When it comes to trap you either love it or you hate it.
Dedicated trap shooters – the folks who live and breathe the stuff – have it down to a science. Even more than skeet shooters, trap aficionados have been known to make the most minute tweaks to their guns between rounds because the targets didn’t break hard enough.
And the very same folks wouldn’t even consider shooting skeet, sporting clays or 5-stand – not wanting to taint the cosmic balance of their trapshooting consciousness.
So, what the heck is it about trap?
Unlike skeet, the trap shooter is essentially a lone wolf.
Whereas with skeet you can smoke and joke with your shooting pals as you congregate around each station, when you’re shooting trap it is only you at the station. The other shooters tend to become mere annoyances – hence the blinders worn by dyed-in-the-wool trap shooters on the stems of their shooting glasses.
When you call “pull” in trap, it seems to resonate through the entire brain cavity of the trap shooter.
But it wasn’t always that way with trap. It was less clinical — a genuine blood sport.
Trapshooting can be traced back to England in the late 1700s. The earliest targets were live pigeons, released from cages called traps. In the1800s, trap shooting migrated from the auld sod to the new world – when live pigeon shoots were staged across our great land.
Trap historians will point to the year 1831 as the first American live-bird trap tournament at the Sportsmen's Club of Cincinnati.
By 1866 trap shooters were trying to move away from birds to inanimate targets – perhaps as a means to standardize the sport. Man-made targets removed the vagaries of a thinking target – an important development in emphasizing the shooters’ skills. After all, if all the targets are the same, well there goes about 1,000 excuses as to why you missed it.
Over the next 15 years or so, target material evolved from glass to ceramics. In hindsight it would be easy to see that glass targets could never have the sailing dynamics of a clay saucer. But fortunately, the fathers of trap figured it out – or else we’d still be shooting at glass globes filled with feathers (really).
The trap house is 16 yards from the line of 5 stations.
When you walk up to the line and call “pull” randomized targets are thrown at an angle not to exceed 22 degrees. The targets fly at about 41 mph. In a perfect world, the height at which the targets are thrown is a constant 10 feet higher than the trap house.
Five targets are thrown at each of the five stations (using up the entire box of 25 shells). Each shooter takes one shot, then the next shooter on the right has their turn, etc. until a total of five are taken at each station. After each shooter has shot five rounds at a station, they move to the right – with the shooter at the last station (#5) walking to station #1 at the end of the round.
Standard trap is probably the only shotgun sport that uses a single-barrel configuration (since you’re only permitted one shot per target). There are exceptions, which you’ll see in a moment. Trap guns have high ribs designed to smash rising targets.
To make the game tougher, you can move further back from the 16-yard line in a game called handicap trap. By its definition, handicap trap positions you 19 to 27 yards from the trap house. It’s the same 5-station rotation only further back.
Now it’s time to get out your O/U trap gun.
We start getting into two-shot trap with Double Trap. That’s where you stand at the 16-yard line. Two targets are thrown simultaneously along set paths of about 35 degrees left and right and you have to nail them both.
Wobble Trap is also a two-shot game. In Wobble, the targets are thrown at extreme angles – screaming to the right and left and launching skyward at a jet-fighter trajectory. They also oscillate or wobble.
Want an even bigger challenge? Try shooting Wobble from the skeet positions. The angles become even harder and the distance from the trap house grows as you move to the center – peaking at station #4 when you’re about 27 yards from the trap house.
But that’s child’s play compared to Olympic Bunker Trap. According to the rules set by the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF), you get to shoot a bird launched from the trap house at 76 mph using a 7/8-ounce load – which is anywhere from 1/8 to ¼ of an ounce lighter than the load used in other trap games.
The Olympic target is harder, engineered to handle the higher target speed. It’s also slightly smaller than the standard American trap target.
Let’s see…fast, strong targets using a small load. Why not add another person to the squad and spread the pain?
Instead of five stations, Olympic Bunker Trap features a squad of six shooters who must adhere to strict guidelines about moving between stations.
Rather than shoot five shots at each station, Olympic Bunker Trap requires you to take one shot per station before rotating to the next pad.
Fifteen trap machines throw the exact same targets to ensure consistency among competitors. Each shooter gets two lefts, two rights and one straightaway.
So you may have gathered by now that trap shooters are a tough crowd. That’s why it’s important to follow the rules of etiquette.
First, come properly equipped. Don’t be one of those bozos who places his box of shells at his feet and is always bending down to retrieve one. Make sure you have a pouch.
Don’t pick up spent hulls until after the entire round is over. As you may have gathered, less movement is better when it comes to trap.
And speaking of trap, you’d be well advised to keep yours shut while a game is in progress. Trap shooters really like to concentrate hard. No idle chatter, please.
If you’re using an auto-loader, make sure your ejected hull doesn’t hit the trap shooter next to you (or worse ding their $15,000 Silver Seitz). Get yourself a snap-on ejector guard (they’re cheap).
Don’t walk between stations with a loaded gun, even if your O/U is cracked open. Only load your gun when it’s nearing your turn to shoot.
