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The following is reprinted with the permission of the author, James Russell. Mr. Russell has helped thousands improve their shooting with his wonderfully informative books and tapes. We will continue to bring you new tips from Mr. Russell, so keep coming back and start shooting better.
Books by James Russell: Trap Shooting Secrets Precision Shooting

14 TRAP SHOOTING LESSONS

  The lessons herein are for competition trap shooters.  Apply each lesson per weekend of practice shooting or apply these tips whenever you attend a registered shoot.

 

  1. Inspect your gun and clothing.  Make sure no gun settings have changed, point of impact, comb, buttplate, etc.  The shoulder padding on your shooting vest can imperceptibly alter the length of pull over time creating shoulder-crouching and a misalign swing.  Wear the same shoes you use in competition as you do in practice.   Wearing different shoes can alter your stance by adding or detracting height that will alter your gun hold point and defeat learned muscle memory.  Inspect your shooting glasses.  Prescription lenses should be updated yearly for corrections.
  2. Before you shoot, take a ten second visualization of calling for the target swinging smoothly and seeing a perfect sight picture and the target exploding with authority.   Visualization is a powerful technique professionals in all sports disciplines use to reach perfection.  It is instructing the mind what the desired result is to be; a command to perform to maximum ability.  If you miss a target?  Replay the shot by visualizing a perfect shot, so you won't miss the next target.
  3. Watch the prior squad's targets, tracking them smoothly with your eyes before you shoot.   This will stimulate your eye muscles to focus your vision and prevent lazy eye syndrome on the first trap you shoot.  It will successfully import target behavior patterns to your subconscious mind increasing performance.
  4. Observe the concentricity of the trap house in relation to the station posts.  The trap house should be centered as observed from post #3.  This is one of the trap shooting secrets professional shooters are fully aware of and many shooters are not.   It results in shooting traps perfect and then blunder on the misalign traps into a losing score.  To the discerning eye and with experience you'll discover the trap house and the stations are slightly out of alignment.  The trap house may be shifted to the left or right of the stations.  Adjust your stance position otherwise the target will exit at a strange angle and you will miss the target.  If the house is shifted left, adjust your foot placement a bit left so you are standing square to the trap house.  Do not shift your gun or upper body left or right to compensate, shift your stance so your swing will remain in perfect alignment.  This one tip alone will serve to gain you many high scores!  
  5. Before shooting a competition beware of the practice trap!  Amazingly, these traps are not always set to competition settings and may throw soft slow targets and targets with a solid face.  The traps can be out of alignment too.  It is good to warm up at a practice trap, but only if you are aware that the event traps you shoot may throw faster targets and targets with shallow razorblade angles.
  6. Look at your targets before you shoot them!  In competition shooting events walk to your assigned traps to detect targets traveling in variations from trap to trap.   Trap one could be perfect, but trap two the targets may be flying lower or higher, left or right of normal.  This is caused by improper trap alignment or settings.   Setting can be changed to throw a legal target, but alignment cannot be changed at this time.  Compensate by adjusting your gun and eye hold positioning on the trap house. Reading these two books Trap Shooting Secrets and Precision Shooting - The Trap Shooter's Bible will give you detailed instructions to compensate and resolve many trap shooting problems.   
  7. Have a sense of inner authority within when you step on post.  Be confident and assured that your visualization exercise will come to pass.  If in doubt, visualize again right now the target exploding.  Stand firmly with confidence and control holding the gun with absolute authority.  When it is your turn to shoot, shoulder the gun with intimate authority so you and the gun feel as one unit.  It is important to feel the gun as being a part of you, not just an object in hand.  You and the gun are now one and the gun can not do anything without your command.
  8. To solidify this one on one connection with the gun, control cheek pressure to the comb.   This pressure must be felt to obtain shot consistency.  If you apply too little or too much cheek pressure the eye/rib alignment will be altered resulting is hit and miss shooting; shooting above or below the target.  Cheek placement must also be consistent.  If your cheek is placed a tad to the left or right will allow the gun to shoot away from the target you see; shooting to the left or right. You now have learned that seeing the target and eye/bead alignment can be dead on, yet you can still miss the target all due to improper cheek pressure and placement. Feeling cheek / comb pressure is extremely important to maintain proper eye/rib alignment and for repeatable accurate shots!
  9. Pay attention to the squad rhythm.  Is it fast, slow, smooth or choppy?   Mentally you must make adjustments to your own setup pacing, not alter your set up timing, but to be "aware" that an irregular squad's timing can sneak into your setup forcing you to hurry up.  A fast shooting squad should be avoided.  If you can't avoid it, then make sure you maintain your own internal and external timing.   forget about everyone else and just start your timing factor when the prior shooter calls for the target.  This will reset your setup timing to remain consistent.   A slow and sloppy squad's timing can be managed only when you are aware of the problem.  Those who feel there is no problem will drop targets!  Watching a shoot off you will see good shooters miss targets due to unfamiliar squad timing altering the shooter's normal set up and timing.  Awareness is concentration.
  10. . Do not focus or mentally respond negatively to distractions.  Gun jams, misfires, background noise is all part and parcel to the game.  The moment you allow yourself to be distracted your score will suffer.  Learn to block out distractions by listening and observing them, then they will no longer be distractions, just normal sounds and events.
  11. . Pay attention of where the shooters on your squad are breaking the targets.  If the shooters are breaking them quickly, be careful.  If they are breaking them at strange or irregular distances from the trap, be careful.  What's the point here?  Know that the squad can have a powerful influence on a shooter that is not totally focused on natural timing factors.  Maintaining control of your set up and where you normally break the target must be maintained.  If you slip here you'll be influenced by the squad and start breaking targets sooner or later than you usually do.   Lost targets will result.
  12. . Control your breathing.  Take a relaxed deep breath prior to calling for the target.  Incorporate this into your set up routine.  Oxygen supplies a burst of energy to the eyes which will allow you to see the target sooner and with increased clarity.  It also helps to calm the mind and body.  Controlled breathing will help you whenever you become tense. 
  13. . Raise your eyebrows just before or when you call for the target.  If you look in the mirror you may see your eyelid covering the iris of your eye.  This happens to a severe degree when under stress when the forehead tenses and compresses downward like when you are shooting your last trap or in a stressful shoot off.  Twenty percent of light gathering vision can be lost.  Vision reduction will make the targets appear dim and fast flying with trailing comet tails and will create a surprising number of missed targets.  Eyes wide, than call.  You will see an improvement in your shooting performance and whenever you are under tension if you incorporate the technique in your practice sessions now.
  14. . Control emotions.  The target you are shooting is only a target  you have obliterated many times before.  Place no association on the target assuming it has more value than all the other targets you have shot today.  This means no counting targets.  No mental imaginations of winning or losing if you can only hit this target.  If you miss a target, learn to reset your mind that the miss never happened.   This will help you avoid making corrections in a registered shoot.  Flush the mind of emotion and shoot like a machine using the same precision techniques you learned in practice.  Everyone misses targets.  It just happens.  Accept it.   Overcorrecting leads to experimentation and more targets unnecessarily lost.

  This concludes the 14 Trap Shooting Lessons article.  There's a lot more to building precision shooting techniques and you will find them in our professional trap shooting books.