Overcoming Trap Doubles (5/10)
Improving at Handicap (4/10)
5-Stand Sporting (3/10)
Sporting Clays (1/10)
Why Shoot Registered Targets (12/09)
Advancing to the Next Level (11/09)
Basic Hold Points (Trap) (10/09)
Shooting Position & Set-Up (Trap) (9/09)
Shotgun Choice (8/09)
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I’m struggling at handicap! Last year I gained a yard to the 24 yard line, but I just can’t seem to get my scores back into the nineties? I didn’t think one yard would make such a big difference. What can I do… got any advice?
Answer: I understand your frustration. Let’s start by reviewing some basic target criteria so you can better visualize what you’re dealing with. Singles and handicap targets travel at 42-43 mph; at a distance of 49-51 yards; at an angle spread of not more than 34 degrees (17 degrees right and left of center); and at a height of 17-18 feet off the ground at their flight apex. As you know, there is a Breaking Zone in which all targets are usually broken regardless of the post or yardage a shooter may be on. This zone is centered roughly 20-25 yards out in front of the trap house, with a height between 13-18 feet above the ground, and at a total width of around 25-26 yards (12-13 yards left and right of center). The key point to remember is, no matter which post or yardage you’re on, the only thing that will change is your visual perspective of this breaking zone. This means that all of your concentration, focus, and target breaking action, will fall within the boundaries of this zone.
Again, as you envision this zone, remember it’s only your perspective that changes as you move back in yardage and from post to post. It’s like sitting up front in a movie theater as compared to sitting way in the back row. The dimensions of the screen never change; it’s only your perspective of the screen that changes as you move further back or from right to left. Also, as you move back on the web your perspective of the breaking zone will become slightly smaller each time. With this zone visually decreasing some shooters get a false sense that everything slows down slightly. In truth, as your zone perspective diminishes, you actually need to react to the target a little quicker. You have several options at this point, but whatever you choose must include increased focus and concentration on being smooth, and especially accurate! One thing you can try, which worked for me, is to hold a slightly lower gun. This way you can maximize your field-of-view; you can pick-up and get-on the target a little faster; move through it a little quicker; and easily apply the correct lead required… before you take the shot.
First Point:As you gain yardage, only slight changes should be necessary to your overall shooting approach. Everything you’ve established regarding your comfortable
shooting position, set-up, call, movement to the target, breaking point, and follow-through, should not require any major changes. However, a few minor or subtle adjustments will be needed based on
the variables presented at your new yardage. Extra practice will be required to reestablish your shooting confidence. As I gained yardage, post (1) and (5) were always my most difficult to resolve. I
would practice post (1) by setting the machine to throw only hard left-hand targets, I would stay shooting on that post until I had perfected my rhythm, timing, leads, and consistent target breaks. I
would simply reverse this approach for post (5), and then set the machine to oscillate as normal for my practice on posts (2) through (4). Also, during normal practice try standing one yard back from
your registered yardage mark. This will help strengthen your mental approach and your confidence level for competition.
Second Point: You must make certain that your pattern is still giving you the correct speed-to-target; point-of-impact; and density and spread that you’ve come to trust. Extra time on the pattern board will be necessary to determine exactly what adjustments in your gun, load, and choke will be required. At short yardage, your perspective of the breaking zone changes very little from shooting singles at the 16 yard line. That’s why shooters are advised to shoot their short yardage handicap the same as they do their singles, using the same gun, load, and choke combination. However, as you move back into mid yardage, and on into long yardage, the changes in the breaking zone perspective becomes more and more apparent, and some minor adjustments will be required each time you move. Again, as you move back into the longer yardages, you must apply added focus and concentration on being smooth and accurate! If you’re struggling at any yardage, try practicing a few yards forward of your registered mark. Find a point where all of your beaks are even and consistent, then start moving back, one yard at a time, rebuilding your consistency, accuracy, and confidence as you go.
Third Point: As you gain yardage, a key factor is figuring out the proper amount of lead. This could be the most difficult factor for you to resolve. Once your pattern board work is done… the only way to prefect the new leads required, is out on the trap field working from post to post. Start by applying sharp focus to the leading edge of each target, and then add small increments of lead until your target breaks become even and consistent. For example, at 27 yards, over 24” of lead (depending on your load) may be needed for those hard lefts and rights off post one and five. The major key to your success when moving back on the web will be in how well you can make all the slight, but necessary adjustments needed for the changing perspectives involved. Again, you’ll need to seriously plan on spending quality practice time in order to reestablish and perfect every aspect of your handicap game. Just remember, be patient and don’t get frustrated! Plan your work and work your plan… and soon everything will come together before you know it.
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I’ve been Trap shooting for years now and I’m doing OK with singles and handicap, but I just can’t figure out how to shoot well at doubles. How should I approach the doubles game so I won’t feel so anxious or overwhelmed every time I go out on the field?
