The sport is in some ways a replacement for a game where the targets were live pigeons. Indeed, one of the names for the clay targets used in shooting games is clay pigeons. The layout of modern trap shooting is different from skeet shooting in that there is only one house that releases targets and the shooters only move through 5 different positions.
Trap shooting has been a sport since at least 1793 when it used real birds, usually the then-extremely abundant Passenger Pigeon. Fake birds were introduced around the time of the American Civil War as the Passenger Pigeon was nearing extinction and sufficient numbers were not reliably available. Clay targets were introduced in the 1880's.
Olympic Trap is one of the ISSF shooting events, introduced to the Olympic program in 1900; the current version was introduced in 1950. In International competitions the course of fire is 125 shots for men and 75 shots for women. There is also a 25-shot final for the top six competitors. The ISSF website is www.issf-shooting.org for more information. B.J. McDaniels has written a series of three articles covering upgrading from American ATA/PITA trap shooting—described in the following section—to Olympic trap (on going from checkers to chess, if you will). They may be found in the shotgun coaches' corner of www.USAShooting.com. Several photos of a bunker facility are shown. Olympic trap is also referred to as International trap or Bunker trap.
Examination of those photos will reveal that the Olympic trench contains 15 fixed-angle machines as opposed to the single oscillating machine used in the American games. The additional machines resolve the fairness issue: as the single machine in the American game is constantly oscillating horizontally, every shooter will receive a different mix of target angle difficulty. For example, on any given station, a shooter can plausibly get all (easier) straight-away targets or all extreme angle (more difficult) targets, thus varying his level of difficulty (fairness) considerably in each round shot compared to what his competitor might receive. What target angle the shooter actually gets is a luck of the draw depending on where the constantly-moving machine was pointing at the time he called for his target. The 15 machine fixed-angle format eliminates this luck of the draw problem, ensuring that all shooters will receive exactly the same targets as all other shooters, hence providing the equal difficulty for all. A computer is used to ensure this occurs with programming to deliver 10 left, 10 right and 5 straight-away targets to each competitor in a randomized sequence. Finally, a microphone release system provides equality in target release times. An Olympic trap facility is designed to provide unequivocally equal opportunity for all.
The process of a round is as follows: There are six shooters, one to each station, with the sixth shooter initially starting at a holding station immediately behind shooter number one. At the beginning of first round of the day, test firing is allowed at the referee's permission. Upon receiving the start signal, the first shooter has 10 seconds to call for his target. After firing at his target, the first shooter waits for the second shooter to complete firing, then moves to station two, with the shooter on station six smoothly moving to station one. This procedure continues through the squad until the completion of the round.
Generally, the round is refereed by a person on the line, behind the shooters. He uses a bicycle-type horn or similar, to signal lost targets. He is assisted by one or two flankers to either side of the bunker who keep score. With modern technology, computer screens are now used both at the bunker and perhaps, in the club house showing the rounds' progress. In major matches, there will be a large, perhaps 1 x 2.5 m (4 x 8 feet) or so board to one side that shows the scoring status clearly to all with large tiles: white to show hits, red to show misses.
The guns may be loaded—but open-actioned—between stations 1 through 5. The gun must be unloaded and open in the walk from station five back to one. The unloading must be done BEFORE the shooter makes the turn to step off station five. This open action requirement alone tends to discourage the use of auto-loading shotguns as it is time consuming to unload if the second shell is not used. Additionally, there are issues of reliability and the loss of the advantage a more open choke of the over-under shotgun type can provide for the first shot.
Since the UIT, now ISSF, mandated the 24 gram (7/8 ounce) shot load effective back in 1991, chokes have tended to become tighter. Often you will see the use of 0.64-0.72 mm (0.025-0.030 inch) for the first barrel and 0.80-1.00 mm (0.032-0.040 inch) for the second. Guns are regulated to shoot dead on or, at most 5-8 cm (2-3 inches) high. Considerable effort is expended to ensure a perfect fit as the relatively high 100 km/h (62 mph) exit speed of the target allows no time for conscious compensation of a poor fit as it so often can occur in the slower 64 km/h (40 mph) exit speed target games of American trap and skeet.
Double Trap is a relatively new Trap form, Olympic since 1996 (from 2008 it has Olympic status only for men), where two targets are thrown simultaneously but at slightly different angles from the station three bank of machines. The target speed is about 80 km/h (50 mph), very close to that of ATA doubles.
