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Lesson #4- Trap Shooting

American Trap Shooting is a Shotgun Sport which utilizes thrown clay targets for competitive shooting.  Shooters on the Single Trap Course will stand 16 yards back from the Trap House from which the targets are thrown.  A shooter will ready his shotgun by loading one shell and usually shoulder the gun before yelling "Pull!" to call for a target.  The Referee or Puller uses a switch to release a clay target which will come out flying within a 44 degree range, (from the center of the trap house from straight out to 22 degrees right or 22 degrees toward the left).  The targets come out at 41 mph and fly for about 50 yards.

For a normal 25 round game five shooters will stand on 5 positions. Position #1 is the left most shooter position and #5 the rightmost; position #3 is directly behind the center of the Trap House. The outer positions #1 and #5 are on the same lines as the outermost possible target throwing angle (ie. 22 deg.) so that if the target travels at the right-most path, the shooter on position 1 will be looking at a straight away bird from his perspective (and the lead that he aims-for in front of his moving target will only be necessary on a vertical axis - above when target is rising, and below when target is descending).  When a target is thrown at the left most possible path, it would be a straight away shot from position #5, but if it is the shooter's turn on position 1, the largest shot lead will be required on the horizontal axis, as well as the vertical, as the target moves away and across in front of the #1 position.  The target thrower (trap machine) has a random rotation movement so that each time a shooter calls "Pull" he does not know which path (straight away or across within the 44 degree total range) the target will take.  Shooters can not actually see the thrower which is down within the partially underground Trap House. 

Trap Shooting Squad on the 16 yard line
In this image there are 5 shooters standing on the 16 yard line.  Shooter on position #3 is taking his shot.  Behind him are standing: a Puller (operates electric target thrower), and seated: a Referee (keeps score).  The small square concrete pillbox that everyone is facing is the "Trap House" which measures 8 feet by 8 feet and is partially submerged under the ground.  The thrower (called the "Trap") slings the clay targets from out of the opposite side of the Trap House and targets fly away from the shooters. 

When the target flies from the center of the trap house away from you, you will swing your shotgun barrel to follow the flight path, and then as you move ahead for your shot lead, you pull the trigger. When the target is flying upward and across in front of your position, your lead will be on both the horizontal and vertical planes.  The Swing-Through is the continuing of the motion of following the target if you have missed, this would be where you would take a second shot if you had one.  This is also very good use of your time on the trap field and of each target as you are learning this game - more practice.  If you have made a hit, Swing-Through is still good habit as it helps you to keep smooth motion such as recognizing if you have jerked in anticipation of the shot recoil.  This may also be easiest on the muscles which will tell slight fatigue in your scores when you have a long day of shoot-offs against champions.  Forming good habits early is easier than changing bad habits later. 

Games with experienced shooters allow for handicapping the shooters that have made the higher scores by moving their shooting position back along the same lines for positions 1 through 5. Position #1 still has a straight away shot when the target flies toward the right most path in it's range, but shooter may be required to stand as far back as 27 yards from the front center point of the Trap House, which is a more difficult shot than those shooting from the 16 yard line, or the marked positions on that line between 16 yards and 27 yards. 

Trap Shooter on position two takes the shot
In this image: 5 Shooters on the 16 yard positions as Shooter #2 takes his turn.  A Referee/Puller stands behind them.  The concrete walkway at each position can be seen with distance markings for shooters to be handicapped by shooting from a farther back distance.

When all 5 shooters on a squad are on the field shooting positions, the game begins when shooter on position #1 loads a shell in his gun and calls for a target. Then in sequence, one at a time, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th position shooters load a shell and call for their targets and shoot.  This sequence is repeated until each shooter has taken 5 shots from that position.  Then shooters on positions 1 through 4 rotate one position to the right, and shooter that was on position #5 rotates behind and over to #1.  Then 5 shot sequences are repeated.  This process continues until all 5 shooters have shot 5 rounds each from each of 5 positions for a total of 25 rounds per shooter. 

Aerial view of Trap Field and Trap Club House plus two Trap Houses and shooter positions
In this image:  The small square gray roofs of the two Trap-House-pillboxes are 8 x 8 feet each and the same color in this picture as the large Club House building roof at right side.

The Referee counts Hits and Lost birds.  A solid-on hit can pulverize a target spectacularly, but a hit is scored if the Referee sees even the tiniest chip separate from the clay.

Etiquette is important in this game.  There should be no talking or other noise (eg. cell phones) in a manner that distracts another shooter.  Likewise, there should be no movement from other shooters to distract a shooter taking his shot.  Ejected spent shells should not hit another shooter or his gun.  Ejected spent shells should not be left in the path or on a shooting position when rotating.  When a 25 round game begins, the shooter who was first to call for a target, will also be first after each rotation through the rest of the round; he should be sure that all shooters have made it to their new positions and are ready before beginning again.  Shooters who have finished the round should remain until all shooters on the squad have finished.  For an example of a Trap Shooting Club see below: Example Gun Club Rules

Modern shot shells have good tight patterns for this game and and shot sizes 7-1/2 & 8 & 9 have plenty of pellets for making good hits.
A shell that has the following load weights have the number of shot listed below:
Shot Size
1/2 oz.
3/4 oz.
7/8 oz.
1 oz.
1-1/8 oz.

Shot size in inches of diameter for 7-1/2 is: 0.095 in.
for 8 is: 0.090 in.
for 9 is: 0.080 in.
Most shooters and guns will be making hits when Modified or less choke is installed, but experienced shooters can make consistent hits using tighter chokes and when handicapped to longer distances this may become more important, as well as using the larger shot sizes (7-1/2 or 8).  Some shotguns have a fixed choke, but most now have screw in sleeves which change the barrel constriction.  These chokes are usually marked:
Full, Improved Modified, Modified, Improved Cylinder, Cylinder

The double barrel guns will have the advantage when two shots are required, as in Trap Doubles, for targets flying away from the shooter because different chokes can be used for each barrel.  First shot which will be closer needs less of a choke than the second.  The auto loaders provide the second load fast enough but you will be using the same barrel and thus the same choke for both shots.  Same with the pump guns which are also very popular for these games.

There are many other clay target shotgun sports including: Trap Doubles, Skeet, Sporting Clays, USPS, etc. Some of these games are practiced world-wide.  Some are also Olympic games and several different clay target games have events that thousands of shooters attend.  Although it may not be politically correct to speak of the cross-over benefits of this practice to self defense, hunting, etc. (someone told me not to call the targets "birds", and I have yet to hear anyone use "drone"), but you will learn to hit a moving target, stay in practice with your gun, you can experiment with different loads and shooting positions, and much more, you could even have fun!
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