By: Earl Mclean

Spring is here, and in most parts of country it’s starting to get warm, and we are looking to get outside. This year, with the coronavirus making its way around the country, it could prove to be difficult, but hopefully this will soon pass, and our lives will get back to normal.

My trigger finger is itchy, and I know some of you are the same way. The clay target sports to me are about as much fun as one can have pulling a trigger. If you’re new to the sport, here’s a list of gear and items you’ll need to get started.

If you’re a veteran shooter, there is a wide variety of vests , hats, pouches, choke boxes, designer eye glasses, etc. suggested by the pros. (Some even have a lucky penny or $2 bill in their pocket!) My advice – especially for the new shooter – is keep it simple. Comfort is the key to enjoying any sport.

I know the first time I stepped out on a sporting clays range, I was introduced to the club champion. He was a master skeet shooter and bird hunter who had taken interest in sporting clays. He was dressed to the max with all the things I listed above, not to mention a gun that cost more than my car. I thought I had picked the wrong sport to try, but decided to give it a try. The learning process was on.

Now back to what I said earlier: KEEP IT SIMPLE! I’m going to start at the top and work my way down:

Shades your eyes, keeps the sun off your head in the summer. Personally, I like a wide brim that also shades your face and neck, also keeping you cooler.

Protects your eyes from pieces of targets, ricochets, etc. Safety glasses can be purchased at sporting goods stores at a very reasonable price in different shades for different light conditions. Your regular glasses and favorite sunglasses work well.

Hearing Protection
Various ear plugs and muffs are available. You can find these at sporting goods stores, too, near health and first aid products, or where tools are sold. The plugs are cooler in warm weather, but look for the ones easily inserted into the ear, forming a good fit. You may want to experiment to find what works best. When selecting muffs, look for something adjustable that doesn’t bother your gun mount.

Comfortable shirt
If you choose not to wear a vest, I suggest a cotton shirt that’s not too loose with no pocket on your right side for a right-handed shooter. T-shirts and sweatshirts tend to grab or stick to the butt pads when shouldering the gun. Cotton wicks away sweat and keeps you cool. My preference in hot weather is long sleeves; they keep the sun off and you stay cooler.

Whatever is cool and comfortable.

I prefer a vest with a mesh back. It keeps the body cooler and makes it easy to carry sufficient ammo for 50 targets easily. Bob Allen is one brand that has a decent vest for about $40. They come in several colors with a pad on the shoulder and extra pockets for accessories. I prefer the fabric shoulder pad for ease of mounting the gun; it doesn’t slip once the gun is mounted.

Shell pouch
If you don’t use a vest, a shell pouch allows for easy access to ammo, and some are designed with a compartment for empties and accessories. A decent pouch can be purchased for as little as $12-$15.

Look for hiking or hunting shoes, because most courses you will be doing involve a lot of walking. Sometimes the trail can be slippery or hilly. Comfort is a must.

Range bag
A good nylon or canvas bag large enough to carry four boxes of ammo, a water bottle, eye and ear protection, and a few accessories will make your outing more enjoyable. One with a shoulder strap will help rest your hands between stations.

Starting out, most any brand is good as long as it will shoot twice. 20 gauge and 12 gauge are most popular because of the price of ammo.

I included a picture of a group of seasoned shooters. This was taken when all but two pictured received our NSCA Level 2 Certifications. The other two taught the course. If you take note, it was warm weather, and we had a wide variety of clothes, etc. Like I said before, comfort is key. The guns are not pictured, but we were using over-unders, semi autos, and pump shotguns. We all shot and used equipment we were comfortable with. I am the man on the far right. We kept things simple and had a good time. The last thing you want to do is find yourself dragging a lot of stuff you don’t need around the course.

There is one thing I have not mentioned that makes life easy. There is a company named “Rugged Gear" that makes a three-wheeled cart that has large-diameter wheels that folds easily that will carry your “stuff” and your buddies’ and has a nice gun holder. I think this is great because if your gun 8lbs, your ammo is also 8lbs, and you have water and a few other things, it could easily go to 20 or 25 lbs. It may not sound like much, but after carrying it a while, it gets pretty heavy. The simpler you keep it the better.

I hope this is beneficial to you new shooters.

Earl Mclean is a coach and target setter at Drake Landing and is the owner of Heads Up Shooting System LLC, writing from Fuquay Varina, North Carolina.