Answer: The best way to overcome the intimidation of trap doubles is to first, step back and analyze exactly what is going on within the game itself. Once you understand the simple mechanics involved, you can start developing a detailed approach to shooting the game. This will allow you to overcome that feeling of uncertainty and defeat before you even get started. The best approach is to divide and conquer… then in the end you pull all the pieces back together into a success oriented game plan. By first figuring out the basics of what’s actually going on, you can then envision a shooting plan in your mind that will properly address each aspect of the game, post by post. By approaching trap doubles in this manner your confidence can slowly build, your scores will certainly improve, and soon you’ll forget about being overwhelmed or anxious when you challenge the game.
Doubles targets are set to leave the trap house around 39 mph and travel outbound a distance of 44-51 yards. The target height is set at 8-10 feet, measured at a point 10 yards out in front of the trap house. The angle of the target spread is set at not less than 34 degrees, which is 17 degrees right and left of the centerline of the field. Target angles appear to change only because the shooter is moving from post to post. From post 1, the right-hand target will virtually be a straight-away, with the left-hand target angling to the left. The opposite is true from post 5, where the left-hand target is virtually a straight-away, and the right-hand target will be angling off to the right. Keep in mind, whether in practice or competition, shooting doubles targets that are not properly set, will make it difficult to establish or maintain the consistent timing and rhythm needed to post good scores.
First Point: On post 1 and 2, a shooter will usually break the right-hand (straight-away) target first, then swing to break the left-hand (angled) target second. Set-up comfortably where you envision the best possible break-point for the left-hand (angled) target, stay in that set-up position, then swing back and hold your gun over the trap house lid slightly below where you want to break the right-hand (straight-away) target. On post 3, it’s really up to the shooter’s personal preference. As lead-off, I usually stay with breaking the right-hand target first and then swing to break the left-hand target. On post 4 and 5, just reverse your set-up position and break the targets from left to right. When applying this basic set-up technique you’ll find that your swing will become smoother and less constricted, and you’ll become more accurate and successful. Also, try practicing from the 18 yard line. This will help strengthen your focus, accuracy, and confidence.
Second Point: Regardless of which post you’re on, try to be aggressive on breaking that first target. This approach will give you the additional time needed to comfortably break the second target. Here’s where you can apply the 90-10 rule. This means that you apply 90% of your concentration on breaking the first target and only 10% applied to the second target, with your eye focus 25-30 yards out into the breaking zone the whole time. Remember, a big key to doubles is keeping your head down and locked into the gun! Only after the first target is broken, do you shift your eyes to pick-up the leading edge of the second target. At this point, you shift all of your concentration and eye focus to the second target, then swing smoothly through, apply the proper lead, break the target, and follow-through. Again, be aggressive on taking the first target (it may be a blur but be sure to break it)… then quickly shift your entire concentration and eye focus, while being smooth and in control, on breaking the second target.
Third Point: With regard to loads and chokes, there seems to be a tendency to over do it. A reliable 12 gauge with 1oz of #8’s, traveling at 1150-1200 fps, should be more than adequate. With a single barreled auto or pump, a Modified choke should work just fine for both shots. If you have two barrels, you can use an IC or Modified choke for the first shot, and a Modified or IM choke for the second shot. Doubles is a game of accuracy, timing, and rhythm, and you’ll certainly need to apply some dedicated practice time in order to bring all the aspects together. Remember, doubles targets are pre-set at fixed angles, speeds, and heights, so your practice efforts should focus on perfecting this game one post at a time! As you fine-tune your set-up, focus, timing, and rhythm, your confidence will build, your scores will improve, and you’ll start having fun! Soon, doubles will no longer be that intimidating game you thought it was.
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: Thanks for explaining what Sporting Clays is all about, but I’m still a little confused. I know 5-Stand is similar to Sporting Clays, but can you explain the differences and why do we have both games offered at the club?
Answer: A full-size Sporting Clays course can use as much land as a nine-hole golf course, and many gun clubs are simply restricted to the space they have available. So, they’ve taken the Sporting Clays concept and condensed it down into a compact presentation of basically the same targets. Sporting Clays is usually a 12 to 15 station walk-thru course, with a wide variety of target presentations. Where as, the 5-Stand Sporting course can be set-up utilizing existing skeet and trap fields and offers basically the same type of targets displayed. It can also be run by one operator, and a squad of shooters can cycle through the course in about the same amount of time it takes to shoot a round of trap or skeet.
Many gun clubs across the country have embraced the idea of investing in this new, scaled-down version of traditional Sporting Clays. With the proper set-up, 5-Stand Sporting can be shot day or night, rain or shine, and year around, bringing in a solid stream of much needed club revenue. Even though it can be a money-maker for a club, it still requires an investment in equipment, computers, components, and operators to make it all work. Like anything at the club, good volunteer member support is vital to being successful. Don’t get the idea that 5-Stand Sporting is something less than the real game. It can be every bit as challenging as traditional Sporting Clays… even harder in some cases.
