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By Jack Bart
One of the best-kept secrets about successful trap shooting is that the game only has three primary shots.
Regardless of which way the targets come flying out of the trap house, there are just three ways to crush it. This gets even easier when you begin to understand that each of the three ways is determined by which station you’re on. Stations 1 and 2 use one shot; station 3 is a different shot; and Stations 4 and 5 comprise the third shot.
The best way to optimize this 3-Trap Shooting Technique is in your set-up. Rather than just stepping up to the station and calling for the target, there are few things you need to do first. By taking a moment to allow yourself the proper set-up, you almost guarantee that you’ll break the target based on the 3-Trap Shooting Technique.
The set-up consists of the hold point (where you point the muzzle before shooting), foot position and where you place your eyes. For our purposes, the information that follows is geared toward right-hand shooters.
A quick note before we proceed….When I say that your feet should be parallel, I’m referring to the leading edge of the concrete border on the station. Therefore, when I say parallel, it means your feet should be parallel to that edge; it’s our baseline for foot position.
On Station 1, you should be standing so that your feet are nearly parallel, pointing toward Station 5. Your left should be almost touching that concrete edge. Your right foot will be back 2-3 inches – so that the toes of your right foot are at about at the ball of your left foot. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
Now you mount the gun. Your hold point is 1 foot to the right of the front left corner of the trap house. The reason for this is that no target (either left for right) will cross the gun barrel and get blocked from your view. By giving yourself the advantage of a full downrange perspective, it helps reduce that sense of urgency when you find yourself chasing a target that was momentarily obscured by the barrel. This hold point helps you maintain a calm demeanor so that you can concentrate on breaking the target rather than chasing it.
In terms of the horizontal axis, you’re going to hold the gun at the height approximately where you’re going to break the target. That could vary depending on how the target is flying in the wind. For example, if the wind is blowing toward you it will drive the target high. Shooting into the wind means that you would hold the gun higher than the normal position of parallel with the ground.
Still concentrating on the set-up, your eyes should look beyond the gun to the front edge of the trap house – allowing you to see the target immediately after it’s thrown.
As the target leaves the trap house, do not move the gun. Send your eyes to the left edge of the target. When you have the target well in focus, then move the gun directly to that left edge and shoot. There’s no lead necessary. Just shoot the left edge. Gun speed will create the necessary lead to break the target every time. Even with the right hand target from Station 1, you should break it on the left edge. Do not follow the target; go directly to the left edge and pull the trigger. The target will break every time.
The left edge is one of the three shots that I was referring to in the 3-Trap Shooting Technique. As you’ll see in a moment, you’ll also shoot the left edge of the target on Station 2.
Everything is the same as on Station 1, except that you turn your body a little more to the right. You’ll find that this slight variation will also move your right foot about 2 inches further back than on Station 1.
Your hold point is half way between the center of the trap house and the left hand corner. You’re looking at the front edge of the trap house. You’re going to hold the gun at the height that you intend to break the target. Again, shoot left edge of target. Don’t try to figure it out. It works if you go directly to the target. If you track it, you’ll miss the target.
To recap, Station 1 and Station 2 should have the targets broken on the left edge. This left-edge approach comprises Shot 1 of the 3-Trap Shooting Technique.
Turn another couple inches to the right. That will move your feet about 2 inches further back. Your feet are shoulder-width apart.
Hold the gun at the height where you’ll break the target and 1 foot to the right of center of the trap house. The reason to hold the gun right of center is that if you held the gun dead center on the trap house, a target could actually get under the gun and you wouldn’t be able to see it because the gun would obscure the straight away target. Thus holding the gun 1 foot to the right allows you to immediately see any target as it leaves the trap house.
Keep your eyes at the front edge of the trap house, looking for the target as it’s thrown.
Shoot directly at the center of every target. For example, if you get a straight-away targeting flying at 12 noon, you would shoot the target at 6 o’clock, which is dead center.
This 6 o’clock point of impact is the second shot of the 3-Trap Shooting Technique. It is unique to Station 3.
Turn another 2 inches to the right. Your right foot will move back commensurately. Your feet are still shoulder-width apart. Your hold point is half way between the right front corner of the trap house and the center. The height of your hold point will be approximately where you’ll shoot the target. You are looking at the front edge of the trap house.
Now we come to the third shot of the 3-Trap Shooting Technique. On Station 4 and on Station 5 you will shoot every target on the right edge. Move directly to the target. Do not chase it. As they say in the old Westerns, head the target off at the pass. Even if you get a left crossing target, break it on the right side. Don’t think about it, just do it. You’ll smash the target every time.
Turn another 2 inches to the right, which will put your feet about 45 degrees in relation to the front edge of the station. Look at the front edge of the trap house. Your hold point is 1 foot in from the right front corner of the trap house, at a height of approximately where you’ll break the target. After you’ve established the target with your eyes, go directly to the right edge of the target and pull the trigger. The target will break.
The 3-Trap Shooting Technique basically gives you three different shots for five stations. On Stations 1 and 2, you break the target on the left edge. On Station 3, you break the target in the center. On Stations 4 and 5, you break the target on the right edge.
This method gives you the ability to know exactly where you’re going to shoot at the target before you even establish the target with your eyes.
Always move directly to the target. Do not follow it. What you’ll discover is that you’ll almost forget the target is moving. Your only job is to go directly to the target as though it’s simply hanging out there.
Everything that we talked about is written in stone, except the height that we hold the gun in relation to the trap house.
In terms of the height, that is dictated by the wind conditions. Here’s a tip to help you determine your vertical axis for the hold point…
In any windy situation, the targets are always changing. You can use this to your advantage. I call it “playing the wind.” When it's my turn to shoot, I hold the gun at the highest point of the target flight, based on where I saw the target fly as I watched the shooter before me. Always watch the target of the shooter before you to determine your vertical hold point.
I am constantly changing my vertical hold point to the highest point of the target flight. The wind will dictate this. It could be very high or very low. Occasionally the hold point is low enough to be, on the trap house.
On a calm day, you don't have to change it. The target will go to the same high point, every time. That's when you can really get in a groove. It's so easy, it's almost like stealing.
Always look down through the gun in order to see the target as it approaches your gun hold point. As you see it moving below the gun, move the barrel left or right to meet it. Your barrel only has to move horizontally, and often only a few inches, or not at all. If you do it correctly, It really does look like the trap machine is throwing the targets at your gun.
REMEMBER: NEVER HOLD HIGHER THAN THE HIGHEST POINT. THE TARGET WON'T MAKE IT TO THE GUN. IF YOU'RE NOT SURE HOLD A LITTLE LOW.
If you can master the 3-Trap Shooting Technique, you be amazed at how it seems that the trap machine is throwing the targets directly in front of your gun.
Jack Bart is a professional shotgun shooting instructor, master stock fitter and owner of Bart’s Sports World in Glen Burnie, Maryland. His phone number is 410-746-3232. Please visit his web site for guns, accessories and shooting instructions at http://www.bartssports.com.