Outdoor Articles

How to Trapshoot – The First Time Shooter

by Pursue The Outdoors on November 30th, 1999 in Trap Shooting

The best bet is to ask the gun club manager to have some give you some basic instruction on safety procedures, how to stand correctly, how to move from station to station, how to shoulder and hold the gun. Once this is performed you can begin to take that first step to learn how to shoot trap targets.

Now you may only want to try just one or two of these items on your first day or two of trap shooting. You don’t want this to become a technical exercise as you are only trying to have some fun.

  • 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!

That’s enough for today, and for the next month of shooting to learn. Print this page and bring it with you the next time you go to shoot…you’ll be glad you did!

Contact the ATA to get into competition and start having some real fun trap shooting! And when you’re really ready to start learning this great game, read the book “Trap Shooting Secrets” by James Russell and get ahead of your competition, fast!


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