Clay Shooting

Last Stand

James March­ing­ton gazes into his crys­tal ball and won­ders what we’ll be shoot­ing in years to come

- Belgium · Austria · United States of America

Imag­ine you’re at your favourite clay ground, head­ing off to the first stand. You’re look­ing for­ward to a fun round of clays – but then you trip over and fall through one of those space-time por­tals beloved of science fic­tion writ­ers. There’s a blind­ing flash, a loud whoosh... and when you pick your­self up you re­alise you have been trans­ported ten years into the fu­ture. What do you see? Are your fel­low shoot­ers dressed in space suits and car­ry­ing laser blasters? Or has clay shoot­ing re­mained a lit­tle oa­sis, a refuge of good times in a rapidly changing world?

It’s tempt­ing to think that our sport will carry on much as be­fore. Af­ter all, the fun­da­men­tals of clay shoot­ing have stayed the same since we adopted cen­tre­fire breech-load­ing car­tridges and be­gan shoot­ing at lit­tle black saucers in­stead of live pi­geons re­leased from bas­kets.

Of course we could list all sorts of tech­no­log­i­cal and so­cio-eco­nomic changes that have had an im­pact on the sport – more peo­ple now drive long dis­tances to com­pete; the traps are now au­to­matic so you don’t need a trap­per pulling back the arm man­u­ally af­ter each shot; brand­ing, mar­ket­ing and spon­sor­ship now play a big­ger part.

But the ba­sic chal­lenge of shoot­ing a clay tar­get has re­mained the same for gen­er­a­tions. You call ‘Pull’, a saucer-shaped disc flies out, you mount and swing your dou­ble-bar­relled 12-bore shot­gun, pull the trig­ger and a charge of pow­der pro­pels an ounce or so of lead shot to­wards the clay. That de­scrip­tion is as ac­cu­rate to­day as it was 100 years ago. OK, we have adopted plas­tic wads and car­tridge cases in the mean­time, but they do much the same job as their fi­bre and pa­per pre­de­ces­sors. All that may be about to change, how­ever, and clay shoot­ing could be in for the big­gest shake-up it’s seen since the in­ven­tion of the breech-loader. There are many fac­tors at work, but per­haps most sig­nif­i­cant is the rapid rise of ‘green’ think­ing that has seen plas­tic bags and drink­ing straws dis­ap­pear from our ev­ery­day lives.

Like it or not, ev­ery­day ma­te­ri­als like plas­tic and metal­lic lead are com­ing un­der in­tense scru­tiny, and are pre­sumed guilty of en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age un­less they can be proved in­no­cent. It it point­less ar­gu­ing that they have been used for decades with no ev­i­dence of harm; that counts for noth­ing.

Pri­vately, a num­ber of in­dus­try in­sid­ers have con­fi­dently told me that the days of plas­tic wads and lead shot are num­bered. It’s not a ques­tion of ‘if’ they’re banned, just ‘when’.

Opin­ions vary on how long we’ve got, but you’d strug­gle to find any­one will­ing to put money on lead shot and plas­tic wads still be­ing around in five years’ time. The more pes­simistic es­ti­mates I’ve heard sug­gest that one or both could be gone within a cou­ple of years.

It’s re­as­sur­ing to see the car­tridge in­dus­try tack­ling this chal­lenge head-on, de­vel­op­ing steel shot and eco-friendly loads that come close to the per­for­mance of ex­ist­ing car­tridges, and that can be used in the ma­jor­ity of ex­ist­ing guns. We can ex­pect to see fur­ther im­prove­ments in per­for­mance as the tech­nol­ogy is re­fined and de­vel­oped.

I sus­pect that my time-trav­el­ling shooter would find his fu­ture coun­ter­parts’ cloth­ing odd, but at least they will still be shoot­ing 12-bore O/US at lit­tle black fly­ing saucers – even if the tar­gets are ‘eco friendly’ and smashed with steel pel­lets that are fired in a biodegrad­able wad.

 ??  ?? We’ve been shoot­ing lead shot with plas­tic wads for years, but that’s un­likely to last much longer
We’ve been shoot­ing lead shot with plas­tic wads for years, but that’s un­likely to last much longer

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