The shooting procedure is identical to the above, with the only unique item in that the targets are released with a variable delay up to 1 second. This was instituted to minimize the practice of spot-shooting the first target.
Interestingly, the ISSF has continuously adjusted the difficulties of its disciplines trap, skeet and double trap, to minimize the number of perfect scores, unlike ATA/NSSA where perfect scores are the norm. Missing a single target in a large ATA or NSSA match means the competitor has a limited chance of winning, whereas missing a target in a bunker or International skeet still allows a competitor to have an excellent chance of winning.
American Trap is popular throughout the United States and may well be the most popular form of clay target shooting in North America. Official events and rules are governed by the Amateur Trap Shooting Association or ATA. The ATA is generally considered the governing body of American trapshooting and is one of the largest shooting sports organizations in the world. Another governing body is the Pacific International Trap Association (PITA) which is active mainly in the western US. PITA rules are nearly identical to ATA rules.
The ATA hosts the Grand American World Trap Shooting Championships, which is held every August. After decades in Vandalia, Ohio, the "Grand" moved to the new World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois. The Grand attracts as many as 6,000 shooters for the thirteen day event, which is billed as the world's largest shooting event.
The ATA sanctions registered trapshooting competitions at local clubs and facilities throughout North America, and it also coordinates Zone competitions leading up to the Grand American each summer along with "Satellite Grands" throughout the U.S. State organizations also hold state championship shoots each year, which are also coordinated with and sanctioned by the ATA.
American trap is broken down into three categories: 16 yd singles, 16 yd doubles and, handicap which is shot between 19 and 27 yd. In singles each shooter takes one shot at each of five targets in each of the five positions in sequence, while standing 16 yards (15.6 m) back from the trap house. The trap rotates back and forth so it is impossible to know which way the target is going to come out. Handicap is the same as singles but shot from further away. Adult male shooters start at the 20 yd line (18.3 m) and women and sub-juniors at 19 yd (17.3 m) and work their way back, "earning yardage" for shooting a score of 96 or higher, winning a championship or other major event, or shooting the highest score when 15 or more competitors shoot that event. No two shooters on the same squad should have a difference of more than three yards (2.7 m) between them. Doubles is shot from 16 yards (15.4 m) and the trap is fixed to fire straight away with the left and right targets appearing to be straight away when standing between positions 4 & 5; and 1 & 2, respectively. Two targets are thrown at the same time, with one shot per target allowed. There is no second shot on any target in American trap singles or handicap.
When shooting American trap for practice or fun a squad of five will shoot 25 targets each for a total of 125. Registered ATA shoots require shooters to shoot 50, 100, or 200 targets per event (depending on the scheduled event). Most of these shoots are for personal average or handicap yardage.
A variant of standard trap is Wobble or Wobble Trap. The main differences are a much more extreme target flight path than in standard Trap shooting (the trap oscillates up and down as well as side to side), shooters are allowed two shots per pull, and shooters at stations 1 and 5 stand at the 18 yard (16.5 m) mark while positions 2-4 stand at the 17 yard (15.5 m) mark. Although this version of trap is not sanctioned by the ATA, many shooters consider it to be both more challenging and engaging as well as a more realistic preparation for bird hunting. More experienced shooters will often shoot from the Skeet positions to increase the difficulty.
Down-The-Line (DTL) is a form of trap popular in Great Britain, Australia, and South Africa. It is similar to American trap singles except that two shots are allowed, with three points awarded for a first-barrel hit and two for a second-barrel hit.
In the Nordic countries and Great Britain (which is part of the Nordic Shooting Region), a form of Trap formerly known as Hunter's Trap and now as Nordic Trap is popular. It is easier than the Olympic version.
American Trap is generally shot with a 12 ga. single (such as the Browning BT-99, Perazzi MX-15 or MX-2000, or Krieghoff K-80) or double barrel shotgun such as the Browning XT. Shooters will often buy a combo-set of a mono and over-under barrel gun for shooting singles and doubles respectively. Semi-autos are popular due to the low recoil and versatility because they can be used for singles, handicap, and doubles. Trap-specific guns are normally a manufacturer’s top of the line model and often embellished with engraving or inlay work and higher grades of wood. Trap guns differ from field and skeet guns in several ways and normally shoot higher than their counterparts as the targets are almost always shot on the rise. The most obvious difference is in the stocks. They are normally Monte Carlo or have an adjustable comb, an adjustable butt plate, or both. Such guns also have long barrels (700-850 mm, 28-34 inches), often with porting, and anything from a modified to a full choke. The majority of trap shotguns built today feature interchangeable choke tubes, but older guns generally have fixed chokes. Some shooters have a complete set of choke tubes (modified, improved modified, improved cylinder, full).
