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The Yorkshire Gent

How Much Does it Cost to go Shooting?

How Much Does it Cost to go Shooting?

Maybe you have been introduced to Clay Pigeon shooting on an activity weekend or stag/hen party, you might have caught some Olympic disciplines on TV, maybe you’re merely interested in a target sport that you can take part in throughout the year, solo or with friends? Or perhaps you have been in the company of game shooters during the season but felt uneasy approaching anyone at the time? However you decided upon looking further into starting shooting, congratulations – you will not regret it!

Shooting is subject to many misconceptions, from who generally takes part, why those people shoot, the costs of shooting, and what is expected of you as a shooter. From the pest controller on a large farm to the grouse shooter in their moorland butt, from six to ninety-six, male or female, competitor or casual sportsperson – there is a shooting discipline for everyone!

Yes, shooting can be painfully expensive with some shotguns costing more than a three-bed semi, but can equally be grass-root accessible depending on your chosen sport and expectations. Negative mainstream media coverage often paints shooting as the pastime of only the elite, the landed gentry, and the super-rich and therefore must be held in low regard by the everyday working man or woman but this simply isn’t true.

While shooters able to afford tens of thousands of pounds to have a team shoot driven grouse might well be in that category, spare a thought to the cost of a season privateer racing in a superbike series or the big game angler travelling to hook that specimen Marlin.

The top end of any sporting pursuit will no doubt be on the less affordable end of the scale. As at 31st March 2019, there were 572,488 shotgun certificates on issue in England and Wales, with little variation on that number in the previous ten years. Of those certificates, 97% of new applications were approved. The vast majority of these certificate holders, therefore, must be average people! These statistics are from the Home Office.

Here I will take you through my beginnings and shed some light on the necessities, the “nice to haves” and the avoidables of Shotgun Shooting. I will focus initially on “English Sporting” which is probably the most accessible Clay Pigeon discipline in the UK, providing mixed and varied targets suitable for all levels of experience and where the majority of shooters first start.

The Necessities

In the UK you are required by law to obtain a licence (referred to as a shotgun certificate or SGC) issued by your local police force before you can purchase a shotgun. Each force will vary slightly in how it operates and issues the license, therefore you must pay particular attention to your force’s guidelines and application form, which should be found easily on their website.

COST: £79.50

Medical background check. This is a relatively new inclusion in the process and has caused many people problems. Depending on where you live, your GP may be required to provide the police with an official statement concerning your physical and mental health. Some Doctors are providing these free of charge, with others reportedly charging their patients upwards of £200. It is vitally important that you are aware of your issuing force’s requirement on this as failure to provide the required information will stop your application in its tracks.

COST: £0 upwards. Average £50

Secure and suitable storage. In the UK this will most likely be in the form of a gun cabinet.

In very basic terms, your cabinet is effectively a secure steel locker, bolted to the solid structure of your property. Your shotgun must be stored inside this whenever it’s not in use. You will not be granted your SGC without this first being inspected by your Firearms Enquiry Officer (FEO) during your application visit. There is plenty of speculative information on the do’s and don’ts for cabinets in online forums but save yourself some trouble and follow Home Office guidelines and the advice of your local FEO.

A good cabinet can be found used from £50 (gumtree and Facebook marketplace are perfect to find one locally – they’re heavy!) or new from around £120 depending on its size and quality. Keep in mind what you want to shoot and why. Are you likely to want to try different guns, are you a changeable type that might want a semi-automatic as well as an over/under? Cabinets are made and sold with a recommended capacity, and much like camping tents, they are often optimistic.

If you think you might only ever have one shotgun at any one time I would recommend a 3 gun cabinet. You like the thought of having a game gun and a sporting clays gun? Buy a 5 gun cabinet! You will appreciate the extra wiggle room and less chance of banging guns off the cabinet or each other.

COST: £50-£250. Average used £75

PPE. Your eyes and ears are quite precious to you so you really should take good care of them. As a health and safety concern, personal protective equipment in the form of ear protection, safety eyewear and often a suitable hat/cap are mandatory on clay shooting grounds. This makes absolute sense and should always be adhered to. I watched a reasonably small piece from a shot clay fall and cut my shooting friend on his hand only a couple of weeks ago, nothing serious but a gentle reminder of why glasses are important.