In 1992 the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) took 5-Stand Sporting and standardized it. Targets are now thrown in a known order, and can be read from a menu posted at each shooting station. This standardizing allows for the same game to be shot anywhere across the country, which was important for formalizing competition with registered targets. Though the criteria is not tightly defined, to qualify as a sanctioned course, the following array of targets must be presented: A tower launched out-going bird; an incoming bird; a right-to-left crosser (quartering away); a left-to-right crosser (quartering away); a rabbit; and a vertical or springing “teal-type” target. If more machines and fields are available, additional target presentations can be provided.
A sanctioned NSCA 5-Stand Sporting field must have six or eight individual traps, and the machines must be automatics, except for one specialty trap. The game has three different levels, with three degrees of difficulty. At Level (1), the shooter will see all single targets; at Level (2), the shooter will be presented three singles and a true pair of targets; and at Level (3), the shooter will be offered one single and two true pairs of targets. Again, the order of targets presented is known to the shooter and posted at each station. Even though the NSCA-sanctioned version of 5-Stand Sporting has set criteria, a lot of versatility is built into the equipment layout, which can be quickly reconfigured allowing for a variety of other target presentations.
Basically, the rules are the same for 5-Stand Sporting and Sporting Clays. Here are the significant differences from standard Trap and Skeet: 1) There may be up to a three
second delay after the call before the target appears. 2) The shooter must have the gun in a low gun position (entire buttstock visible below the armpit) when calling for the target. 3) Allowances
for malfunctions are limited to three per day. 4) Shooters can use 12 gauge or smaller, and are allowed to use different guns at different stations. 5) Up to five different sizes and styles of
targets can be used in a single round. 6) Targets can
be presented as single targets; true pairs (both targets appear at once); following pairs (the second target follows the first); and report pairs (second target appears upon the report of the gun). 7) Poison Targets (with a clear and discernable difference) can be inserted anywhere in the event.
Again, shooting at one of these Poison Targets is considered a miss. If you can refrain from shooting one of these targets, it’s considered a hit. Like Sporting Clays, the preferred guns seem to be 12, 20, or 28 gauge autos or over/unders with barrel lengths 28”-32”. A variety of choke tubes seems to be a necessity. Loads will range from a light skeet load for close range shots, to heavy handicap trap loads for the long range shots. As in Sporting Clays, Remington, Browning, Beretta, Kolar, SKB, and Kreighoff, seem to be the guns of choice for the 5-Stand Sporting shooter. As always, no matter what gun you choose, safety, accuracy, and reliability, should be you’re main considerations.
Like with Sporting Clays, this is just a brief snap-shot of what 5-Stand Sporting has to offer. Even though it’s a scaled down version of Sporting Clays, most of the top shooters tell me it’s every bit as challenging. The target presentations are very similar to Sporting Clays, but simply presented in a more compact arena. Because 5-Stand Sporting utilizes existing Trap and Skeet fields, more clubs across the country will be constructing one of these courses. As with any new clay target game, I encourage you to support your club and go out and experience shooting 5-Stand Sporting for yourself. As far as being another fast flying and fun target game… you better look out, you may get hooked!
By: Frank Neumayer
Success with any shotgun depends on knowing exactly where your gun is shooting every time you take the shot! The only way to truly know this is to physically see what your gun and pattern are doing. This is where your work on the pattern board becomes a value-added effort. Yes, part of the final inspection of every shotgun from the factory is a limited check of its pattern accuracy. However, no two shooters are the same, and when you apply all the ballistic variables of different barrel lengths, loads, chokes, types of targets, and breaking distances… everything changes. If I’m not breaking targets, I want to know it’s the shooter and not the gun or load at fault. For me, I simply try to find the lightest possible load that will provide the best possible results, whether I’m in the field or on the range.
The main reason I recheck my pattern each year is to reassure myself that everything is still on target, my guns, chokes, loads, and especially me! I want the confidence in knowing my guns and loads are doing exactly what I expect… and this allows me to put all my focus on seeing and breaking targets. Concerns over my gun, load, and pattern are simply taken out of the equation. I have a number of shotguns I enjoy shooting, and every one of them is routinely proofed on the pattern board. Whether in the field, or in competition, I want to mount my shotgun and know that it’s shooting exactly where I expect… without me having to make any unique mental tweaks or adjustments to get the pattern on the bird. This confidence exists because I’ve done my work at the pattern board and I’ve dialed-in the gun, the load, and the shooter!
Every year at the start of the shooting season I spend at least one or two days at the pattern board. I’ll check several shotguns I plan on using during the up-coming
season. I’ll also bring samples of my chosen loads, and any new formulas I may want to check out. I have two tri-pods with me, one for my chronograph and one I use as a standing gun rest. Some of my
guns have fixed diameter barrels, while others allow for a variety of choke inserts. I usually set my patterns at 70/30, or 90/10, depending on the gun. This means that when my gun’s pattern
intersects the rising target, 70% or 90% of my pattern will be centered above the target. You always want to break a rising target (or bird), so your pattern needs to be set slightly ahead of the
target on its flight path.
