A Beginner’s Guide To Trap Shooting

A Beginner’s Guide to Trap Shooting

July 17, 2020 / Comments (101)

Shooting Tips

Trap shooting is an incredibly popular sport, particularly for hunters looking to practice before the start of a big season or for new firearm enthusiasts looking to get some shooting time in with moving targets instead of stationary bullseyes.

But trap shooting can be confusing and even frustrating if you don’t know where to start. That’s what this guide is for.

Why Is Trap Shooting Great?

Trap shooting is an excellent beginner’s shooting activity, particularly compared to other types of target shooting, like skeet or sporting clay shooting.

That’s because trap shooting targets fly away from you at relatively predictable angles, making them easier to hit if you don’t have a lot of shooting experience.

Furthermore, as you gain experience and begin hitting your targets more consistently, you’ll still have lots of room to improve.

Trap shooting competitions often have expert marksman hitting 200 targets or more in a row without a single miss, teaching you consistency along with initial accuracy

Types of Shotguns to Use

Types of Shotguns to Use | A Beginner’s Guide to Trap Shooting

There are three main types of shotguns you might use for trap shooting.

  • Pump-action shotguns are the best for trap shooting and are more often used for hunting. But these are still quite easy firearms to use overall.
  • Semiautomatic shotguns are the preferred type for consistent trap shooting. These weapons are easy to keep on your shoulder if you have to shoot multiple trap targets in a single session or moment. However, semi-auto shotguns take more effort to unload compared to pump-action shotguns.
  • Over and under shotguns are an alternative choice. When using these, just be sure to drop a shell in your barrel only when you’re about to yell, “Pull!”

How to Hit a Trap Bird

To shoot a trap bird, most ranges will have you stand behind the “trap house” (the apparatus that launches the clay trap birds) and shout, “Pull!” when you’re ready for a target to launch.

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Your shotgun should already be up and at your shoulder by the time you yell for the bird to be released.

The basic technique goes like this:

  • Watch the bird as it flies and “read” the angle that it seems to be holding. Remember that trap houses can launch birds in several angles to provide complexity and a challenge.
  • If the bird flies in a straightaway pattern, try to shoot the bottom edge of the target.
  • If the bird is quartering or taking a shorter flight, try to shoot the leading edge of the target.
  • And if the bird is taking a hard angle, aim about a foot ahead of its current flight position to have the best chance of success

Regardless of the exact flight pattern, you’ll always want to try to shoot a trap bird as it’s rising or leveling off.

Trap Shooting Etiquette

Trap Shooting Etiquette | A Beginner’s Guide to Trap Shooting

You’ll get better at the technical skill of trap shooting as you practice.

But beyond these mechanical skills, you should also keep trap shooting etiquette in mind, particularly if you want to participate in a competition at some point.

Here are some good etiquette pointers to remember:

  • Always think about the shooter on your left – try not to make a bunch of noise with your gun action when they are about to shoot so you don’t break their concentration.
  • Use a shell catcher if you have a semiautomatic gun so your shells don’t interfere with the person to your right
  • Similarly, be gentle when ejecting an empty shell from a pump-action shotgun. This prevents the shell from hitting someone next to you
  • Always keep your gun visibly clear and unloaded when you aren’t taking a shot.
  • Always use eye and ear protection.

Remembering all these tips will go a long way toward helping you enjoy your time trap shooting.

What are your other tips for beginners who want to try trap shooting? Kindly share them in the comments section below

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101 Responses to :
A Beginner’s Guide To Trap Shooting

  1. Kelly Morse says:


    Signing up to see what I can learn from the association.

    Thanks, Kelly

  2. Mark Van Horn says:

    I’m confused already…
    The opening lines in “Types of Shotguns to use” are:
    “Pump-action shotguns are the best for trap shooting and are more often used for hunting.”
    “Semiautomatic shotguns are the preferred type for consistent trap shooting.”
    And your comment about Over/Under shotguns seems a bit disparaging even though O/U shotguns are probably the most common trapshooting tool in the realm of shooters.

    In addition, Tips for hitting trap birds (i.e. clays) mentions that while shooting straight away flyers the shooter should aim for the bottom edge of the bird. Why would you suggest this as straight away birds ideally are still climbing as you pull the trigger. Would you not aim for the top or leading edge to keep from shooting under the bird?

    I am no trapshooting expert or even a practicing shotgunner, but I get the feeling that whoever (or is it whomever?) wrote this tidbit doesn’t know their subject very well.


    1. Dave says:

      When i first started shooting trap the only shotgun i had was model 1100 semi auto. This worked very well after i purchased a small clip that attracted to the ejection port which stopped the empty shell from hitting the shooter to my right. I have also used a pump action but what the article doesn’t tell you is that a pump has a hard recoil. And after 3 or 4 hundred rounds your shoulder gets sore. I also have 2 overunder shotguns. One 12 gauge, that i had backbored and ported which is another trick to reduce recoil. And a nice little 20 gauge that you could shoot all day long.
      The one that wasn’t mentioned is the single shot. Many of the people i shot with had this type. It was specifically designed to shoot trap andyou can spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on them.
      Happy shooting if you ever decide to try it.

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