Hunting & Shooting

Basics of 5-Stand Clay Shooting

Shooter loads shotshells into over-under shotgun

Whether you’re prepping for a pheasant hunt, dusting off your dove skills or warming up for waterfowl, practicing with clay pigeons is one of the best ways to improve your wingshooting. Busting clay birds is also an incredibly fun way to spend some time outdoors with family and friends. The most popular types of clay target shooting include:

  • Five Stand
  • Skeet Shooting
  • Sporting Clays
  • Trap Shooting
Learning how to shoot five stand with shotgun

The game of five stand is a fun way for beginners to improve their skills.

Five stand serves as a great introduction to clay pigeon shooting, helping beginners improve their technique and build confidence before tackling a sporting clays course or hitting the field for an actual bird hunt. It’s also an excellent way for long-time shooters to hone on their shooting skills.

Basics of Five Stand

Five stand combines the core aspects of skeet, sporting clays and trap shooting. Clay-target launchers, often called “traps” or “skeet throwers”, are strategically positioned around five shooting stations, or stands. The launchers throw clay birds from the front, back and both sides of the shooter. 

During a game of five stand, shooters are presented five targets at each station for a total of 25 targets. Each station includes a menu card that explains the launcher setups and the order of the shots.

The first target is a single bird. Next, the shooter is presented with two pairs of birds. When shooting pairs, the second bird can be launched as a “report pair,” when the shooter fires at the first bird. The pair of targets can also be launched at the exact same time as a “true pair.”

After shooting at a station’s five targets, the shooter then moves on to the next station.

Benefits of Five Stand

A game of five stand provides greater variety and more entertainment than skeet and trap shooting. It also requires less time and costs less than a round of sporting clays. For those new to shotgun shooting, five stand is a great first step before venturing into sporting clays.

Five stand also provides excellent practice for hunters. It’s a realistic stand-in for doves, ducks, geese, pheasant, rabbits, teal and more.

Shooter wears hearing protection while shooting five stand

Five stand combines the elements of skeet, sporting clays and trap shooting.

Best Shotguns for Five Stand

While nearly any shotgun will work for five stand, some models are better suited for the game than others. Many shooters prefer the wider shot pattern and longer reach that a 12-gauge shotgun offers. Others prefer a 20-gauge, or even a 16-gauge or a 28-gauge, shotgun for lighter recoil and more of a challenge. Semi-automatic, pump, over-under, and side-by-side models all work well for five stand. You don’t need a specialized target shotgun set up for skeet, sporting clays or trap competitions. If you’re using five stand to warm up for an upcoming hunt, bring your hunting shotgun.

Pro Tip: If you’re practicing for hunting, keep your shotgun low, not mounted, until you see the target. Once you spot the target, shoulder your shotgun as you would during a real hunt.

Practice the Rules of Firearm Safety

Whether you’re in the field hunting or shooting five stand at a range, it goes without saying that you should always practice safe gun handling. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction at all times. Even if your shotgun is unloaded, never point it toward anyone or anything that you do not intend to shoot. Keep your shotgun unloaded until you step up to the station and are ready to shoot. Never rely on your shotgun’s safety. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.

Use the Correct Size Shotshells

Double-check your shotshells to make sure they’re the proper gauge for the gun you’re shooting. It can be easy to get shells mixed up if you shoot more than one shotgun gauge. Also, check the shot size of the shells. Shot sizes between #7 ½ and #9 are most common for five stand.

Shooter loads shotshells into over-under shotgun

When paired with the right shotshells, almost any shotgun will work for five stand. 

Know the Range’s Rules

Before heading to the five stand stations, thoroughly read all of the shooting range’s rules. Some ranges will require you to keep your shotgun’s action open any time that you’re not shooting. Ranges may have specific restrictions regarding the types of shotshells you can use or the clothing you’re allowed to wear. Nearly all ranges require hearing protection and eye protection. They may also require that you carry your shotgun in a gun case when entering the range facility or moving to the stations.

Pick Up Empty Shells

As a courtesy to the shooters who will follow behind you, practice good range manners and pick up your empty shotshells before leaving a stand. You can stash them in a shooting vest or shooting belt. Most ranges will provide trash cans nearby for disposing empties.

Always Wear Hearing Protection

Finally, always wear proper hearing protection—ear muffs, foam earplugs or electronic ear buds or muffs—every time you shoot five stand. Shooting guns without hearing protection can lead to permanent hearing damage. Some ranges provide free foam earplugs, but it’s always wise to keep a few extras in your range bag or shooting vest just in case.


More Resources

Basic Rules of Gun Safety

Beginner’s Guide to Dove Hunting

2022 Guide to Dove Hunting Essentials

How to Choose the Best Sunglasses

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