Trap Vs. Skeet Shooting: In Depth Discussion Between Them

If you’ve ever heard the name of trap shooting, then you’ve probably also heard of skeet shooting.

This is because they’re pretty similar. They’re so similar that telling them apart can be more complicated than it seems.

Both follow the same game basis: shooting flying clay targets that resemble pigeons. But of course, several factors enter into play here – going from rules to difficulty and types of guns used.

We’re going over all those differences in this article, and want you to understand how trap and skeet shooting differ and how you can pick the right ones depending on your preference & skill level.

If you’re a fan of shooting sports, then you’ll find this article to be a source of excellent info. Take a look further, and you’ll know whether practicing either of these two is worth it!

What Is Trap Shooting?

Before we get into their differences, let’s first explain what each offers.

Trapshooting, as its name says, refers to the activity of shooting traps. The traps are those clay objects that resemble pigeons in the sky.

It comes from the 18th century as a sport that bird hunters used to improve their accuracy. Now, enthusiasts and players only use clay pigeons or traps. And it is considered an Olympic sport.

The game starts when the shooter stands in a line from which he/she has to shoot. Then, the traps are launched from stations or machines.

These traps can fly to different angles and to different places away from the shooter. Some trap machines are even placed into “oscillating” mode, which lets them vary the launching direction & angle consistently.

The purpose would be for the shooter to hit as many of these traps as possible.

But that’s not enough. Other factors enter into consideration as well – including the 5 different positions from which shooters have to fire from.

Also, most of these trapshooting games demand at least 5 different shooters to shoot 25 different targets each — the one who hits the most wins.

They shoot in turns while rotating across the 5 five positions, so every shooter shoots from every possible position.

Once the 25 traps are hit or missed, then the game of trap finishes. Of course, in some variations like the “doubles” or “handicap” the game differs a lot, both in traps position as well as the number of clays to hit.

But overall, the focus is to hit as many traps as possible. The shooter who hits the most traps wins.

What Is Skeet Shooting?

Clay targets and trap-throwing machines – skeet shooting is almost the same as trap shooting.

This is a newer sport, though. It has been around for merely more than 100 years since its introduction, and only a few decades since it got into the Olympic Games.

What makes skeet unique is that the shooting is based on 8 different positions or stations. The shooters will have to hit various targets that are shot around at fixed angles.

Skeet shooting doesn’t have only one trap machine, but several ones – usually two or more.

These machines are called “high houses” or “low houses,” depending on where they are located. Low houses shoot from 3 feet off the ground, and high houses shoot from up to 10 feet off the ground.

Here, only 5 shooters can play at the same time. The focus is to shoot 25 targets per round – but some rounds include two clays at the same time. A shooter will have to hit both clays that go out the trap machines simultaneously. This is called “double skeet.”

Shooters will also need to change stations just as trap shooting, but instead of being inline stations, they are located around a circular field. This adds a unique perspective to each shooter, so the traps not only fly away from them but also all around.

The winner, once again, is the one who hits the most traps. In skeet shooting, however, an entire game can mean up to 200 targets per shooter – which is tons of effort to achieve.

In short, skeet has 2 machines at different heights, 8 positions to shoot from in a circular shape, and 5 shooters in total. And traps can be up to 200 per game.

Difference Between Skeet and Trap Shooting

Now that you have a general idea of what trap and skeet shooting offer, it is time to learn how they differ in specific aspects. Here you’ll learn exactly which one is the better choice for you:

Olympic Shooting

Both skeet and trap shooting are part of the Olympic Games; introduced several decades back, but with a slight difference.

Skeet, for example, was introduced in 1968, while trap shooting was introduced as early as the first years of the 1900s.

Apart from that, the rules vary exponentially in each type of game. For example, skeet shooting in the Olympic Games demands the users to shoot only at three seconds after he/she calls the target.

Apart from that, the user needs to hold the gun at the mid-torso position. Anything less or higher than that can cause elimination or points reduction – which does not exist in regular trap shooting where shooters can place their guns at the high-torso level.

On top of that, skeet shooting is typically played only in doubles. That means the shooters have to hit two clays at the same time instead of only one. Trapshooting can be either singles or doubles, according to the level of experience.

Finally, both skeet and trap shooting have female and male divisions. But skeet started as an all-inclusive game in which women and men played with each other.

Targets

The targets in both trap & skeet shooting consist of a circular-shaped clay plate that flies around from a machine. 

Each target should be strong enough to withstand being launched from these machines. But they should also be fragile enough to break into several pieces once they’re hit.

