A simple guide to shotgun shells and how to choose what we feel that is the best bang for our GRITS gang.  Please keep in mind that these are just some suggestions below for a good and consistent shotgun shell, especially for the ladies but really most shooters.

We definitely like ammo that doesn’t have much ‘kick’, or technically known as recoil. The kick/recoil comes from a couple of things: How much shot (pellets) that is in the shell in the shell and the speed that the shot leaves the barrel. We like to shoot a smaller amount of shot, at slow speeds, so we have less kick!


The type of ammo you chose to use can be impacted by the type of gun you shoot.  To keep it simple here, lets just think about semi-auto’s and over and under shotguns. An over and under shotgun works with pretty much all ammo but a semi-automatic sometimes needs a little more “bang”, (a bit heavier load), for the gun to function correctly.


First, let’s talk about the over and unders…..Generally we can shoot very light recoiling ammo, Look for a ‘low-velocity load’…. 1200 feet per second (FPS) or less. This is just a measurement of how fast the shot leaves the barrel.  The faster the FPS, the more “kick” you will feel. For a 12 gauge we like ⅞ ounce (metric is 24 grams) the best if you can find them but 1 ounce (metric is 28 grams) works fine. We strongly suggest staying away from 1 ⅛ ounce!!  In 20 ga, we like ⅞ ounce, somewhere around 1200 FPS.


For a semi-autos, sometimes the mechanism that loads the shell for you will need a bit of oomph, provided by the firing of the shell, to reliably cycle the action. Most 12 ga semi’s will reliably run on 1 oz / 1200 FPS ammo. For 20 ga, the baseline is generally ⅞ oz / 1200 fps. You can experiment with lighter ammo, but this is a good place to start.


Regarding shot size (the size of the pellets in the shell), the smaller the number, the bigger the pellets (crazy, right?). Sporting clay ranges limit the shot size to 7 ½’s as the biggest pellets. Also common are number 8’s. There are a few more pellets in the #8’s loads, and while either will work, if you have a choice, we suggest 8’s. The size of the pellets in these shells has nothing to do with recoil. So for 12 ga, look for SLOW- 1200 FPS or less- 1 oz or less. In 20 ga, look for ⅞ oz around 1200 fps, and we feel you will be happy with your ammo!


For a more in-depth description  of ammo please visit the BLOG section of

Lens Color vs. Leaf Color

Fall is here, finally!  Cooler temperatures, beautiful crisp days and evening fire pits are getting stoked up!  It is also a wonderful time of year to really get out and enjoy shooting! Not only clay shooting but the wing shooting season is in full swing.  Walking through the woods or standing in open fields for either quarry is a fabulous feeling!

Fall brings a big change in the background colors as the leaves begin to change from green to their glorious fall show of reds, oranges, almost purples and a lot in between.  These beautiful backgrounds sometimes make seeing your flying targets a little more difficult! Here is where shooting specific glasses come into play and we reached out to eye expert Dr. Richard Colo for his input on this subject.  Here is what he had to say:

“Simply put, good shooting glasses need to provide the proper balance of contrast and clarity. It is important to remember that we need to let in as might light as possible for our eyes to see well.  The color of the lenses varies and many colors are offered. How our eyes see color is very individual but here are some general suggestions for this time of year. While in a greener environment, purple lenses do an excellent job “dumbing” down the green and making the orange targets show up better.   Headed into fall, you will find the copper colors do an excellent job enhancing the contrast of fall colors without losing the clarity, thus helping you see your targets better through the strobing colors of fall.”

It is never a bad idea to visit a dealer and just ask if you can walk outside and hold up different color lenses to your eye and see how your eyes personally register colors through a variety of options.  If you wear prescription lenses, you can simply hold color options in front of your glasses. Most shooting glasses are offered in both prescription and non-prescription.

This blog sponsored by:


Dr. Richard Colo  Suffield Eye Care 



Range Bags:  What’s in yours???

Certainly, we might be dating ourselves here but who remembers the game show “Let’s Make a Deal?”  The one where Monty Hall would give you $50 bucks if you had something in your possession like a Q-tip, or a band-aid, or chapstick or even a screwdriver?  Folks would frantically dig and the first person to whip that item out got the $50 bucks? Well, I could have won on any of those items if I had my shooting/range bag along with me!  Yup, sure could have! Which brings us to the question of what’s in your range bag?

