Basic Overview

Trapshooting has been around since the late 18th century when live birds were used. A row of cages containing pigeons was placed approximately 16 yards in front of the shooter. When the target was called for, the trapper would remotely release a bird of his choosing. Around the time of the American Civil War, live birds were replaced with glass targets; and later in the 1800’s by clay targets similar to the ones we use today.

A trap field consists of five shooting positions laid out in a row – all facing a trap house that is partially buried in front of the shooters. The positions are identified by concrete slabs on which the shooter stands. The left-most position is number 1 and the numbers continue to the right ending at position 5. Each of the positions has several demarcations that go back in 1-yard increments from 16 to 27 yards in a fan-like shape so that each shooter is equidistant from the trap house. The further back you go, the wider the span of the fan.

A trap squad is comprised of five shooters, each shooting 25 targets – five shots at each position. The shooters call for a single target beginning with position 1. After all five shooters have completed that round, the entire squad moves one position to the right to start another round. The shooter on number 5 moves to number 1. Regardless of his/her position in the rotation, the first shooter always begins the subsequent rounds.

The targets fly at approximately 42 mph at a distance of some 50 yards. The targets are thrown at a random angle spectrum of between 34 and 45 yards at a rising height that starts roughly 18 feet from the ground. Inside the trap house the trap machine oscillates so that the shooter never knows the angle of the target to be thrown.


The thing that’s hardest to learn, and most intimidating for new shooters is the etiquette of trap shooting. You know, all those unwritten rules about how you’re supposed to act, what you’re supposed to say, etc.


Is it ok to throw your gun downrange when you’re frustated? (No)

Is it appropriate to unload an entire magazine from your semi-auto shotgun to increase the odds of hitting the target? (No)

Is it acceptable to slip the scorekeeper a $20 bill “just to keep things fair”? (No)

When your turn is coming up, be aware of the shooter on your left. Avoid making noises with your gun action when that person is about to shoot.

If you’re using a semi-auto gun, invest in a shell catcher. A shell catcher is an inexpensive plastic piece that traps empty shells in the action. The shooter on your right will appreciate not being hit by your empty shell.

Whenever you’re not at a shooting position, you want your gun to be visibly clear and unloaded. With any gun, keep the muzzle pointed down, up into the air, or down-range.

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 ear and eye protection.

When you move up from position 5 to position 1, be very aware of your gun muzzle. Circle around, away from the trap, and then walk behind the other shooters back to position 1. Be sure to give the squad leader some visual indication when you are ready to shoot.

Never load your gun with more than 1 shell – unless shooting doubles – and never load your gun until it is your turn to shoot. Some shooters may drop a shell into place but wait until the person to their left has fired before closing the action. Never have a shell in the gun when moving between stations.