How to Master Trap-Shooting Etiquette

Trap Guns
There are specific shotguns made for trap. The Citori XT Trap, Grade I from Browning is shown here. It retails for $2,649. But, if you're just getting started, you can use whatever shotgun you have.

A trap squad consists of five shooters, one for each of the five stations. The shooter on station one will shoot a target first, followed in order by the rest of the squad. Shooters are allowed only one shot per target. It is considered proper etiquette to load your gun when the shooter two stations before you call for his or her target, and not before. This shooting order continues until each shooter has fired five rounds from his or her station. The squad will then rotate to the next shooting position and repeat. When moving between stations, guns must be demonstrably unloaded: break tops with the action open and pumps and semiautos with the action open and bolt locked back. A round of trap requires 25 shells.

Trap is a fast-paced game and experienced shooters want to fall into a quick squad rhythm. A shooter who is not ready to shoot when his or her turn comes, or is disrupting the rhythm by constantly questioning calls from the scorekeeper will not be a popular squad mate.

From the basic 16-yard line, targets will be broken at 25–30 yards. The 12-gauge dominates trap, but if you just want some practice on flushing birds, your 16-, 20- or 28-gauge can play. You won’t break them all, but you can have fun and hone some skills.

In this game, an oscillating trap throws targets at random angles somewhere between 22 degrees to the right and left of the trap house center. As a shooter moves through the five stations, the target angles that they encounter will vary greatly depending on the different station locations. Prepare for clays going hard left, hard right, straight away and anything in between. The fast swing-through is the most effective technique here.

Mount your gun before you call for a target. That initial gun mount point is critical. Right-handed shooters have a longer swing radius to their left than to their right; the reverse is true for southpaws. The most effective spot for the initial point is at the center of the trap house where the bird will appear.

Veteran shooters often use a high hold, about 4 feet above the house, and pick the target up as it rises from under their muzzle. Newer shooters might be better served with a low hold, right on the forward edge of the trap house. You’ll see the bird sooner and the target speed will encourage a faster swing.

With either hold, the shooter’s foot position must be adjusted so as to allow enough swing radius to deal with extreme angles. That will vary at each of the five stations; shift your feet to adjust your natural point of aim (NPA) as needed.