How Clay Targets Are Made

by
posted on March 1, 2022
sc_facts-1.jpg
Dana Farrell

The three major shotgun sports—trap, skeet and sporting clays—are among the most popular for competitive shooters. Why is clay target shooting so addictive? One big reason is the thrill of crushing a fast-moving clay target midflight. Here, we take a look at how clay targets are made.

Cincinnati, Ohio, native George Ligowsky is credited with inventing the clay target (also known as a clay pigeon). His September 1880 patent for a saucer-shaped flying target made of clay and fired in an oven rocked the shooting world at the time. Ligowsky’s invention replaced the short-lived glass ball target, which itself had previously replaced live pigeons as a target in organized competition. By most accounts, Ligowsky’s clay target “rang like a bell” when hit and was hard to break.

Modern clay targets are not actually made of clay, rather they are mostly comprised of ground limestone bound together with petroleum pitch. For manufacture of clay targets, industrial blenders mix milled limestone and petroleum resin at high temperature to form a paste, which is then fed into a molding machine that shapes the paste as it is cooled into the final form.

The size and weight of a clay target depends on the game. American clay targets for trap and skeet are generally 108 mm in diameter, while ones destined for international competition are usually larger at 110 mm. For sporting clays, six sizes and types of clay targets are used: standard 108 mm, plus 90 mm midi, 70 mm, Battue, Rabbit and the 60 mm mini.

Petroleum pitch targets are cheap, stable flyers and are known for breaking well when hit with only a few pellets from a shotgun. But the pitch targets are somewhat toxic, and ecologically friendly alternatives have been introduced over the years. Says ClayShootingUSA Editor Dana Farrell:

“A popular line of targets produced by White Flyer are marketed as biodegradable. ‘Bios,’ as they’re referred to, have a high sulfur content but do not contain petroleum pitch. However, biodegradable target fragments can alter soil pH, thereby affecting vegetation. For this reason, White Flyer recommends a regimen of course management that includes raking of debris and spreading of powdered limestone to normalize soil pH levels in areas of heavy use of sulfur-based, biodegradable targets. Champion brand BioBird targets are marketed as biodegradable and are said to use a ‘naturally-occurring forestry product and limestone’ (no sulfur) to not affect soil pH.”

Whatever clay target discipline you like to shoot, companies such as White Flyer and others have exactly what you need.


Read more: 6 Things You Didn't Know About Sporting Clays

Latest

Yackley IPSC 1
Yackley IPSC 1

Team USA Excels At 2023 IPSC Shotgun World Shoot

The U.S. team put its shotgun shooting talent on full display at the 2023 IPSC Shotgun World Shoot in Thailand, Dec. 3-10, 2023.

Review: Leupold Mark 5HD 2-10X 30 mm Riflescope

Retaining the high performance the Mark 5HD lineup is known for, this riflescope is ideal for both tactical and long-range applications.

Competitors’ Corner: March 2024

Highlights from the March 2024 issue of Shooting Sports USA, the NRA’s competitive shooting journal.

New: Smith & Wesson M&P 15 Sport III Rifle

Smith & Wesson today announced its new M&P 15 Sport III rifle—which is not only the next iteration of the proven Sport II platform, but also easy on the wallet with MSRP at $799.

WATCH: Beretta’s New 92XI Squalo

Emulating the sleek and formidable nature of the shark, Beretta says its new 92XI Squalo is “designed to make you stand out in a sea of competition.”

New: Safariland Species Holster In MultiCam Black

Safariland’s popular Species minimalist IWB holster is now available in the MultiCam Black pattern.

Interests



Get the best of Shooting Sports USA delivered to your inbox.