Trap shooting vs. skeet shooting – introduction to shotgun sports

Trap shooting vs. skeet shooting

Trap shooting and skeet shooting are two fun sports that take shotgun shooting to a whole new level! At the heart of it all, both involve participants shooting moving clay targets which are generally referred to as “pigeons” or “birds” and which come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on what discipline the game is derived.

However, many people, have an assumption that Trap shooting and Skeet shootings are one and the same thing, which is not true!

Trap shooting originated in the United States, while Skeet shooting originated in the United Kingdom. The two sports share the same basic concept but differ in details such as the number of targets, the distance of the target, and the type of gun used.

In fact, there are subtle differences in the equipment used in each event. But don’t worry. We’ll take an in-depth analysis of both Trap shooting and Skeet shooting and see some of the key differences that set both sports shooting activities apart.

Trap Shooting vs Skeet Shooting sports: Overview

Trap Shooting vs Skeet Shooting sports Overview

While shooting might seem like a fun recreation activity to help people prepare for bird hunting, the underlying concept of trap and skeet shooting is quite serious.

In fact, both skeet and trap shooting are officially recognized as competitive sports in their own rights, in addition to having been included in the Summer Olympic Games since 1972.

Clay target shooting sometimes referred to as Inanimate Bird Shooting, is a competitive sport that involves shooting at special targets which are propelled into the air using a firearm, mostly a shotgun.

The sport is comprised of multiple categories, where different rules apply to different disciplines. Nonetheless, these categories can be divided into two major groups: Trap and Skeet shooting.

Trap shooting, in simple terms, is a game where you shoot at targets launched from a single point in front of the shooter. Skeet is similar but instead of a single point, the targets are launched from two points(one from each side).

Once you’ve nailed down your technique for either one, you’ll be rewarded with some exciting jumping shots as you try to knock out those falling targets! Live pigeon shooting was replaced by clay targets in the early 1900s, and eventually, glass balls were introduced to enhance the animated targets.

Clay Pigeon Targets

Clay pigeon targets are mostly made from a combination of pitch and chalk and are designed to withstand being propelled from different velocities but also shatter into pieces if hit by the shooter- which must always be done in the very specific way outlined in a safety manual.

While clay targets can vary in shape, they’re most often an inverted saucer or cone. They come in different colors such as orange or black and are fired using either air gun pellets or shotgun shells.

In the early 2000s, a more diverse version of the event was introduced where clay pigeons were fired which flew faster than their ceramic counterparts and had similar trajectories when fired from angles.,

Trap Shooting Sports Explained

Trap Shooting Sports Explained

Trap shooting is a popular form of clay pigeon shooting, which originated as a training tool for bird hunting in the 18th century.

The first official trap shooting competitions took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1830. During this time, however, clay targets were not introduced until 1883 by Cassius Mason- who is also known as the “father of trap and skeet shooting.”

Thus, today’s clay pigeons are not real pigeons, but rather discs with the approximate size and weight of a real bird, molded out of a combination of materials including sand and welded lead. That means they’ll withstand the velocities, but shatter into pieces when struck by the bullet.

In trap shooting, the basic idea is to shoot, hit, or rather strike moving clay targets that are flying far from the participant.

These targets (clay target discs) have different colors on each side and are thrown into the air at different velocities by an oscillating machine referred to as a bunker or trap house.

In this case, the shooter knows where the target will land but doesn’t know how high or far it will fly off from and away from them.

The uncertainty of the target angle offers an extreme challenge for even the most seasoned shooters since it’s hard to predict how these targets will be thrown skyward.

Trap shooters fire five projectiles from five varied positions on a half-circular field. That means there’s a total of 25 shots made per round, 5 shots each from 5 different points.

Olympic Trap Shooting Competitions

Olympic or international trap shooting competitions feature two distinctly different rounds of target shooting: Bunker Trap and Standard Trap. Bunker allows, on one hand, for competitors to fire 125 targets for men and 75 targets for women and takes place at fixed angles whereas Standard Trap involves a single oscillating machine and features a total of 125 rounds.