The cheapest foam earplugs and basic hardware chain safety glasses in clear, amber or dark tint will happily get the job done. Most grounds will have these basic items for sale just in case you forget your own.

COST: Plugs £1, Glasses £15, Cap £15

And Now the Fun Stuff!

Your first gun. You will quite possibly be overwhelmed with the selection of guns when you visit your chosen gun shop. You will see three main types of shotgun. I’ll discuss these assuming you’re interested in a 12 bore shotgun, by far the most common, versatile and cost-effective option. These are, Side by Side (SxS), Over and Under (O/U), and Semi-automatic.

The SxS is predominately the reserve of the traditional game shooter. Small, light and elegant, these are generally things of beauty. Considered more difficult to shoot and too light to comfortably shoot large volumes of cartridges at clays, we’ll leave these for another day.

Next, and gaining popularity on the clay ground would be a Semi-automatic. A Semi-automatic (section 2 shotgun, on a SGC) will hold three cartridges. Larger capacity Autos are available, but only on a Firearms Certificate (FAC). It is considered bad form to load more than two cartridges, and two often being a mandatory max on reputable clay grounds for safety reasons. When empty, these guns should have a safety flag in their action to show other shooters that the gun is unloaded. After a shot is fired the empty cartridge is ejected from the action. This aspect leads them to be considered messy and unnecessary, they are however ideal for many pest control and wildfowling applications.

The most versatile and commonly used 12 bore shotgun type is currently the Over & Under. They are used in all of the shotgun shooting sports, and therefore ideal as your first gun. Buy the right one and you might never buy another (insert laughter from the more seasoned shots!) You certainly shouldn’t overlook one. If you are of average build the market for your gun is virtually flooded. As a new shooter, this is music to your ears. The selection of suitable guns is huge.

The difficult decision for most people is to buy new or used. As with most things, there are pros and cons to both. Questionable maintenance history, heavy use and spares availability are to be considered with a used shotgun. Depreciation and warranty benefits deserve thought with a new one. It’s here when a relationship with your gun shop will be very useful. Hopefully, they have a varied selection of both new and used guns for you to handle under their supervision.

Weight and feel are important but fit is paramount. As a new shooter you won’t have the consistency of mount into your shoulder and cheek that dictates proper fit so your gun shop should spend a little time with you to help with this.

The general opinion is that a budget needs to be upwards of £400 in order to be able to hit the better examples of used shotguns, probably Turkish guns, from the likes of ATA and Yildiz. For a couple of hundred pounds more, you can enter the new gun market from the same manufacturers. This is becoming the sweet spot between quality, reliability and cost. But, and it’s a considerable one, at these prices you are in the realm of some very good and well respected used guns from the big three – Beretta, Browning and Miroku.

COST: £500 – £700

A bag, called a slip to transport the gun in, and use between stands is also required to go with your gun. As with most equipment here the sky’s the limit, but some budget-friendly quality items exist.

COST: £40

Cartridges. Clay shooting cartridges can range anywhere from £180 per thousand to over £300. The most commonly used cartridges are 70mm in length and are loaded with 28g of lead shot in size 7.5.

As a beginner, consider slightly lighter 24g loads if recoil effects you – many top shots will also use the lighter cartridge for training to reduce fatigue. Cartridges are sold in single boxes of 25, “slabs” of ten boxes, and multiples of slabs.

Economy of scale is applied the more you buy, but as a new shooter with a budget in mind, I suggest buying slabs as you go. Choose a manufacturer you’ve hopefully heard of, preferably British or go with the shops best-selling offering. Be aware that some shooting grounds specify fibre wads only.

COST: £50 per slab

Cartridge bag. Not strictly a must-have, but definitely worth consideration for ease and practicality. Alternatively, look at a range style bag that will hold other kit as well. Min capacity of 100 cartridges either way.

