Trap, Skeet, and Sporting Clays: What to Know About Each to Get Your Best Target Practice

by Matthew Wilson
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For many hunters, target practice has become a way to hone one’s craft. Over the years, target practice has evolved into a sport of its own, with different variations.

As they often say, the sport can be easy to learn but difficult to master. Target shooting often features in three varieties: Trap, skeet, and sporting clays. Each has different rules and regulations and requires different gear if you’re going to be a sharpshooter out on the range. Here’s what you need to know about the different forms of target shooting.

A Trap Target Moves Away from the Shooter

For singles trap shooting, we recommend either an adjustable stock single barrel shotgun or a combination shotgun. The combination shotgun can be converted into a double barrel for double target events. Convenience is the name of the game when it comes to the best gun for trap shooting. A break-action gun makes loading and unloading a breeze when changing stations. It also keeps those pesky shells from flying into the face of the competition.

Ammo-wise, a mix of No. 7 1/2 and No. 8 shot size won’t do you wrong. What’s the difference there? A No. 7 1/2 shell contains 350 7 1/2 sized pellets. Meanwhile, a No. 9 mighty 580 pellets in a shell.

During trap shooting, the targets are flying away from their would-be shooters. There are five stations, with shooters allowed to shoot five shots from each station. In total, a shooter will shoot 25 shots per round after cycling between all five. Station One starts the volley, and the rest of the stations follow in consecutive order until all their shots have been fired. You got to be quick though. Trap clay pigeon targets move around 40 MPH. Meanwhile, for the Olympics, targets can move up to 62 MPH.

Skeet Move Horizontal

An over/under break-action is a skeet shooter’s best friend when it comes to those pesky targets. But what gauge you may need depends entirely on the competition. Skeet contests range from .410 bore or 28 gauge to 20 gauge and 12 gauge. For Ammo, most skeet shooters use No. 9 shot ammo.

Similar to trap competitions, shooters move between stations. But unlike trap competitions, skeet targets are moving across a horizontal plane. There are two target machines, 40 meters apart, which launch the targets for shooters. These target machines are separated into the high house and low house. The high house is 10 feet of the ground while the low house is only three and a half feet. During each round, clay targets will launch in single and double presentations. In a round, there are 25 targets that move 45 MPH.

Sporting Clay Has a Variety of Setups

Most professional sporting clay shooters use over/under shotguns so they can alternate the choke size. Chokes are muzzle inserts that change shot patterns. Depending on your range, they can be useful. For instance, an improved cylinder choke spreads pellets out for up close and personal targets. Meanwhile, a full choke helps extend the distance of the shot. In regards to ammo, we recommend a mix of No. 71/2 and No. 8 size shot.

People have compared shooting clays to the golf of the hunting world. Except well, with more guns. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to sporting clay ranges. Each station can have its own setup and target practice presentation. One setup called five stand revolves around shooters alternating between five stations. On average, shooters can expect to fire at 50 to 100 targets during any one round. Targets can move between 30 to 70 MPH.

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