Fortunately, I have access to a large, permanently installed, steel (10’ x 8’) pattern board which makes my patterning efforts easy and accurate, but a marked-up piece of cardboard can do just as well. On the pattern board I’ll mark several large (30”) crosshairs with a 4” oblique target etched in the center of each. Standing at my chosen yardage, I’ll travel my barrel a few inches up the vertical line until my bead touches the bottom of the oblique target, then I’ll take the shot. I then evaluate the density and spread of my pattern within a 24” (effective diameter) circle. By using the crosshair method, I can easy see if my pattern is well centered right and left, and if the 24” effective diameter is positioned at my desired POI elevation. If my pattern is low, high, or off center, I simply adjust the comb right or left, up or down accordingly. Basically, a 1/8” rise at the comb will raise your pattern 4” at 40 yards.
These suggestions are just some of my basic thoughts and logic on the value of patterning. Mainly to avoid frustration, it’s critical that you know exactly what your pattern to target relationship is every time you take the shot. I evaluate my guns patterns based on the actual distance from the end of my barrel to where the target breaks, which is around 20-25 yards out in front of the trap house. With that in mind, for 16 yard singles I check my pattern at 40 yards; for 27 yard handicap I check my pattern at 50 yards. Remember, your shot charge is roughly cone shaped. At 20-25 yards out, it’s about 30” in diameter at the front, and slightly tapers back to over 10’ in length. You don’t want holes in your pattern for targets (or birds) to escape, so the pattern board is the only means available right now to literally see the size, density, and spread of your shot pattern. With this visual, you can easily adjust your gun accordingly.
I recommend you document all your pattern board work. Keeping accurate records of your various guns, loads, and patterns, will not only help you to build shooting confidence, but it will also support your gun’s value if and when you ever decide to sell it. Factory problems do exist! I’ve seen new shotgun barrels with choke threads machined slightly off, which in-turn pushes the pattern well off-line. I’ve also come across over/under barrels with misaligned points of impact, both vertically and horizontally. In the field or in competition, pattern board work is extremely valuable in providing the shooter with the knowledge and confidence needed to be successful. Again, the real value of your pattern board efforts is in removing the guesswork, and knowing exactly where your gun is shooting every time you pull the trigger!
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I’m a new member at Seattle Skeet and Trap club and I notice construction has started on a multi-station walk-thru Sporting Clays course. I really enjoy shooting Trap and Skeet, but I’m not familiar with Sporting Clays and what it has to offer. Can you explain the game to me a little?
Answer: Much like you, trap and skeet have been the extent of my clay target shooting up till now. However, with the rise in popularity of Sporting Clays across the country, and with our club building the new course, I figured it’s time I do a little research and get myself prepared for this new game. With my usual practice or approach, I’ll briefly analyze this new game from the perspective of history, rules, target presentation, guns, and loads. For the sportsman, Sporting Clays seems to be the best shotgun game designed to simulate actual hunting conditions. Everyone I talk to says it’s a real Hoot… but like any new clay target game, the best way to figure it out is to go shoot it for yourself.
Sporting Clays became popular in England in the early 1920’s. But, it’s only been in the last 20 years that it has become the most popular shooting game in England. Once the popularity grew, it was only a matter of time before it reached the United States. Remington Farms, in Maryland, offered a Hunter Clays course in the late 1960’s, but the first sponsored Sporting Clays match held in the U.S. was in 1983. In 1985 the United States Sporting Clays Association was formed, but in 1989 the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA) became the dominate governing body for Sporting Clays here in America. The NSCA is closely affiliated with the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA).
Here’s how the game is played. Being familiar with the target presentations of trap and skeet, the significant differences found with Sporting Clays are as follows: 1) The shooter will call for the target like usual. However, a delay of up to 3 seconds may be introduced by the puller before the target is released. Sometimes this is delay is built-in. 2) The shooter must have the gun in a low gun position when calling for the target. This means the entire buttstock must be visible below the armpit, with no gun movement until the target is visible. 3) In other clay target games, allowances are given for various malfunctions. This is very limited in Sporting Clays, and only three are allowed per day.
4) Shooters can use 12 gauge or smaller, and are allowed to use different guns at different stations as they move through the course. Sporting Clays has been referred to as “golf with shotguns” which includes extra guns, bags, gear, motorized carts, etc. 5) Only one style of target is used in trap and skeet. Sporting Clays can use up to five different sizes and styles of targets in a single round. 6) The targets can be presented as singles; true pairs; following pairs; and report pairs. 7) Targets with a different, but clear and discernible look (poison targets), can be inserted anywhere in the event. Shooting at one of these targets it’s considered a miss. It’s considered a hit if you can refrain from shooting one of these targets when presented.
Here are some of the target presentations you are likely to encounter. Rabbit Run – this is a ground-bouncing target, at a range of 15 to 40 yards, and requires a quick-sweeping shot with a strong follow-through. Woodcock – usually a low overhead or extremely hard crossing throw, giving the shooter just a quick glimpse of the target. Duck Tower – a 40 to 70 foot tower with five stations laid out around its base throwing outgoing and quartering targets from 20 to 60 yards. Dove – similar to the duck tower, where targets are incoming angled shots launched from an elevated position. Grouse Bluff – usually a hillside shot with crossing or outgoing targets, and with the shooter looking down into a gully.
