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  • Competitive Shooting 101 - Shotgun Sports

    3 min read

    Games and matches involving shotguns can be great fun!  They are completely different than the action shooting matches involving other types of firearms.  If you are interested in shotguns at all, these matches can help you become more confident and comfortable with your shotgun while improving your skill.

    There are three basic types of shotgun matches, trap, skeet, and sporting clays, and these all involve shooting small moving targets called clays (sometimes called pigeons).  These types of shotgun events are meant to simulate actual bird hunting without actual birds.


    You may have seen trap shooting in the Olympics.  Shooters shoot five shots from each of five stations for a total of 25 shots per round.  During this type of match, the shooters are aiming at clay targets that are launched from a single point and fly away from the participants.  Shooters are engaging a moving target but they themselves are not moving.  Trap is a sport that is inviting to many different types of shotgun shooters.  Young and old alike, and in some cases, even those with disabilities can participate in a trap shooting match. 


    When people think of shotgun matches, Skeet is probably the first thing they think of.  Skeet is different than Trap in that the clay pigeons are “thrown” in such a way that they come from either side of the match field and generally cross in front of the shooter.  Like Trap, shooters will shoot from several different stations, although in Skeet there are eight stations.  But also like Trap, the match consists of 25 rounds.  However, the clay targets may come two at a time, Doubles or one at a time, Singles from the target launchers, called houses, or on either side of the field depending on which station the shooter is at.  

    Sporting Clays

    During a Sporting Clays match, the targets may come from a variety of directions for the shooter to engage.  Rather than stations around a match field, shooters walk a scenic course, shooting from 10 to 15 different stations along the course.  In some ways, a Sporting Clays match resembles a golf game but with clays and shotguns.  Sporting Clays more closely parallels an actual bird hunting experience with clays presenting from different types of houses along the course.  A Sporting Clay match is lengthier than either Trap or Skeet.  Usually, shooters form small squads to play the course and shoot up to 10 clays at each station.  The round count for a Sporting Clay match can range between 60 and 100 rounds per person per match.

    Defensive Shotgun Match

    Shotgun matches are not limited to Trap, Skeet and Sporting Clays, action shooting matches such as Defensive Shotgun Matches are becoming popular.  In a Defensive Shotgun Match, stages or tactical scenarios are set up for shooters.  In this type of match, shooters engage various targets, usually steel, while moving from position to position, rather than shooting at clay pigeons flying through the air.  The scenario is meant to roughly simulate using a tactical shotgun in a variety of defensive situations.  The action Defensive Shotgun Match is scored on time and accuracy rather than just hitting the target. 

    Shotgun matches are a great way to become more familiar and better with a shotgun.  Generally, all ages can participate and being a safe shooter is the priority.  To find out more about these types of matches in your area, contact your local gun range.  Shotgun matches are usually held outdoors so an outdoor range may have the best information for you.

    The basic equipment that you will need is a shotgun, appropriate shells, eye protection and hearing protection.  Each match can be a little different so don’t hesitate to contact the match director or staff and ask questions such as the type of shotgun that is best or the type of shotgun shells required.  Also, most match participants are eager to welcome and assist newer shooters so don’t worry about being a new participant.  Just get out there and shoot!

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