Olympic TrapVintage

The Challenge Of Olympic Trap

The Challenge of Olympic Trap by Derek Partridge

The American Shotgunner coverage of recent World Championships and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games in International Clay Pigeon shooting led to the the making of this feature. We invited Derek Partridge, a veteran International shooter for Great Britain, to write a detailed comparison of American trap and International Trap, to help our shooters appreciate the game that is the world standard in Olympic and World Championship shooting.

The bunker is an underground, trench, equipped with 15 traps, divided into 5 groups of 3 traps; each group located 15 meters (16-1/2 yards) in front of the five shooting stations. The shooting stations are in a straight line, not the trap curve. Thrown targets appear at ground level, directly in front of the shooter.
Angles and heights: Each group’s three traps are set to throw a left, right and a relatively straight fixed angle target. The angles span a 90 degree arc (vs. trap’s 45), and are thrown between 15 and 45 degrees left or right of the center mark. The “straight” middle trap spans a 30 degree arc, but normally throws bet- ween 0 and 10 degrees either side of center. The center trap of each group is indicated by a mark on top of the bunker, and the exit points of all three targets should converge under this mark.

Speed and distance: Bunker targets zip out at around 100 mph, approximately twice the speed of trap targets. They must travel 75 meters (plus or minus 5m), which equals bet- ween 77 and 87 yards, vs. 48 – 52 yards for trap (or 55 yds. for ATA’s inappropriately named “International” targets). ATA targets have one fixed height, while bunker targets vary from three feet to 13 feet above the ground, at a point 11 yards in front of the bunker.

The shooting stations are in a straight line, not the trap curve.

The combinations of angles, heights and distances are set from nine schemes supplied by the I.S.U. (International Shooting Union). As each target is set to a different distance between the minimum 77 and maximum 87 yards, each target will vary in speed, averaging between 90-100 mph. Target schemes are changed for each day’s competition, so you always shoot different targets. The computerized distribution box ensures that each shooter gets 10 left, 10 right and five straights (in random sequence), in each round of 25, thus ensuring absolute equality for every competitor. To virtually eliminate slow or fast pulls, microphones (phono- pull) release targets on the shooter’s call.

The Challenge of Olympic Trap by Derek Partridge

Best Guns And Ammo

Guns and speed of shooting: The different distances of first and second shots require the two chokes of an over-and-under. You can’t pump fast enough for a second shot, as most bunker shooters fire both shots (when needed) in less time than most trap- shooters take for one. Center trap targets are shot in .5 – .6 or 5-6/10th of a second, angles .6 – .8, depending on the severity of angle and height; pick-up (second) shots are fired .3 – .4 later. Average time for trapshooters is .9 to 1.1. Automatics occasionally malfunction, and after two malfunctions subsequent targets are declared lost. An overall weight of 8 to 8-1/2 pounds is good. Barrel length can be 30″ or 32″, with improved modified and full a popular combination. Ported barrels are not permitted, so just tape them when shooting bunker.

Recoil: Several top U.S. bunker shooters install one or two recoil reducers, making very butt-heavy guns. Europeans prefer guns to be perfectly balanced or slightly muzzle- heavy, to smooth out the faster swing required for the double-trap-speed bunker targets.

Shells: A maximum 1-1/8 oz. is permitted, but there is no restriction on powder. The world’s master bunker shooters, the Italians, favor 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 dram loads, while the Australian Olympic pair stoically pounded themselves to pulp with four-dram loads in both barrels! While higher dram loads increase pellet velocity, how much do they blow patterns?

Bunker targets are harder (and slightly smaller than trap) to withstand the shock of being thrown at twice the speed, so the harder hitting 7-1/2 shot is preferable to 8. In an improved modified or even modified first barrel, 7-1/2s provide sufficient pattern density for all but the slowest of shooters. What about nickel or copper plated shot? I’ve not seen any evidence that nickel or copper hits any harder… except in your wallet!

Bunker targets zip out at around 100 mph.

But, reloaders should use 6% antimony hardened shot, which is standard in all existing U.S. factory trap loads. While re-loads are not permitted in I.S.U. international competitions, they’re OK for N.R.A. events here, although subject to inspection to ensure they do not exceed 1-1/8 oz.