Usually there are 12 to 15 or more stations in a Sporting Clays course. The remaining stations can have names like Springing Teal; Rising Sharptail; Blue Bill Pass; Rising Ringnecks; Whistlin’ Bobs; Duck Pond; or Sneaky Snip… and all will offer a crazy variety of target presentations. You’ll get targets ranging from incoming to out-going; low skimming to steep climbing; and from fast flying to hard crossing. You can expect slow incoming settling targets, to straight-up springing targets. You may even have to shoot from inside a wobbly old Duck Boat. This is just some of the basic target presentations offered. Based on the way most courses are designed, these presentations can be changed-up easily, so shooters may get a different look from one event to the next.
The preferred guns seem to be 12, 20, or 28 gauge autos or over/unders. Barrel lengths are usually 28”-32” with a variety of chokes being a must. Loads will range from
light skeet loads (#9’s) for a close range shot, to heavy handicap trap loads (#7.5) for those ultra-long range shots. Remington, Browning, Beretta, Kolar, SKB, and Kreighoff, seem to be the guns of
choice for most Sporting Clays shooters. As always, no matter what gun you choose, you’ll always want a quality gun for safety, accuracy, and reliability. As I mentioned earlier, shooters will often
carry a variety of guns and loads along with them as they travel through a typical Sporting Clays course.
Well… this is just a brief snap-shot of what Sporting Clays has to offer. It’s the hottest new clay target game in America, and I can certainly see why! There’s really a lot more to it, but for now, I encourage you to go out and experience shooting the game for yourself. Of all the clay target games, it appears to be the most fun and challenging. Take note, that a perfect score in Sporting Clays is unusual, even for the top shooters! A little practice on the 5-Stand will certainly give you a taste of what you can expect. Like several top shooters have said to me, “the best way to understand the game is to go shoot it”. So, that’s my plan… I’m off to have some fun!
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I’ve really enjoyed shooting Trap at the club this year, and many of my friends shoot “registered targets”. It really sounds interesting and fun, but what does a shooter actually gain by shooting registered targets… what’s in it for me?
Answer: From a shooter’s perspective, there are several things that one can gain from shooting registered targets. There’s always the challenging element of competition; the fun and enjoyment gained from socialization and camaraderie with other shooters; and the personal satisfaction and achievement gained through experience and self improvement. Let’s not forget the all important element of continued support and growth of the clay target shooting sport itself. This support also relates directly to the growth, and future existence, of gun clubs that offer target shooting of any kind.
First of all, I believe its basic human nature for most of us to be competitive and strive for excellence in whatever we do. Actually, it doesn’t seem to matter what sport or activity we choose, some element of competition always seems to be present. Whether it’s just having fun with friends or being a serious game player, we’re actually competing against someone or something all the time. Competition can take many forms. Whatever it is, whether at work or play, it’s natural for us to strive for improvement and to be successful through some means or type of competitive activity.
For many shooters the social aspect of clay target shooting plays a very important role in their love of the sport. Coming together with friends at a weekend shoot somewhere in the region, offers many shooters fun and enjoyment beyond just breaking targets. The camaraderie and friendships formed with other shooters proves very gratifying, lasting, and special. Whether commiserating over low scores and poor performance, or sharing the joy and excitement of winning an event or a shoot-off, sharing the days events with good friends provides a great deal of satisfaction and comfort for many shooters.
So, what is there to gain in shooting registered targets… what’s in it for you? It simply comes down to what you personally want to take away from (or give back to) the sport, and to what level of shooting success or improvement you wish to achieve. Yes, it costs a little more money to shoot registered targets. However, most of that money goes directly back to the shooters, with the remainder going to the clubs and the sport itself for providing the opportunity. Along with the competition, camaraderie, and the desire to improve, there are certainly trophies, monetary rewards, and bragging rights that make-up a big part of what registered shooting has to offer.
Along with shooting registered targets, being an active and involved club member is vital to the future of target shooting of any kind. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting actively involved at your club! The smallest, simplest contributions, when added together, can really make a difference. Without active, supportive, and involved club members we’ll have no clubs, and without clubs, we’ll have no shooting at all! Supporting your club, along with other hunting, shooting, and sporting associations, will help make certain that all of us shooters, and our children, have great places and opportunities to go and enjoy shooting for many years to come.
In choosing to shoot registered targets, you’ll need to join either the Pacific International Trapshooting Association (PITA) or the (ATA) Amateur Trapshooting
Association. Visit their websites for a broader perspective. The PITA covers the seven western states and BC, and the ATA stretches east from the Cascades all the way to the Atlantic. Usually, there
are three 100 target events in registered shooting: Singles (16yds); Handicap (19-27yds); and Doubles. Large shoots (10+ days), will offer multiples of these three events totaling several thousand
targets. Smaller, weekend shoots usually offer 500 registered targets, comprised of two Singles, two Handicap, and one Doubles event.
