Question of the Day: Trap, Skeet or Sporting Clays?

I was thinking of running this as a self-defense tip; shooting a moving target adds an important skill for anyone who owns a shotgun for self-defense. I was also contemplating posting this as a “What’s Wrong With This Picture” asking TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia to provide some advice for shooting newbie Amanda Lyons (who may be modeling for the site in the near future). But I didn’t, ’cause me and my Browning 325 shot trap, skeet and sporting clays in quick succession and I couldn’t decide which one won my affections. So I’d like to know which discipline you prefer and why.

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

21 Responses to Question of the Day: Trap, Skeet or Sporting Clays?

  1. avatarDon says:

    I suck at all of them but have the most fun at sporting clays because I don’t miss the same shot each time……

  2. avatarKarl says:

    Some advice for Amanda is looks like the gun is to big for her. Problem I see with most women who try and shoot shotguns is they get handed a gun designed for a larger man. She is leaning back on her heels and that makes a follow up shot more difficult. Get her a youth or womens model shot gun. My sister can’t shoot my Browning Cynergy 12ga with 32″ barrels very well but with her Weatherby SA-08 youth model she shoots very well.

    Also I like sporting clays because it presents more real world scenarios you could say as far as bird hunting goes.

  3. avatarDrewN says:

    All three of them are more fun than almost any other discipline. And totally PC as well, even in Kali. Even most rabid anti’s won’t get riled up when you tell them you shoot clays.

  4. avatarmmccal8 says:

    5 stand has always been my favorite.

  5. avatarZack Pike says:

    For me…For relaxation… It’s trap. But when I want more of a challenge I go for skeet, and especially sporting clays. I love them all, but I tend to shoot trap more often. It’s just a little more relaxing for me. I’m not a big hunter, and I save the stress-work for my handgun shooting.

  6. avatarbontai Joe says:

    I absolutely stink at trap, but my dad is very good at it and takes me out sometimes. I personally like sporting clays as it comes close to real hunting scenerios, and I shoot it better than trap or skeet.

  7. avatarsdog says:

    i tend to shoot trap & wobble trap much more often, because of the fact that it is more relaxed, and the fact that my only shotgun is an 870, making skeet shooting pretty tough.

  8. avatarKen says:

    If I’ve got the time, regular sporting clays (walk-around in the woods style). Lots of different presentations and there’s nothing like a nice walk in the woods.
    If I want to shoot a whole lot in that same amount of time, skeet. Because I’m better at skeet than trap and it’s more available to me.
    If I want to do something different, trap or 5-stand SC’s.

  9. avatarA Brit in MI says:

    Sporting clays, all the way! I like the way it mimics rough walked up shooting, and the chance to powder a couple of ‘rabbits’ is fun! Mind you, the skeet & trap disciplines are great also, but they do require a little more specialized equipment. Any old shotgun with a modified choke (I used to use a 12G O/U, 1/4 & 1/2 chokes) will do fine.

  10. avatarRossi says:

    Trap. I love my BT-99

  11. avatarAccur81 says:

    Sporting Clays is by far the most fun. On a good range (Triple B in Pomona, CA) you can cruise on a golf cart and set up at stations specifically designed to mimic game birds. The shots come from multiple directions, in between trees, and from hidden throwers. That means your targets maybe shooting straight up, or coming from behind. Sounds a little like bird hunting, eh?

    With all that being said, I can shoot anywhere from 75-95% on trap, and drop down a whole lot lower on sporting clays. If I want a lot of hits and orange destruction, trap is the way to go.

    That’s my .02. I’d rather chase my orange clays through the woods!

  12. avatarseanx40 says:

    Sporting Clays. The others are dull as hell.Far too easy. With clays you also get your exercise walking the course.

  13. avatarShotgunner says:

    Sporting clays all the way. I wuv to kill the wabbit.

  14. avatarJim Scrummy says:

    I like them all. Each has it’s own unique challenge, which makes it fun.

  15. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Sporting clays would make you the most versatile.

    Trap, if you become serious, can involve both spending and winning serious coin.

    Skeet, once you become good at it, can become boring.

    Clays has the most varied presentations, the least of the obsessive-compulsive uber-competitor nonsense going on. It’s also the newest.

    Of the three disciplines, you will find that if you show up on a trap range with a semi-auto, you’re less welcome unless you have a shell catcher on your gun. This is because many trap competitors are very serious people, and they don’t like guns that throw shells hither and yon while they’re standing next to you. Skeet can be a bit like this, whereas in sporting clays, shoot whatever you bring.

