Shotgun Sports

Introduction to Shotgun Sports

United Sportsmen’s Club of Jefferson City

Purpose:  The purpose of this class is to introduce new shooters to the basics of trap and skeet and sporting clays shooting including individual responsibilities for safe handling of firearms and shooting etiquette.  This class includes familiarization with our facilities and hands-on demonstration.


  1. National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA)
  2. Amateur Trap Shooting Association (ATA)
  3. National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA)

Overview of United Sportsmen’s Club Rules

  • Do not load any gun until ready to shoot.
  • Keep gun actions open and unloaded until on the line and ready to shoot.
  • Eye and ear protection is required when shooting, scoring or pulling on the trap and skeet fields.
  • Suitable headgear should be considered to protect you from pieces of target.
  • No more than two (2) shells loaded at anytime on the trap and skeet fields.
  • Shot size is limited to 1 1/8 ounces and a maximum size of #7 ½ shot for lead or #7 for steel.
  • Ensure your gun is working properly and safe to use.
  • Ensure the correct ammunition is used for the gun.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs prior to or during shooting that could impair your reaction or judgment.
  • Club members under the age of 16 must be supervised by an adult.

FIREARM SAFETY AND RESPONSIBILITIES – It is the responsibility of each shooter to read, understand and comply with all range rules.  If unsure of anything ask questions!

Recommended gauge and chokes

For trap shooting, 12 gauge single barrel with a modified to full choke.  Shot size is typically #7 ½ , however some might prefer #8 or #9 shot.  Typically guns designed for trap shooting are more specialized and have different drop at the heal of the gunstock to force the shooter to shoot above the target, since the target is rising.

For skeet shooting, smaller gauges like 20, 28 and 410 can be fun and challenging.  Must have a gun that holds two or more shells to shoot doubles (birds thrown simultaneously).  Improved cylinder or skeet chokes are usually preferred using #9 shot. Skeet guns more closely resemble normal field hunting guns.

For sporting clays, any gauge gun that can hold at least two shells can be used.  For some special shoots, three birds are thrown, in those cases, pumps or semi-automatics must be used.  Improved cylinder or skeet chokes will handle most of the shots offered at the club sporting clays course.  Lead #7 ½’s, 8’s, 9’s and steel #7’s shot shells are commonly used.

American Style Skeet Shooting:

Skeet basics:  Skeet shooting originated in the 20th century to more closely represent a crossing pattern that would be encountered in the field when hunting live birds.  The skeet field consists of two houses (a high house and a low house) and a total of eight shooting stations.  From the high house a target emerges at a height of 10 feet and fly’s over a center stake for a distance of about 60 yards.  At the center stake the height of the target is approximately 15 feet.  Similarly, the low house target emerges at a height of 3 feet and also fly’s over the same center stake at a height of 15 feet and goes 60 yards.  A typical skeet squad consists of five shooters who shoot in turn at the following targets:

Station 1:  One high house, one low house, and then doubles (simultaneous)

Station 2:  Same as station 1

Stations 3, 4 and 5:  One high house and one low house

Stations 6 and 7:  Same as station 1

Station 8:  One high house, then turn around and one low house (prior to target reaching the center stake)

Shooters who complete all stations without a miss, will shoot an ‘option’ shot at station 8 low house.  Otherwise the shooter must take their option shot following their first miss (same target, same house).  For additional information about skeet shooting including official rules see Reference 1.


Wobble Skeet Shooting:

Wobble skeet is shot on the same field as American Skeet with a few alterations.  The most pronounce is the fact that the high house and low house traps oscillate up and down.  They still fly over the center stake but at different and unexpected heights that adds a whole new dimension to the sport.  The format is slightly different also.  There is no option shot when a target is missed.  At stations 1, 2 6 and 7, each shooter will be presented with a “report pair” (the second target is released immediately following the first shot), followed by a “true pair” which is both targets released simultaneously.  At stations 3, 4, and 5 the shooter is presented with only a report pair.  At station 8, the shooter has one shot at a high house, then turns around facing the low house and is presented with doubles.  This completes 25 shots.  This is a very challenging game and provides excellent wing shooting practice.

Trap Shooting:

Trap Basics:  Trap shooting originated in 18th century Europe to simulate hunting experiences.  Instead of clay pigeons they used live birds released from under hands or from cages following the shooter hollering ‘PULL’.  Live bird shooting can still be found today in the U.S.  In trap there are five shooting stations and a total of five shots are taken at each station prior to rotating to the next station for a total of 25 targets.  A squad consists of up to five shooters at their assigned station 16 yards from where the target emerges.  The target emerges from a single machine that oscillates from side to side at an angle of approximately 30 to 45 degrees from center left and right.  Targets are always at the same speed and height.  As skill level progresses shooters typically move back further (e.g. handicap) from the 16 yard line.  In registered competition shooters may elect to shoot ‘doubles’ where two birds emerge simultaneously at constant angles.  For more information please see Reference 2.


American vs. International:  International skeet uses the same field layout but has faster target speed, delays built into target release and gun positioning rules.  Additionally, international trap utilizes faster targets thrown from 15 fixed-position machines (still at random angles) and has an optional second shot.

Sporting Clays:

Sporting Clays Basics: Sporting Clays started in the 1880’s in England where they used glass balls filled with feathers to practice game hunting.  When the clay target was developed, organized sporting clays in England was started.  It quickly gained popularity in England, enough so that in 1927 the 1st British Open Sporting Clays Championship was held.

During this time, skeet and trap were growing in the United States, but it took over sixty years for sporting clays to travel across the ocean.  In the early 80’s a group in Connecticut organized one of the first, if not the first, sporting clays tournament in the USA at the Remington Gun Club.  The Orvis Company picked it up and held the first National Shoot in 1983.  By 1985 the United Sporting Clays Association was formed in Houston, Texas.  Since then sporting clays has become one of the fastest growing participation sports in the U.S.  According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, well over a half million shooters log over 25 days a year sampling clay targets.

A sporting clays course is similar to a golf course as to having different stations/holes.  At each station the traps will be different in arrangements so that each station the targets will come out different.  Targets flight will vary at each station, with some going straight away, crossing, incoming, banking, and at one station, bouncing along the ground like a rabbit.  At the USC Sporting Clays Range, there are eight stations with 1-3 shooting stands and 2-3 trap machines.  Each station has a bench and command boxes to “throw” the clay targets.  Target offerings vary from a single target to following pairs (one target thrown immediately after the first), report pairs (one target thrown and on sound of the shot, the second is thrown) or true pairs (both targets thrown at the same time).  At some special shoots, combinations of three may be thrown.

Five Stand:

This is a type of shotgun sport shooting similar to sporting clays, trap and skeet. There are five stations, or stands and six to eighteen strategically placed clay target throwers (called traps). Shooters shoot in turn at various combinations of clay birds. Each station will have a menu card that lets the shooter know the sequence of clay birds he or she will be shooting at (i.e. which trap the clay bird will be coming from). The shooter is presented with 5 targets at each station, first a single bird followed by two pairs. Pairs can be either “report pairs,” in which the second bird will be launched after the shooter fires at the first; or “true pairs” when both birds launch at the same time. After shooting at the 5 birds on the menu at that station, the shooter proceeds to the next stand, where they find a new menu of 5 targets.  This sport challenges the most experienced shotgun shooters.