Again, most sportsmen are competitive by nature and are constantly trying to improve or perfect their game. For the clay target shooter, shooting registered targets gives us an outlet and an opportunity to perform. It also gives us a competitive challenge, and a disciplined means, of improving and perfecting our game. Certainly, you’ll experience all the ups and downs of victory and defeat along the way. However, I’ve found that competitive clay target shooting not only offers me a challenge and an opportunity for success, but best of all… it continues to reward me with new and lasting friendships on and off the field, wherever I go.
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I’ve been shooting registered Trap for a couple years now and I just can’t seem to put together more than 50 straight or get my scores consistently into the 90’s. I’m at a loss… what should I be doing to move up to the next level?
Answer: I understand your frustration… we’ve all been there. Assuming you understand the shooting basics, there are probably just a few simple or subtle things you’ll need to change in order to move forward. At this point, what you really need to do is to step-back, review and analyze every aspect of your shooting game to determine exactly what’s keeping you from advancing. There are so many personal and conditional variables involved with clay target shooting, it can be quite overwhelming to sort through them alone and find a specific problem.
It may be a simple issue like proper gun fit; or how you set-up for each shot; or how well you’re seeing the targets. In any case, here’s where you need the eyes and
experience of a good shooting coach to help you pinpoint the problems. Along with having another set of eyes watching and analyzing every aspect of your shooting style, I recommend you get it on
video as well. Having a visual record to work with is extremely important in identifying and analyzing the problems, as well as in developing the right corrective actions to adopt.
Along with looking at everything you’re doing, you also need to ask the question, “What’s changed… if anything”? I’ve found that even the slightest and seemingly insignificant changes can upset a shooters rhythm, timing, or consistency. In several cases the shooter never realized he had actually changed something. Small, subtle, or even sub-conscience changes can cause a shooter to lose focus, clarity, concentration, timing, stamina, balance… you name it. That’s why you need to step-back and analyze in detail every aspect of your shooting game, and it really can’t be do alone.
On a personal note, as I get older, I need to have my eyes checked every year because of subtle changes. I’ve also added a few more physical activities to my daily routine to help me improve my focus, strength, and stamina. Never overlook proper diet and exercise! These two factors have always played a major roll in supporting good competitive performance no matter what your game may be. Remember, you also need to “practice how you compete”. A good practice regiment or routine is imperative if you want to maintain a sharp, focused competitive edge.
When you analyze the style and behavior of consistently top shooters, you'll see that they remain relaxed and rested, they don't over eat or drink, and usually they are not overly involved with the operations, management, or politics of the shoot. Their primary focus is on shooting well, winning, and enjoying it all in the process. I know this holds true for me, and I think it does for most shooters who take competition seriously. When a shooter has his game-on, and all the critical factors are taken into account, he is both physically and mentally prepared for every event; every day; day to day; (especially shoot-offs) for the length of the tournament.
To avoid being overwhelmed with analyzing your game, start simple and then drill-down as needed. I recommend you start by looking closely at these three factors: 1) Your set-up technique - how are you approaching every target every time? 2) Your gun fit - does everything align properly and feel comfortable every time you mount your gun? 3) How well are you seeing the target - is it sharp, clear, and in-focus regardless of the shooting conditions? From my experience, whether it’s a novice or an experienced shooter, the majority of problems or issues that keep a shooter from advancing center around one or all of these three factors.
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I just started shooting Trap and I’m a little confused as to where my eyes should be looking, and where I should be pointing my gun for each target as I move from post to post. Can you give me some pointers?
Answer: For each of the different target games, and at each post or station, there are different “gun hold” and “eye hold” points. Each target game requires considerable shooter attention, focus, and practice to get these hold points down pat. For American Trap, basically your “gun hold” point should be about 18” to 24” over the lid of the trap house on all posts. On posts 1 & 2, hold about 1 foot in from the front left-hand corner of the lid. On post 4 & 5, hold about 1 foot in from the front right-hand corner of the lid. On post 3 you’ll have an even target spread right and left. If you’re a right-hand shooter, hold your gun slightly to the right of center of the front of the trap house lid, this will allow you to see the target as early as possible as it leaves the house and not be blocked from view by your barrel. If you’re a left-handed shooter, hold slightly to the left of center of the front of the trap house lid for the same reason.
Now let’s talk about basic “eye hold” points. Remember, your eyes can focus back toward you easier and quicker than they can focus outward and away from you. With Trap, you have targets flying within 17 degrees right or left of center (34 degrees total), and set to travel roughly 50 yards out beyond the trap house at around 42 miles per hour. You always want to break a rising target and well before it tops out. This puts your break point at about 15’ to 17’ off the ground, and roughly 20 to 25 yards out beyond the front of the trap house. This area is called the "breaking zone". Whether shooting singles or handicap, hold your eyes about 12" to 15" above your barrel with your focus out into the breaking zone. Hold your eyes slightly left of center in the zone on posts 1 & 2, and slightly right of center in the zone on posts 4 & 5. On post 3 you’ll have an even target spread right and left, so hold your eyes in the central area of the breaking zone. For a start, these “eye hold” points will work fine for either one-eyed or two-eyed shooters.
