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Trapshooting is one of the three major disciplines of competitive clay pigeon shooting (shotgun shooting at clay targets). The other disciplines are skeet shooting and sporting clays. They are distinguished roughly as follows:

  • In trap shooting, the targets are launched from a single "house" or machine, generally away from the shooter.
  • In skeet shooting, targets are launched from two "houses" in somewhat "sideways" paths that intersect in front of the shooter.
  • Sporting clays includes a more complex course, with many launch points.

There are variations within each group.

Trapshooting is shot throughout the world's countries. Trapshooting variants include but are not limited to international varieties Olympic trap, also known as "International Trap"; Double trap (also an Olympic event), Down-The-Line, also known as "DTL" and Nordic Trap. American Trap is the predominant version in the United States and Canada.

American Trap has two independent governing bodies. The Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) sanctions events throughout the United States and Canada, as well as the Pacific International Trapshooting Association (PITA) which sanctions events on the West Coast of North America.

Trapshooting was originally developed, in part, to augment bird hunting and to provide a method of practice for bird hunters. Use of targets was introduced as a replacement for live pigeons. Indeed, one of the names for the targets used in shooting games is clay pigeons. The layout of a modern trapshooting field differs from that of a skeet field and/or a sporting clays course.

Trapshooting has been a sport since the late 18th century when real birds were used; usually the Passenger Pigeon, which was extremely abundant at the time. Birds were placed under hats or in traps which were then released. Artificial birds were introduced around the time of the American Civil War. Glass balls (Bogardus) and subsequently "clay" targets were introduced in the later 1800s,[1] gaining wide acceptance, but shooting of live birds is still practiced in some parts of the United States.[2]

Arms and equipment

Trapshooting is typically shot with a 12 gauge shotgun. Smaller gauge firearms (e.g. 20 gauge) can be used, but no allowance is given. Trapshooting is shot at either single or double target presentations. This refers to the number of clay targets which are launched simultaneously.

Both general purpose shotguns and more specialized target-type shotguns are used in trapshooting. Examples of trap guns are single-barreled shotgun (such as the Browning BT-99, Perazzi MX-series, Krieghoff K-80, [Kolar] T/A) or a double barreled shotgun such as the Beretta DT-10, Browning XT Trap, and SKB'S. Shooters who shoot all sub-events will often buy a combination-set of a single and double barrel for shooting both singles and double targets respectively. Self-loading (semi-automatic shotguns) are popular for recreational shooting due to the lower perceived recoil and versatility because they can be used for singles, handicap, and doubles. Shotguns used in trapshooting can differ from field and skeet guns in several ways and normally are designed with a higher "point of impact" as the targets are intended to be shot as they rise.

Trapshooting shotguns can be adjustable. Stocks may have a "Monte Carlo" (fixed, raised "comb") configuration and/or include a comb height adjustment, a butt plate adjustment for length, angle or both. Trap guns typically have longer barrels (750–850 mm, 30-34 inches), possibly with porting and featuring tighter chokes to compensate for the longer distances at which trapshooting targets are broken. The majority of trap shotguns built today feature interchangeable choke tubes as opposed to older guns which used chokes of a "fixed" constriction. Interchangeable choke tubes can come in a variety of constrictions and may use names such as "modified", "improved modified" and "full". Trap guns are built to withstand the demands and stress of constant and lengthy repeated use - hundreds of shots in a single day of events, whereas typical field guns are built to be lighter, carried afield and not shot in such quantity.

Common accessories include wearing a vest or pouch that will hold at least 25-50 cartridges or "shells" for singles and/or doubles events. Most ranges and clubs require eye and ear protection.

Shooting glasses may be something as simple as the eyeglasses or sunglasses one presently wears. Specialized shooting glasses "systems" typically have interchangeable colored lenses, are adjustable and designed for high impact resistance. A spectrum of different colored lenses are offered to compensate for light conditions as well as enhance the color of the target thrown while muting the color of the background. Adjustable glasses allow on-range changes for conditions - light, color, etc.

