Whether you like to shoot 50 clays once a month, or 100 every week it’s important to have the correct equipment when you are out shooting. The type of kit you invest in will probably depend on both your budget and how regularly you want to shoot. When I first started learning to shoot I wasn’t sure how often I would be able to get out with my gun, and so I wasn’t very keen on spending a lot of money. As I have progressed and grown to love the sport I have found myself investing in my kit. In this blog post I’ll run through some of the items that I have bought over the years, and discuss a few essentials;
A lot of shooting grounds will state that it is mandatory to wear eye protection in the form of shooting glasses, and if shooting a CPSA registered competition the rules state it is compulsory to wear them. I first bought a pair of ‘Bloc’ shooting glasses that had 3 interchangeable lenses; yellow for low light, clear for natural light and grey for sunnier days. At the time, they were priced slightly less, but they are now around £50 and are a considered to be on the lower end of the budget where shooting glasses are concerned. They were great whilst I was shooting at club level and not very often, but I did find it a little fiddly to change the lens and I sometimes saw refractions around the nosepiece which could get a little distracting.
My second pair of shooting glasses were ‘Oakley’ Radarlock Edge. (The ‘Edge’ model is now discontinued, but the ‘Path’ is the nearest equivalent if you’re searching for them!) There’s a good choice of lens colours, and a vented lens option is available; designed to eliminate steaming by improving airflow. This means that on a cold day you don’t need to worry about breathing heavily! I really like these glasses as they fit my head well. I will still sometimes wear them depending on what shoot or competition I’m at, and the light conditions. They have been a fantastic mid range set of shooting glasses overall. But our English weather is changeable, and I wanted to invest in lenses that were very easy to change in an instant, which lead me onto buying ‘Castellani’…
Castellani C Mask have a popper system, much like ‘Pilla’ glasses where you can quickly change the colour of lens. This is really handy if the light conditions alter mid competition. The nose piece position can be adjusted with a small screwdriver, which is ideal to fit the frame to your head shape. For a pair of glasses on the higher end of the budget, the price is very reasonable. The lenses are manufactured by Zeiss, apparently in the same factory as their more expensive rival. Access the Castellani website here: https://www.castellani.eu/
Ear protection is perhaps the one item of my kit that I have not invested a lot of money in. When I first started shooting it was my intention to wear overhead muffs. However, after trying a set of passive defenders I was put off wearing them by the bottom of the ear piece knocking against my stock every time I mounted the gun. Subsequently I have stuck with inner ear defenders. I first went with the least expensive option; foam ear plugs. These were fantastic for blocking out all noise, and could regularly be replaced for hygiene reasons, or if one got lost. But as I was learning to shoot I found that I wanted to be able to hear the instruction I was given, so looked for a plug that had a valve; enabling me to hear conversation whilst blocking out louder sounds. The brand I have purchased are ‘Hear Pro’ as I found these to be the smallest for my little ears, and they are very good price wise. I am now considering getting custom moulded ear plugs. There are several companies offering this service; CENS, Vario, Plugzz, Custom Fit Guards, and many others. They can come in either ‘Active’ or ‘Passive’ configurations. The Active models can be set to block out louder noises whilst allowing conversation. Some of the companies mentioned offer Passive models that can later be upgraded with an electronic Active module.
Cartridge and Kit Bags
Shopping online or in a country store/gun shop you will find a vast array of different cartridge bags. When I started, I was only shooting around 50 cartridges at a time, so a smaller cartridge bag was sufficient for me.
Of course, it is not vital that you have a bag, but it does make things a lot easier than carrying boxes. (As you move from stand to stand you can reach into the bag and refill your pockets so that you are prepared for the next set of targets). As I began to shoot at more targets, I needed to carry more cartridges with me, so I bought one that was bigger. My cartridge bag is looking very scruffy these days; you can tell it’s had a lot of use!
It’s from Top Gun and was very reasonable price wise. I love it because it’s got a good amount of pockets, a side section for a drink (vital in a 100 bird competition) but it’s also so easy to dip into for my cartridges as it’s got a Velcro flap.
I also have a ‘kit bag’ which I store everything in and I leave this in the car when I’m off shooting. I went for a Beretta one which is in keeping with my gun. Again, this has a substantial amount of pockets and has a good solid shoulder strap. The handles can be ‘velcroed’ together too.
A lot of shooters will wear gloves whilst they are shooting for two reasons; to keep your hands warm in cold weather but also to help with sweaty palms in hot weather. I started off wearing gloves every time I shot, but don’t usually wear them these days as I prefer to feel the grip of the stock. I have bought two types of gloves. The first and most commonly known about to clay shooters are ‘Macwet’. As you can see from this photo of my partner who models them beautifully, you have an option of a short cuff as well as a long cuff. They maintain great grip even when they are wet, but are perhaps not the warmest. I also bought a pair of Castellani fingerless gloves; these I wore in the summertime so that if my palms got sweaty I still had grip and they were very lightweight. If, like me you are not keen on wearing gloves whilst you shoot, there here’s another ‘handy’ tip for you. (I’m sorry that was a terrible pun!) Consider getting a handwarmer…
Keep a handwarmer in your pocket or your skeet vest, and whilst you are waiting to shoot you can keep your hands toasty. Previously whilst shooting a competition in very cold weather I have found my fingers ‘locked up’ from the cold, which is not ideal when you’re trying to shoot and reload 100 cartridges. So, hand warmers have been ideal. You may have seen the handwarmers that you can click to activate, but I don’t find the heat of these to last long enough. A better option is a refillable one, such as a Zippo. Fill up with lighter fluid and light the burner just before you set off for a competition; they last for hours and quite often I’ve found them still to be warm when I’ve got home! Originally, I bought a chrome Zippo handwarmer for my partner as a present, not realising that it would become an absolute essential when shooting in cold weather. So, I bought myself one too.
