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The History of Clay Pigeon Shooting

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.

Clay Pigeon Shooting
Bogardus Ball Trap
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.
Bogardus Ball Trap advert

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."

Laporte Hand Clay Pigeon Trap

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 first 50m.

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


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