Shooting glasses are necessary for eye protection, but just as important is the fact that you’ll want lens colors that will present the target with the best clarity and definition possible, while allowing your eyes to relax and focus sharply. Orange/Crimson/Purple lenses seem to work the best for orange targets in normal and bright light with lighter backgrounds. Yellow/Gold/Clear lenses seem to work the best for green targets in overcast or low light conditions with darker backgrounds. Every shooters eyes are unique and different, so I’ll leave the details to you and your lens provider. Just remember, seeing the target well at all times is critical to breaking good scores and winning events!
These are basic “gun hold” and “eye hold” points to get you started. No matter the game, there will always be variables involved when shooting clay targets. Temperature, humidity, weather conditions, lighting conditions, field conditions, types of machines, voice calls vs hand pulled, even the brand and style of targets thrown, all require a shooter to be flexible with their gun and eye hold points. As you gain more experience and confidence, you’ll easily make the necessary adjustments to these basic hold points to best fit your unique shooting style, and to adjust for those ever-changing shooting conditions.
By: Frank Neumayer
Question: I notice shooters stand a little differently at each post and go through slightly different routines before they call and shoot at the target. Is this just some unique personal thing, or is there really something to it all?
Answer: Every shooter needs to recognize their “most comfortable shooting position”. Shooters come in all shapes and sizes, and no single position is going to work for
everyone. An easy way to figure this out for yourself is to stand on post 3, mount your gun and imagine shooting at a straight-away target, then look yourself over from your head to foot, and take
note of the shooting position you find yourself in. In this position, your weight should be slightly forward and your feet even with your shoulders. You should feel well balanced and secure to the
ground, and be able to move with the least amount of effort or constriction right or left, up or down, as you move to break the target. For me, my left foot is slightly forward of my right, with an
imaginary straight line that runs through the center of my right heel, on through the center of the ball of your left foot, and then on out to the point in space where I want to break the
Based on the game or event you’re shooting, you’ll simply make some slight adjustments in this position from post to post as it relates to the specific target presentations involved. For single Trap targets, as you move from post to post, set-up comfortably for the hardest possible break point you can expect from that post, then swing back and hold just above the trap house, and where you can best see the target as it first appears. It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-eyed or two-eyed shooter; you’ll need to see as much of the target as you can, as soon as you can. A key point here is to not rush to the target… see the target first, and then go break it. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll have more than enough gun, load, and pattern to break the targets, so don’t over anticipate and jump the target and get ahead of yourself.
In Trap doubles the target spread is 17 degrees right or left of center (34 degrees total), and are set to travel roughly 44 to 51 yards out beyond the trap house at around 39 mph. Targets should be at 9 to 9.5 feet high, measured at a point10 yards in front of the trap house. From post 1 and 2, a shooter will usually break the right-hand (straight-away) target first then swing to break the left-hand (angle) target second. Set-up comfortably where you envision the best break point on the left-hand (angle) target, stay in that position, then swing back and hold your gun just below where you want to break the right-hand (straight-away) target. On post 3, stay with breaking the right-hand target first and then swing to break the left-hand target. On post 4 and 5, just reverse the set-up and break the targets from left to right. When applying this simple and basic set-up technique for Trap singles or doubles, you’ll find that your swing will become smoother and less constricted, plus you’ll be more confident, more comfortable, and certainly more accurate.
There’s another key point to remember when you set-up for the target. If something doesn’t feel quite right or there’s some type of distraction, take a few seconds and start all over with your set-up. Don’t worry; this is completely acceptable… just be quick about it. For me, as I move to a post, I first set my foot position and then I don’t move anything until it’s my turn to shoot. This foot positioning is based on the hardest possible break I may receive at that post. When it’s my turn to shoot, I do what I call a “Five Count”: 1) Focus my eyes as I start mounting the gun; 2) Complete the mount and lock into the gun; 3) Call for the target; 4) See the target, then move to it and break it; 5) See the break and follow-through. This actually translates into each shooter spending around five seconds to break each target. With everything else added in, a squad should be able to easily move through a trap in 15-20 minutes, or a 100 target event within an hour.
How you practice is how you’ll compete! As you seriously practice your shooting technique, practice your character and integrity as well. Follow the rules and respect your fellow shooters. Remember, the important thing is you’re out there to enjoy yourself, improve your shooting, and have fun, so maintain safety, courtesy, and proper decorum as you move efficiently through a trap or event. For me personally, when all is said and done, I’d rather lose a target or two than lose respect from my fellow shooters. Whether you’re just having fun at the club or in a tough shoot-off for the trophy, there’s a lot more to being a champion than just breaking targets!