Basically, be a good citizen and the trap gods will smile favorably upon you.
If trap shooting sounds like a visit to the dentist give it a try before you reach a conclusion. It’s a great sport for getting into the zone and letting the world recede for the next 25 shots.
- Shooters tend to believe the pros are geniuses with special privileged talents, and it’s true, but so have you the inner genius within. It only needs coaxing and development to bring it forth but you must mentally be open to it.
- Genius is not just knowing more than everyone else nor is it a matter of privileged natural high intelligence. It is purely the ability to break out of the rut of closed-cycle thinking and generating ideas. This breaks the old bad habits and allow you to begin to learn through experimentation. Example: To find a better way to break the target for there is more than one way to do so.
- Genius thinking is not rigid, it is flexible and will readily leap from one idea to another. In this way you begin to make connections other shooter’s cannot see. Experimentation of trying new techniques expands the thought process which allows you a deeper insight to the game. Suddenly, you begin to see valid solutions where you saw no way out of the problem before. Practice sessions now become technically oriented and experimental. You begin to see what you are doing right and wrong.
- Geniuses do not think small, but go beyond the tried and true to develop a new way of doing things. They even question “conventional wisdom” and find much of it myth and in error fundamentally. Begin to question what you have been told for many years and look at the flip side of the coin, “Is it possible I have been mislead?” This will open a new dimension of thinking for you and from this point you learn the inside truths.
- Practice tip: Go to post #3 and break the target a different way than you always have. You will be convinced there is a better way! Try shooting it faster, slower, put more or less distance between you and the target before pulling the trigger, see if you can put the sight bead on different locations and still break it. Can you still break the target using the sight beads? Try eye pre-focus techniques before calling for the target. Try different eye and gun hold points. Which of these experimental techniques make it the easiest to kill the target? Try various combinations to discover the formula for that post! Write it down on paper as “Plan Post #3″ and reflect on it before shooting that post again.
- You can’t add ideas to a mind that already knows it all! A closed mind knows nothing but what it sees. It has no ability to see within or beyond that which is hidden from view. Genius is simply opening up oneself to “new ideas” and “new concepts” and be willing to explore them to see what develops. Thinking without action is useless.
- Thinking like a pro is simply becoming an expert novice. Read that again. Be willing to learn the basics all over again. Have the courage to question all that you see and all that you do. Be willing to allow the myths you have learned over the years to pass away in order to discover what you don’t know. Learn a new way to do things. Break out of the slump with new knowledge!
- Since you have read this article everyday you have had small ideas pass into your mind. These are moments of insight and they must be captured before they vaporize. Carry a pen and paper with you or tape recorder and record these jewels of wisdom. Every genius who ever lived and modern day inventor carries a pencil and paper! Inspirations are wispy thought-energies floating about in the Universe. It’s why two inventors will invent the same product in opposite parts of the world simultaneously. The patent office is full of such coincidences. The knowledge is there to those who listen to those small insightful thoughts. Most people simply let these thoughts pass them by. Harvest your flashes of brilliance! When an idea surfaces, jot it down and put it to practice and see how you can apply it.
- Be prepared to work. Your ideas will require hard work and may likely take years to master the final form.
- Be stubborn and single-minded and unswaying in your belief of your idea. If the idea makes sense you can make it work. Example: Canting a shotgun is frowned upon in trap shooting but you an make it work! Be willing to challenge conventional wisdom and prove it wrong. Example: Using the shotgun’s sight beads to shoot targets is also frowned upon, but ask yourself, “How can precision be developed if nothing is being aimed?” “Certainly, something is being aimed for if there were no aim shot/target alignment could never intersect.” “What is secret to aim the shot so I can break the target with mechanical efficiency?” “Is eye/hand coordination truly the secret or the demise of many?” “What are the secrets the pros use?”
- When something does not work do not simply discard it. Explore further to find the reason why. Perhaps the theory is correct but the application is wrong. Try a new technique to see if it can be incorporated into another idea. Keep working on the problem until the solution is found to make it work!
- Ask for advice from knowledgeable sources. Geniuses always ask for advice. They explore the ideas of many and formulate new ideas from this pool of knowledge. Example: If you are experiencing problems in your shooting ask professional shooter’s questions. Don’t be shy and reserved. Ask you you will receive.
- Give your knowledge freely and more shall come to you. Hoard it and it will consume you with frustration. What goes around comes around so be helpful to other people, and people will come to your aid. The pros share there knowledge between each other and among close friends and some give formal shooting lessons. The law of give and take is a real law with real power that can produce real results…good or bad! Giving gives more. Taking takes all then leaves you with nothing in the end for there is no one left to give.
- Stop being a pessimist in your thinking and guard your words. Doubt creates more doubt and it will show up in your shooting performance and scores. Be realistic, yet positive. If you keep saying, “I am ill” or “I am going to miss targets as usual in this big event” it will happen as you have decreed! The pro understands the power of his/her thoughts and takes great caution to correct negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
- The solutions to your shooting problems are already within you. The answers are there and only need be explored with an open mind. The more ideas you shut out the less genius you will experience. The saying, “It doesn’t take a genius to shoot trap targets” will have to be revised. It does require genius thinking.
