Beretta Blog

A Beginner's Guide to Sporting Clays

Posted by matteo recanatini on Apr 16, 2012 2:36:00 AM

By Beretta Fleur - Guest Contributor


I’ve been shooting clays for 2 years, and have been an NSCA member for a little over a year. I’ve always shot tournaments, many of them recreational shoots lasting a couple of hours. If I’m tired after eight stations and my score is twenty points shy of a win, it’s nothing a beer and a burger won’t fix. But with spring comes the end of the hunting season and the beginning of state shoot season.

Clay shooting is a fun and challenging sport
Beretta Fleur and her SV10 Prevail

This is the first year where I am comfortable enough with shooting competitively to participate in the state shoot, and I started training a month ago. If you’re a beginning shooter, here are five ways you can gear up for a big tournament.

1. Get Registered.  For California, you need at least 300 NSCA-registered targets to compete at state level.  If you’re not an NSCA member, get registered as soon as possible so you can compete.  If you can’t compete this year, register now so you can next year. For me, it’s also a matter of pride: I want to show that I’m serious about competition shooting, even if I’m sometimes the worst score on the board. Everyone starts somewhere.

2. Shoot The Right Gun. Find and practice with a gun that you don’t have to fight with to break clays. I shot 20 gauge for several months before moving to a Beretta 391, which is a great gun, but too high for me. Finally, my husband found a beautiful vintage Beretta 687 12 gauge similar to this one, which is perfect for me.

3. Shoot ‘Till It Hurts. Out in the elements, laden with gear, walking and shooting through ten or more stations four days in a row can be brutal. You have to build stamina. If you don’t already, start shooting tournaments. A couple times a month, shoot two days in a row to get used to the strength and focus needed. This will also help you figure out what causes you to lag (hunger, sun, distraction, fatigue) and develop a system to perform well. For me, it’s sunscreen, iced tea, preemptive Advil, and a snack.

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4. Improve Your Focus. Most seasoned shooters will tell you that focus is 90% of breaking clays targets, and they’re right. The competitive, crowded atmosphere at a big shoot is highly distracting. Ask your instructor, buddies, or mentors on how they stay focused. I just watched “Timed to Win” with Anthony Matarese Jr., which has great points on focus. Learning to shoot in stressful conditions should be an important part of your training. Here are a few tips on how to introduce stress in your training.

5. Practice The Course.
Every clays range is different. This year, my state shoot will be hosted by a range who sets targets very differently than how my usual range sets them, and my score there is ten points lower. If you can, shoot regularly at the host range in your state. If you can’t get to the host range a few months prior, many state shoots have practice rounds a day or two before the tournament.

Here is a list of the 2012  NSCA StateShoots

Beretta Fleur lives in Los Angeles. She writes, models, and shoots sporting clays. Her book, Hosting With Style: Beretta Fleur's Guide to Parties and Homemaking will be available Fall 2012. She can be reached at

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Topics: Clay Shooting, Competitive Shooting