How to get into….Skeet Shooting


Jacqui Durham

Think you’d like to give American Skeet a go? Champion shooter Jacqui Durham gives us the low-down on what the sport involves, and how to get started.

Tell us a bit about yourself – you’ve certainly achieved a lot in your shooting career so far!

My name is Jacqui Durham and I shoot American Skeet. I picked up a shotgun for the first time at 16 when I was away camping with my family; I was instantly hooked and applied for my junior license. I began shooting skeet competitively when I was 17, and made the Victorian Ladies team that year. I took a break from shooting altogether from the ages of 18-21, but came back and took it up seriously then, so I’ve been shooting for around 10 years.

I’m the first (and still only) female to win an overall Australian National title (National Skeet handicap in 2010), and I’ve also won the same title in New Zealand in 2011. I was the first person to ever win both titles.

I’ve shot for Australia in the ladies team at the English Skeet World Championships in Doveridge, England in 2009. Since 2003, I have represented Victoria in the ladies team 11 times, 9 of those consecutive and captain 6 times.

I was the first and currently the only lady who is AA Elite in Australia (means I am AA grade for life – the criteria is AA grade with at least 50 hall of fame points).

Last year I attended the World Skeet Championships in San Antonio, Texas and in the 20 gauge event shot 100/100 and ended up Runner Up Ladies World 20 gauge Champion.

What do you love most about Skeet shooting?

The main thing I love about skeet shooting is the wonderful people I have met! Traveling around to all of the State and National shoots have allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people who have become life long friends. I look forward to going to these shoots as much to see my friends as the competitions themselves.

I also really enjoy that clay target shooting is one of the only sports where women and men compete on an even playing field. Women are in the running to win overall events as well as the ladies section. Skeet shooting is a wonderful sport for anyone of any age, ability or gender.

Skeet Layout

What happens in a Skeet match?

A standard round of skeet is 25 targets, shot off 8 different stations set in a semi circle. Targets come from a high house and a low house, and are shot as a combination of singles and doubles. Singles are shot one at a time, whereas doubles has two targets released at the same time, one from the high house and one from the low. Only one shot is allowed at each target.

Generally competitions are at least 50 or 100 targets.

Is there more than one type of Skeet match?

Skeet competitions can be held at club, state, national and world level. Each state has a state competition once a year to pick their state team who will compete at the teams match at the Nationals which is held in Wagga Wagga, NSW in May.

We shoot standard skeet as described above, however we also shoot doubles, which means we are shooting pairs of targets, replacing the singles.

Jacqui Durham

I’ve never used a shotgun before. Is Skeet a good discipline to start with?

Skeet shooting is great for any level of experience because our competitions are graded. The grades in Australia are C grade, B grade, A grade and AA grade. These are determined by your competition percentages kept in a log book, which you are required to produce at each shoot. Whilst you are always in the running for the overall, you’re only shooting against the people in your grade.

What sort of shotgun do I need? Can I use the same shotgun for Skeet that I use for other clay target disciplines?

You are required to shoot a shotgun which has a maximum calibre of 12 gauge. When you are first starting out, a second hand gun will not break the bank too much. It’s always advisable to purchase a “sporting” shotgun as your first gun, this will enable you to shoot any discipline of clay target shooting whilst you are deciding which one is for you. All that you need to do in order to swap disciplines is change the chokes. Chokes screw into the end of your barrels and they determine how open your pattern is (the pattern is the spread of your shot). For skeet and sporting you generally want a more open pattern, whereas for trap (down the line) you require a tighter pattern.

Jacqui skeet 4

Do I need to join a particular Skeet shooting organisation to participate?

The first step you need to take is to select a gun club to join. Most gun clubs around Australia are affiliated with the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) and will also require you to be an ACTA member in order to shoot competition there.

There is also the Australian Skeet Shooters Association (ASSA) which is an independent body who work with the ACTA to convey the wishes and opinions of their members for the long term interest and enjoyment of the sport. The ASSA website is a really thorough and informative tool for more on skeet shooting.

Do I need any other special gear to shoot this discipline?

Hearing protection is a must! Shotguns are very loud. It is also really important to get a pair of shooting glasses – these come in many different styles and colours, all designed to help you with different light conditions and backgrounds. They are also a crucial safety item; the nature of skeet means there are often pieces of clay coming from other grounds. You also need somewhere to keep your 25 shotgun shells per round. There are two main options here, you can get a shooting jacket which holds your shells in pockets in the front, or you can use a pouch, which is attached to a belt and sits on your hip.

Jacqui Durham

What if I have trouble hitting the clays? What are the most common problems that affect a new shooter’s performance?

There are a few common mistakes made when shooting skeet. Skeet shooting generally requires you to lead your target as you are shooting from left to right or vice versa. Leading is necessary for moving targets – if you shoot at the target, by the time your shot reaches it, the target will be gone and you will shoot behind it. Some other common problems are lifting your head from the stock and no longer looking down your barrels to your bead (your bead is on the end of the barrel and this is how you aim) and also your hold point (where you have your gun pointed before you call) is crucial in hitting your target.

It is highly recommended that you find yourself a good coach when you begin shooting skeet. Most gun clubs have a number of experienced shooters who will be more than happy to give you some pointers when you start out.

Besides the Olympics, are there other international competitions available to Skeet shooters?

Yes, many Australian skeet shooters make the journey to San Antonio, Texas in October each year to shoot the NSSA World Skeet Championships. Aussie shooters are also welcome to attend the NZ Skeet Nationals held in November. Many countries around the world shoot skeet and there are multiple national competitions held throughout the year.


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