SPORTING CLAY | TRAP | SKEET
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Sporting clays shooting is referred to as golf with a shotgun, and that’s a fair comparison. Like golf courses, no two sporting clays courses are alike, and terrain and background have a lot to do with how targets are presented. Since no two courses are alike, shooters travel to different courses to experience variety.
Sporting clays is the closest thing to actual field shooting of all shotgun sports. Rather than having clay birds thrown from standardized distances and angles as with skeet or trap, sporting clays courses are designed to simulate the hunting of ducks, pheasants, other upland birds, and even rabbits. Targets may be thrown from literally any angle or distance to simulate wingshooting, and six different sizes of clay targets are used to further give the shooter the experience of actual hunting conditions.
Sporting clays is typically shot in squads of two to six people and played over a course of 10 to 15 shooting stations laid around fields or around the natural features of the land. No limits in target speed, angle, or distance, so every course is different. The most common target used in sporting clays is the clay that is used in skeet and trap. But sporting clays also uses specialty targets to introduce the illusion of speed or distance in the eye of the shooter, moving at speeds or in the ways of game birds. All can be thrown as singles or pairs.
Any shotgun that’s in safe working condition, capable of firing two shots, may be used. Any gauge can be used, but the most popular are 12 and 20 gauge. Many shooters like to shoot an over/under because it gives them two choke choices. Shooters who tend to be sensitive to recoil might prefer gas-operated semiautomatics.
Trap & Skeet Shooting
Trap shooting and skeet shooting are sports where participants use shotguns to shoot moving clay targets. Both forms started as bird hunting simulations and have grown into full-blown sports in their own right. The small clay targets are also known as "pigeons" or "birds." While similar, trap shooting and skeet shooting have some key differences, which we'll detail below.
Trap Shooting: Targets Move Away from the Shooter
Trap shooting, which traces its roots back to the 1800s, was originally devised as a practice for bird hunting. Artificial clay birds were introduced around 1830 and used in the first recorded trap shooting match in Cincinnati, Ohio. While the sport is indeed a useful practice tool for bird hunters, it is seen as a competitive sport today. In fact, both trap shooting and skeet shooting are currently recognized as official sports of the summer Olympics.
The goal of trap shooting is to hit clay targets that are traveling away from the shooter. These targets are shot in the air at varying angles using an oscillating machine known as a "house" or "bunker." In this discipline, the shooters know the target's point of origin but don't know the target's angle. Not knowing the target's angle creates an intense challenge for even the most experienced shooters. Trap shooters shoot five shots from five different points on a semi-circular field. Therefore, shooters fire a total of 25 shots per round. Shooters rotate around the semi-circle until everybody has completed five shots from each position.
Skeet Shooting: Targets Cross One Another
Skeet shooting was developed in Massachusetts in the 1920s by a grouse hunter. This hunter recognized that trap shooting didn't effectively simulate the way real birds fly in the field. The targets weren't unpredictable enough to mimic the erratic behavior of real birds. Essentially, hunters find themselves shooting from many varying angles in actual hunting scenarios.
In skeet shooting, the goal is to hit two clay targets that are crossing one another. Two target machines are placed 40 meters apart, one at 10 feet high (known as the high house) and one at 3.5 feet high (known as the low house). Both targets rise to a maximum height of 15 feet by the time they reach the field's center. Shooters aim from seven positions on a semi-circular field, with each shooter firing a total of 25 rounds. Traditionally, 17 targets are singles and eight are doubles.
There are two common types of skeet shooting — American and International skeet shooting. The American version has no delay after the shooter has called for the targets. Further, the American version fires its targets slower than the International version and in a different order. International skeet shooting has a delay between zero and three seconds after the shooter calls for the target. International skeet is also known as Olympic skeet because it follows the format used in the Olympic games and the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) games.
Ready to try skeet or trap?
Get Out and Shoot Your Shot
Sign up, take a course to learn proper shooting techniques, safety, and confidence. And of course, knowing the game and your goal for shooting is pretty important as well. So, depending on whether you’re planning to take up the sport of hunting or you just want to advance your skill at the gun range, you’ll have a few target options- skeet shooting or clay shooting.