A skeet field is laid out in a semicircle; trap houses are located at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. On the left of the field is the high house, which launches the target from 10 feet above the ground at a slight upward angle. To the right, the low house launches targets from 3 feet above the ground at a more abrupt upward angle. The thrower is fixed and the targets take the same path every time. Seven shooting positions are arrayed in a semicircle, with one in the middle of the field. As shooters move through them, they will see incoming, outgoing, and crossing targets. The farthest shot is about 21 yards and the closest is 4 feet. On some stations, targets are thrown simultaneously from both houses.
A round of skeet is 25 shells. Skeet is the only clay shooting game where the flight path of the target is fixed and known in advance—10 feet from station 8 is the 8 post; each trap is set to throw its target directly over it. Skeet is shot from a mounted gun position. With the sustained lead technique, shooters need only learn the lead for each target on each station and then find the body position (natural point of aim, or NPA) and muzzle hold point that lets them apply it consistently to break 25 straight.
Sporting Clays is the shotgun sport closest to a hunting simulation.
A typical Sporting Clays course will have 10 to 15 stations winding through woods and fields. Each station will have traps (target launchers) that send targets in all sorts of unpredictable angles. Where trap and skeet offer repeatable target scenarios, sporting clays is intended to do just the opposite. Some clays may fly straight at you from a clump of bushes, while others might roll across the ground, jumping unpredictably, to simulate a rabbit on the run.
Although sporting clays may be the most challenging clay target game for beginners, it provides the most realistic simulation to true field shooting. Sporting Clays courses are like golf courses in that each one is unique. Each shooting station offers a slightly different shot that duplicates a bird’s flight path. From incoming to crossing, flushing and angling shots, a sporting clays course replicates almost every shot you may see in the field.
Most courses are set in natural environments with features such as ponds and wooded areas for a realistic effect. Some stations may throw more than one clay target simultaneously or directly following one another. To challenge shooters even more, some courses may use smaller targets or flat discs that change flight path. Some may even feature a few “rabbit” targets that roll across the ground.
Each course also has its own set of rules and guidelines, but safety is always a priority. It can be easy to get over-excited in the competition on the course, so many courses send an employee to score, guide, launch clays and promote safety throughout. Guns should always be unloaded when traveling from station to station.
Trap shooting is all about timing, speed and movement. It requires significant skill and accuracy to consistently hit a 4 1/4-inch clay disc traveling through the air at around 40 mph. Shooters begin by standing in a specified spot approximately 16 to 25 feet behind the trap house. When a shooter calls “pull,” the trap house throws a clay target away from the shooter at a height of approximately 10 feet off the ground.
American Trap shooting is fairly straightforward. Shooters stand in a line, side by side, and aim at targets moving almost straight away from them. Targets are launched from a partially underground bunker placed sixteen yards in front of the primary shooting line. The targets are thrown in random directions within a relatively narrow (45 degree) side-to-side arc relative to the shooters. The actual angle of the moving target also varies depending on the position of the shooting on the line.
Shooters are positioned in a slight semi-circular pattern.
There are five stations on the shooting line, and a squad of five shooters competes in a round with each shooter starting at a different post. Shooters alternate shots until each shooter has fired at five targets from their starting position, then the squad shifts one position to the right. In a round of 25 targets, each shooter will have fired at five targets from each of the five posts.
A round of trap includes 25 targets, where each shooter in squad fires at 5 targets from each of 5 shooting positions. A full squad is 5 shooters, although there is nothing wrong with shooting a round with one, two, three or four shooters. Each person fires at one target from their position, then the next shooter, then the next. When all shooters have fired once from their station, the process repeats four more times. If you’re keeping track of the math, you’ll see that each shooter has fired 5 shots from their starting position.
After the last shooter fires their fifth shot, the squad rotates positions with each shooter moving one position to the right. The shooter on the far right circles back to the first, and now vacant, position on the far left.
The cycle repeats until all shooters have fired at five targets from each of the five shooting positions. When finished, every shooter will have attempted shots at 25 targets.
While a round of trap is 25 single shots, a competition will usually be 100 or 200 rounds. You'll have breaks between rounds and you’ll most likely shoot from different fields.
The beautiful thing about basic singles trap is that you can use most any shotgun. You will want a 12 or 20 gauge so there’s enough shot downrange to break a target moving away from you, but other than that, you only need a gun that’s capable of firing one shot at a time.
Using a semi-auto will certainly be easier on your shoulder when you shoot a lot of targets in one outing. Like the pump action, you need to think about noise of the action setting off the microphones. You can take a half step back, keeping your muzzle downrange, to help prevent target launches from the noise. A semi-auto takes a little more effort to unload and show your gun is clear, but if you’re familiar with the operation of your specific gun, go for it!
Keep the gun action open until you are ready to shoot. When the person to your left shoots, drop a shell in the barrel, close your action, and go get ‘em! Just be sure you have your barrel selector set correctly so you know which barrel will fire when you pull the trigger. As soon as you fire, open the action and keep it that way until your next turn.
- When your turn is coming up, be aware of the shooter to your left. Avoid making noises with your gun action when that person is about to shoot.
- Whenever you’re not at a shooting position, you want your gun to be visibly clear and unloaded. With a break open like an over / under, keep your action opened so others can see the gun is not able to fire. If you have a semi-auto, lock the action open, so the chamber is visible. With any gun, keep your muzzle pointed at the ground or up into the air.
- When you step up to the shooting line to start a round, be sure you have a full box of shells and a couple of spares, along with eye an ear protection.
- When you move from position five to position one (they’re called posts) be very aware of your gun muzzle, so it doesn’t ever point at the other shooters or scorekeeper.
- Never load your gun until it’s your turn to shoot.
In trap shooting, the targets are launched from a single "house" or machine, generally away from the shooter.