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Buying Your First Trap Shotgun

So you want to buy a trap gun? Hmmm, when you look around and see so many shooters buying and selling guns - often selling at a loss from what they paid just to get rid of it - you become confused as to what to buy. Join the club!

Let's demystify the process so you will buy the gun that is right for you... the first time... and save yourself a measure of disappointment, poor shooting scores and money to boot!

The nature of the beast is a trap gun is not like buying a field gun for casual use... it must be custom built to fit you. What this means is you can't simply buy your buddy's gun or snatch one from the dealer's shelf and simply start shooting it. You can, most everyone does, but most everyone can't shoot for beans and this is the #1 prime reason why... their gun's do not fit.

You can not shoot trap effectively (to win large tournaments) if you learn to shoot by conforming to the gun. The gun must conform to you. So you must, after buying your gun, or before the purchase, visit a stock fitter and have the gun altered to fit you. If you are like most shooters, you won't do it. But I hope you will.

You are not interested in shooting registered tournament trap. Don't kid yourself... you will eventually. It may not be this year or next, but you will. I've seen dedicated shooters who have shot for years at the local gun club swear up, down, left and right they

would never, ever, never shoot a registered shoot. Then a miracle happens... I see them at an ATA shoot. So this means two things... First, if you buy the proper gun you will shoot better, have more fun and be able to shoot registered targets when that miraculous day occurs (which it will) and two, you will get more money for the gun when you wish to sell it. Enough said. Lets look at the guns.

Which Is The Best Trap Shotgun To Buy?

The gun that breaks the most targets!

So which gun is that? Could be the gun you own now, with a few modifications to ensure it fits you with tight choke(s) you may have the golden goose and not know it. Let's assume you don't, and you don't even have your first trap gun. Where do I begin?

The autoloader shotgun is arguably the best all-around trap gun for the first-time beginner. The reasons being; The stock is easily adjustable to set point of impact (a critical consideration), the gun can shoot all the games; singles, handicap, double-trap, sporting clays, you name it. One gun for everything. Recoil is lowest and that makes it ideal for everyone, especially the women. The drawback is; autoloaders require extra cleaning and worst of all can jam. In trap shooting singles and handicap you can always fire off one shot so jams is not a concern, but in doubles events you will be penalized and lose if your gun jams a wee too many times... though rules do appear to be changing to forgive such incidents... it will still disrupt the squad and yourself. More moving parts require more maintenance and repairs. The autoloader has a benefit of being a low-recoil gun and that is a very positive feature. Overall, the autoloader is a good first and last choice.

The dedicated single-barrel break-open trap gun is dominate stateside (USA trapshooting). This does not mean it is the best gun to own... it only means it is favored in the states at this time. Though the trend has been long-lasting we are seeing a gradual shift away from these guns to the under & over, but don't get me wrong... the single barrel gun will be dominate stateside for years to come. The drawback is; you have to change to another gun to shoot double-trap as the gun will only fire one round. This requires you must now purchase and setup (fit and adjust point of impact, etc,) another gun in your inventory and learn how to shoot the gun. Now you have a duel learning curve... and that is not a good idea for the average shooter. For the accomplished shooter (there are few professional shooters, believe me) this is not a problem. If everyone sees a Top Gun shoot a single-barrel gun everyone flocks to it. People do the same thing in golf, buy the club the pro uses. That's okay, but is it the best weapon to use? Is it practical? Will it increase your scores?

Yes, it is true that each game, singles, handicap and doubles are separate games and no one can argue the point that to have a specific gun designed for the game to play may be best... it is not practical in the overall sense that the majority of shooters are not so professional they could easily adapt to each gun. Remember, when you change guns you better know how to shoot it because it's not going to shoot like the other one. It will point differently, swing differently, balance and weight will be different and even the shot patterns will be altered, to name a few.

So, for all economy and practical purposes, the single barrel guns should be left to the pros to shoot. When you become professional and can shoot with such accomplishments you can then do what you want to do because you have the inside knowledge and abilities to shoot anything well. Shifting from one gun to another is a problem even for the pros, but they can handle it. Can you? Be honest. Look at your scores.

The point is this. The new or up and coming shooter should be shooting "one gun" not two or three guns. One gun! Not only is this the best and fastest way to learn to shoot, it is the most financially economical. So, all you new shooters out there living paycheck-to-paycheck listen up... you only need one gun! Don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Just talk to some of the pros who shoot for a living and they will tell you the same thing. That old proverb still holds true, "Beware of he who shoots one gun." Daro Handy is living proof of that fact. He shoots a custom modified Remington 1100 autoloader.

Autoloader guns with a shell catcher works fine with single shot targets but will eject the second hull at other shooters during double trap events. This annoys shooters on the squad and if you reload shells you'll have to perform the Easter Egg hunt when finished shooting to retrieve shells and do so quickly so as to beat the dreaded hull thief. At competition shoots you lose the hull. Rules are you can't retrieve them. The autoloader is inherently unsafe to a degree relative to the O&U as it can be a bit more difficult to see if the gun is in fact unloaded when carried. The O&U breaks wide open and there is no chance the gun could accidentally fire.