Just a quick look in mine would probably reveal the following, and in alphabetical order just for fun:

Bug Spray (in season)


Choke Tubes (if used)

Choke Tube Wrench (if necessary)

Ear Plugs

First Aid Kit



Lens Wipes



Pocket Knife / Leatherman Tool

Reading Glasses


Shell Pouch (or vest)

Shooting Glasses

Shooting Gloves


And yes, there is probably a stray earring in the bottom somewhere……..And no, I did not forget about Shotgun Shells but I carry those by the case so they are not in the bag, but I guess some folks are more conservative and they could fit in your bag!  

As an instructor, I have a few extras like:

Allen Wrenches (for comb adjustments)

Beartooth Recoil Pad Kit

Mole Skin



I am sure there are things we all consider necessities but I carry a big bag and try to be prepared for anything!  Except sewing, I am drawing the line there, no sewing kit but Monty Hall would probably pay someone $50 bucks for that one!  

The Game of Skeet

The game of Skeet was originally started in New England during the early 1920’s to practice for wingshooting. It evolved quickly into a game, and while it still can be a great game to use to warm up for hunting season, it is now a very formalized competition of its own, and variations of the American game of Skeet is played around the globe!

For the American version of the game, we use 110mm ‘standard clays’ and the targets fly at speeds between 45 and 50 mph. The scattergun of choice for this task is usually an over and under shotgun with 26- to 32-inch barrels and very open choke. Often, shooters will choose an improved cylinder choke (one with a tighter pattern) or a skeet choke (one with a wider pattern), but this is a matter of preference. Some gun shops refer to this type of shotgun as a skeet gun. Skeet chokes are designed to be a 30-inch circle at 21 yards distance. Many shooters of American skeet use semi-auto and pump shotguns.

The event is in part meant to simulate the action of bird hunting. The shooter shoots from seven positions on a semicircle with a radius of 21 yards, and an eighth position halfway between stations 1 and 7. There are two houses that as “traps” that launch the targets, one at each corner of the semicircle. The traps launch the targets to a point 15 feet above ground and 18 feet outside of station 8. One trap launches targets from 10 feet above the ground (“high” house) and the other launches it from 3 feet above ground (“low” house).

At stations 1 and 2 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house, then shoots a double where the two targets are launched simultaneously but shooting the high house target first. At stations 3, 4, and 5 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house. At stations 6 and 7 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house, then shoots a double, shooting the low house target first then the high house target. At station 8 the shooter shoots one high target and one low target.

The shooter must then re-shoot his first missed target or, if no targets are missed, must shoot his 25th shell at the low house station 8. This 25th shot was once referred to as the shooter’s option, as he was able to take it where he preferred. Now, to speed up rounds in the competition, the shooter must shoot the low 8 twice for a perfect score.

Shooting a perfect score of ‘25 straight’ is generally a memorable milestone for a shooter, and not a task to be taken lightly, though experienced competitors often shoot several perfect rounds a day in competition.


The Game of 5 Stand

5 stand is one of the most common ‘side games’ you will find at a sporting clays club. Think of it the same way miniature golf compares to playing an 18 hole course, that 5 stand compared to shooting a sporting clays course. It’s a compact, faster  version of sporting clays. As a matter of fact, the international version of what we know as 5 stand, is called Compak Sporting, and is extremely popular in Europe where clubs don’t typically have as much space as we do here in North America. But back to the topic at hand……how do you shoot 5 stand.

5 stand can accommodate up to 5 shooters in one round. A ‘round’ of 5 stand is 25 birds per shooter. There will be 5 ‘stands’ or shooter positions, generally space a few feet apart, though sometimes they may be on different elevations, and each shooter will shoot a menu for a  total of 5 birds per stand, then move to the next station until they have completed all 5 stands. So if there is a shooter in each station, Stand 1 will shoot his first bird ( generally a single target ), then stand 2 will shoot his single, then stand 3, then 4, then 5. After that, its back to the shooter in stand 1, who will now shoot his first pair, then each station will follow. Then back down the line for everyone’s second pair. Sometimes the pairs are on report, sometimes they are true pairs. Every menu is different, and the angles from all the stands are different. It makes for a fast paced round of clays with a lot of variation!


5 Stand is a great ‘warm up’ before starting a round of sporting clays. It can also make a wonderful teaching field, and a fun social round. Many 5 stands will have a cover over the stands, creating a great place to still enjoy shooting on a day with bad weather. 5 stand is a great addition for any gun club, and can be one of the most fun things you do with a shotgun!