Hearing protection also comes in a variety of choice. Dense foam and electronics are used to reduce or attenuate sound levels. Typical hearing protection is either an "earmuff" (over-the-the-ear) or an "ear plug" (inner-ear). Some shooters use both simultaneously to gain greater noise reduction (NRR).

Trap machines and target launching methods

Trap shooting requires the use of a target throwing device(s). American Trap and DTL utilize a single trap machine which is typically enclosed within a traphouse, downrange from the shooters' shooting positions. The house provides protection of the machine (e.g. from weather and errant shots) and also acts to obscure the machine's oscillating throwing position. International or Olympic trap employs 15 trap machines housed within a large elongated traphouse which is recessed into the ground to form a "bunker" and/or resemble a trench. International or Olympic Trap may at times be referred to as Bunker Trap.

Modern automatic throwing machines can store hundreds of clay targets in a carousel and systematically self-load targets onto the throwing mechanism. Manual electric target throwers require a person in the traphouse with the trap machine, to set the target(s) by hand onto the machine arm. For both of these types, an electrical signal, from the push of a button or a sound activated device, causes the trap machine to throw its targets after the shooter calls for their bird(s).

Temporary or informal trapshooting can utilize other methods to launch targets. The simplest is a "hand thrower" which is a hand-held arm which holds and releases that target when a person swings it. Another type of manual, non-electrical thrower utilizes a spring-loaded mechanism which is cocked and subsequently released by hand or foot.


American Trap typically uses lead shot ammunition, with shot sizes (for lead shot) ranging between #7 ½ and #9 (2.0-2.4 mm). The major components of a shotshell are the "hull" (casing), "primer" (ignition device), "powder" (smokeless gunpowder), "wad" (shot cup and cushion), and "shot" (round pellets). The "shot" in a "shotshell" consists of 300-450 +/- small spheres. Shotshells are allowed a maximum payload weight of 1-1/8 oz (32 g) of shot. Velocity may vary, but is limited based upon shot mass: 1290 ft/s (393 m/s) for 1-1/8 oz (32 g), 1325 ft/s (404 m/s) for 1 oz (28 g), and 1350 ft/s (414 m/s) for 7/8 oz (24 g). Maximum loads are generally only needed for longer "handicap" yardages or the second shot in Doubles Trap. When required at certain trap clubs or ranges, steel shot is used with slightly larger shot size. (e.g. #6 or #7).

Quality ammunition is readily available from a variety of manufacturers. The more recognizable names include Winchester, Remington, Federal, Fiocchi and Rio. Ammunition may be marketed as "premium" or other. Manufacturers price their ammunition accordingly.

Remington prices their STS/Nitro family higher than their Gun Club line of shells. Federal prices their Gold Medal and Federal Paper shells higher than their Top Gun or Estate lines. The quality of the hull construction, shot, powder and primer components impacts the price of shotshells.

Reloading or self-loading of ammunition is popular among a segment of trapshooters, due in part to the sheer quantity of ammunition used in trapshooting. Reloading can be economical. The ability to customize a shotshell "recipe" to one's shooting, makes reloading attractive and adds another dimension to the enjoyment of shotgun shooting sports.


Trapshooting dates back to 1750 in England.[1] In the USA it began in 1831.[1] Originally, live birds were used as targets, released from under hats.[1] Glass balls came into use as targets in the 1860's and began to partially replace live birds.[1] In 1880 "Clay" birds (disks) were invented.[1] Shooting of live birds is still practiced in some parts of the United States.[2] The first automatic trap machine (to launch clay targets) was used in 1909.[1]

International versions

Main articles: Olympic trap and Double trap

Olympic trap

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 a 25-shot final for the top six competitors. Several photos of a bunker facility are shown. Olympic trap is also referred to as International and/or Bunker trap.

