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Click here for a glossary of trapshooting terms
Click here for a timeline of trapshooting events

A Short History of Trapshooting

The best way to get started is to get a friend to take you to a gun club. We are blessed with many fine trapshooting gun clubs. Once there, he or she can show you how to enter and perhaps even teach you a few fundamentals. It would be wise to go to a practice shoot and shoot 25 practice targets and repeat as many times as you might feel you must before you actually enter any competition. Some equipment you might want to buy is a shooting vest and a shooting bag to hold your shells and empties. Shooting glasses are a must as well as ear protection. One thing you must remember, it takes a lot of time, practice and patience. Don't become discouraged if you shoot poor scores over a long period of time. Keep coming back. 

How Much Does It Cost?


Entry Fee: About $2.50 to $3.00 for 25 targets. (ATA registered targets are more expensive)
: One box of 25, about $5.50 or $50.00 for a flat of ten boxes. 
Glasses: $50.00 to $200.00 (Shop around)
Ear Protection: $5.00 to $200.00 (Shop around.)
Shooting Vest: $40.00 to $200.00 (Shop around.)
Shooting Bag: up to $150.00 (Shop around. A box or bucket will get you started.)
Trap Gun: $500.00 to $13,000 (Again, shop around, get advise. Many good used guns available.)
Reloader: If you plan to reload your shells, prices range from several hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Look for a good used reloader for a starter. (Get advise.)

Don't let the cost scare you. If you want to get started, all you need are a gun (you might want to loan a gun from a friend), and box of shells. Pay the entry fee and have the time of your life. However, eye and ear protection is advised and a recent rule change has made ear and eye protection mandatory.


Trapshooting Disciplines

There are three different disciplines in American trapshooting....

Each round consists of 25 targets shot from 5 different stations, 5 targets per station. You shoot from 16 yards.

Each round consists of 25 targets shot from 5 different stations, 5 targets per station. You shoot your targets anywhere from 19 yards to 27 yards, depending on your ability.

Each round consists of 25 pair of targets shot from 5 different stations, 5 pair of targets per station. You shoot from 16 yards. 

Gun Safety

There have been very few, if any, deaths related to gun accidents in the sport of trapshooting. Gun safety is Job 1 while trapshooting. Some simple rules include:

1. Never move from station to station with a loaded shell in your gun.
2. Always keep the gun pointed downrange.
3. Never carry a loaded gun when not on the firing line.
4. Be alert to trap boys leaving the trap house while the round is in progress.
You must keep the action open on your gun at all times while moving to and from the trap line as well as moving from post to post while you are shooting.
6. Never "track" a target while waiting to shoot after the squad in front of you
7. Never turn around to face the scorekeeper with a loaded gun.
8. Keep your gun in good mechanical condition.

Trap Field

The trapfield should be laid out with the shooter facing north. There are 5 stations as you can see from the drawing. You shoot 5 targets per station in singles and handicap and 10 targets per station for doubles. The shooters are standing at the 16 yard line and will be moved back in handicap along the walkway behind the shooters all the way back the 27 yard line, depending on the shooters ability. The target is released on the command of "pull" from the shooter and will travel at various angles for about 48 to 52 yards at about 50-60 MPH. The shooter must break the target before it hits the ground. You are allowed only one shot in singles and handicap and of course, two shots in doubles. 

Clay Target

The most common targets used today are manufactured by White Flyer, Remington and Federal. They measure 4 5/16th inches in diameter and 1 1/8 inches high. Properly presented by a good trap machine, they can be broken with as little as one shot pellet. 

The first clay target, a Ligowsky Clay Target. Developed in 1880 by George Ligowsky of Cincinnati, Ohio. Very hard and "rang like a bell" when hit. You were probably lucky if it broke. There were two kinds, one with a tab and one without. Both are on display in the Trapshooting Hall of Fame Museum.

Trap Machines

Today's state of the art trap machines are highly sophisticated and very expensive. They are manufactured to throw one target for singles and handicap and two targets for doubles. Pictured on the left is a GMV Super Star trap made in Sweden.  It is completely automatic and no one is required in the trap house to set targets as was required for over 100 years. Another very popular automatic trap is the Pat Trap, not shown.  

The trap machine on the left is the real workhorse of most gun clubs in all states. It is the Western electric trap. Used exclusively for decades (developed in the late 1940's), it is slowly being replaced by the automatic traps like the one above. Probably 99% of all gun clubs still use this Western electric trap, including the Grand American in Vandalia, Ohio. These traps are set by "trappers or setters" one target at a time. They also will throw very good doubles targets.
A Chamberlin doubles trap, made in the late 19th century, is shown on the left. Not many of these machines were produced and certainly very few remain today. 