COST: £30

Clothing. Generally, smart casual outdoor wear will serve you well on the clay ground. You don’t want to dress for a formal game day or a game of five-a-side at the sports centre. Leather boots or wellies, jeans/chinos and a shirt or polo with a fleece or windcheater jacket are a good start. As you progress you’ll learn what you like, maybe a dedicated Skeet vest or jacket with pockets for cartridges and recoil reducing pads etc. Comfort and freedom of movement are key.

Assuming you already have something similar to the above.

COST: £0

Your first round of clays. There are two ways to go about this, and it’s entirely up to you which way you go. If you know someone that shoots or don’t mind heading to the ground by yourself, get yourself there! The alternative is to book a lesson at your chosen ground and learn how the traps work, watch how other shooters conduct themselves around the ground and learn the ropes.

Factor in a couple of cups of tea, a bacon sandwich and a little extra time for a chat between stands.

Most commonly people shoot multiples of 25 clays, 50 or 100 usually to make it worth the journey. Clays average 30-32p each but can be closer to 40p at the bigger more prestigious grounds.

Lessons vary greatly, but will normally include a fixed number of clays and cartridges inside a given time slot. For example 60 minutes with 50 clays and cartridges for £75 etc. This can sound steep, but at 20p per cartridge and 30p per clay, your lesson is £50 per hour for ease of numbers. On a par (no apologies for that one…) with golf. A well-timed lesson with a recommended instructor will save you a lot of time, money and frustration missing targets!

COST: a) Going solo, round of 50 = £25 b) 1hr with an instructor = £75

Gun cleaning kit. It’s very important to learn how to provide your gun with a reasonably comprehensive clean and lubrication routine. This is paramount for the safe and reliable use of your shotgun. You should be proud of your gun, and hopefully, you’ll smile each time you pull it from its slip! YouTube is a great platform for how-to’s and there are a handful of very good British channels who have covered this. The fundamentals are the same, but everyone will do it slightly differently. A basic kit from Bisley can be bought for around £40.


We asked ourselves “how much does it cost to go shooting?” We learned we could get ourselves to the clay ground for roughly a thousand pounds. The biggest outlay unsurprisingly was the gun. You will have realised I split the difference on the gun at £600. A fair number as discussed.

It is possible to find a suitable gun for much less and obviously far more as well.

If for example, you decide that pest control and pigeon shooting is more your thing, a new Semi-automatic such as an Armsan a612 could be just the ticket, add some basic decoys and camo and Bob’s your uncle, very similar outlay. A cheaper gun is always an option to whittle that cost down another couple of hundred pounds. A friendly informal introduction to your local farmer could result in a nice opportunity of permission to shoot their land.

If game is your aim, things can be slightly different. Being a traditional and quintessentially British pursuit, more attention should be paid to what you might wear. A shirt and tie with corduroys along with a drab country style jacket and wellies would be great for smaller, less formal walked up or driven days on the local farm shoot. These days can be bought for as little as £100, and sometimes less.

A day driven pheasant shooting on a large prestigious estate with a sizeable bag of say 200 birds can easily be upwards of £800. It is on these days however that more formal shooting specific clothing is required. These can all be bought off peg from around £200 for breaks, waistcoat and jacket from the likes of Hoggs of Fife, New Forrest Clothing and Rydale.

Don’t forget that game-specific cartridges are generally more expensive than clay loads and your tip for the Keeper.

A consideration not yet mentioned is some form of shooting insurance. It’s my opinion that however you feel about this, you really should be covered. Many of the shooting organisations provide cover through third parties as part of their membership package. I’m a BASC member but you would be just as well covered by the CPSA for example. Insurance only can be from as little as £15pa, with membership and extra benefits of BASC costing £82 for a single membership.

I’m gearing up for my first game day. Nothing booked as yet but I expect it to be a smaller, end of season tidy up day in the new year. Until then I’ll be doing my best to up my averages at the clay ground in order to prevent embarrassment and ensure clean kills on the day.

Hopefully, this has given you food for thought, highlighted something you might have missed, and given you the confidence to download your SGC application form and introduce yourself to your local gun shop. You might have realised that a good clear out of the garage or shed could provide more than enough spare cash to get you started – those golf clubs, mountain bike and cross trainer might serve you well after all!