The over & under trap gun is a fantastic machine and you should give great consideration here to buy one. You can shoot all the games with one gun, as you can with the autoloader, but there are more benefits to the O&U. There is less maintenance due to no moving parts subjected to the pounding forces of recoil (no gas shuttle as in the autoloader and no jamming) You can even take the gun to the sporting clays events and kick-butt with it... many accomplished sporting clays shooters are using trap specified guns now! If a

firing pin fails you can continue shooting singles or handicap with the alternative barrel... two guns in one! They will most certainly break the targets just as hard and fast as a dedicated single-barrel gun. The gun's weight is the same and in some cases less. Recoil is often less due to the mass of the gun and the bore on the bottom barrel is lower. The two shots are fired extremely rapidly as no shuttling time is required which makes it ideal for double-trap, Olympic, wobble or sporting clays, etc., etc. This gun does it all. Maintenance is simply swabbing out the barrel and apply trigger grease once year and that's just about it. Another factor of importance is most all O&U today come with removable chokes so you can customize the shot pattern spread for the game you wish to play. The autoloader can also come with adjustable chokes, but most dedicated single barrel trap guns do not (usually a custom order).

The O&U gun, especially with a high rib and ventilated barrels, greatly reduces heat wave distortions so you can see the target better. You normally shoot the lower barrel on a O&U on handicap targets so the upper barrel acts as a heat sink. Also, the lower barrel is often configured to shoot higher than the top barrel... which makes it ideal for shooting handicap and double-trap. If targets are flying low you can shoot the top flatter shooting barrel to help compensate. If targets are flying high you can use the bottom barrel to raise the point of impact a smidgen and it's all done automatically simply by tossing the selector switch. A bit more flexibility here can come in handy when facing weather related and target setting variations.

Bottom Line On The First Trap Gun To Buy

Take your pick between the autoloader or the O&U. That's the best overall option for the general shooter. This recommendation also considers $ Costs $. Certainly, if money is not an option to you... you can afford to do anything you want buying as many guns as you desire. The O&U and dedicated single-barrel trap gun can have recoil reduced by installing a compression butt-mounted shock absorber device. They work so good you can shoot all day long and never feel any discomfort!

A Word

This recommendation is not to say it is a grave mistake or error to purchase a dedicated single-barrel trap gun. We are recognizing the fact only of economy, practicality and efficiency. You can learn to shoot two-guns. Keep in mind for each new (or used) gun you slide upon your shoulder you will have to fire at minimum 5,000 rounds just to get aquatinted with the gun. It will require 10,000 to become engaged and 15,000 to be married to that gun. The learning curve is intense to shoot a new gun, so be forewarned. Many shooters can't shoot well because they keep changing guns... looking for that magic machine that will take them to the top ranks. It's skill, not the gun to get that job done! Also, by the time you reach these numbers you'll have shot out the gun for it's first round of general maintenance parts replacements so it's important to consider the gun that will last the longest of all. Which brings us back to the O&U again as a good choice gun.

Now some to many shooters stateside will argue with this, but the British / European boys are going to agree that the O&U is the most versatile, reliable and most heavily used guns in that part of the world (which is larger than this stateside part of the planet), and these boys and girls shoot much tougher games than we do over here... and they get the job done with remarkable precision. It's only a matter of time we too will see the light, and it's already happening. More and more shooters are converting to the O&U to shoot American trap... and winning! How slow we are to change, but change will be.

There is a percentage of shooters, (many who just shoot for the money) who only shoot the handicap events and nothing more. In this case... it is highly recommended to purchase the single-barrel trap gun. Autoloader or O&U. Though the O&U can still do the job, the extra barrel and weight is not necessary and the expensive dedicated single-barrel guns can be purchased in a wide array of price ranges.

So, when you really look at the situation, with all things considered, the O&U gun is still the best all-around trap shotgun one can buy for it plays all the games, gets the job done, is highly reliable, requires low maintenance, and most of all... you only need to learn to own and shoot one gun.

Who's Shooting What?

The most popular gun manufactures at this time, particularly in the USA; Browning Citori, Perazzi MX, Remington 90-T, Beretta, Ljutic, Cole Arms, Golden Seitz. In Europe the Browning and Beretta take the lead with Perazzi.

The most popular manufacturers for USA & European shooters - among the beginner shooters (and accomplished shooters) looking for the most features at the lowest cost is Browning. Among the pros the Berretta and Perazzi, and other guns.

Keep in mind that when buying the expensive guns (technically all trap shotguns should be included) these machines are not designed to be purchased off the shelf, but custom ordered to fit with the features desired such as; POI adjustment, length of pull, high/low or adjustable rib, back-bored, lengthened forcing cone(s), trigger pull setting with release or pull trigger, etc., etc.

Written by James Russell, Copyright 1998, Author of "Trap Shooting Secrets" and "Precision Shooting - The Trapshooter's Bible." His Web site is located at


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