Trap shooting is one of the three major forms of competitive shotgun shooting at clay
targets (the others are Skeet shooting and Sporting Clays). There are many versions including
Olympic Trap, Double Trap (which is also an Olympic event), Nordic Trap, and several national
versions such as American Trap. As its name implies, American Trap is popular throughout the
United States and Canada, primarily sanctioned by the Amateur Trapshooting Association.
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.
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. Shooting Olympic Trap, 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 (International Shooting Sports Foundation), 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 25 to 30 thousandths for the first barrel and 32 to 40 thousandths for the second. Guns are regulated to shoot dead on or, at most 2 to 3 inches high. Considerable effort is expended to insure a perfect fit as the relatively high 76 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 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 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.
Regionally and nationally recognized versions
American Trap is popular throughout the United States and different from Olympic Trap. Official events and rules are governed by the Amateur Trap Shooting Association or ATA. The ATA is generally considered the governing body of American Trap shooting. 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 also runs the Grand American World Trap Shooting Championships, which is held every August. After 100 years 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 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 (19 for new Lady or Sub-junior shooter) 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 between them. Doubles is shot from 16 yards 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. 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 your personal average or handicap yardage.
American Trap uses similar targets as Olympic Trap, but they are thrown at a slower speed.
Arms and equipment
Trap is generally shot with a 12 ga. Single or double barrel shotgun such. 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 as they can be used for singles, handicap, and doubles. Trap-specific guns are normally a manufacturer's top of the line model and can be 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 (from 28 to 34 inches), often with porting, and anything from a modified to a full choke. The majority of trap shotguns 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 1/2 and 9. Ammunition is allowed a maximum of 1-1/8 oz of shot and maximum velocities vary with shot mass; 1290fps (feet per second) for 1-1/8oz, 1325fps for 1oz, and 1350fps for 7/8oz. 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:ie Lakes or other areas protected by law)
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 are becoming increasingly popular due to the increase in price of the higher end shells. 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 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.
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 also launched a major initiative to attract even 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 also allow reduced cost shooting for junior shooters.
The Scholastic Clay Target Program, or SCTP has been promoting safe shooting in trap, skeet, and sporting clays, and organizes annual events at the state and national level in which youth shooting teams from different gun/sportsmens clubs compete against each other in a 200-bird singles event. Teams are divided into five divisions: Rookie, Junior-Novice, Junior-Experienced, Senior-Novice, and Senior-Experienced. Trophies cover third place, runner-up, and champion in each division. Teams that win their division at the state level have the chance to go to the Grand American and compete in the National Scholastic Shooting Competition.
Additionally, non-scholarship college teams are also growing in popularity. Leading college trap teams include those from Texas A & M, Purdue, and Lindenwood (MO).