14 Trap Shooting Lessons
- Inspect your gun and clothing. Make sure no gun settings have changed, point of impact, comb, buttplate, etc. The shoulder padding on your shooting vest can imperceptibly alter the length of pull over time creating shoulder-crouching and a misalign swing. Wear the same shoes you use in competition as you do in practice. Wearing different shoes can alter your stance by adding or detracting height that will alter your gun hold point and defeat learned muscle memory. Inspect your shooting glasses. Prescription lenses should be updated yearly for corrections.
- Before you shoot, take a ten second visualization of calling for the target swinging smoothly and seeing a perfect sight picture and the target exploding with authority. Visualization is a powerful technique professionals in all sports disciplines use to reach perfection. It is instructing the mind what the desired result is to be; a command to perform to maximum ability. If you miss a target? Replay the shot by visualizing a perfect shot, so you won’t miss the next target.
- Watch the prior squad’s targets, tracking them smoothly with your eyes before you shoot. This will stimulate your eye muscles to focus your vision and prevent lazy eye syndrome on the first trap you shoot. It will successfully import target behavior patterns to your subconscious mind increasing performance.
- Observe the concentricity of the trap house in relation to the station posts. The trap house should be centered as observed from post #3. This is one of the trap shooting secrets professional shooters are fully aware of and many shooters are not. It results in shooting traps perfect and then blunder on the misalign traps into a losing score. To the discerning eye and with experience you’ll discover the trap house and the stations are slightly out of alignment. The trap house may be shifted to the left or right of the stations. Adjust your stance position otherwise the target will exit at a strange angle and you will miss the target. If the house is shifted left, adjust your foot placement a bit left so you are standing square to the trap house. Do not shift your gun or upper body left or right to compensate, shift your stance so your swing will remain in perfect alignment. This one tip alone will serve to gain you many high scores!
- Before shooting a competition beware of the practice trap! Amazingly, these traps are not always set to competition settings and may throw soft slow targets and targets with a solid face. The traps can be out of alignment too. It is good to warm up at a practice trap, but only if you are aware that the event traps you shoot may throw faster targets and targets with shallow razorblade angles.
- Look at your targets before you shoot them! In competition shooting events walk to your assigned traps to detect targets traveling in variations from trap to trap. Trap one could be perfect, but trap two the targets may be flying lower or higher, left or right of normal. This is caused by improper trap alignment or settings. Setting can be changed to throw a legal target, but alignment cannot be changed at this time. Compensate by adjusting your gun and eye hold positioning on the trap house. Reading these two books Trap Shooting Secrets and Precision Shooting — The Trap Shooter’s Bible will give you detailed instructions to compensate and resolve many trap shooting problems.
- Have a sense of inner authority within when you step on post. Be confident and assured that your visualization exercise will come to pass. If in doubt, visualize again right now the target exploding. Stand firmly with confidence and control holding the gun with absolute authority. When it is your turn to shoot, shoulder the gun with intimate authority so you and the gun feel as one unit. It is important to feel the gun as being a part of you, not just an object in hand. You and the gun are now one and the gun can not do anything without your command.
- To solidify this one on one connection with the gun, control cheek pressure to the comb. This pressure must be felt to obtain shot consistency. If you apply too little or too much cheek pressure the eye/rib alignment will be altered resulting is hit and miss shooting; shooting above or below the target. Cheek placement must also be consistent. If your cheek is placed a tad to the left or right will allow the gun to shoot away from the target you see; shooting to the left or right. You now have learned that seeing the target and eye/bead alignment can be dead on, yet you can still miss the target all due to improper cheek pressure and placement. Feeling cheek / comb pressure is extremely important to maintain proper eye/rib alignment and for repeatable accurate shots!
- Pay attention to the squad rhythm. Is it fast, slow, smooth or choppy? Mentally you must make adjustments to your own setup pacing, not alter your set up timing, but to be “aware” that an irregular squad’s timing can sneak into your setup forcing you to hurry up. A fast shooting squad should be avoided. If you can’t avoid it, then make sure you maintain your own internal and external timing. forget about everyone else and just start your timing factor when the prior shooter calls for the target. This will reset your setup timing to remain consistent. A slow and sloppy squad’s timing can be managed only when you are aware of the problem. Those who feel there is no problem will drop targets! Watching a shoot off you will see good shooters miss targets due to unfamiliar squad timing altering the shooter’s normal set up and timing. Awareness is concentration.
- Do not focus or mentally respond negatively to distractions. Gun jams, misfires, background noise is all part and parcel to the game. The moment you allow yourself to be distracted your score will suffer. Learn to block out distractions by listening and observing them, then they will no longer be distractions, just normal sounds and events.
