What is Trap Shooting? And How Did It Start?

Shooting is one of the most entertaining activities you can practice. As long as you’re shooting at lifeless objects, then it becomes an excellent hobby to tackle along with friends, family, or even alone.

But if there’s one type of shooting that stands out – then that’s trap shooting.

In consists of shooting clay pigeons or what’s commonly known as traps, these targets resemble the movement and shape of an animal – which helps to practice accurately while enjoying a cruelty-free experience.

In fact, trapshooting is even considered a sport. So that’s a lot for a hobby that involves gunpowder and shells.

Of course, there are many things to consider when it comes to trapshooting – and that’s what we want to teach you today.

If you’re wondering whether trap shooting is an ideal activity to practice – then you’ll find out here. And of course, you’ll still learn much more!

What Is Trapshooting Exactly?

Trapshooting began as a way for bird hunters to improve their accuracy. It was a cheap and convenient way to shoot pigeon-like objects without using live pigeons. These objects were called “traps.”

Traps are made of clay. They are launched from a machine called “house.” In different types of trapshooting like skeet shooting or sport shooting, you’re likely to find more than one of these machines from where targets fly.

Since the inception of trapshooting goes back in the 18th century, it was considered a sport. Despite the use of guns and live pigeons at the time, it was one of the primary sources of entertainment.

Later on, it began to gain popularity all around the world, until it reached the Olympic Games and was officially named a sport.

But to practice trap shooting, you don’t need a permit or anything – even though it uses guns. Just set up a shotgun with trapshooting ammunition, the “house” or launching machine, and several clay targets or traps. That will be enough to get going.

Still, there’s a lot more to disclose here. So read up!

How Did Trapshooting Start?

As explained above, trapshooting began around the 18th century. In fact, there’s proof that as far as 1793 – trapshooting was already an established sport in England and other European countries.

It was introduced to the public more as a method for bird hunters to train than as a sport. But it got so popular that it became a hobby among the aristocrats.

A few years later, around 1830, trapshooting was introduced to the American scene. Here, trapshooting started as a more traditional sport using live pigeons; then, it slowly began to transform into what it’s known for today. But the transition wasn’t direct.

Before trapshooting started using clay, people in America & UK used glass balls. This was around the 1860s – where glass balls were introduced, and live pigeons started to lose the appeal due to the cost of maintenance. But glass balls were hard to break sometimes, so an alternative was pertinent.

That’s why in 1880, people introduced the clay disks as a more affordable and easy-to-break alternative. Since then, it has become the most popular way of trapshooting until what we know today.

Of course, the disks didn’t replace the glass balls completely until several years later. Because clay targets were also hard to break at first, people started creating more fragile alternatives.

But once launchers started to get most popular at around the 1910s, people replaced glass balls with these clay pigeons completely. They were now easier to launch, and much more practical & time-saving.

Nowadays, people still use live pigeons in some cases. But the majority of trapshooting competitions and enthusiasts still use clay as the main target option and the launcher machines as the primary way of launching the clays.

The activity went from using mostly live pigeons to using glass balls and then using a practical clay disk. A few years later went by, and trapshooting became what we know today.

What Do You Need for Trap Shooting?

Sure, it seems simple and everything. But in reality, there’s a lot more to trapshooting than you can think of. So, we’ll explain all the different factors that come into play for this activity. Let’s start with the guns.


The primary weapon that people use for trapshooting is the 12-gauge shotgun. But of course, other gauges (specifically smaller ones), are also ideal. Some people tend to use 16, 20, and 28 gauge shotguns as well.

But shotguns can come with any design possible. Some people like single-barrel shotguns, while others prefer using double-barrel models. Of course, double-barrel ones are usually better for multiple-target shooting, while single-barrel ones work better with traditional single-trap.

Another configuration can be the loading mechanism. Some shotguns boast the simple manual mechanism that requires some time to re-load. But some models come with the semi-automatic system, which helps to reduce recoil and reload time.

Apart from that, some trapshooting shotguns boast other adjustments, such as stocks. Some stocks may offer a raised “comb,” while others may come with height adjustment, length, angles, or all of them together.

Lastly, trap shotguns can also come with interchangeable choke tubes. What these choke tubes allow is to change the pattern of the shell. That means it helps to achieve more density, more range, or more spreading.

Here, you’ll likely to find cylinder bore, skeet, improved cylinder, modified, improved modified, full. Each one offers a specific delivery that could either help or harm the effectiveness of your shots. And of course, it all comes down to what you prefer.

In short, shotguns for trapshooting are small and light, easy to handle, and usually, come with modifications and features that make them more practical than regular ones.


If trapshooting needs shotguns, then it also requires “shells,” the ammunition of this type of weapon.

