Trap Shooting Basics: Fundamental Procedures

Contributed by Ted Kozloff, Brays Island Property Owner

shooter taking aim with rifle

The following describes the procedure I use when on the trap shooting firing line. I think it is safe, has me ready to shoot fairly quickly without endangering anyone and doesn’t produce any movement that distracts (and, therefore, doesn’t annoy) anyone on the squad.

1. At the beginning of each round, I place my gun on a gun rest on the ground in front of me with the action open. I don’t put a shell into my gun until everyone is in position and appears ready to begin. If any “hiccup” develops after I have put a shell in my gun, I remove the shell from my gun and hold it in my hand until things get back to normal.

2. While waiting for my turn to shoot, I try to observe the flight of the targets very carefully:

  • Are the targets rising normally?
  • Is the wind pushing them up or down?
  • Are people hitting the targets on the high or low side?
  • Are the targets exceptionally fast or slow? This latter aspect is very hard to detect and I wouldn’t worry if you can’t get a sense of the target speed.

3. As soon as the person next to me calls for a target, I close the action on my gun and start it up. These last two processes are usually combined. I have never had anyone object to this timing, but if it ever happens, I will just wait until the shooter next to me has fired before starting to mount my gun. My normal procedure usually results in my gun being fully mounted a second or two after the preceding shooter has fired.

  • Things can get complicated at this point if the shooter to your left calls for a target but doesn’t shoot. This can be caused by a number of things. The most frequent is that a broken target emerged or no target appears. Sometimes the shooter’s gun doesn’t fire, along with other reasons. Or, he may shoot at a broken target, in which case he has to shoot again.
  • Whatever the cause, in cases like this, I lower my gun to waist level and hold it pointing down range until the matter is resolved. If it looks like it’s going to take some time to straighten out, I open my gun, put it on the rest pad next to my foot and remove the shell.

4. Once my gun is at my shoulder, I take my time to ensure that I mounted it properly and that my mind is clear. If the mount isn’t good, I pull the gun away from my shoulder and try again. If the time I take to do that annoys someone (it never has), it’s just too bad. A poorly mounted gun virtually guarantees a bad result.

5. When I am good and ready and my mind is clear, I call for the target and shoot it. Sometimes I even hit it. I do not let a rapid cadence by the other shooters (which sometimes develops among less-experienced shooters) force me to rush my shot.

6. After I have fired, I lower my gun to the gun rest on the ground, open the action, remove the spent shell, insert a new shell and wait for my turn to shoot again. Keep in mind that you have a loaded gun in front of you at this point, even if the action is open. Now, it’s back to step 2 above until I have fired 5 shells.

  • A tip: Make an effort to learn how the call for a target by the shooter to your left sounds. When he is standing next to you, you can see him raise his gun, etc. out of the corner of your eye, but after you waltz up to station no. 1, you won’t be able to do that. He’s going to be at the other end of the line. If you have to look down the line to see when it is your turn (instead of just listening for his call), it delays your gun mount and encourages you to hurry the shot—a very bad thing.
  • Another tip: Don’t just empty a box of shells into your shooting vest pocket when you start. Put the box into your shooting vest pocket fully open, but without disturbing the shells. The shells are packed in the box with five to a layer. When you get to the last shell in a layer, don’t reload your gun until you move to the next station.

I should mention that the procedures outlined above are not as complicated as they sound. You will find they quickly become matters of habit that you never think about.

If any of the above isn’t clear, just buttonhole me when I am at the club and I’d be happy to elaborate. If you don’t know what I look like, just look for a guy who is exceptionally handsome. If that isn’t enough to identify me, my name is on my shooting vest.