- Pay attention of where the shooters on your squad are breaking the targets. If the shooters are breaking them quickly, be careful. If they are breaking them at strange or irregular distances from the trap, be careful. What’s the point here? Know that the squad can have a powerful influence on a shooter that is not totally focused on natural timing factors. Maintaining control of your set up and where you normally break the target must be maintained. If you slip here you’ll be influenced by the squad and start breaking targets sooner or later than you usually do. Lost targets will result.
- Control your breathing. Take a relaxed deep breath prior to calling for the target. Incorporate this into your set up routine. Oxygen supplies a burst of energy to the eyes which will allow you to see the target sooner and with increased clarity. It also helps to calm the mind and body. Controlled breathing will help you whenever you become tense.
- Raise your eyebrows just before or when you call for the target. If you look in the mirror you may see your eyelid covering the iris of your eye. This happens to a severe degree when under stress when the forehead tenses and compresses downward like when you are shooting your last trap or in a stressful shoot off. Twenty percent of light gathering vision can be lost. Vision reduction will make the targets appear dim and fast flying with trailing comet tails and will create a surprising number of missed targets. Eyes wide, than call. You will see an improvement in your shooting performance and whenever you are under tension if you incorporate the technique in your practice sessions now.
- Control emotions. The target you are shooting is only a target you have obliterated many times before. Place no association on the target assuming it has more value than all the other targets you have shot today. This means no counting targets. No mental imaginations of winning or losing if you can only hit this target. If you miss a target, learn to reset your mind that the miss never happened. This will help you avoid making corrections in a registered shoot. Flush the mind of emotion and shoot like a machine using the same precision techniques you learned in practice. Everyone misses targets. It just happens. Accept it. Overcorrecting leads to experimentation and more targets unnecessarily lost.
- Adjustable comb is a must unless you have had your stock custom made, bent or formed to your body dimensions. So, don’t buy a gun unless you can set the cast on, cast off, and height. It’s one or the other… custom fit or adjustable. If your gun has neither you will not be shooting well no matter how much you practice because the gun will not fit you. Gun fit is critical, critical, critical!
- Removable chokes are optional, but handy. What if, just what if you pay $7,000 for a gun and discover the hard way… the pattern and core centering is horrible? If shell brand selection does not solve the problem, you are stuck with it. Taking your barrel to a specialist can solve the problem, but at great delay and cost to get it right. So pattern check the gun before you buy it and shoot some targets with it to make sure it works in the real world. Removable chokes give you incredible control and options to easy fix the problems. Not everyone can afford custom barrels.
- Adjustable butt to set cant, gun fit and length of pull. All important to insure proper gun mount and eye alignment along the rib and the length of pull, if properly set, will enhance swing balance dynamics; reduce recoil and further enhance pointability on the visual aspect.
- A high rib will do you wonders, and if adjustable will create miracles! Way too many shooters are not shooting adjustable rib guns and they should be. It is true once you are proficient with a gun you never need to adjust your point of impact (POI), but what if you are not so proficient, yet? What are you going to do shim and re-shim the stock, keep fiddling with comb height that does nothing but give your cheek more of a beating from recoil? The adjustable high rib gun is an important factor to consider.
- You can adjust the rib setting to set the point of impact exactly for the game you wish to play. A simple turn of a dial or screw raises or lowers the impact for many reasons you may want to. If you have a O&U and shoot double-trap you can drop the POI to flash-hit that first target and smash the second on a flatter-trending shot path.
- You can easily make POI adjustments to match the gun to the zone you plan to shoot. In the learning process it requires many adjustment combinations to find that right zone to match your timing of the shot. If targets are running slow and flat? You can drop the POI. Targets flying fast and high? Raise the POI.
- You earn yardage, you have to learn a new series of sight pictures. With the adjustable rib you simply raise the POI a smidgen and that’s that! The sight pictures and your timing remain the same. The gun does all these corrections for you. That’s the wonder of the adjustable rib… but there is much more…
- You see the target way much better and sooner with a high rib gun as your eye’s are up and away from the barrel.
- Your head remains in a straight-line erect stature looking straight ahead concentric to the rib. A low rib gun will require you to crouch down or raise the gun high on the shoulder which throws off swing dynamics, upsets eye to rib alignment and raises the odds of a mismount to unacceptable levels.
- Recoil is reduced as the bore of the barrel is lowered in direct line with the shoulder. This reduces the tendency to lift your head from the stock overshooting the targets.
- Your standing stance is correct with no crouching of the upper back or shoulders to hold the gun. This only makes for a better setup and that means more targets hit.
- Visually distorting heat waves are extraordinarily diminished. The optical illusion effect is abolished.
- Fluorescent sight beads are easily glued on with silicone rubber (magnets are not reliable as the sight will shift or fly off the rib). These sight beads are great learning tools and more. You can see the target angle immediately as it passes by the barrel and you can, with great ease, learn sight pictures and get that bead where it should be regardless of lighting condition or background interference.