These are called “shotshells” and consist of the “hull” or casing that contains “primer” or the ignition piece. Then, you’ll find the powder, and the “wad” or cushions. Finally, you’ll have the “shots” or spheres/pellets.

A normal shotshell contains over 300 spheres in a single casing. They need to have a maximum weight of 1-1/8-ounce or 1-1/4-ounce according to the competition.

What the shotshell does is explode using the primer, which ignites the powder and then makes the 300 shots fire out directly through the firing tube of the shotgun towards the target.

The ammunition depends heavily on the manufacturer as well as the desired result. Skeet and sport shooting tend to have slightly different ammunition than traditional trapshooting, for example. And sure enough, the price of the ammunition also changes the powder and number of shots/pellets inside.

What makes shotshells so popular is how affordable they are. Trap-shooters don’t have to spend a fortune to get decent results with one of these.

If you’re looking to start this sport, you’ll be glad to find out that it doesn’t require much to do so. You’ll only need a shotgun, and 12-gauge shotshells (or the one your shotgun uses). That will be enough to get a head start.


Well, shotguns and ammunition are enough to start shooting. But they won’t be enough if you want a decent experience while doing so.

That’s why accessories exist – so trapshooting or any variant can be even more entertaining and cozy.

Among the accessories, you’ll find a vest with pouches. It has several pockets to store cartridges or shells, so shooters don’t have to be constantly looking for them around or in bags.

Other add-ons include eye and ear protection. While these shotguns are not as loud as long-range rifles and some handguns, they still make a lot of noise, which can cause ear damage. And sure enough, protect eyes when playing with powder is always an excellent idea.

Both eye protection and ear protection may come in a wide array of styles and types. But you will mainly find eyeglasses and sunglasses as the primary eye protection. And earmuffs or earplugs for the ear (some people like to use both at the same time).

If you want an excellent experience while trapshooting, then you’ll probably need one of these accessories.

Launching Machine

Finally, you will need a launching machine to get into trapshooting the right way.

As we said before, this machine is called a “trap-house.” It has the purpose of launching the traps or clay pigeons in the air.

These pigeons can differ exponentially depending on the type of trapshooting you’re doing and your preferences. But overall, they consist of a circular plate made of clay – usually in reddish or greenish clay color.

The machine may also host just a few or hundreds of clay targets. Depending on the model and the focus activity, the trap quantity will differ.

Some machines feed themselves automatically, which reduces time and effort. Others will need an operator to feed the machine manually, which demands more effort & time.

For example, skeet shooting usually uses several launching machines from different angles. These machines need to host at least 10 clays.

But for classic trapshooting, only one machine is necessary – and if it has a magazine of 50 clays or more – then it allows a smoother, seamless, and enjoyable experience.

Some machines are totally electric, so they require batteries or an electrical connection to work. While others are totally mechanical, so they work either by spring-loaded mechanisms, or gas-powered systems.

For more budget-friendly trapshooting, there’s also the hand-held launcher. It consists of a pouch-like object that shooters can use to launch circular clays away. This requires more effort, yet it is always an excellent idea if the other options are not accessible.

Overall, it is almost obligatory to have one of these for trapshooting. Yet, the launcher can vary exponentially, depending on what the user prefers.

How to Practice Trapshooting?

Trapshooting is as simple as just having a shotgun and a trap machine that launches the clays. You will only need to shoot the flying objects, and that’s it.

But there are some fundamentals to follow if you want to do it correctly. Here’s a small step-by-step guide to follow:

1. Start by loading the shotgun with shells. Make sure to have at least two shotshells inside so you can fire twice continuously.

2. Then set up the launching machine. Load as many clay targets as possible. For manual launchers, use the help of a friend or companion to launch the target for you.

3. It is essential to position yourself in a place where you’ll be aiming to the sky while trying to shoot a clay pigeon. This way, you won’t shoot anywhere with people or objects around.

4. Once the shotgun and the launcher are ready, you can assume a shooting position. Place the shotgun stock on your shoulder, then grab the barrel with one hand, and the trigger with the other. Usually, the hand opposite to where the shotgun is resting is the one that goes on the barrel.

5. Now you can aim around freely with proper accuracy. Make sure you’re always aiming up towards the sky. You can activate the machine or tell the operator to launch the tray.

6. Aim correctly and fire by pulling the trigger. You can fire as many times as shells you loaded the shotgun with.

It is essential to mention that many trap-shooters refer to the aiming of the shotgun as “pointing.” And the clays are not called traps but targets.

If you follow this small guide, you can start trap shooting without issues. Remember to take precautions and use all the protective accessories such as eyewear, earmuffs or earplugs, and vests.

