The Undeath of Trapshooting

BECAUSE TRAP IS A HIGHLY DEVELOPED ACTIVITY WITH FIRM RULES AND EQUALLY FIRM CUSTOMS, and because trap fields are all identical, a score shot in New York can be compared directly to one shot in San Francisco. This allows national rankings everyone accepts.

It also means that when a school trap team travels to another state to compete, the ranges they find will be completely familiar to them. Home field advantage, such as exists on a sporting clays range, is eliminated. Because schools group their shooters into teams, there is competition to make the team. After that, though, the shooters root for each other when competing against other schools. It’s the best of both worlds.

“Like any other consumer industry, the gun business follows trends, and the emergence of sporting clays in the 1990s was the salvation of shotgun makers that had endured a long dry spell. “

In case you haven’t noticed, one of the changes in sporting clays has been the remarkably rapid evolution of the “sporting” gun, from something resembling a game gun into an exotic and specialized mechanism that makes even a trap gun look austere.

Traditionally, dedicated trap guns are suitable for absolutely no other shooting sport. The classic trap gun is a high-quality, single-barreled gun with a tight choke. They are, and always have been, expensive. Spending money on a high-grade Ithaca or Purdey trap gun showed you were serious. The prize money was significant, and the competitors wore ties.

Trap guns, as a class, have always been exotic and expensive, as fascinating as a Formula One racer. This counts against them a bit at the collegiate level, but you can determine if trap’s your game by starting with any O/U equipped with longish barrels and choke tubes, or even a pump gun. If trap clicks, you can invest in better guns as your interest and knowledge increase.

Collegiate trap shooters of my acquaintance have parents willing to invest in a good trap gun for their offspring, knowing that fine guns hold a big part of their value and can later be traded or sold. So the investment, large though it might be, is temporary. Not all of them shoot Perazzis, but they do shoot Brownings and Berettas, and there’s nothing wrong with those.

Also, one should add, most of the dedicated competitors are the offspring of shooters who either already have a suitable gun, or have no objection to acquiring one. Parents will spend money on their children they wouldn’t dream of spending on themselves. And—a touch of cynicism here—they can inherit the gun when the kid moves on.

Imagine being able to invest in a Blaser F3 with two sets of barrels, merely because you have your little girl’s best interests at heart.

THE DAYS OF FINDING AN ITHICA 6E OR A PARKET TRAP GUN FOR $650 IN A REMOTE CORNER OF ARIZONA ARE LONG GONE. The renaissance of trap isn’t the only reason. The expansion of Internet gun sales has a lot to do with it, and the most obscure gunshop is no longer dependent on random travelers stopping by.

Like any other consumer industry, the gun business follows trends, and the emergence of sporting clays in the 1990s was the salvation of shotgun makers that had endured a long dry spell. As competitors tried to homogenize sporting clays to make scores comparable from one part of the country to another, they adopted the practice of shooting with the gun already mounted—just like trap. Not surprisingly, sporting guns now resemble modern trap guns to the point that, for all practical purposes, they’re interchangeable.

Of course, in sporting clays, the traditional single-barrel trap gun has no place and never will, and a few of us can’t break the habit of stopping at every Guns for Sale sign to see if there’s an Ithaca on the rack, for pennies. There never is, but we keep stopping anyway. You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve found instead.

Wieland’s addiction to trap travels in roughly 10- year cycles, but his love of trap guns is never-ending. Sometimes he even wears a tie.