- Barrel weight may be necessary if the gun is too lively (though you can compensate by shifting your forearm grip further toward the muzzle end of the stock to kill hyperactive guns). As a general rule, your gun should be about 8 to 9 pounds for trapshooting. Any heavier and the swing is smooth but you can’t break the inertia unless you have very powerful muscles or use a moving gun technique. A gun that is too heavy will start slow allowing the target to escape the zone and overshoot the target as heavy guns tend to rise higher when swung because your muscles are stiffer just to hold the darn thing up. If the gun is too light you gain too much control and pointing errors increase. The gun moves too fast and becomes unstable and difficult to stay on the target’s true flight path.
- Release or pull trigger? That’s a big subject. Just shoot a pull trigger unless you develop serious flinching problems. The release trigger is not a cure-all but it does work. Before you quit the sport due to low scores and flinching read my book “Trap Shooting Secrets.” It will break you out of slumps and many other troublesome thorns in the flesh. The book also reveals what a flinch is, and it’s not caused by recoil as you think it is, but shooting out of time with one’s inner time clock.
- Ported barrels are great to have as it will reduce a tad of muzzle rise and some felt recoil, but it has positive effects on the shotstring and eases the punishment to lead pellets prior to entering the choke, or final squeeze if your gun has no choke.
- Recoil reduction device is a must for many shooters, but not all shooters need or want them. Overall, it is best to have one installed because way too many targets are missed, and shooters rarely admit, head-lifting ever so slightly from the comb. Most shooters don’t even know they are doing it even when it happens because it is a unconscious reaction! But if you watch shooters miss, you will see it happening, allot. Tell a 27-yard shooter s/he lifted their head and they will likely cuss at you in their attempt of self-denial.
- Consider buying a trap shotgun with Back-bored (another term for Over-bored) barrels and lengthened Forcing Cones. This reduces felt recoil and produces tighter shotstring patterns. If you can’t get both, at least opt for the Over-bored barrel. Chrome-lined barrels is a great feature to avoid pitting, wad friction scuffing and makes cleaning a quick task.
- The rib should have a wide scored face to contrast the sight bead.
Should I Buy an Elite Trap Gun?
- The high rib lowers the bore line to reduce felt recoil and reduces head-lifting.
- Gives you superior visibility of the target rising under the barrel and when taking the shot.
- Keeps your eye on line as the head does not have to reach down to the comb.
- A better shooting stance is obtained and that means less shooting over the top of targets.
- Reduces flinching.
- Eliminates visual target optical illusions by chilling distorting heat waves from the barrel.
- Helps you get on the target quicker.
- The gun you own is the wrong gun, but you don’t believe it.
- You need shooting lessons and instructions.
- Both number 1 and number 2 apply and you still won’t believe it and will do nothing.
- This is why the better shooter’s take your money.
- You can change your attitude and win shoots if you are willing to get rid of that silly loyalty thing that is holding you down, but you likely won’t do that either until you get sick and tired of your scores and finally cave-in to reason.
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- When you are standing on any one post/station you will now notice that when a target exits you will receive one of three basic angled targets…left, straight or right. Keep this basic thought in mind and it will help you eliminate all of the angles in between from concern.
- Now, the idea here is to setup your gun hold (where you hold the gun over or on the traphouse) to take advantage of the most severest angled target you will receive on that specific post. Post 1 the hard extreme left target is the most difficult so you want to mentally prepare yourself for that target to emerge. You don’t anticipate it will exit, but if it does you are ready to go for it. Post #2 a less severe left target. Post #3 you’ll receive minor angled left and right so there is no need to setup for any of these angles so you setup for the straight target. Post #4 and #5 is the reverse of #1 #2 as you’ll setup for the extreme right angled target. Easy, huh? It is. But breaking the target is always still hard to do…to do it consistently.
- Try taking a nice deep breath before you call for the target as this will settle the nerves and add a boost of oxygen to the eye to increase your vision of the target.
- If you can’t hit the targets you can try closing your eye and rifle-shoot the target by aiming at it. The trick is to not take your eye off the target otherwise the muzzle will stop and you’ll shoot behind the target. So no peeking back at the sight bead.
- Don’t be afraid to put that gun’s muzzle/sight bead way ahead of the target before you pull the trigger.. it’s hard to shoot behind a target this way.
- When you miss a target just remember there are two basic reasons why. You shot over the top of the target or behind it. It is an extremely rare event that you will actually shoot below a target or too far ahead of it. This is an important thing to keep in your mind when learning how to trapshoot. Now you can focus on leading the target (advancing the gun ahead of the target) and to keep the muzzle pointed at the bottom or below the target. Trap guns are designed to shoot high, meaning when you fire the gun the shotstring pellets will actually be shot a bit higher than where you aimed. Stay below and ahead of the target and you’ll be hitting much more of them.
- Do not mount (place gun on shoulder) too quickly. Do not be in a hurry here, okay? It is important to learn right away that you mount the gun smoothly to your shoulder, like in slow-motion, and socket it into your shoulder firmly. Pull the gun in snugly so it’s nice and tight. This will help you maintain control of the gun and reduce and recoil from banging your shoulder.
