Lock, stock & two smoking barrels
More women than ever are taking up clay shooting, so Muddy gives it both barrels at Royal Berkshire Shooting School. Duuuuck!
When I moved to Berkshire over a decade a go, I dug my Jimmy Choos in said I was not going to ditch my urban sensibility for a wardrobe of tweed and twin sets, let alone embrace country pursuits. Hunting, shooting and fishing is absolutely not my jam.
Over the past four years, the number of women now taking up the sport has risen by a third – attracting gun-toting gals from all walks of life. In my head, it’s a sport for posh folk who love wax jackets, eating what they’ve shot, mounting their furry trophies on the walls of the drawing room. Sweeping generalisation? Just a bit. Just to be clear the only guns I have ever handled in my life are: water pistols, Nerf guns, spud gun and a fair ground rifle. To say I do not have a clue is an under estimate. So when I was invited along to The Royal Berkshire Shooting School, I was, intrigued but very sceptical to say the least – pity the poor instructor.
Step forward Nigel Muir. I could be the student that breaks you. To be fair, I’m in pretty safe hands at The Royal Berkshire Shooting School in Lower Basildon. They’ve taught everyone from game keepers and estate owners to celebs, royalty and now Muddy editors. And Nigel, who has worked here for 13 years, is very much in demand.
The school is in a a truly stunning spot in West Berkshire and a first class rep for its clay shooting facilities – it has a smart Shooting Lodge, shop (lots of tweed, waxy clothes and knee high boots to be found in here) and a hospitality area where you can grab a coffee, before you get started. A chef from Wild Fork catering company is also on hand to bang out the bacon butties or a top notch lunch. It offers private tuition, corporate days out and hosts a number of charity shoots (an eye-watering £30million has been raised for good causes since the RBSS opened in 1991), with a good celeb turnout – Phil Schofield, Holly Willoughby, Any and Dec, Dragons Den stars Peter Jones and Sarah Willingham, to name a few.
Once Nigel and I had knocked back a brew and I was given safety glasses and a cap, Nigel grabbed a shotgun to suit my size and build and ran through the safety bits and bobs. When the gun is live, how to hold it when you’re shooting and when you’re not. There’s actually quite lot to take in and I haven’t done anything yet. Next a sight test. No opticians were hurt during this exercise. You’re supposed to shoot with both eyes open (who knew?) and a simple test whereby you close one eye and point will determine if you are left or right dominant. I was. I’d like to think it made me special. It doesn’t, but it does mean I need to shoot wth my left eye closed.
After a practical demo, I given the gun – locked and loaded. I’m not going to lie, I absolutely pooed my pants. Just holding a gun is pretty sobering. Playing Fortniteon the X Box with my son, this is not.
Apparently, women are usually very good at this clay pigeon shooting malarkey. Why? Because we’re not trying to reenact Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and we can totally nail the death stare. Resting bitchy face and the evil eye are finally positive traits. It took 5 attempts to actually hit anything. Which I thought was pretty good going. The first few times you just want to pull the trigger to get stover and done with.
Once you relax, you actually start to enjoy it. The key is to take your time (like I’m an expert now!). Once you see the clay release you track forward with your gun and, BOOM, target obliterated.
After my hour with Nigel, the most patient man on earth and a lot of fun too, I felt freakin’ invincible. It was brilliant fun and I will be back to give it another go. It’s not a cheap sport, but if you cancel the expensive gym member hip you never use, this could be a fun and sociable alternative – and The Royal Berkshire organise regular female only shoots.
Also worth mentioning, for those who really don;t fancy it, that it’s the season of pressies-to-other-halves approaching so if your beloved fancies himself as a gun toting Guy Ritchie character, book him in for a lesson. Prices start at
The Royal Berkshire Shooting School, Hook End Lane, Pangbourne, Berkshire RG8 8SD. Tel: 01491 672900