The bunker angles in Olympic games are much steeper than standard competitions as they can reach as upwards of 68 mph in comparison to the 45 mph they’d normally bounce off oscillating machines.

Also, in bunker trap, unlike the standard variety, shooters aren’t given any chance at shooting multiple targets or reloading in between shots- they’re only allowed to take one shot each time and that is it!

To give this Olympic event the best shot, one might suggest investing in enough clay discs for all rounds being played per season and having extra bullets on hand for every occasion too. Otherwise falling short of resources in the course of this particular game isn’t an option.

NB: There are 3 different events in Trap shooting: Singles, Doubles or rather double trap, and Handicap. As the name suggests, Singles is where one clay bird or single target is launched from the station.

Doubles or double traps basically involve two clay birds (double targets) being released simultaneously. Handicap, meanwhile, is pretty much comparable to Singles, only that one bird is thrown from various distances.

Skeet Shooting Sports Explained

Skeet Shooting Sports Explained

Skeet shooting meanwhile is one of the oldest forms of clay pigeon shooting. It was developed in the 1920s in Massachusetts by a bird hunter in response to the fact that shooting traps at that time didn’t effectively emulate the way live birds flew in the field.

Essentially, real-life hunting involves shooting from many unstable angles, which was not quite the case in trap shooting- targets weren’t as unpredictable as the erratic nature of real birds.

Nonetheless, the idea in skeet shooting is to strike two clay pigeons that are spanning one another. There are two target machines located 40 meters apart, at different heights with one located in the air and another low to the ground.

As such, two clay pigeons are flung at very high speeds and cross paths. One begins atop a rectangular frame that rises to 15 feet (five yards) in the air, while the other flies above the frame that also rises from 3-8 feet as it crosses in front of the commentator.

The shooter’s positions are located on both sides of an oval/half-moon-shaped field with seven shooting stations, each set 20 meters apart. Out of the 25 shots in total, participants shoot 17 shots, one shot from each station. This includes one shot at each of the low and high houses simultaneously, known as the double.

Traditionally, there are 17 singles clays that fly across at first, as well as eight doubles so you will have more targets to contend with.

That said, though, it is highly important not to get caught up in taking too many shots on one, or else you could miss out on facing a multitude of them coming from opposite directions.

Types of Skeet Shooting

Well, there’s no doubt that skeet shooting is a favorite activity for many outdoor hobbyists, hunting enthusiasts, and even some law enforcement professionals. Scoring in skeet shooting is similar to that of golf- the lower the better.

But there are popular types of skeet shooting- International Skeet (Olympic Skeet) and American Skeet shooting.

American skeet basically involves an organized program where participants compete against other members of their region or club. In this case, skeet targets are released without delay by electronic machines known as “targets timers” once the shooter has called for it.

Moreover, targets are fired rather slower in the American skeet compared to the International form and in a varied sequence.

International skeet, on the other hand, has a delay between 0-3 seconds once the shooter has called for the target. International skeet is also referred to as Olympic skeet as it features the same format applied in the Olympic events and the International Shooting competitions.

The Differences Between Trap and Skeet Shooting

The Differences Between Trap and Skeet Shooting

Ultimately, a complete newbie to clay target shooting will have two main: Trap shooting and Skeet Shooting. However, considering the differences between the two, understanding your experience level would be a great thing before deciding which one’s the right for you.

Otherwise, both options are fun and will provide an amazing experience in terms of enjoyment.

On a basic level, Trap has five stations while Skeet has eight. In skeet, shooters move clockwise to every station and make their shots, depending on how many targets are thrown while in Trap, they move five times from each station.

Another difference is that there’re two machines in skeet- above ground- that launch targets from varying heights, while in Trap, the targets are launched from almost underground level.

