Trap Shooting: Competitors fire at targets moving away from the shooting line.

Trap Shooting: Competitors fire at targets moving away from the shooting line.

When I first expressed interest in the shotgun shooting sports, I was completely confused.

In their enthusiasm to share the sport, all my shotgun friends started right into detailed knowledge and tips and tricks. For example, they talked to me about how to aim a shotgun, how to get ‘classified’ and how to lead clay targets. All good intentions aside, no one stopped talking long enough to appreciate how little I knew. Without a basic understanding of the games, how was I to know what these things meant?

Imagine a lifelong resident of, oh say, Gardone Val Trompia, Italy, asking about American Football. If you started talking about safeties, chop blocks and intentional grounding rules, they’d likely be confused. It’s the same situation for someone new to competitive shotgun sports. What are shotgun sports? Is trap shooting the same as skeet or sporting clays? What are the differences? Which one might I like? What are clay pigeons? Are they remote-controlled? Do you have to feed them?

If you’re new to shotgun sports, or clays shooting, you might enjoy this quick and practical guide.

All shotgun sports have one thing in common. You blast hunks of clay out of the sky.

To expand on that just a bit, all use targets called clay pigeons. No, they do not look like pigeons – they look like little Frisbees about four inches in diameter. Instead of plastic, they’re made of clay. Launching machines, called “traps” fling them off into space in different directions depending on which clay shooting discipline we’re talking about. With all clay shotgun sports, the idea is for you to hit this rapidly flying clay target and shatter it to bits. It’s ridiculously fun and addictive in a healthy way. The first time you break a target, you’ll be hooked. I guarantee it.

Now let’s take a quick look at the three major shotgun sports. Each has variants within that we’ll cover in upcoming articles.

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