Olympic Trap uses 15 fixed-angle machines as opposed to the single oscillating machine used in American Trap or DTL. The 15 machine computer controlled program is designed to deliver 10 left, 10 right and 5 straight-away targets to each competitor in a randomized sequence. A microphone release system is employed to provide uniformity in target release times.

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. They use 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 × 2.5 m (4 × 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 competitors will use 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

Double trap is a relatively new trap form. An Olympic event since 1996 (from 2008 it has Olympic status only for men), 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 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.

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 Bunker or International Trap still allows a competitor a good shot at victory.

With her victory in women's skeet shooting at the 2012 London Olympic games, Kim Rhode became the first American to medal in 5 successive Olympic games. Her prior Olympic medals were for doubles trap shooting in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and for skeet shooting in 2008.[1]

Nationally and regionally recognized versions

American Trap

American Trap is popular throughout the United States and may be the most popular form of clay target shooting in North America. It is widely practiced at clubs and facilities that offer trap shooting.

Trapshooting outside of any official event is common and arguably the majority of American Trap trap shooting. Most official events are governed by the Amateur Trapshooting Association or ATA and its rules. The ATA is the primary governing body of American trapshooting and is one of the largest shooting sports organizations in the world. The Pacific International Trap Association (PITA) is an independent governing body, and is active in the western US and British Columbia. PITA rules are nearly identical to ATA rules. Trapshooting outside of official events follows ATA rules and norms to widely varying degrees.

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 coordinates Zone competitions leading up to the Grand American each summer along with "Satellite Grands" throughout the U.S. State organizations hold state championship shoots each year, which are coordinated with and sanctioned by the ATA.

American Trap is broken down into three categories: singles, doubles, handicap. The targets are thrown by a machine located at approximately ground level and covered by a "trap house." For singles and doubles, there are five "stations", each 16 yards (15.6 m) behind the trap house. In singles, each competitor shoots at five targets from each station. The trap machine oscillates left to right within a 54 degree arc (up to 27 degrees right and left of center), and at least a 34 degree arc (up to 17 degrees right and left of center).,[3] and the competitor does not know where in that arc the target will emerge. In doubles, the machine does not oscillate, but throws two targets simultaneously with each competitor shooting at five (5) pairs (10 targets) from each station. In the handicap events, the machine operates the same as in singles, but the shooters stand farther away from the trap house.

Recent changes specify a minimum handicap yardage of 18 yards (16.5m). Each time a competitor wins an event or shoots a score of 96 or higher, s/he may earn additional yardage (also known as "getting a punch"), and must thereafter shoot from farther away from the traphouse. The increase in effective distance is designed to increase difficulty. The maximum distance at which a handicap sub-event is shot is 27 yards (24.7 m). Safety regulations prohibit members of a handicap squad from shooting at varying yardages of more than 2-3 yards (1.8m-2.7m) apart, depending upon the handicap classification. In American Trap, each shooter is allowed only one shot per target.

When shooting American Trap for practice or fun, a squad of up to five individuals will shoot a "round" of trap which equals 25 targets per participant. Registered ATA events may require each shooter to shoot 50, 100 or 200 targets, depending upon the scheduled sub-event. Many of these shoots are for personal average or handicap yardage.[3]

ATA rules specify that shotgun gauges larger than 12 gauge (such as 10 gauge) are not permissible.[3] Maximum shot velocity is 1290 FPS (Feet Per Second) for shot charges up to 1 1/8 oz. and 1325 FPS for shot charges up to 1 oz.[3]

A variant of standard trap is Wobble or Wobble trap. The main difference is a more variable target flight path than in standard trap shooting because the trap machine 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.

Other nationally and regionally recognized forms

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. The trap machine oscillates left to right within a 45 degree arc.

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.