 In Skeet, targets move either away from or towards the shooter, while in Trap, they usually fly away from the shooter. It’s also good to state that clay targets can move at speeds as much as 72 km per hour while in Trap shooting, targets move at around 65 km per hour.

 Guns for Trap vs Skeet Shooting

 Guns for Trap vs Skeet Shooting

If you’re planning on trap, skeet, or even clay pigeon games on a competitive edge, then it is important to pick a gun that caters specifically to these sports.

Of course, you can certainly use your favorite bird shotgun to take on these games, but you will realize most success if you opt for one that has been tailored purposely for ease of use during competitions so you don’t end up compromising your results.

For example, these guns often have several features like longer barrels and easily removable chokes which allow for more flexibility, making them even more competitive than usual. After all, not every round results in a direct hit depending on the particular setup rules.

Thicker materials, shorter barrels, and lightweight frames often make these guns feel better in your hands and help achieve even more powerful movements when firing. You don’t want anything that works against your movements.

Skeet Guns

Skeet guns are slightly heavier and longer than trap guns, with their barrels measuring “26-30” long. They have short, very open chokes which help to control the shotgun more easily during the performance.

While the length of these guns can make them less effective at shooting clay targets at a distance, they do provide excellent capabilities for those who prefer a more close-up, personal style of game shooting. Plus, their weight soaks up plenty of recoils, helping you to sustain the gun on crossing shots.

Trap Guns

Trap guns typically weigh quite a bit and may have one or two long barrels (up to 34”) along with tight chokes to aid the shooter to keep aim straight and steady.

These types of guns are usually twelve gauge models, which help them deliver excellent handling traits, not only for professionals but also for armature shooters.

The straight stocks allow the shooter to lock their shooting technique into place so that the gun is well positioned at the intended target. This makes it easier to follow through on shots without accidentally firing too early or gradually becoming lax during the lag time between shots.

Their unique weight helps to maintain momentum even when aiming for shots that may normally appear out of reach. This is because the shells don’t fly as fast, making it easy to follow through on shots while soaking up a lot of their kickbacks.

Which is Best for Bird Hunters?

Which is Best for Bird Hunters

Live birds are much more challenging to shoot than clay pigeons. While a clay target will always fly in the same direction, live birds can fly in any direction, especially when flushing: straight away, to the right/left, or even back towards your position.

Even so, there are a few things you can do to effectively prepare for this.

First, try to shoot a lot of skeet or sporting clays. No matter whether you’re shooting clay pigeons or simulated birds, this will help you prepare for whatever pheasant or bird manages to escape the first time.

Also, when you’re out there trying your hand at any of these sports, consider using the same shooting guns which you’ll be carrying out in the field when hunting real birds.

Note that while shooting clay pigeons is good at honing your, it won’t replicate conditions you find in the actual field. So, if you want to familiarize yourself with hunting first, then at least try sporting clays or skeet clays.

These types of games let you use live ammunition as opposed to clay targets and as such will help your firearm perform like it would while out in the wild. Besides, these activities will most likely get you in shape.

Lastly, no matter the gun you’re using, it’s important to keep in mind the stance of a hunter rumbling through the woods, trying to get close enough to the prey without spooking it.

So hold your gun steady with both hands but lower than when shooting at stationary targets and keep your eyes open on that clay pigeon as it soars through the sky. Else, you might miss your mark badly.

A typical hunting stance is one foot ahead of the other and a little weight on each foot. Then stay calm and focused, thinking about how you’re going to take down that clay when it flies into view.

The Bottom Line

The Bottom Line

Trap and skeet shooting has been a large part of hunting for hundreds of years. Trap was originally used as practice for run-and-gun hunters before the season, whereas skeet shooting has been around to help train beginning marksmen.

No wonder both styles of trapshooting are currently recognized by the International Olympic Committee and are performed in professional matches.

Overall, the top tips you want to keep in mind while shooting include holding your shotgun low (and not mounted) and making sure you keep both of your feet firmly planted on the ground, and even slightly leaning a little more weight onto your back foot.

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