The History of Clay Pigeon
From the late 1880's until the outbreak of the
First World War, pheasant and grouse shooting in England enjoyed a
popularity level that had never been seen, or rivalled since.
The same time period also marked a time of change with the
first clay target, a flat disc, appearing between 1883 and 1887. The clay
pigeon was then introduced and as a direct result came the birth and
development of Sporting Clays.
The Victorian and Edwardian hunting parties
were legendary - as were the number of birds bagged. The ability
to shoot well was a prerequisite (along with social standing) to
obtaining an invitation to many of the great estates.
Consequently, with clay pigeons it was possible for the first
time to prepare for the day with practice and instruction.
The Shooting Schools in London were at once able to capitalise on the
demand and set about the installation of traps and towers that would
enable them to simulate flight of game birds. Inevitably, this, in turn
with its variety of targets, led to the introduction of a new discipline
in its own right. It was given the name of SPORTING, and the first
British Open Sporting Championship was held in London in 1927.
Before Clay Pigeons the game of “glass ball” shooting took place
in England and became very popular in the United States which
every historian credits Charles Portlock of Boston as the
originator of the sport in the year 1866. The first competitive
shoots began in 1867 in the Boston area. Unfortunately the game
did not have too much success, as the traps used at the time
only threw the glass balls straight into the air. Obviously this
was not much of a challenge to a shooter who was used to a
darting, fast flying pigeon. In 1877, an American, Adam Bogardu
invented the first catapult in order to launch these glass balls
at shooting shows, and the term "Ball Trap" was adopted.
From 1866 until the mid 1880's glass ball shooting in America
became very popular. Captain A. H. Bogardus participated in long
marathon matches against the top shooters of the day. Annie
Oakley and Buffalo Bill Cody used them in their Wild West show
into the 1900's. Glass ball shooting, along with live pigeon
shooting, were performed before huge crowds for huge stakes.
Bogardus, Doc Carver and others became wealthy using their 10 or
12 bore shotguns. Most matches were between two shooters as were
the pigeon matches. The glass ball matches were not like today's
clay target tournament where several hundred participants
competed against each other. The glass ball matches were matches
between two shooters or by one shooter attempting to break as
many glass balls as he could in a set time period, sometimes
running days. The clay target tournaments that we are accustomed
with did not take place until after 1880 and the development of
the clay target by George Ligowsky in 1880 and Fred Kimble in
1884 with his "Peoria Blackbirds."
In France a real revolution was to undergo
: a creative genius invented the first hand throwing device, the
"Hand Trap" in 1927. That man was Emile Laporte. All targets are
thrown from a machine called a trap. The trap is a spring-loaded
throwing arm, usually made of metal. Targets can be thrown for
distances of up to 135metres. The spinning action of the target
is imparted by the trap arm and its running rail that helps to
maintain a reasonably stable flight trajectory for at least the
The early 1980's saw the development of automatic traps that
could be powered by 12volt batteries enabling shooting ground
owners the ability to position traps in more realistic positions
enabling Sporting to develop hugely since those days and is now
by far the most popular clay target discipline in England, and
growing year on year worldwide.
Now 90 % of clay pigeon shooters choose Sporting. It is a discipline
that can offer so much to so many. It can be pure fun, it can be a test
of ability or a competitive challenge. An important thing to remember is
that you do not have to get a brilliant score to get a terrific amount
of satisfaction from it.
As with hunting there is also a great element of variety and
predictability is largely absent. It appeals to all ages and both sexes.
Little wonder that it has taken off in the way it has.
History of Clay Pigeon Shooting
Clay Target types and Traps
Clay Shooting Disciplines