Etiquette and practices

Trap etiquette is expected and practiced more fully during official and competitive events, but, to a lesser extent, also during informal shooting. American Trapshooting, 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. Most persons using a semi-automatic shotgun employ a shell catcher - a ejected hull hitting an adjacent shooter in the head or arm can certainly disrupt their concentration. Most shooters carry a few extra shells in case they drop one. Shooters usually avoid picking up any dropped shell, or other item, until after the 5th shooter has fired their 5th shot of the station and the squad is about to rotate to the next position, or sometimes until the end of the entire round. Idle chatting between shots, vulgar calls, and unnecessary movement can be generally disruptive.

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." Especially during official and competitive events the scorer will call missed targets with a command of: loss, lost, etc. When the first shooter has fired their final shot of the position the scorer will sometimes call "end" or "ready" and will command "all change" or "please move" after fifth shooter has fired their last shot. The shooter on position five then moves behind the rest of the shooters on their 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.

Champion Shooters

  • Capt. Adam Henry Bogardus, born on a farm on Ravine Road in 1834, became the World Champion and United States Champion trap shootist. He is credited with romanticizing trap shooting and he invented the first practical glass ball trap in 1877. He and his sons were renowned crack shots that toured with the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. He is in the National Trapshooting Hall of Fame.
  • William Frank Carver - "Doc" William Frank Carver (1840–1927), defeated Captain Adam Henry Bogardus, World Champion and United States Champion trap shootist, in a series of 25 matches 19 times.
  • Vic Reinders (1906–1995), won the Clay Target Championship in 1958, and has the distinction of being on more All-America teams than any other shooter in history.
  • Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Career Highlights: he won the Individual Gold Medal setting a new Commonwealth Games Record, 192 targets out of 200, which still stands. He has won Gold Medals in two World Cup Shooting Competitions, in (Sydney) 2004 and (Cairo) 2006. He went on to be the world no 1 in early 2004. He has won silver medal in Athens Olympic games.
  • Harlan Campbell Jr., Career Highlights: 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 2007, numerous Satellite Grand and State Championships, member of the "Kansas Trapshooters Hall of Fame"
  • Kim Rhode, (1979-) She is a five-time U.S. Olympic medal winner (1996-2012 games) including three gold medals and six-time national champion in double trap. She won a gold medal in skeet shooting at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, equaling the world record of 99 out of 100 clays.

Youth shooters

Trapshooting is becoming ever more popular among younger shooters. ATA shooting provides for "special categories" for younger shooters, including a Junior class for shooters who have not turned 18 or Sub-junior for those not yet 15 as of the beginning of the ATA trap year (September 1). The ATA has launched a major initiative to attract more youth shooters.

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 allow reduced cost shooting for junior shooters.

The ATA and state organizations such as the Texas Trapshooters' Association (TTA) 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 twelfth 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 growing in popularity. Leading college trap teams include those from Texas A & M, Purdue, Virginia Tech, and Lindenwood (MO). Teams from these schools dominate the U.S. intercollegiate trap championships.

AIM Program

In October 2008 the Amateur Trapshooting Association launched its youth program, AIM. This program, focusing on academics, integrity, and marksmanship, is to provide a safe and positive experience with firearms for youth, elementary through college age. AIM encourages good sportsmanship and personal responsibility through competition in order to make trapshooting a lifelong avocation. Categories and classes are designed to create a more level playing field and encourage genuine competition. Age based categories are established on the birthday of the shooter. Categories are Pre-Sub (11 and under), Sub-Junior (12-14), Junior (15-18) and Graduates/Collegiate (18-23). For purposes of determining age category the category declared by the participant on the first day he/she shoots shall be used. AIM Shooters have the opportunity to compete at local and State/Provincial levels as well as at the Grand American World Trapshooting Championships. The AIM Program offers the opportunity to compete in a unique sport that is heavily reliant on mental focus as well as enjoy the thrill and excitement of registered trapshooting.


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