Skeet is a recreational and competitive activity where participants attempt to break clay disks flung into the air at high speed from a variety of angles. For the American version of the game, the clay discs are 4 and 5/16 inches in diameter, one and 1/8 inches thick, and fly a distance of 60 yards (+/- 2 yards). The international version of skeet uses a target that is slightly larger in diameter (110mm), shorter in cross section (25mm vs. 1 1/8 inches), and has a thicker dome center, making it harder to break. International targets are also thrown a longer distance from similar heights (over 70 yards), resulting in a faster target speed.
The firearm of choice for this task is usually a high quality, double-barreled over and under shotgun with 25/26inch barrels. Some gun shops refer to this type of shotgun as a skeet gun, a sporter gun or a trap gun although many shooters of American skeet and other national versions still use inexpensive semi-auto and pump action shot guns with great success. The use of clay targets replaced the more traditional target of live birds, as a cheaper, more humane and more reliable alternative, one reason they are also called clay pigeons.
The event is in part meant to simulate the action of bird hunting. The shooter shoots from 7 positions on a semi-circle with a radius of 21 yards (19 m), and an 8th position halfway between stations 1 and 7. There are two houses that hold devices known as "traps" that launch the targets, one at each corner of the semi-circle. The traps launch the targets to a point 15 feet above ground and 18 feet outside of station 8. One trap launches targets from 10 feet above the ground ("high" house) and the other launches it from 3 feet above ground ("low" house). At stations 1 and 2 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house, then shoots a double where the two targets are launched simultaneously. At stations 3, 4, and 5 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house. At stations 6 and 7 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house, then shoots a double. At station 8 the shooter shoots one high target and one low target. The shooter must re-shoot his first missed target, or if no targets are missed, must shoot his 25th shell at the low house station 8. This 25th shot was once referred to as the shooter's option as he was able to take it where he preferred. Now, to speed up rounds in competition, the shooter must shoot the low 8 twice for a perfect score.
Olympic and International Skeet is one of the ISSF shooting events. It has had Olympic status since 1968, and, until 1992, was open to both sexes. After that year, all ISSF events have been open to only one sex, and so females were disallowed to compete in the Olympic Skeet competitions. This was somewhat controversial because the 1992 Olympic Champion was a woman, Zhang Shan of China. However, women had their own World Championships, and in 2000, a female Skeet event was introduced to the Olympic program.
In Olympic Skeet, there is a random delay of between 0 to 3 seconds after the shooter has called for the target. Also, the shooter must hold his gun so that the gun butt is at mid-torso level until the target appears.
Another difference with American Skeet is that the sequence to complete the 25 targets in a round of Olympic Skeet requires shooters to shoot at doubles, not only in stations 1, 2, 6, and 7, as in American Skeet, but also on 3, 4, and 5. This includes a reverse double (low house first) on station 4. This last double was introduced in the sequence starting in 2005.
American Skeet is administered by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA). The targets are shot in a different order and are slower than in Olympic Skeet. There is also no delay after the shooter has called for them, and the shooter may do this with the gun held "up", i.e. pre-mounted on the shoulder (as is allowed in Trap shooting).
In the U.S., registered, formal, competition is administered by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA). A full tournament is typically conducted over the course of five events. These include four events shot as described in the preceding paragraph, each with a different maximum permissible gauge. In the usual descending order in which the events are shot, these maximum gauges are 12, 20, 28 and .410 bore. The fifth event, usually shot first in a five event competition, is Doubles, during which a pair of targets is thrown simultaneously at stations 1 through 7, and then from station 6 back through either station 2 or 1, depending on the round. The maximum gauge permitted in Doubles is 12. Each of the five events usually consists of 100 targets (four standard boxes of ammunition). All ties in potential winning scores are broken by shoot offs, usually sudden death by station, and usually shot as doubles, from stations 3, 4 and 5. Tournament management has the right to change the shoot format with respect to the order in which events are conducted, the number of events in a given shoot, and the rules governing shoot offs.
Each event normally constitutes a separate championship. In addition, the scores in the four singles events are combined to crown a High Over All ("HOA") champion for the tournament: a coveted title. On occasion, the scores for all five events are also combined, to determine the High All Around ("HAA") champion.
The requisite use of the small bore shotguns, including the difficult .410, is a major differentiation between the American version of the sport and the International version. Some would argue that it makes the American version at least as difficult as the International version, though perhaps at greater expense, given the necessity of one or more guns capable of shooting in all events. The most popular and effective solution to the multiple gun requirement is a two barrel, over & under shotgun, commonly a 12 ga. with a mechanical trigger, which can accept full length machined tubes or shorter chamber inserts, which permit the gun to shoot all gauges and the .410 bore.
So effective is the tubed gun solution that perfect scores are often required to win the open title in individual events, and combined scores of 395 to 400 may be required to win the open HOA in a major shoot, depending on the weather (though a perfect score of 400 remains a rare and noteworthy event). For example, the HOA title at the 2007 U.S. Open tournament, shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico between September 6th and 9th, was won in a shoot off between two competitors, each of whom shot a combined score of 399 out of a possible 400.
Recognizing that a high level of perfection is beyond the skill, interest, or time available to most shooters, NSSA competitions are subdivided into several classes, each based on the average score shot over the last 500 targets fired upon, in each of the five events, prior to any given competition. This permits shooters of roughly equal ability at the relevant point in time to compete against each other for the individual and HOA titles in their class.
Other national versions of Skeet (e.g. English Skeet) typically make similar changes to the rules to make them easier.
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