Unfortunately, 12 gauges kick!

If you’re like me, and have no desire to shoot competitions, then pick whatever gauge you like. I personally feel 20 gauge is the best performing, most enjoyable smaller gauge for my purposes.

The 20 gauge frame is smaller and lighter, and I don’t see any drop off in performance between 12 and 20 gauge when I use both on the skeet range.

If you’re slighter in stature, a lot of shooters use 410 or 28 gauge. Here again, these frames are smaller and lighter, and the shells produce much less recoil.

They also put out less shot, so try not to get upset when you’re just starting out.

Despite my insightful recommendations, any shotgun you have available is better than spending money on a fancy new shotgun in the beginning.

Shooters with 12 and 20 gauge shotguns at the Skeet Shooting Range.
20 and 12 gauge shotguns at the Skeet Shooting Range. Photo credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

More Information for the Sheet Shooting Range

You can search the internet for helpful “skeet shooting” and “shooting station skeet” videos explaining how to mount your gun, lead targets, and the particulars of every station.

To save you time, here’s a short overview video by “Clay Coach Online.”

You can check out the National Skeet Shooting Association if you want to find out more about competition shooting and registered shoots.

If you don’t want to shoot competitively, charities often hold shooting events, and for-profit organizations such as Garden and Gun magazine routinely have these types of sporting events as well.

Facebook and Twitter have plenty of skeet shooters and groups to follow as you’re getting started. And it’s not hard to get friends and family interested in breaking clay targets once they try it.

Colorado Clays has done us a favor and produced a nice introduction video if you’re unsure what ranges look like, or just how fun shooting sports can be.

Final Thoughts

Shooting skeet is a wonderful hobby. One that I do at least once a week with friends.

Whether you’re new to shotguns, or an old hat, I recommend taking a lesson or two to get dialed into the skeet shooting range nuances.

If you’ve never been around guns, or if it’s been a while, the safety expectations and training from an instructor are just as important as how to hit a clay target.

I’m compelled to mention we have a “Top Gun” trophy that’s awarded to the top shooter each day. It might only be a little $5 participation looking trophy, but it sure is sweet to win!

Skeet shooting range Champion trophy. Photo credit: Heselholt Group, LLC.

Add gift certificates or other prizes every now and then, and watch your friends and family get even more competitive.

In the end, if you give skeet shooting a try, I hope you have as much fun as we do.

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