- Now you must keep your head down on the gun’s comb. So snug your cheek down and feel that it is down before you call for the target. Now be aware, if the gun does not fit you the gun may rise up a bit and whack you in the cheek with a slight sting. If this happens ask the gun club manager if there’s another gun you could use or place some shock absorbent material to the gun. Even a folded towel taped to the comb will do the trick. Now push your cheek down snugly. The more you push down the less recoil you will experience (as long as the comb is fitting your face dimensions).
- Now that you have the gun shouldered firmly and your cheek is down on the comb, close your eyes for a second and “feel” what this feels like. This is how you must remain when you call for the target, see the target and move the muzzle to the target. You cannot loosen your grip on the gun and you cannot lift your head from the comb. If you have a hard time seeing the target leave the traphouse, then lower your gun hold so you can.
- Try holding the gun all the way down to the traphouse before you call for the target. You will see the target better but you’ll have to swing the gun a bit more than the high gun hold method. The high gun hold is holding the gun straight out horizontally like many other shooters you see doing. But here’s a hot tip the pros use and many experienced trapshooters don’t know. Lower the gun hold an inch or two more from the straight out horizontal. This will help you see the target quicker and be able to swing on the target’s true flight path. If you don’t do this you will be swinging the gun left and right only and you will miss way too many targets doing this.
- When tracking the target with your muzzle make sure you do just that! Think of the target as a freight train on railroad tracks. You want to get onto the same railroad track and follow the muzzle along this track until you catch up with the target. Believe it or not, many shooters forget to do this!
- When you swing the gun, don’t push or jerk the muzzle. Relax! Allow your entire body to move the gun to the target by pivoting from the hips and upper body. You and the gun should feel like a “ridged” piece of steel so the gun can’t move unless you move your body to the target. This is called using Body English and it’s an advanced shooting form that is correct for the beginner to learn. You lose control of the gun and all accuracy if you push that gun with your arm to the target. Let your body flow to the target.
- Be smooth to the target. Don’t rush it. Don’t be in a great hurry to shoot the target the moment it exits the house. Let it get out there a ways so you can see it. Don’t worry if other shooters are shooting faster. You will too, later. Just relax and try to put that sight bead on the target if you can.
- You don’t have to aim the shotgun at this stage of your learning experience. Just keep your eyes solidly locked onto the target at all times. Never take your eyes off the target, okay? It will take a little time for your eyes to learn how to look at fast moving targets. Hey, this is your first time shooting so don’t worry about it. If you want to train your eyes for the next round keep watching the targets fly as other shooters shoot and try to focus in on a little broken fragment. This will help you to learn how to see small moving objects. When you do this the target will appear bigger and easier to hit.
- Try shooting handicap targets at the 20-yard line. This is a better place to learn as you can see the targets better (smaller but they appear slower with less blur to them) and you don’t need to swing the muzzle as much (the angle decreases with distance from the traphouse). This is also where all the big money is made in trapshooting. Handicap shooting is more difficult but much more rewarding to learn.
- Don’t make the mistake of practicing for months on the 16-yard line. There is no big money shooting singles (16-yard targets are called, singles targets).
- Don’t get caught up in the score trap! If you shoot the singles too much, say a month or two, you will start to see you are hitting most all of the targets. Then when the handicap trap game is started the singles shooter’s tend to shy away from it, “I can’t shoot with them pros. My scores go down and I get embarrassed.” This is a trap trapshooters fall into early in their shooting and you must avoid it. Get yourself onto the handicap shooting line as soon as you possibly can and learn from there…like today! Why? Because your 16-yard singles score will automatically increase because handicap is a harder game to learn. You will hear you have to learn singles to be able to shoot handicap targets first. This is a myth. Do not believe it. Singles shooting can never help you shoot well in handicap as the handicap game is much more complex and totally unrelated to shooting singles. Use the reverse process here and you’ll see amazing score increases with singles targets after you learn to shoot the handicap.
- Everyone will give you tips and lessons. Listen, but don’t try to absorb all of the things told to you all at one time. Many shooters cannot fully explain to your why certain things are done or how to do them, but they can tell you what is right or wrong (usually wrong is explained due to they not knowing the inner workings of the game). So take advice with a grain of salt.
- Find out who the “best” shooter is at the club and ask this person questions. If the shooter is a big-mouth braggart type, don’t. No matter how good of a shooter…these types of people tend to enjoy giving bad advice to new shooters. Thankfully, they are rare in trapshooting, but a few “Glory Seeker Know-It-All’s” do exist.
- I know this is your first day of trap shooting, but you should check out the opportunities available to you to enter competitive shooting. Yes, you are ready! Just a few practice sessions like you have done today, say, four more and you’ll have the basic safety instructions to begin. You don’t begin shooting competitively waiting until your scores increase. That’s not the right way to learn trapshooting! You dive right in! Don’t get into those hang-ups so many shooter’s have fearing to enter competition shoots…waiting for their scores to increase. That’s not the way to go, okay? Trust me on this one!
- Angled targets travel in straight lines.