Most shooters wear a vest or belt that will hold 25 cartridges with a second pocket for the spent shells.
American trap is shot with lead target ammo, with a shot size between 7 ½ and 9 (2.0-2.4 mm). Ammunition is allowed a maximum of 1-1/8 oz (32 g) of shot and maximum velocities vary with shot mass: 1290 fps (393 m/s) for 1-1/8 oz (32 g), 1325 fps (404 m/s) for 1 oz (28 g), and 1350 fps (414 m/s) for 7/8 oz (24 g). Maximum loads are generally only needed for long handicap or the second doubles shot. (Note that at certain trap clubs, when required, steel shot can be used.
Although Winchester AA, Remington STS, and other higher end shot shells have been popular in the trapshooting world for quite some time, cheaper shells such as Federal Top Gun and Rio are becoming increasingly popular due to the increase in price of the higher end shells. Federal Top Gun and Rio still offer the decent firepower of Winchester AA shells, but lack a sturdy hull thus making them difficult to reload. Reloading is also becoming much more popular because it doesn't cost nearly as much as buying new boxes of shells and doesn't take quite as long to manufacture a box of shells as it used to - due to the invention of hydraulic reloading machines.
American Trap shooting, more so than other shooting disciplines, including Olympic "international" trap, develops a certain rhythm to a squad timing between shots. The manners of any other squad member(s) can affect the performance of individuals within a squad. Shell catchers are a must for anyone using a semi-automatic - a shell hitting you in the head or arm can certainly disrupt your concentration. Most shooters also carry a few extra shells in case they drop one. It is better not to pick up any dropped shell, or other item, until after the 5th shooter has fired his 5th shot of the station and the squad is about to rotate to the next position. Idle chatting between shots, vulgar calls, and unnecessary movement can be generally disruptive. Things are considerably more relaxed during a practice squad, but one should use some discretion.
Commands from the scorer and other shooters are as important to squad timing as the behaviors of the shooters on the squad. To start a squad the shooter will ask if the squad and puller are ready (usually by calling "Squad ready?" then "Puller ready?"), followed by asking to see one free target, traditionally saying "Let's see one." The scorer will call missed targets with a command of: loss, lost, etc. When the first shooter has fired his final shot of the position the scorer will sometimes call “end” and will command “all change” after fifth shooter has fired his last shot. The shooter on position five then moves behind the rest of the shooters on his way to the first station and will signal when he is ready to the First shooter who is now on station two. The standard call for a target is “pull,” but many shooters like to use their own variations of "pull," or words that will help them concentrate on the target.
13 Time ATA All-American 4 Time ATA All-American Team Captain Grand American All-Around Champion 2001-2005 "399X400" Grand American High Over All Champion in 2007 Numurous Satellite Grand and State Championships Member of the "Kansas Trapshooters Hall of Fame"
The ATA allows shooters under the age of 18 to shoot for half-price at the Grand American as well as many other large ATA sponsored shoots. Other major shoots also allow reduced cost shooting for junior shooters.
The ATA and state organizations such as the Texas Trapshooters' Association (TTA) also award scholarships to college bound trapshooters based on citizenship, scholarship, and need. Numerous former TTA junior shooters are now attending college with the help of TTA and ATA scholarships.
The Scholastic Clay Target Program promotes gun safety, personal responsibility, and sportsmanship among primary and secondary students. Teams compete at the local, state, and national level. Athletes are divided into four divisions based on academic grade level and experience: Rookie (fifth grade and below), Intermediate (sixth through eighth grades), Junior Varsity (ninth through twelfth grades), and Varsity (eleventh and twelflth grades with at least two years of experience at the Junior Varsity level). Trophies and college scholarships are awarded to third place, runner-up, and champion squads in each division at the SCTP National Championships, which are held concurrently with the first two days of the Grand American Trapshooting Championships in Sparta, Illinois.
Additionally, non-scholarship college teams are also growing in popularity. Leading college trap teams include those from Texas A & M, Purdue, and Lindenwood (MO).