To get started you need some basic stuff
There are two types of hearing protection available, in ear and over ear. In ear can range form simple foam plugs to custom molded plugs that have active electronics installed. Over ear are also available in a plain basic type as well as with active electronics installed.
Foam plugs are an inexpensive option. You can get them on Amazon for about $6.50 for 25 pair. That's only $0.26 a pair. Another inexpensive option is a kit to mold your own custom plugs. You can also get these on Amazon for about $11.18. When done right the molded plugs work very well, however it might take a couple tries to get them right. If money is no object, you can get custom molded plugs through an Audiologist. These will be the best fitting and offer the most comfort. The downside to these, they can be very expensive. They can cost up to $2000 or more.
There are hundreds of options for in ear plugs at nearly every price point. I recommend in ear and use them myself. I got my custom molded plugs from a vendor at a local range for $50 and they work very well.
Over the ear muffs can be bought for as little as $10 and as much as $500. While they do work for many, I don't recommend them for a couple reasons. For me they get in the way when I mount my gun, the gun hits the muff and causes 1 of 2 things, I either change my mount or the gun moves the muff off my ear. Changing the mount to fit the muffs leads too poor shooting. Moving the muff off the ear leads to poor hearing protection.
Like hearing protection, there is a wide variety eye protection options available. Prices range from as little as $3 to as much as over $1000. Shooting glasses should sit higher than standard safety glasses, if the lenses are to low it will cause issues when the targets are high in the air. Proper fitting glasses is a must. If you require prescription lenses you have fewer options, look for glases that have changable lenses. I use Randolf Engineering Rangers and require a prescription.
Changing the color of the lenses will change the way we see the targets. There are many different colors available. Everyones eyes are different, so what color will work best for you? I don't know. But you want to let as much light in as possible, dark lenses will hinder your vision in all but the brightest daylight. You may require 2 or more sets for different conditions.
Why would you need one of these?
Well, a Sporting Clays course, unlike Trap, Skeet or 5-Stand, requires some walking. The courses can be small and compact with 10 ~ 15 stations or very large courses with 25 or more stations. Either way, you will need to walk from one station to the next. Having a way to carry your shells and other accessories is a must. Like everything else in this sport, there is a wide variety options available.
What are the proper shells for Sporting Clays?
Ranges will allow only shot sizes of #9, #8 or #7.5, so which one is the best? First thing to note is the smaller the shot size number the larger the shot is. Larger shot carries more energy down range, for this reason I use #7.5. For Sporting Clays #8 will work well for most courses, however on the longest of shots, #7.5 is the best option.
you can use payloads form 7/8oz thru 1-1/8oz. All will work but, most people use either 1oz or 1-1/8oz. Personally I use 1oz.
Shell velocities can range from around 900 feet per second (fps) all the way to 1400fps and faster. Most will find something around 1200fps will break any target they will ever see. For me, I go with 1200 ~ 1250fps. A note on velocity, the higher the speed for any given payload the greater the recoil will be.
This is one of those items that is a personal choice, one is not better than the other. I prefer a pouch, however, I've been thinking about getting a vest for colder weather shooting. While nither of these are a requirement, they do make shooting easier.
This is the million dollar question. There are so many possibilities here it's impossible to answer, and in the end it's all personal preference. There are 4 configurations that will work, pump, semi-auto, over-under and side by side. One thing to keep in mind, most ranges have a minimum barrel length requirement, usually 24 or 26". Also, ranges may require a normal stock, pistol grips, folding or telescoping stocks may not be permited. You may want to call your local range to confirm.
The pump is the least expensive of the group. They have been used for many, many years and are very reliable. There are down sides to the pump gun. It's a lighter fixed breech gun, therefore felt recoil will be higher. Also, needing to pump it between shots makes it harder for quick second shots. If you are on a very limited budget a pump may be the answer. They can be had for around $350 new.
These guns are a very good option for most. While more expensive than a pump, they do offer real advantages. First, you can get off very quick second shots. Second, the auto loading feature also acts to lessen any felt recoil. For a large number of shooters the semi-auto guns are the best option, high quality, softer recoil and a reasonable price. Who could ask for more. Good quality Semi-Autos can be had for around $1200 new.
You don't see to many of these on the Sporting Clays course, but the people that do shoot them, love them. These guns are more expensive, and a quality new gun will cost several thousane dollars. On the used market a quality gun will start around $1500.
These days, from what I've seen, the over/under is the most common gun used today in Sporting Clays. A quality new gun can be found for as little as $1700 all the way up to more than what the average house would cost. Good used guns can found, but it takes patience to find the good deal.
Why would someone want to pay the money for an O/U? Well, there are advantages to them. First, for me at least, they tend to balance and swing better than the others. Another advantage is you have two different chokes installed, which gives you a choice when in the shooters box. All in all I find the O/U to be the best option.