False. Gravity exerts anti-linear momentum forces upon targets. All angled trap targets “bend” along a curved-arc flight path. The better trapshooters are conscious of this fact and insure they aim/point/acquire the target’s arc before pulling that trigger. Once learned it becomes a natural subconscious act, to a degree, but awareness of this anomaly is critical to obtain consistent solid hits and scores.
- Straight-away targets are straight.
- Straight targets bend left or right but never travel in a straight line. It is so rare to see a true straight-away target they are practically non-existent. You can see this for yourself by locking the trap machine and see how many target will strike the center field post. Most targets will still fall left or right of the post and that’s with with machine “locked” in position on a calm day. When the trap oscillates those off-centerline targets increase dramatically. Always aim to shoot left or right of a straight-trending target, never at its center.
- Never use the sight beads when shooting trap.
Sight beads are necessary to use. Back-sighting is a requirement to learn how to shoot off the end of your barrel, to tighten the sight picture and to control trigger timing. You can’t shoot with your eyes alone in handicap. Eye/hand coordination is not precise enough to establish precision dispatching of edge-on targets. You have to use the sights more than you currently believe. This is not rifle-aiming, but close to it.
- You must learn to shoot singles to be good at handicap.
No. The two games are very different. Each requires its own technique. If this were not true you may as well start shooting double-rise (double-trap) or Olympic trap so you can shoot DTL or ATA handicap targets properly. Each game is different, so do not believe the myth you must shoot singles 16-yard targets to excel in handicap. Specialization is required.
- A soft eye focus is required prior to calling for target.
Not true. You have to learn how to pre-focus the eye along the sight rib to energize centralized vision. Pros will casually tell a novice to use a soft focus but they fail to consider they themselves are using centralized vision focus due to the tremendous level of eye-training they have acquired over the years. Once learned it appears as a soft focus but to the beginner it is not. Also, pre-focus allows the shooter to enter the slow-motion mode of shooting, allows the target to appear brighter and the targets come to the shooter instead of having to chase them down.
- A shooter can setup his/her own gun fit.
Extremely rare. Only a few can who have the inner knowledge. Most all shooters are shooting guns that are not fitted properly and have never consulted with a stockfitter for a check-up. A mirror will not help to perform fit tests as the shooter will tweak adjustments to “make” it look right. An outside view is required. Too many targets are missed due to failing to insure good gun fit.
- 30-inch patterns is the standard and most reliable.
A common myth. In singles you’ll get away with it, but not in long-yardage handicap as the pattern fails. The central hot-core is what breaks targets with ‘reliability’ so pattern down to the 25″ pattern to establish the tightly-packed central core. If you don’t, you will miss targets when you did not miss at all. The 30″ pattern works against you in handicap shooting. If the 25″ pattern is too much for you to learn then try the 28″ pattern first to learn to adapt to the increased precision required to break the targets then migrate to the 25″ pattern.
- Release trigger solves flinching.
It is a management tool, not a cure-all. Flinching comes in many forms not just recoil flinching. Release triggers do help many shooters and is a viable tool. There are alternative techniques to explore before switching to the release trigger as these triggers will not cure sight-picture flinches where you pull the trigger at the wrong time and miss the target.
- Shooters don’t need lessons.
A prevalent misconception especially in the USA and Canada. Every shooter needs instruction to learn the finer points of trapshooting. There are too many shooters who shoot in competition not really knowing what is really going on out there with the targets. There are tricks to this trade like any other sport or occupation. If you don’t learn these little secrets you eventually hit a wall that can’t be broken down and the dreaded slump materializes.
- A new shooter should begin at the 16-yard line.
Everybody does this but it’s wrong. The new shooter is too close to the targets and they appear too fast to the eye like shooting skeet targets. The gun must swing faster in a wider arc so they learn right away to “push” the muzzle to the target, often violently. Shooting 16-yard targets is difficult to do for the brand new shooter and no sense of preliminary accuracy is acquired. Put the new shooter on the 20-yard line so they can see the target a little better and slower and not have to swing the gun so wildly. Once they get the hang of it then let them shoot the 16’s.
- Canting a shotgun is a grave error.
Only if performed with no specific purpose. A new shooter will cant the gun because the mind’s-eye is seeing the curving targets and telling the body to respond to follow the arc. The shooting coach will eliminate the canting so as to establish proper swing dynamics. However, once swing form is learned canting is a technique a shooter can intentionally use to get on the target quicker and smoother and shape the shotstring for dead-center hits. It is an advance moving gun technique. You will see pros using it. It’s subtle to the untrained eye but canting is used with great success in trapshooting.
- Many shooters are using the wrong size choke.
Absolutely. Most shooters are using a choke that is throwing a wide pattern to obtain “easy hits” but the pattern fails just enough to keep the scores down in the non-winning area. Tighten up the choke. You’ll miss targets at first due to learning how to get more precise hits but in the long-run you’ll begin to pick up those previously lost targets and see impressive scores. Learn to shoot with precision not with a choke. Practice with an extra-full choke! This will build precision. Later, in competition, you can open up the choke a bit if you wish to help counter for those slight misalignments, nervousness induced errors, etc.