Most targets differ in color, depending on the manufacturer. But the color doesn’t change much depending on whether it is trap or skeet shooting. Usually, these targets are black, orange, red, and sometimes fluorescent yellow.

The purpose is for these targets to fly in a specific pattern that resembles the flight of birds. And sure enough, that’s precisely what they do.

But they indeed change when it comes to diameter and design.

Clay targets for skeet shooting usually have a 4-5/16-inches of diameter. For trap shooting, the clay targets have only 4-inches or less in diameter.

As for design, trap shooting clays look like an inverted saucer. In contrast, Skeet clays are often flatter, which lets them fly away at quicker speeds and for greater distances.

So, yes – the difference is super small, but in most games of skeet shooting, the clays tend to be different than those of trap shooting. In some cases, both games use the same type of target.

Speed of Targets

Here’s another factor that changes exponentially, depending on the game.

For classic trap shooting, the speed of a clay target can go anywhere from 30 MPH up to 40 MPH. Due to the slightly less flat design of the objectives, they tend to be less speedy.

In skeet shooting, the clay needs to fly at a slightly faster speed to make it harder for the shooter to hit. Here, each target needs to fly away at 45 MPH.

Of course, the speed may vary depending on wind, weather, and other factors. But here, you’ll find skeet clays to be faster – which makes them a little harder to hit. That’s why skeet shooters are often more experienced.

Distance of Targets

The distance of the targets also differs exponentially, depending on whether it is skeet or trap shooting.

Herein, the first difference is that trapshooting clays can fly away up to 50 yards or a little more. They don’t need to fly too much because they often fly away from the shooter in specific angles, but almost always in the opposite direction.

In contrast, skeet shooting demands the targets to fly in different angles, not necessarily away from the shooters but from side to side. This adds a little more need of travel distances, so targets can fly about 60 yards or more – which is an increase of 10 yards.

The distance is that much due to the shape and size of skeet clays, as we explained before. But many other factors may have a considerable impact, including winds, and the height or angle of the launching machines. In skeet, the “high-house” launchers tend to achieve greater distances than “low-house” launchers, for example.

Regarding distance, you’ll find that skeet shooting clays tend to be better travelers. This, of course, makes the game slightly more complicated.

Height of Targets

As we mentioned before, skeet and trap shooting change both speed & distance of the clays. And they also change the height.

While it may seem like they’re launched at the same height, they’re actually not.

The clay pigeons on trapshooting come from launchers that are located in the same height. In fact, most trap shooting games only include one launcher, and it doesn’t change height when working.

In contrast, skeet shooting relies heavily on two launchers, one on each side of the stations, and they have different mounting heights. That means they’re located at various heights, so the clays will fly away in different distances from the floor.

That’s why it often demands more skill from the shooters. Not only the angle and direction change a lot, but also the height in which clays fly at.

We could say that skeet requires shooters to be more attentive and have more experience at aiming because the clays can differ a lot in flying height.

Guns

The gun used in each type of shooting game also differs.

For trap shooting, the most common is the single-barrel and adjustable-stock shotgun. But some shooters prefer the double-barrel model, especially for doubles.

Apart from that, people often go for semi-automatic shotguns that are usually easier to shoot with and load. But most people actually choose shotguns for their simplicity.

The ideal caliber for trap shooting would be the 12-gauge. But some users like the 20-gauge model.

When it comes to skeet shooting, it gets a little different. Here, users can go for calibers going from 12 up to 28 gauges. Some people even choose .410 bore – a smaller size.

Here, it is common to find pump-action shotguns. But they’re often pretty challenging to use because their sound can eventually produce launchers to activate themselves.

Something that sets skeet shotguns apart is that they’re almost always double-barrel. And as they often demand more shooting, they also come with additional accessories.

Both types of shooting can be used with accessories such as shell catchers, cylinder chokes, and more.

Here, you can say that people prefer larger calibers for trap shooting and smaller ones for skeet. But of course, it all depends.

Ammunition

The ammo in both games tends to be similar. But they still differ in some ways.

Two of the primary types you’ll find include the 12-gauge shell with No. 7-1/2 pellets. Along with No. 8 pellets, they tend to reach farthest distances – so they’re ideal for trap shooting. One of these shells can include up to 550 pellets without problems – especially the No. 8 ones.

In skeet shooting, users tend to pick 20-gauge shells. These can contain up 600 pellets of No.9. This allows users to have more chances of hitting, especially when shooting with double-barrel shotguns.

Here, you can say that trapshooting demands bigger shells and bigger pellets. In contrast, skeet requires smaller pellets and smaller shells.