Basis of Good Shooting

Stance: The basis of good shooting is in how you stand. Some trap shooters adopt strange, exaggerated, uncomfortable and contorted stances. What does it achieve to stand any way other than naturally and comfortably? Just bring the gun to the shoulder and head – don’t lower your head onto the comb, that’s a prime invitation to head-lifting, which causes more misses than all other reasons combined! While it is possible to get away with strange stances at trap, the double speed/angle/height combination of bunker makes it far more critical, with a minimal margin for error. For instance, moving the head up or sideways just one quarter of an inch… will put the pattern about nine inches off… quite enough to ensure a miss.

Remember there’s a wide 90-degree target zone to cover, so position your body so you can swing to both sides with equal comfort and ease. Should both legs be locked straight… both knees broken… or the front knee broken and the back leg straight? All three styles can be found among the world’s top bunker shooters. Just keep more weight on the front foot and let the whole body flow to the target.

Where to hold: Although a few U.S. bunker shooters do it, trapshooting’s high hold above the trap house is not generally recommended, as extreme angle, low targets can slip out unseen under a high gun. It’s better to hold just below the center mark and then really look for the target 10 to 12 yards in front of the bunker. The American Shotgunner recently featured an excellent book on the use of the eyes by Dr. Wayne Martin, O.D., entitled “An Insight to Sports- Featuring Trapshooting.”

Timing and sight picture: It’s not possible to consistently hit bunker targets using sustained lead or the slower “tracking” movement generally used for trap. The speed of bunker targets requires a positive, instinctive move to be made directly into and sweeping through the target. Holding under or “floating” the target may result in missing below or behind, and very few bunker shooters use this technique. The gun should be moving fast enough so the natural lead or follow-through is created by the speed of the swing, rather than its being “calculated.” On the other hand, don’t be panicked by these fast targets and rush your shot; this will cause a jerky movement and, like deliberate shooting, spot shooting cannot be consistently successful either. It’s difficult to describe the “right” timing; shoot as fast as is natural and comfortable, incorporating controlled aggression, but without pushing yourself to shoot too fast. The first look is the best look, so don’t wait to be sure you’re there.

The speed of bunker targets requires a positive, instinctive move to be made directly into and sweeping through the target.

Two shots are allowed at each target, and bunker shooters fire at chips after a first-shot break. This serves as practice for pick-up shots and helps to keep the head down and ensure follow-through. Don’t be in a hurry to shoot, the pace of bunker shooting is slower than trap, and such intense concentration is essential. From the time the shooter on your left has fired, you have 15 seconds to make your shot. Unlike trap, you don’t shoot 100 targets, going directly from one field to another. Due to the much higher cost of bunkers vs. traphouses, clubs here have one to three bunkers, meaning waits of one to three hours between each round. In international matches, 200 targets are shot over three days: 75, 75 and 50.

Some Shooting Rules

Shooting procedures: Squads comprise six shooters and you move to the next shooting station after each shot. However , you may not move off your shooting station until the next shooter (to your right) has completed firing, so as not to disturb him. Your gun may not be closed until it is the turn of the shooter before you (on your left). When you move around the back of the line from station five to one, your gun must be completely unloaded and open.

Broken targets and no-birds: Repeat targets must be from the same trap to preserve the equal distribution of targets for each competitor. As traps take a moment to reload, take your gun down and wait until the referee calls “Ready!”

Malfunctions: Do not open your gun or touch the safety, or it will be declared a lost target. Remain with your gun pointing downrange until the referee comes to inspect it. If you miss a target first shot and the gun malfunctions on the second, you must miss the repeat target with the first shot and try to kill it with the second. If you break the target first shot, it’s lost. Remember that after the second malfunction in any round, subsequent targets are declared lost. Leaving the safety off or failing to load also results in a lost target. Rule books can be obtained from the International Competitions Division of the N.R.A.

The Challenge of Olympic Trap by Derek Partridge

The bunker’s 15 traps, in five groups of three.

Finding a Bunker

Where can you shoot bunker? Prior to the 1984 Olympics, there were just five bunker layouts here (three on military bases), making America just about the world’s worst equipped nation for Olympic Trap shooting. Italy has over 600 layouts, equipped with one to eight bunkers, while Japan has more than 300 layouts. It seems the Olympic Games sparked some interest in bunker shooting, as six new layouts have since been constructed or planned.

