Sporting clays is one of the most popular clay-target games in the U.S., and for good reason—it’s a great time, it presents an ever-changing challenge, and it sometimes tends to be more social and laid-back than trap or skeet. What’s not to love?
Since sporting clays came to America’s shores in the late 1980s, much has changed. The sport has grown and expanded until it barely resembles the game it once was—in a good way. You can find sporting clays courses at gun clubs all over the country, and if you want to get into real competition (no matter how good you are—or aren’t), you should consider joining the National Sporting Clays Association, which sanctions tournaments and provides record-keeping and a competition structure for the sport.
Sporting clays is so popular that it has spawned a number of side games, and you’ll find these offered at large registered tournaments and even some at your local clubs. If you’re looking to branch out beyond plain old sporting clays, check out one of these four popular games.
5-Stand is a form of sporting clays that’s shot on a set field, with five stations to shoot from and six or eight traps throwing targets that will appear as singles or pairs. A shooter lines up in each station, where each shooter will find a menu listing what combination of targets she’ll be shooting from that station—for example, target 3 thrown as a single, targets 4 and 2 thrown as a report pair, and targets 8 and 1 thrown as a true pair. Each shooter will shoot her station when it’s her turn, and then everyone moves one station over, and so on until everyone has shot each station.
In 5-stand, you’ll shoot every target multiple times as part of a different combination, and you’ll be shooting them from different angles as you move through the stations. Shooters like 5-stand because it is fast-paced, so you can shoot a full round in less time than it takes to shoot a full sporting clays course, and clubs like it because it doesn’t take up a lot of real estate. You’ll find a 5-stand course at many clubs that don’t have room for a full sporting clays course.
This game can be mentally challenging, as it’s up to you to remember what each target presentation looks like so you know what to expect when you see the menu card.
FITASC, short for Federation Internationale de Tir Aux Sportives de Chasse, is the international version of sporting clays, and it is intended to replicate field-hunting target presentations. As such, no pre-mounting of the gun is allowed before you call for the target. There are even dress-code rules requiring shorts to be a specific length, shirts to have sleeves, and shoes to be close-toed. FITASC is shot from “pegs” instead of stations, on a 25-target course called a parcour, and the shooter stands in a hoop on the ground rather than in a stand. You’ll shoot the same targets from different angles as you move around, in a different order and in different combinations. This is deceivingly complex, as the same targets shoot quite differently as the angles change, and figuring out those nuances—as well as learning to shoot without pre-mounting the gun—are what make FITASC a unique challenge.
Super Sporting is a bit of a combination between sporting clays and FITASC. There are three machines per station (A, B and C) and typically eight stations you will shoot a total of 50 or 100 targets from depending on the course. At each station, you’ll get a menu of what you’re to shoot there, and it’ll feature a single as well as pairs. The trick is that you only get to view the singles—not the pairs. You’ll have to make a loose shot plan for thepairs and adjust it on the fly as the targets are released and you see how they interact. Pre-mounting the gun is allowed, as it is in sporting clays.
The cool thing about Super Sporting is that you never shoot the same thing twice; there are no repeat pairs. You won’t get a do-over or a chance to figure out the best way to tackle a pair you missed, because you won’t see that exact pair again. A 100-target round of Super Sporting usually takes a bit longer to shoot than a 100-target round of sporting clays, but the constant novelty of not knowing exactly what to expect is what makes it such a fun challenge.
American Field Sporting
American Field Sporting (AFS) is only a few years old, but it’s quickly gaining popularity at large tournaments. AFS offers four types of fields: Red, which features five stations and six traps; White, with three traps; Blue, which has two position with two stations each; and Green, which has five stations with a minimum of six traps. Typically shots will be taken from a mix of stands and hoops. The wildcard in American Field Sporting is a super-challenging target called the XBird you get to attempt only once on each field. You can take two shots at the XBird if you need to—hitting it on the first shot gives you two points, and hitting it on the second shot gives you only one point.
Show pairs are limited in AFS (singles only, no show birds for pairs), which speeds the game up considerably. In NSCA-registered competition, shooters in A class or below may pre-mount the gun; shooters in AA or Master class may not.
You’re likely to find all of these side games at major NSCA-registered tournaments, although AFS is the least common due to it being so new. 5-stand is widely available at clubs all over for registered or recreational shooting, and you might find Super Sporting or FITASC set up at your local club for recreational purposes, too. If you enjoy sporting clays, you’re bound to have a blast expanding your repertoire with one of these off-shoot games.