Trapshooting, an incredibly well-liked sport in the state of Oklahoma, originated back in the 18th century; it was well-established in England by the 1790s. The first recorded trapshooting event in the United States, however, took place in Cincinnati in 1831. 

“The game started out shooting glass balls,” says Jeff Trayer, the Amateur Trapshooting Association Delegate for Oklahoma. Although live targets were used for a time, they have been mostly replaced now. Clay discs were introduced in 1880, with other disciplines like skeet shooting and sporting clays. After Jay Graham became the first American to win a gold medal for doubles trap, John Phillip Sousa decided to form the Amateur Trapshooting Association and served as its first president. 

“Trapshooting was the first target shooting sport, and still by far the largest shotgun sport,” says Trayer. 

The three types of trapshooting all have different set ups for the shooter. In regular trapshooting, targets are launched from one machine away from the shooter. With skeet shooting, targets are launched from two machines in sideways paths that will eventually intersect. Lastly, sporting clays is a much more complex version often called “golf with a shotgun” because of the multiple shooting stations laid out over a course. 

Oklahoma has a variety of locations to practice and join competitions. Tulsa Gun Club has trap, skeet and clay shooting ranges, as well as archery and regular firearms. The Shawnee Twin Lakes Trap Club has a variety of targets at which to fire, up to 100 or ‘pay by the clay.’ 

Along with a plethora of tournaments held year round, the club also offers lessons from Greg Merlyn, a self-taught, former competitive trap shooter. He works with newcomers, parent and child duos, club shooters and even for corporate entertainment events. 

There are three categories to choose from for trapshooting: singles, doubles and handicap. The targets are thrown by machines at ground level. For singles and doubles, there are five stations, 16 yards away. In singles, competitors shoot at five targets from each station. The machines move back and forth and fire at different arcs, which the competitor does not know beforehand. 

In doubles, the machine does not move, but shoots two targets at the same time. Each competitor fires at five pairs from each station. 

For handicap, the machine operates the same as singles, but shooters stand further away. The rules also specify that shotgun gauges larger than twelve are not allowed. 

Trapshooting Terminology

Broken target: A target that comes out in pieces is declared “no target” and another is thrown. 

Call: The signal given by the shooter to release the target. Usually the word “pull” is said.

Dead: A target that is broken by the shooter.

Field: The entire layout of the trap and shooting positions.

Junior: Any shooter under the age of 18.

Lost: A target that is missed completely or only dusted.

Pair: The two targets fired simultaneously during doubles.

Senior veteran: Any shooter who is 70 or older.

Squad: A group of shooters, up to five, who shoot together at one trap in rotation.

Straight: The breaking of all targets in an event.

Previous articleThe Good Kind of Tears
Next articleScooting Safely