If you are not a fan of wearing gloves in the summertime you might like to consider buying a shooting towel. This is a great way of quickly wiping your hands down before handling your gun, and most shooting towels will have a clip that can be attached to the back of your shooting vest, making it really accessible mid shoot. I have a Beretta one as well as a towel from Teague Precision Chokes; https://www.teaguechokes.com/
Skeet Vests and Cartridge Pouches
When you are learning to shoot, you will hugely benefit if you are prepared and not fumbling around for your cartridges, so many shooters will wear a skeet vest with pockets to keep your cartridges in for the stand you are shooting. They also create a smooth area to mount the gun and will protect your stock from being marked by buttons, studs, poppers etc. I first bought a ‘Top Gun’ shooting vest as this was inexpensive but of a good quality.
It had lots of pockets and felt substantial enough to protect my clothing from marks whilst I got used to mounting my gun properly. But I didn’t feel it was very flattering, and I wanted something that was a little more fitted to my shape.
I then bought a light purple Beretta Silver Pigeon Skeet Vest. This suited me better because it has poppers at the back, and so I could alter the size easily depending on the amount of clothes that I was wearing. Like the Top Gun vest, the material felt of a good quality but I did find on some of the hot days it wasn’t quite as breathable as I would like. So, I investigated vests that had mesh sections…
I looked at buying a Castellani skeet vest as these are made of a lighter material and have sections that are made from mesh. My partner already had one which I wore on occasion and I did really like it. I also saw that the ladies’ vests looked to be more of a fitted shape and they had some fantastic colour combinations. These can be bought direct from Italy, the service is excellent and if in stock, the vest will arrive generally within 48 hours. But I also searched the Beretta e-store and found the Pro Skeet Vest in blue and white grabbed my eye. This has a big mesh panel on the back as well as an elasticated strip around the waist. Perfect for fitting to my shape and making me look more ladylike! I was also impressed with the clips on the back; if I were to enter a major competition my name and CPSA number could be easily attached. There is a clip on each side, so you can attach a towel that will be easily accessible, and/or a tube for your inner ear defenders. Once again, if ordering direct from Italy the service is top class and this arrived literally 24 hours later. http://estore.beretta.com/en-eu/
I now alternate between wearing this skeet vest and using a cartridge pouch…
I have bought and often use a Beretta cartridge pouch because when the weather is unpredictable, and I have to put on or take off layers during my shooting, it can get a little annoying if I have to zip and unzip a skeet vest too. So a cartridge pouch is pretty useful. There’s a whole range of different pouches available. I’m very tempted to treat myself to a leather one like this Bertus pouch modelled by a good friend in this photo, or perhaps I could pinch my partner’s? http://bertus-shooting.com/
Caps, Hats and Vizors
I have bought a variety of different headwear over the few years I’ve been shooting, mainly because I have quite a lot of hair and this makes it hard to find something that fits my head well. For me, good headwear needs to be practical, comfortable and I like to look good too. I could easily get distracted by wisps of hair whilst shooting if I didn’t tie it back or wear a hat/cap. A lot of shooting grounds will insist that you wear a hat to protect you from falling debris or small bits of clay. But a peaked hat or cap also has another purpose; if you are shooting in strong sunlight you will find it can help to shade your eyes and make it easier to concentrate on the targets.
A few months ago I bought a beautiful Suffolk Fedora hat from Hicks and Brown. I wore this out whilst shooting in a practice session, and then for National Ladies Shooting Day with The Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did it look amazing, but I could shoot well in it too. Perhaps it was a little too nice to wear all the time though. https://www.hicksandbrown.com/
The baseball cap that I tend to wear most recently out of choice is the Collection Hat from Sporting Hares. It fits my head well, with an adjustable strap at the back. The material is made from water repellent suede membrane, so it’s ideal to wear in wet weather. I love the bright blue colour; it looks and feels like a good quality product. https://www.sportinghares.com/
In the summertime when I get too hot with my mass of hair, I will wear a sun visor instead of a baseball cap. I have found Under Armour to be a really good brand, with their visors having an elasticated band at the back making it really easy to take on and off.
Quite often when you are shooting you will want to rest the muzzles of the shotgun barrels down, and many people will do this on the end of their foot. To protect both the muzzles of your gun and your shoe from marks of oil/carbon deposits, you could consider getting a leather toe protector. I have a Castellani toe protector, and I use this most in the summertime when I’m more likely to wear white trainers. There are many different brands available with the same easy to use popper fastening. Simply slip it over the laces and the thick pad will sit on the top of your shoe.
Hopefully I’ve managed to provide some useful information for anyone starting out shooting who is uncertain what kit to invest in. I started off with purchasing a vest and glasses, that were not going to break the bank. 4 years later I dread to think how much money I have spent on my shooting kit! But it has proved to be a fantastic investment, especially with the amount of shooting that I now do, and I know that I have the right tools for the job.