Shooting "clay pigeons" can be divided into three general categories: Sporting Clays, Skeet, and Trap. While shotguns for skeet can be used for sporting clays, and vice-versa, trap guns are specifically designed to shoot trap, and little else. Even so, Trap, Clays, and Skeet guns are sport specific and NOT suitable for general field shooting, duck blinds, home defense.
The point of this article is to introduce the new shooter to the features of a gun set up specifically for trap shooting, and to instill an appreciation as to why "trap guns" are sport specific and just about useless for any other form of shooting. This to address the posts in these forums which run something to the effect:
"I'm looking for a shotgun. I want something I can hunt with, birds, varmints, rabbits, and probably some trap shooting."
You might shoot at clays tossed from a hand thrower, out in the pasture, but that's not "trap shooting," and a dedicated "trap gun" is not going to work for rabbits and squirrels, upland birds.
Trap gun prices start used at about $1000 for a single barrel / single shot Browning BT-99 (which won't work for "doubles") and head right up to the sky's the limit. A new Browning Citori for trap runs in the $2,500 realm, more or less. Not unusual for the high-end, custom guns (Perazzi) to run $10 K or more.
Over and under shotguns seem to dominate. Now and then you'll see a side by side, but they're rare and unusual. Reminton 870 pumps are used, but they're DEDICATED TRAP GUNS, and not the Rem. 870 Express or Wingmaster you'll see out in the duck blind or sitting short-barreled in the police cruiser.
What makes a trap gun a trap gun, and why are they not suited to other sorts of shooting?
First issue would be weight and durability. A trap shooting "round" is 25 targets (doubles is 50 targets), five shots from each of five positions. By no mean coincidence, there are 25 shells in a box of shotgun ammo.
At a "practice shoot" a trap gunner may run 6, 8, 10 rounds of targets. They may shoot a round or two of "doubles" and then there are "games" where shooter put a dollar in a pot and shoot "wobblies" -- shooting at the clay of another contestant who missed, or left a piece large enough to "wobble" and be a target for a second shot.
At any rate, a trap gunner may run 150 to 300 rds or more through his/her gun in an single meet. Most shooters get together and practice once a week or more. So that's in the realm of 1,000 to 2,000 rds per year running through the gun.
12 gauge trap loads, while not "stiff" (3 dram equiv. 1 oz. shot) will cause a gun not designed for the demands of trap shooting to "shoot loose." A trap gun is designed to manage this sort of volume shooting, and moreover, the extra weight in the gun aids in shooting trap by providing momentum/inertia in the swing onto the target.
By the same token, the extra weight alone means the trap gun is not something you're going to want to carry all day out in the field.
Barrels on trap guns are long -- typically 34" as compared to 26" or 28" on a standard shotgun or skeet/sporting clays gun. I expect any day now someone will show up with a 36" barrel. The longer barrel provides a longer sight radius, and additionally provides momentum in the swing onto a target. But the 34" barrel is not the sort of gun you want to use for upland game; it's too long and slow pointing in the field.
The buttstock on a trap gun is specialized. The drop in the comb is substantially less than that of a field shotgun -- about 2 1/2 inches. Trap targets are shot as they rise out of the trap house. You want the gun set up so that the target "floats" above the bead on the barrel. Raising the comb positions the gun so that the POI (point of impact) is above the bead.
Ribs on a trap gun are specific to trap shooting. The current trend in rib design is high and wide at the breech, narrowing and lowering toward the muzzle. This and a high comb puts the gun "on target" (Point of Aim, POA) where the bird "floats" above the front bead.
The "sight picture" down the rib should have the center bead under the muzzle bead, forming an 8
. Your cheek position on the comb should have you looking slightly OVER the rib rather than sighting along the rib.
The "hot" trap guns use interchangeable front beads made of florescent orange, red, green lucite. You want to keep both eyes open when shooting, and a bright bead helps with the sight picture.
Point of Aim / Point of Impact (POA / POI) -- Trap targets rise out of the trap house. They're shot "on the rise." Your sight picture should have the clay "floating" above the bead, leading the target according to your position on the field and the direction of the flying clay.
And so, you want your POI to run "60/40" above your POA. What's that mean?
You set up your gun so that 60% of your shot pattern hits ABOVE your Point of Aim (POA). You aim under the bird, "float" it above the sight bead, and your pattern -- your Point of Impact (POI) -- should put 60% of the shot above the bead, where the bird is.
Because "fit" is crucial to a dedicated trap gun, many models feature adjustable pull length, adjustable trigger length (distance from the pistol grip), and adjustable combs.
The guns are often "compensated" -- barrel vented to reduce recoil and get on target faster for the second shot in doubles.
ALL trap guns have adjustable choke tubes, most extend out of the muzzle and can be changed without tools. Nobody seems to agree as to which choke to use. I see shooters using everything from cylinder (no choke constriction) to extra full. And trap is shot at varying distances so variable choke tubes that can be changed without tools come in handy.
Recoil operated barrel selection allows a single trigger to fire each barrel with the same trigger pull. Less refined shotguns have two different trigger positions for one trigger and slightly different release characteristics.
For the neophyte, "interested in maybe getting into trap shooting" let me toss out this caveat:
It's spendy --
Besides the gun running about $1500 used, there's the vest, the shooting glasses, ear protection, belt bags for collecting your shot hulls, case for the gun, choke tubes, club dues, etc. etc. etc.
"Wobblies" might run you $10 per meet, depending how you like to shoot. You won't win the pot, but it's fun. The buffet for the day runs $5 to $10.
Entry fees for a meet, depends what you're competing in, but $20 for starters.
A "round" runs about $3. There's a gratuity for the "trap boy" -- a couple dollars. A box of trap loads -- if the club sells discounted case lots $4 or $5. You'll shoot nearly a case in a week-end practice. So you're into a day of trap shooting somewhere in the realm of $50 to $100.
Round trip to the trap club for me is 50 miles. But gas prices are down, for now.
OK, there's the basics. Just so you know, next time you think you're "looking for a shotgun, for birds, varmints, rabbits, maybe some trap shooting."
But we're all "Gun Nuts" here . . . Never hurts to own more than one, eh?