Shooters used to trap sparrows, pigeons or other birds, then release them, one at a time as targets. Competitions were staged and the sport of "trap" shooting became popular. Eventually, the cost and availability of trapped birds became a limiting factor, so shooters substituted glass balls and, eventually, flying disks made of clay. Formal rules were adopted, specific dimensions for shooting ranges mandated and the modern game of "trap shooting" was born.
One to five shooters can compete at one time. Five shooting positions are arranged in an arc 16 yards behind a single clay target thrower. When the shooter calls for a target, the target throwing machine launches a 4 5/16-inch diameter clay disk at a random angle to the shooters. The shooter has to adjust from firing at targets which are sometimes going straight away to targets veering hard to the left or right. Ten, 25 and 100 target competitions are standard. The shooter breaking the most targets is the winner.
The target thrower is adjusted to propel the targets a distance of 50 yards. Since the shooters are already 16 yards behind the thrower, shots up to 66 yards are possible. In general, the closer the target, the easier the shot. Top trap shooters shoulder their gun before calling for the target to be thrown. They learn to shoot quickly to avoid the pitfalls of having to make long shots.
Trap shooting rules specify no more than 1-1/8 ounces of shot can be loaded in the shot shells used. That's a medium load for a 12-gauge gun, but a heavy load for smaller shotguns. All the top shooters use 12-gauge shotguns. Because the targets are often 30 yards or more from the shooter when the gun is fired, the muzzles of most trap guns are choked to give optimum shot density at those distances. Since the targets are usually shot while ascending upward from the thrower, many trap shooting guns are designed to shoot high.
To even the playing field among shooters of various skill levels, top shooters are given a handicap to make their shots more difficult than the targets thrown for less skilled gunners. The handicap is to make the better shooters fire at more distant targets. The most skilled shooters may be stationed as far as 27 yards behind the trap house.
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