By: Frank Neumayer
The first question to ask yourself when choosing a shotgun is simply, “what do I want to accomplish with my shotgun shooting?” Many shooters want a versatile shotgun for both hunting and target shooting. Others may want a gun just for a specific hunting or target sport. Competitive shooting, on the other hand, can take you off in whole different and expensive direction. So you see, choosing a shotgun is simply making the right choices. The majority of novice or recreational shooters I’ve encountered want a versatile, all purpose shotgun of good quality and reliability. With that in mind, I don’t think you can beat a quality brand 12 gauge pump or auto. Remington, Browning, Beretta, Benelli, Winchester… all make excellent multi-purpose shotguns that will give you many years of good, reliable service and performance.
To be a little more specific, when you choose a multi-purpose shotgun, I would suggest you select a 12 gauge. Everything considered; this is probably the most popular, all-around shotgun gauge in America. Select one with a 28” barrel (min), vent rib, recoil pad, and screw in chokes. This will give you the comfort and versatility you’ll want with the one-gun approach. One important thing to remember about the gun you choose, is how readily available are parts and service. Many gunsmiths don’t have, or can’t easily acquire, spare parts for off-brand, or lesser known brand shotguns. The key to your gun choice should always be quality and reliability! Be willing to pay a little more for a shotgun you can honestly trust to bag your limit or to run a trap.
In the field or on the range, choosing between an O/U, pump, or auto... I’ll choose the auto. For one thing, the pump or auto will give you three shots in the field. It’s probably just me; but when having to take that second or third shot in the field (or shooting continental trap, and trap and skeet doubles) I have a slight problem working a pump and staying focused on the target. Also, the recoil with an auto is considerably less, which makes shooting a lot more comfortable, especially for those shooters (ladies and youth in particular) who have a higher sensitivity to recoil. Autos require a little more cleaning and maintenance to maintain their performance. However, good gun care must become a standard practice for any shooter if you want to retain your guns value, reliability, and trusted performance each time you take it out.
Now, you may be thinking what about an Over & Under (O/U) or break-open shotgun? They are an excellent choice! However, staying with quality and reliability, an O/U will more than double the cost of your shotgun choice. Again, most of the brands mentioned above offer excellent models of O/U’s to choose from that will serve you well. However, I recommend if you’re just starting out, stick with a quality pump or auto. There are a number of other high-end, high-quality, competition brands of O/U’s available like Perazzi, Kolar, Ljutic, and Krieghoff… but for the novice or recreational shooter these brands are very expensive and far exceed your basic, multi-purpose, trap and field needs.
By: Frank Neumayer
This article is for the novice and recreational shooters who simply want to improve or expand their shooting experience. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been around the shotgun sports long enough that I can provide some basic help and instruction for those shooters looking to improve.
For those of us who love the sport of clay target shooting nothing feels more satisfying than running twenty five or fifty straight, or that first 100 straight… especially in competition. The feeling of pride and accomplishment can truly make your day! On the other hand, nothing is more depressing or disheartening than shooting consistently low scores and wondering how in the world can I miss those big, easy, well set targets?
We’ve all had days like that, but the key is to stop, figure out what you’re doing wrong, and then start working properly to correct it. All you have to do is remember
your A,B,C’s… get your “Attitude” right; return to the shooting “Basics”; and be “Consistent” in all your efforts toward improving, and you’ll soon be back on the road to recovery.
Who am I? Let’s just say I’m over 65, and I’ve been shooting shotguns since I was 12 years old. I’ve hunted all types of upland birds and waterfowl in all kinds of conditions and terrain. I didn’t get serious about competing at clay target shooting until the late nineties, when my physical stamina and endurance started to wane a little. I’ve enjoyed shooting in small club and league shoots, to large world class tournaments, all over the country.
I’ve been an “A - AA” Class shooter in both the PITA and ATA, and have earned my way back to the 27 yard line in both organizations. I’ve won my share of trophies, plaques, buckles, and championships along the way, but truly the most satisfying thing I love about shooting is when I’m with good friends, I’m shooting well, and I can offer someone who’s new or struggling, a small pointer or two that can help them break more targets.
Basic Gun Fit and Loads:
It’s imperative that you start out with good, safe, equipment that fits you properly. Know your gun, know how it operates, handle it, mount it, swing it, and learn how to stay locked into it. Use the proper loads for the game or event you’re shooting, and pattern your shotgun with those loads (this is key) so you can visualize and understand your gun’s pattern to target relationship, better known as point of impact. You’ll also want to confirm that your pattern has good density and spread. Holes in your pattern may allow a target or bird to escape.
It’s really quite simple; your gun needs to be shooting where your eyes are looking! If you’re pattern isn’t even and not going where you think it is, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Also, study the game or event you’re shooting, understand the flight paths, speeds, and distances involved in breaking the targets, as they fly at various angles from the different houses. Certainly talent is important, but good shooting is 95% mental. So do your homework. There are many good instructors, as well as books, tapes, and articles available to get you started.