A Little About Trap Shooting

Shooting Sports

Trapshooting is one of the three major sports of competitive clay target shooting sports using a shotgun. The other primary shooting sports are skeet shooting and sporting clays.  They are distinguished roughly as follows:

  • Trap Shooting: The targets are launched from a single “house” or machine, generally away from the shooter.

  • Skeet Shooting: The targets are launched from two “houses” in somewhat sideways paths that intersect in front of the shooter.

  • Sporting Clays: This type of shooting sport includes a more complex course, with many launch points.

The layout of a trapshooting field differs from that of a skeet field or a sporting clays course.  There are variations of events within each shooting sport group.

A Brief History of Trap Shooting

Trapshooting is enjoyed throughout many countries and has been a sport since the late 18th century. During the earliest periods, real birds were used and placed in traps and released.  Artificial “birds," or clay targets, were introduced in the late 1800s. 

Olympic Trap

Olympic trap was introduced to the Olympics in 1900. In the 2013 Summer Olympics, Kim Rhode became the first American to win Olympic medals in five consecutive Olympic Games in an individual sport.

Shooting Range

All League events occur at a shooting range (sometimes referred to as a gun club) that offers the proper trapshooting field, which includes shooting stations and trap houses.

Equipment and Gear

Student athletes may borrow a club shotgun if one is not personally available, however, it is required that the athlete supply their own ammunition. All types of smooth-bore shotguns may be used provided the caliber does not exceed 12 gauge.  Only guns of a caliber less than 12 gauge may be used.  While most participants use a 12 gauge shotgun, the remaining use a 20 gauge.  Athletes are required to wear proper eye and ear protection while on any part of the shooting range.  Athletes promote a positive image by wearing appropriate attire during all shooting events.


A weekly practice, and weekly conference event, consists of shooting two 25 target rounds for a total of 50 targets from the 16-yard station. An invitational event means the athlete will typically shoot 100 targets in 25 or 50 target rounds at a time, rotating to other stations to shoot another 25 or 50 rounds until the end.  Up to 5 shooters (squad) will occupy the stations on a trap field.

Trap House

This is the structure in front of the stations from which the clay targets are launched.  The trap machine located in the trap house oscillates left to right within a 54 degree arc (up to 27 degrees right and left of center), and at least a 34 degree arc (up to 17 degrees right and left of center).  The competitor does not know where in the arc the target will launch when calling for a target.

Event Preparation

Shooters have all the equipment and ammunition necessary to complete the round each time they occupy a shooting station.  All guns must be carried open and unloaded when moving to the next assigned starting station.  Test firing of a shotgun is not allowed.

Getting Ready

From the moment the shooter calls, and until the target appears, the shooter must stand in the “READY” position:

  • Both feet entirely within the 16-yard shooting station area.

  • Holding the gun with both hands.

  • The “squad leader” (Station 1 occupant) calls for a single target to be launched as an example of flight.

Event Start

Upon a “START” command from the scorekeeper, each shooter, in turn:

  • Takes a proper shooting position.

  • Loads one shell.

  • Closes the gun.

  • Clearly calls “PULL” or some other command for the target.

  • Shoots at the target.

  • Scorekeeper does not comment when a target is “HIT.”

  • Scorekeeper says “LOST” out loud when a target is missed.

  • Discharges empty shell.

  • Shooter waits for next turn.


A shooter may close the gun only after the previous shooter has completed a turn. Shooters do not turn from the shooting station before the shooter’s gun is open and empty. Each shooter begins a turn within a few seconds after the last shooter has fired at a target and the result is recorded. At the end of each round, the scorekeeper announces the scores for that round in firing order.

Moving From Station to Station

After the first 5 shots are completed by the entire squad, the shooters move to a new station and each shooter:


  • Verifies the gun is unloaded.

  • With the chamber open and the gun pointed in a safe direction, rotates in a clockwise manner to the next station.

  • Station 1 moves to station 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 to 5, and 5 to 1.

  • Station 5 rotates to the right moving away from the station 4 shooter who is moving to station 5 and continuing to move behind the other shooters to station 1.

  • Waits for the “START” command from the scorekeeper.

  • Repeats the process until all shooters have each shot 25 targets.

  • No shooter moves until the last target in a round is complete.

Completion of the Round

Upon the completion of a round, the scorekeeper declares “OUT.” Shooters are notified of their scores, shooters make their shotguns safe, shooters carry their guns in the approved manner, and exit the station.