The first formal trap shoot took place in Cincinnati Ohio in 1831, using live birds. With the advent of glass ball targets, and eventually clay disc targets, the sport began to take on the popular form of the game known today as American Trap.  The sport is now shot using a 4 ½ inch diameter clay target. (see for more info).  At NTSA we have two major club shoot each year that are open to club members only, the Annual Club Trap Championships and the Horney Toad Handicap. The date will be posted at the club and on the club website. We also will be hosting Big 50 registered shoots and some marathon type shoots (please check the club calendar).

Trap field layout:


American trap is broken down into three categories: singles, doubles, and handicap.  American Trap uses a single target launcher, or trap, which is located below ground in a trap house.  This trap oscillates left to right and back, launching a single clay target, or bird.  American trap has a field with 5 shooting positions.

Singles Trap features shots taken from each of the shooting positions 16 yards behind the trap house. The shooters position themselves on one of the 5 shooting positions, or stations. Each shooter shoots five shots from his current station, and then the squad rotates to the next station on their right, the shooter on post Five will rotate to post One, until each shooter has shot five times from each of the five stations.

Doubles Trap is shot from 16 yards, with the distinction being in the way the targets are presented. In Doubles Trap, the targets are thrown two at a time and the trap does not oscillate so each of the pairs of targets is uniform in trajectory.

Handicap Trap is the same game, with shooters moving back to varying distances from the trap house, with the maximum distance being 27 yards. New shooter starts from a distance of 20 yards from the trap house. As you shoot better and gain wins you move back in ½ yards increments until you are on the “Back Fence”, the 27 yard line.

Trap Guns and Equipment:

American Trap is generally shot with a 12 ga. single or double barrel shotgun although it may be shot with a 20 gauge shotgun. Shooters will often buy a combo-set of a mono and over-under barrel gun for shooting singles and doubles respectively. Semi-autos are popular due to the low recoil and versatility because they can be used for singles, handicap, and doubles. Trap-specific guns are normally a manufacturer’s top of the line model.  Trap guns differ from field and skeet guns in several ways and normally shoot higher than their counterparts as the targets are almost always shot on the rise. The most obvious difference is in the stocks. They are normally Monte Carlo style or have an adjustable comb, an adjustable butt plate, or both. Most shooters wear a vest or belt that will hold 25 cartridges with a second pocket for the spent shells. Ammo is limited to shot size NO larger than 7 ½ and velocity of 1290 feet per second maximum allowed. All shooters must wear ear and eye protection, and a hat with a forward facing bill.  All guns must be open (bolts locked back on automatics) and EMPTY when changing stations or leaving the trap field.  At NTSA we have installed on both trap fields a voice release system called a Canterbury System. When turned ON, the target will be released on any audible voice or sound loud enough for the system to detect. (Please take care to turn the system OFF when not shooting or when speaking as this will save targets)


American Trap Shooting, more so than other shooting disciplines, including Olympic "international" trap, develops a certain rhythm to a squad’s timing between shots. The manners of any other squad member(s) can affect the performance of individuals within a squad. Shell catchers are a must for anyone using a semi-automatic, a shell hitting you in the head or arm can certainly disrupt your concentration. Most shooters also carry a few extra shells in case they drop one. It is better not to pick up any dropped shell, or other item, until after the 5th shooter has fired their 5th shot of the station and the squad is about to rotate to the next position. Idle chatting between shots, vulgar calls, and unnecessary movement can be generally disruptive. Things are considerably more relaxed during a practice squad, but one should use some discretion. Commands from the scorer and other shooters are as important to squad timing as the behaviors of the shooters on the squad. To start a squad the shooter start on post One(i/e the Squad Leader) will ask if the squad and puller are ready (usually by calling "Squad ready?" then "Puller ready?"), followed by asking to see one free target, traditionally saying "Let's see one." The scorer will call missed targets with a command of: loss, lost, etc. When the first shooter has fired his final shot of the position the scorer will sometimes call “end” and will command “all change” after fifth shooter has fired his last shot. The shooter on position five then moves behind the rest of the shooters on his way to the first station and will signal when he is ready to the First shooter (Squad Leader) who is now on station two. The standard call for a target is “pull,” but many shooters like to use their own variations of "pull," or words that will help them concentrate on the shot.