If there isn’t a bunker nearby, look for a wobble trap, known also as a Continental, and hope it meets the requirements…

Some credit for this must go to former U.S.A.F. and U.S. Team Member Wally Zobell of Jackson, Montana who started importing Rossini Olympic traps. Liano Rossini is an Olympic Gold and Silver medalist, whose family has been making traps and targets for several generations. Their bunker equipment is the most competitively priced and more reliable and trouble-free than any other I know. Since 1952, over 100 Rossini layouts have been installed in 21 countries. The existing bunker layouts are located at: Fort Benning, Georgia (the Army’s two bunkers); Quantico, Virginia (Marines); Lackland, Texas (Air Force); San Antonio, Texas (three bunkers); Renton, Washington; Chino, California (Prado Tiro’s three-bunker Olympic Games layout); Martinez, California (just renovated and brought into line with LS.U. standards); San Diego, California; Missoula, Montana; Jackson, Montana; Chapel Hill, New Jersey and Swedesboro, New Jersey. Beretta is supposed to be installing a bunker outside Washington, DC.

If there isn’t a bunker nearby, look for a wobble trap, known also as a Continental, and hope it meets the requirements of its official name: LS.U. Automatic Trap. It’s easier than bunker, as all targets go the same distance, which can be set anywhere between the 77 yard minimum and the 87 yard maximum. As the single machine is in constant vertical and horizontal motion, releasing (hopefully by microphone) targets at random angles and heights, you don’t get the fair and equal distribution of bunker targets. There is a tendency for the majority of targets to exit towards the middle of the 90-degree arc, whereas at bunker, the majority of targets tend to be the more extreme angles.

The Competitive Edge

Mental preparation: I haven’t covered this, as it’s another article, but exceptional concentration and mental preparedness are essential to shoot 100 mph, 90 degree, varied-height, computer-programmed bunker targets! To exemplify the challenge of Olympic Trap: the Russians describe bunker shooting as “The Marathon of Nerves,” drawing analogies between the physical effects on the marathon runner and the effects on the shooter’s nervous system. Jackie Stewart, triple Formula One World Motor Racing Champion and former British Olympic Trap Champion has always contended that bunker shooting is harder than motor racing!

The Challenge of Olympic Trap by Derek Partridge

Bunker shoot in progress. Note roof of bunker flush with ground.

Some Top Shooters

American shooters have numbered among the world’s best, but all these fine performances were by military shooters: Ken Jones (USAF), World Gold; Bill Morris (Army), Tokyo Olympic Bronze; Tom Garrigus (USAF), Mexico Olympic Silver; Jim Beck (Army) and Ray Stafford (Army), both World Bronze medalists; Hugh Bowie (Army), World Silver; Don Haldeman (Army), Montreal Olympic Gold. Terry Howard (USAF) once won the U.S. Championship with a record 299/300.

Trapshooters will recognize top ATA winners among these bunker champions, especially Ray Stafford, former U.S. Olympic Trap Champion and 1968 Olympic Games Trap Team. Ray wanted to tryout for the 1984 Olympic Team. The N.R.A. denied him entry to the 1984 U.S. Championships and Final Tryouts, because he had not attended a Preliminary Tryout to qualify with a 170 (B class) score, nor had he been a member of a U.S. Team in the preceding 10 years (even though he had tried out for and made the U.S. Team four times; had tied for the 1970 World Championship with the World Record score of 197; and had broken another World Record with a 298 in 1969!).

Ex-Army shooter Dan Carlisle is in a class by himself: not content with tying for the 1982 World Olympic Trap Championship, he also took the ’82 World I.S.U. Skeet Title! In 1983 he shot the world’s sixth bunker 200 straight at the Pan American Games. He tied for the 1984 Olympics Trap title, taking the Bronze. This year his unique feat was to win both the U.S. Olympic Trap and I.S.U. Skeet Championships, while his wife Terry won the Women’s World I.S.U. Skeet Title. I believe Connie Tomsovic is the only civilian shooter to win a bunker world title, taking the Women’s World Championship in 1983. It would be great to see more civilians having the honor of representing the U.S.A. and winning medals.

This article was written by Derek Partridge and originally published in The American Shotgunner, January 1986 issue. Republished with permission. Photography by Don Voight and Derek Partridge.

Olympic Trap match in action (Finals Trap Men – ISSF World Cup Final in all events 2014, Gabala, AZE).