Different Versions of Trapshooting

The previous guide will help you practice some trapshooting in the traditional way – for fun or as a hobby. But you can still find several serious versions like the ones used in competitions. Here are some of these:

Olympic Trap or Bunker Trap

As we said before, trapshooting is actually considered an Olympic sport. That’s why there’s an entire competition in the Olympic Games that involves shooting clay targets while they’re flying from different places.

It was first introduced in 1900 to the Olympic program. But it wasn’t officially accepted until 1950 where it became an actual Olympic event.

Of course, there are different types of Olympic trap – but they’re all based on shooting the clay pigeons just like the traditional way.

The most common Olympic trap system consists of 15 machines. Each machine will fire 25, 75, or 125 traps, with some firing to the left, others flying away to the right, and others flying away from the shooters.

These machines are located in different stations. The stations are like levels on the shooting, which demands significantly different skills to hit.

As you can guess, the focus is to shoot as many traps as possible in each station. But certain rules apply.

In Olympic competitions, it is necessary for shooters to follow the referees signal to shoot. Once the signal is given, shooters will have 10 seconds to ask for the target and prepare to shoot. Otherwise, they lose their turn.

Apart from that, they have to follow loading rules, which usually demand them to recharge their shotguns on specific periods, and leave them unloaded before crossing stations.

This could be with individual shooters or via squads. Both follow similar rules; they just change the number of people who fire at the same time.

Double Trap

Even though there has always been a variation of trap shooting, it was first introduced as an official alternative for the Olympics in 1996.

So, you could say it is a newer version of the sport. And it is based on shooting two targets at the same time, instead of only one.

The focus is to make shooters hit both targets. As the clays are released with a one-second difference, the shooter needs to prove that he/she can hit them both.

Of course, the difficulty wasn’t always the same. In the first instances of the sport, double-trap was slightly more difficult with no delay. Then the delay was added with a 3 and 2 seconds until the 1-second rule was introduced.

Nowadays, double-trap shooting is one of the most popular shooting events in the Olympics. And it has both men and women leagues competing in it.

American Trap

Traditional trapshooting comes from England. And it is the most popular all around the world.

But there’s an alternative that people practice in America. And you guessed it – it’s called American Trap.

We’re not talking about the music trap, but the shooting sport. It is practiced all around North America, from specialized facilities to clubs, open fields, and sometimes just as a hobby in the wilderness.

But American Trap is not an unofficial sport. It actually has its own organization that throws competitions all year long, all across North America. From British Columbia to the US and even some places in Canada.

The main difference between this type of trapshooting and the traditional and Olympic versions is the different modes available. American trap is broken down into singles, doubles, and handicap.

Singles mode consists of single clays thrown into the air.

Then you’ll find double that uses two clays instead of one.

Both singles and doubles use several stations from which the shooters have to hit the target clays. But in singles, the launching machines oscillate and throw the clays to different places from different angles. In contrast, doubles do not have any oscillation or angle change but shoot two clays at the same time.

Handicap trapshooting is just like singles, but with the shooter standing farther away from the launching machines.

Here, again, the sport consists of a squad or individuals who have to shoot a total of up to 200 targets. Sometimes less, sometimes more, which will give a specific score.

The winner is the shooter who hits the most clay targets.

Youth Shooting

Even though it is not accepted in every country, there’s a trapshooting organization entirely for youth. And of course, it is based in America.

This organization encourages children to learn shooting by practicing trapshooting. It is the largest organization, and it is said to have more than 20,000 participants every year – all of them aged below 18-years-old.

The competitions in Youth Shooting consist of schools competing against each other. There are hundreds of schools all around the USA with children competing in trapshooting.

It is vital to mention that there are many categories for trapshooting. Some of them consist of “Junior” shooters who are not 18 still. Then, you’ll find “Sub-Junior” for children that aren’t even 15.

An exciting part of trapshooting for youth is that some organizations even award scholarships for the most talented shooters. So, it is treated just like other sports, including football, soccer, and basketball.

Still, many non-school teams are forming all around the country, with thousands of shooters applying to be part of youth trapshooting.

Here, the game follows the same rules as American shooting, yet it varies depending on the country and type of competition.

Start Trap Shooting Now!

As you see, there are so many versions of trapshooting, as well as factors to consider that it is an utterly unique activity to do.

Despite being seemingly dangerous, it is still one of the most entertaining things someone can do. And sure enough, it is ultra-safe as long as the people practicing know what they’re doing.

If you’re looking to start trapshooting, follow our advice on how to start and how to prepare, as well as the rest of the info about the things you need to know. This will make it easy to start as soon as you want.

So don’t let anyone discourage you from doing it – and start trap shooting now! You won’t regret it.

Also Read : 

Trap Vs. Skeet Shooting Detailed Comparison By An Expert

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