    If you become good at trap, you will discover that many “serious” competitors have trap-only shotguns, most all of which are break-action shotguns. The trap people tend to like a very high rib on their shotgun, and they like to play with the elevation of that rib above the barrel. They’ll have recoil-absorbing inserts in their guns, adjustable combs and buttstocks on their guns, etc. Trap people, when they’re really taken in by the trap game, can drop $4K to $10K on specialized shootin’ iron(s) for the trap game and not even blink.

    For skeet and sporting clays, any shotgun will do, but a side-by-side or over/under are your best choices. Since the 60′s, the O/U have taken over shotgun games. For skeet, some people prefer shorter (26″ or even 24″) tubes, whereas for clays, you’ll see the 28 to 30″ tubes in use. For trap, 30″ and even longer tubes are very common.

    OK, chokes: Some people will tell you that you must change chokes and have the perfect choke to become good at shotgun games. Bullcrap. Here’s what you must do:

    Take your shotgun and chokes to a range with a patterning board. If you don’t know what your pattern looks like, you have no business playing around with chokes. Set yourself up on the patterning board at 40 yards. Draw a 36″ circle, put a fat orange dot in the center of it. Aim at the fat dot in the middle. Shoot. Now, go forward and check your pattern. Where is the point of impact relative to your point of aim? How does the pattern look? Where is the “center of gravity” of your pattern? Does the pattern have holes in it? Does the pattern have a density variation from one side to the other?

    Put up new paper on the board. Repeat for every choke and every load you want to test.

    For trap and sporting clays, I’d recommend that you start with a modified or improved modified choke and see how they work. When I started shooting clays, a buddy and I patterned all my chokes for my A390, found that half of them had holes in the center of the pattern, but the IM choke was pretty even. I screwed in the IM choke and I can’t remember what I did with the rest of the chokes for that gun. When I hunt or shoot sporting clays, that’s my go-to gun. I’ve now been shooting sporting clays for 10 years and have never found a need for another choke.

    My over/under has a full and IM choke (fixed) in the tubes, and I shoot everything that comes across my sight – I set the selector to shoot the looser choke on the first shot, the full on the second. Many older side-by-sides and O/U’s had fixed chokes. The fixation and vexation of changing chokes for the “perfect” choke for the situation is a recent development in shotgunning. Don’t waste you time on chokes. Find a choke that shoots a good pattern at 40 yards, put some anti-seize (copper-n-grease goop to prevent threads from seizing up) on the choke, screw it into the barrel and call it done.

    Then go learn to shoot.

    Another free tip: Most of your problems in shooting will involve how the gun fits you. If the gun doesn’t fit you correctly, I don’t care what chokes, barrel length, loads, etc you’re shooting. Because here’s the thing most people don’t realize about shotguns:

    Your eye is the rear sight. “Everyone knows” that the shotgun typically has only the front bead, right? Well, what’s the rear sight if there is no rear sight on the rib, barrel, receiver or stock?

    It’s your eye. And if your gun doesn’t fit you, then you’ll have trouble mounting that gun to put your eye consistently into the same alignment with the rib and the bead. You want a gun that fits you, so that when you mount the gun, it comes up onto your shoulder the same way, your cheek welds to the comb the same way, every time. Every shot.

    Second thing a properly fitted gun will do for you is increase your comfort. Ill-fitting guns make repeated recoil hurt more the next day. A well-fit gut makes recoil much less annoying. If your gun hurts you because the fit is atrocious, you will more than likely develop a flinch. Once that has happened, there’s no way you’re going to become a good shot – at anything.

    And a tip for Ms. Amanda: Too much of her weight is on her rear foot. The gun doesn’t fit her, true, but her stance is putting her in an uncertain balance and that makes any gun seem uncomfortable for her, because they’re aggravating her imbalance.

    When I’m shooting a shotgun, I put 60% of my weight onto the front foot.

  16. avatarKen Watters says:

    Skeet – preferably with a .410.

  17. avatarGs650g says:

    Trap because it looks way easier than it is.

  18. avatariloveguns says:

    I love trap… my dad shot and got me onto his team when i was 12 and I never looked back… Its what got me into shooting sports and more importantly defensive shooting. Ill never forget the first time I was going for 25 straight and just before my last bird my father looks over and says “don’t miss” and ofcoarse I missed my last bird by a mile

  19. avatarKen says:

    My advice, don’t start out with sporting clays. I went today for the first time with 4 guys that knew what they were doing and one other beginner and it had to be one of the most embarassing experiences of my life. I shot 15/100. yeah. The experienced guys all shot in the 70s and the other new guy? He dropped a 46. I briefly considered saving the last shell for my mouth. 10 station sporting clays is not for beginners. I’m headed for trap or skeet to practice and hopefully some day recover my manhood.

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