My Clay Shooting Journey by Ben Wells.
Part 1 September 2022: My First Experience of Shooting
Back in December 2015 when I was just 11 years old (here I am, eager and keen to learn!) a school friend asked if I wanted to join her for the day and be a beater on a game shoot. She said that it would be good fun and that we’d be given a great Christmas lunch. I had no idea what a beater was or what the day would be like, but it was the Christmas holidays and lunch sounded good!
My parents knew nothing about shooting but were very supportive of me having the experience, as they are true believers in having a go and trying different things. I was a little nervous to begin with but I loved the day, the atmosphere, the food and most importantly how everyone talked to me about their guns and their passion for shooting as a sport.
From that day until my 12th birthday three months later all I talked about was shooting and how I wanted to try it myself. And on my birthday, that’s what I did. My parents booked me and my friend a one hour shooting lesson at Bisley Shooting Ground which is local to where I live.
The First Lesson at Bisley
When we arrived at Bisley we soon met our instructor Paul who fitted me with a gun, my friend had her own. Paul talked us through the etiquette of shooting and the importance of safety – from ear and eye protection – which they provided, the need to wear a cap, how to mount the gun and importantly how to carry it.
All the information was provided in a very matter of fact and easy to understand manner – so it wasn’t scary, it just made sense. Interestingly when he fitted the gun, he realised that I was left eye dominant (who knew that was a thing!), although I am actually right-handed! From the moment a gun was put against my shoulder, and I pulled the trigger for the first time I was hooked! I'm glad now that Mum got a picture of my very first shot! My Instructor even gave me the first cartridge I shot, and I still have it!
It's difficult to grin so widely when shooting, but that’s what I did for the whole of my first lesson. The instructor took us to various stands so that we could try shooting a variety of clays and he talked us through each one. The feeling of connecting with a clay and seeing it turn to dust like a firework exploding was incredible, and so satisfying.
The deal with Mum was struck
The hour went way too quickly and all I wanted to do was to go back and do it all over again. And so a deal with Mum was struck – keep up to date with homework and I could have a clay shooting lesson every weekend.
To begin with I didn’t have any equipment and that was OK as Bisley provided everything as I was with an Instructor. I was too little to carry my own cartridges and my instructor would load my gun for me for safety reasons. I quickly had a favourite gun at Bisley – a Browning 20 bore which would be reserved for me by the instructors if they knew I was coming down.
I was quickly able to create a very good relationship with all the staff at Bisley Shooting Ground and felt very welcomed and part of their community, in particular an instructor Chris Birkbeck.
After three months of weekly lessons and building a close friendship, Chris gave me a Castellini cartridge pouch as a present that I could attach to my belt. I felt so grown up carrying my own cartridges. Over the summer my parents bought me a shooting vest so that I looked more the part – I still wear it today so as you can imagine it was a bit like being brought school uniform – a few sizes too big that I could grow into!