This is the Ligowsky trap, made in 1882. It is the very first clay target trap. It was made to throw the Ligowsky clay target, which, of course, was the first clay target. Before the clay target, trapshooting consisted of glass ball and pigeons. 

One of the earliest glass ball traps, made by the great glass ball and pigeon shoot, A. H. Bogardus. Trap is dated 1877.

This glass ball trap, the Card Standard, was manufactured about 1882 by Cruttenden and Card of Cazenovia, New York. It revolved by means of a cord, thus changing the angles of flight. It could be regulated to throw a high, medium or low glass ball and attained a distance of 25 yards.

An old pigeon box trap which came out of the Pennsylvania coal mining region, a hot bed for early pigeon shooting. 

This is a Parker Plunge Trap used to release live pigeons at the dawn of trapshooting in the United States. Developed in the 1870s by Charles Parker of the Parker Gun Company. The left photo is the trap as it appears loaded and the right photo the trap has been "sprung" by the puller, releasing the pigeon. 

Voice Release

To the left is an Outers wireless voice release. To the right is a Canterbury Voice Release. They are placed in front of each shooter and will release a target as soon as the shooter calls for the target. It will not pick up other noises associated with a round of trapshooting, such as the noise from a shotgun or another shooter on the next field along side of you. Many clubs now use voice release technology for their trapfields. Currently the most popular are the Canterbury Voice Release systems (right) as used at the Grand American.

Trap Shotguns

There are 4 kinds of shotguns you can use for trapshooting. They must be no larger than 12 gauge. The major difference between a trap gun and a hunting (field) gun is found in the stock. It is not recommended that you use a field gun for trap shooting. The four kinds are over and under, single barrel, automatic and pump action

So You Want To Shoot Registered ATA Targets

You are now interested in shooting registered ATA (Amateur Trapshooting Association) targets. It's easy. First, you have to go to a club that shoots registered targets. (Schedules can be found on the ATA website.) Next, go to the cashier and join the ATA. You can then shoot registered targets immediately. Dues are $18.00 per year (September to August). Then enter the shoot by picking your squad and shooting position (post 1,2,3,4 or 5). The cashier can help you out with the entry procedure. You will find the cost is a little more expensive than a practice shoot and you shoot 100 targets. The target cost will usually be from $15.00 to $22.00 for the hundred targets. You will be required to also pay what are called "fees". The ATA fee is $2.00 per day, plus each state charges a fee for their state association. You are now entered in the shoot. Make sure you arrive at your starting trap on time and do not be late. You then shoot 25 targets and then move to the second trap. Shoot another 25 targets and move to the third and fourth traps and repeat, 25 targets per trap until you have shot your total 100 targets. You are now on your way to an exciting career of registered trapshooting. 

How to Keep a Scorecard

When you join the ATA you will receive a membership card which doubles as a score card. Keep this card up to date at all times and neat. 

Money Options

Remember, the ATA does not recommend that you play options This is an individual choice. There are many kinds of money options to choose from when you have progressed to the point where you might want to play the money options. Remember, most clubs have their own kinds of options. They change the percentages, cost and various methods of payout. Ask the cashier to explain the option to you. Remember, don't play any money than you can afford to lose. For beginning shooters, the basic Lewis Class option is best suited for your skills. You can win money with this option with a very low score. Here are a few others......

MODIFIED LEWIS EXPLANATION In the Modified Lewis, 35% of all money will be distributed to the top two scores - 21% to the top score and 14% to the second score. The third score will become the first of five lewis classes (13% each class) divided one money each class.

ATA POINT SYSTEM The ATA Point System is an option designed to insure that the more targets you break, the more money you win. It is usually found in Handicap events. One money each five entries means that one-fifth of all shooters entered in the purse will be winners. Low score in the money will receive one point, next higher score will receive two points, etc., except that the difference between the first and second scores will be four points, and the difference between second and third high scores will be three points. The total points awarded will be divided into the total money to determine the value of each point. The amount the shooter will receive is the total of the value of each point multiplied by his total number of points.

25's & 50's Options  This is a very popular option used for handicap events. If you play the 25's, you will win money if you break a 25  in that sub-event. Usually, its 60% of the money played by the shooters. Of course, others may tie you in the sub-event. In that case, you split the money. If you break a 24 you also win money, usually 40% of the money played by the shooters. Ties will divide. In the 50's option, 50, 49 and 48 usually win money. 50% goes to the 50, 30% goes to the 49 and 20% go to the 48's. Remember, ties divide.

Last Updated on Thursday, 08 April 2010 07:35