- It is easier to shoot at the 27-yard line.
When shooters at shorter handicap distances shoot the 27-yard at Turkey or Buddy-shoots they seem to pump some good scores; “Hey, it’s easier here than where I’m standing!” So the drive to get to that “easy” 27 is very attractive and all efforts are expended to get there quickly. The day of victory arrives…success at last! Then suddenly — almost immeditely upon arrival — the scores dump to the pits and stay there. What happened to that easy 27? It’s not so easy anymore! In fact, it’s hellishly difficult. You can thank your unconcious mind for the trip to hell because it brought you there, not by pure skill, but my emotion and luck. On the journey to the 27-yard line precision shooting techniques were never learned and when that luck runs dry (and it does) a shooter can not escape from the plateau. The wall is hit hard and the shooter is trapped in a snare. All efforts to escape fail and the relentless slump materizes, feeding on itself, and the walls squeeze in to crush the shooter’s spirit and scores. Now there is help! You can take lessons from a coach to escape and/or read my books to learn these precision shooting secrets. Try as you may, you will never escape this hellish slump on your own efforts. You must have the knowledge to break free. It’s now or never.
- You must have natural-born talent to become a professional trapshooter.
Totally false! Many, many, pros will tell you how badly they shot when they first started out…often worse than your scores when you first shot! One Hall of Fame pro told me when he fired his first round of trap he couldn’t hit any of the 25 targets and it took him ten tries before he hit ten of them! Talk to Olympic Medallists winners and they will tell you just how little natural-talent plays a role to perform professionally. You have to learn pro techniques! You also need advice, support, lessons and instructions. Some shooters can rise to high levels of achievement on natural-talent, but few do. And even those that do rely on the “inner knowledge” they picked up from other professionals! Pros don’t shoot in a vacuum. No man is an island. Get the knowledge and you can become a professional trapshooter!
- Nobody gives lessons for free.
Not true. There are many free resources you can use to learn trapshooting.
- Click here for free trap shooting lessons and click here for answers to many questions.
- Talk to professional shooters…ask questions. Many trapshooters feel intimidated to approach these professionals. Simply push past that barrier and introduce yourself and open with, “Can I ask you a question about (gun fit, sight pictures, etc.)?” It’s that simple. Most will never say no so you’ll get your answer. Keep conversation brief and short, a couple minutes or so, and the next day you will get even more advice if you ask.
- Subscribe to shooting magazines. The subscription cost is so low relative to the information given the shooting lessons given in the articles themselves are essentially free.
- Search for internet sources where advice is given and where shooters talk to each other on-line.
- The library may have shooting books you can read for free.
- You can pay to have shooting lessons from a coach/instructor. Yes, the cost is there, but if you win option money due to the increased scores — those shooting lessons were free. A good investment was made.
- You never aim a shotgun, you point it at the target.
Just watch a pro shoot and tell me s/he is pointing the gun at the targets when shooting handicap targets…and I’ll show you a pro that is no longer going to stay a pro. You bet these pro shooters aim their guns! After 25-years of shooting 40,000 targets a year it may even appear to be pointing to them at times, but the truth is they are using those sight beads/muzzle to put them on the target. It’s the only way to get that sure-fire hit each and every time. No luck here or relying on pure eye/hand coordination as the sole factor. Fact is, at the 27-yard line there is little eye/hand coordination taking place. It’s pure intentional calculated precision moves to the target; trigger control, eye focus, gun and eye holds, tracking the target’s true line of flight, fine-tuned back-sighting, etc. Techniques that have nothing to do with pointing a shotgun. Don’t believe the myth you point a shotgun for if you do…you will continue to point and lose to the pros who know better. There are many secrets to trapshooting.
- Eye/hand coordination is a predominate skill in handicap trapshooting.
False. There is very little angular muzzle travel at the 27-yard line, a bit more at lesser yardage’s but dangerous to assume handicap shooting requires polished eye/hand coordination as would shooting singles or double trap at the 16-yard line or other disciplines such as skeet and sporting clays. A higher degree of precision aiming is required in the handicap trap game where the shooter must learn how to use the sight beads without rifle-shooting. A technique called back-sighting which allows the shooter to shoot off the end of the barrel.
- Shooting Glasses? A waste of money.
False. Shooting glasses are designed with lenses ground to centralize vision into the focal zone where the iris is located so you see the target with more rod receptors, about 750,000 more! This enhances your shooting greatly the moment you put the glasses on. The better you see the target the easier it will be to hit it. Many shooter are missing out on these benefits. Lens filters also enhance target centering and clarity. The cost is now way more affordable!
- Do not think when shooting in competition.
True and false. If you don’t think you’ll be shooting blindly with a dead mind. Using trigger words and simple positive statements will keep you focused to the job at hand. The top Olympic shooters are fierce competitors and they mentally converse with themselves with a vengeance when shooting. It elevates desire and forces you to enhance performance and crush negetive thoughts; “You have to beat the devil to submit to your will not his!”