But some skeet shooters prefer big shells, mainly because they need to get farther away from clays in some cases.

Shooting Stations

As we explained before, both trap shooting and skeet shooting rely heavily on stations. These are places from which shooters have to hit the flying clays. Of course, each type of shooting has its own kind of station.

For trap shooting, there are 5 of these stations. These stations are located inline, so shooters don’t get either closer or farther from the clays when moving around. As the sport demands shooters to move from spot to spot in order, the shooting doesn’t change much when going from one station to another.

In skeet shooting, stations change a lot. Here, you will find 8 stations in total. While the number of shooters doesn’t change, you will find that there are more stations than there are shooters.

On top of that, the stations are not in line; they’re actually in a semi-circle shape. This makes each shooter stand in a different position that either puts him/her closer or farther away from the clays when they’re shot.

Most stations include shots from each launcher (low-house and high-house). But in trap shooting, the height or direction of the shots rarely changes.

Shooting Turns

The shooting turns in each sport is also different.

Trapshooting consists of 5 shots per station. There’s no change in the process, and each clay flies away from the same position, at the same speed, and at the same angle.

In skeet shooting, this is totally different. First, they have 2 shots at each station instead of 5. Apart from that, the stations change the height and angle of the clays.

When it comes to shooting turns, there are 16 total shots in total for each shooter in skeet. But for trap shooting, there are 25 shots in total per session.

Popularity

Now that you have a better idea of what they offer and how they’re played, it is time to find out how popular they are.

Here, you’ll find that trap shooting to be the most popular – mainly because it has the largest sport-shooting organization in the US.

But skeet shooting is not too far away. It also has thousands of players around the world, yet it is not as big as trap shooting.

The difference here is that skeet shooting is actually a variant of trapshooting – so they haven’t reached the same level of popularity yet.

But of course, both have reached different parts of the world. Some variations of the American trapshooting game are played all around, and skeet shooting has its own fair of enthusiasts across the globe too.

Difficulty

At first, both trap and skeet shooting are pretty tricky. Finding out how shotguns work, loading, re-loading, aiming, and hitting clays is not an easy thing to learn.

But overall, skeet is the most difficult because skeet demands the clays to fly at slightly higher speeds, difference distances, heights, and even angles.

In contrast, trap shooting requires only one launching machine that doesn’t change angle, speed, or height at all.

That’s why trap shooting is the most popular, despite being easier to play.  

Fun Level

The fun of each type of shooting relies heavily on the user. But of course, we could freely say that skeet shooting is slightly more entertaining activity.

This happens because it launches the clays from two different positions, angles, and heights. This adds up to a more complex activity, which also makes it more fun.

But of course, that doesn’t mean trap is boring. In fact, trap shooting can also be an excellent way to enjoy some free time and shoot some clays – and that’s why it is more popular.

Trapshooting enthusiasts usually practice it as an entertaining activity, just like golf or billiards.

In contrast, most people who practice skeet shooting do it because they want to get better at shooting or compete.

So they can both be utterly fun – it all depends on the user.

For Beginners

So, what type of shooting is the ideal one for beginners? Here, we can say that trapshooting is the ideal one.

This happens because the single-barrel guns, which are commonly used, as well as the lack of variation in clays shooting angles, height, and distances, make them perfect for beginners to start.

For skeet shooting, shooters will have a more demanding learning curve. As they will need to not only try to hit the clays, but also from different angles, positions, at different heights, and angles.

So, in short, trap shooting is the way to go for beginners.

Skeet vs Trap Shooting: Which One to Choose?

So, what are you going for? What do you think fits better with your needs? Which type of shooting will offer what you’re looking for?

As long as you read our article thoroughly, coming with the answer to this question will be a piece of cake. Otherwise, you may end up choosing the wrong type.

But don’t worry – trap shooting refers to the sport that launches clay pigeons away from only one position. Shooters will have to move through 5 different stations, and shoot a total of 25 turns each. This means 5 turns per shooter at each station.

They won’t have to apply different techniques and match angles, positions, of height variances from the clays. This makes it utterly straightforward.

It is perfect for beginners and those who are only shooting as a hobby.

Skeet shooting, in contrast, refers to the same clay-pigeon-shooting sport. But this time, shooters will have to move across 8 different stations and have up to 16 turns in total – with 2 turns per shooter in each station.

There are two machines in skeet shooting, and sometimes both shoot at the same time. This adds more difficulty to the whole sport.

That’s why experts prefer skeet shooting because it is slightly more fun – but also way trickier.

If you’re starting or want something simple – then go for trap shooting. Otherwise, skeet shooting is your best bet.

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