Clay targets aren’t the only things flying around on the range when your team is practicing or shooting their weekly competition scores, there are hundreds of empty shotgun shells to deal with too. But you can’t just let them fly every which way—as a good teammate and as a courteous shooter, you need to make sure you’re controlling the ejection of your spent shells so that you’re not a nuisance to other shooters or the range.

There are few things more distracting than having a hot, smokey shell hit the side of your head just as you’re getting ready to take your shot. It can easily break your concentration and lead to a lost target, frustration, and a bad score. You don’t want that to happen to you, and of course you don’t want to do that to your squad mates! League rules dictate that ejected shells can only land either straight down to the ground in your post, or can be ejected directly behind you. If your shells are landing anywhere else, you are required to take steps to control your ejected shells to prevent any distraction or disruption to the other athletes on your squad. Each type of shotgun has different methods of control. For break-actions, shooters tend to hold their hands above the shell as it is ejected, easily catching the
shell in order to deposit it into the pocket of their shooting vest or shell pouch. Pump-actions are a bit more difficult, but as you control how fast the action slides back to eject the shell, with practice you can easily prevent the shell from flying out. Semi-automatics, despite being able to eject shells quite a distance, are actually one of the easiest control—just use a shell-catcher! Shellcatchers attach to the shotgun’s receiver and block the shell from ejecting out, allowing you to grab it and remove it before getting ready for your next shot. If you don’t have one handy, a rubber band around the receiver of the shotgun works nearly as well.

Picking up your spent shells—or ‘policing’ in shooting jargon—is required at nearly all clay target shooting ranges. While some teams may wait until the end of the day, most coaches make sure their squads pick up their empty shells at the end of each round. Whichever system your team uses, make sure that you don’t leave a mess for the range staff to pick up. They work hard and dedicate their time for you and your team, and leaving your empties on the ground for them to pick up is disrespectful to them and the shooting range. Make sure you demonstrate good sportsmanship and courteous behavior to your fellow shooters by preventing empty shells from hitting others, and by picking up your empties when you’re done shooting. Everyone wins when teams work together to ensure a safe and fun experience for all.