The Trap Shooting Game

American trap is the most common clay target game in the USA. It is found in all 50 states but is probably most common in the Midwest and upper Northeast. Trap is a relatively simple game to play, and generally inexpensive compared to sporting clays. There is just one machine per field, and a round of trap is 25 targets, shot on one field. The ’trap house’ holding this trap is 16 yards in front of the 5 evenly space firing positions called ‘pads’. Shooters each shoot 5 targets from each pad for a total of 25 birds.  How it works: The starting shooting shoots one time and then the next shooter goes until each has shot those 5 times then you rotate to the next station. There are several variations of the game of Trap but this is the most common.

The interesting thing about trap is that the machine throwing the birds is randomly oscillating over an approximate 44-degree arc, and throwing the birds at about 45 mph!

This game is best enjoyed socially when a group gets together and shoot a round, then takes a break before shooting the next round. That way you spread your enjoyment over a longer period without the tension and fatigue of banging too many shells in a short period of time, as a group of 5 shooters might finish their 25 targets each in just a few minutes.


Special thanks to Krieghoff for sponsoring this series of blog posts!

Shotgunnin’ Games!?!?

Skeet ~ Sporting Clays ~ Super Sporting ~ American Trap ~ FITASC ~ and the list goes on!


Yep ladies, there are many different ways to participate in the shotgun sports!  When folks find out what I do for a living they often say: “Oh yeah, I have shot skeet before” or “I would love a skeet shooting lesson”.  This is a very common response because we often here that term used when people talk about the clay shooting shotgun sports.  Why? Well, not so long ago skeet was the more dominate game played with shotguns and the clays themselves are often referred to as “skeets”.  That’s ok, if we have them talking about it to begin with then we have someone interested enough in knowing more and possibly wanting to pursue the sport!  Yeah! Happy us!


We are going to post a series of blogs for our GRITS members so you all understand the basic concept of each of the different shotgun disciplines.  You should give them all a try just to because it is fun!   


Ready…PULL ~ the word that turns loose all the fun


Special thanks to Krieghoff for sponsoring this series of blog posts!

A Gun That Fits

How many times have you worn a pair of shoes that looked great but after an hour you were sorry you ever bought them?  Or a pair of earrings that were way too heavy?  Or a pair of jeans that just didn’t feel right?  I can sum it up for you in two words…size matters!  We can say it doesn’t but it really does!  Such is the case in finding a great fitting shotgun straight off the shelf!  The length of pull is probably going to be too long, the pitch might need to be adjusted, and the drop at comb is likely to be too low. Of course, the weight of the gun is an important consideration though when just mounting and trying a gun in the store, they seem much heavier than when you are actually shooting them. Many times guns are manufactured for the right-handed shooter with a palm swell and a slight cast off.  Ah, but there is good news ladies!! There are many options and solutions out there.  When purchasing a shotgun, especially a first one, consider the weight of course, but also the adjustability of the gun.  Often I suggest a shotgun like a semi-auto Beretta Xcel because they are lighter weight, very adjustable in the cast and drop at comb & easy to have shortened.  Adjustable combs and butt plates are wonderful options as well, and if not readily available on the new gun of choice, very easy to have installed on a shotgun, new or one you already have.


Why entertain these options?  As you grow as a shooter and your style develops, your gun can grow and change with you. Gaining and losing weight affects gun fit.  Shooting style affects gun fit.  Having a custom stock is also a great option but in my opinion, should be considered after you have been shooting a while. Now, get yourself a good fitting gun and go have some fun!  Whoo- Hoo!! ~Elizabeth Lanier Fennell

Join GRITS today for more shooting tips in the members-only pages on our website!

Tip of the Month – June 2018

Stepping Into the Box

When I get to a station, the first thing I do is take in the background in front of me. I want to remember landmarks-things in the background to help remember key items like hold points and target lines. Next, I gather information about the targets. Where are they coming from and where are they going-sometimes you can see the traps, sometimes they are hidden. Also what type of target is it? Rabbits, standards, midi’s, battue’s, etc are all standard fare. Then, is the pair on report, or a true pair? If on report which target is first? If a ‘simo pair’ is it obvious which one will be engaged first?

I want as much data about this station as I can get BEFORE I view the birds. That way I can make the most of my valuable view birds. This allows the shooter to gather as much information as possible during the show birds. Now I need to establish the kill zone (for both birds), the visual details of the bird (both of them),  visual pick up area (for both birds), target lines and hold points. In THAT order.

This seems like a lot to do, but if you follow this same plan making procedure every time, and it will become second nature before you know it!

For more shooting tips,  join GRITS today to access the members-only pages on our website.