(Author’s note: My original article on Double Trap  was published in the July 2004 issue of Trap & Field. Much has happened since then, and we have learned a lot more about how to shoot and teach the game, so I thought now would be a good time to revisit the topic.)


There are two variations of Olympic or International Trap: Trap, in which a single target is thrown from one of the three traps in front of each of the five shooting stations; and Double Trap, in which a pair of targets is thrown simultaneously from two of the three center traps.

The center trap (No. 8) throws a dead straightaway target to a height of 3.5 meters above the roof of the bunker measured 10 meters out. Trap 7, the left one, throws a target up to 5° to the left, while Trap 9, the right one, throws its target up to 5° right. Each are three meters high measured 10 meters out. All targets travel 55m (60.5 yards); that works out to about 50 mph on the radar gun. ATA doubles targets are thrown to a distance of between 44 and 51 yards and to a height of between eight and 12 feet (nine being recommended), 10 yards from the house, with an angle of not less than 34°.

There are three different schemes or patterns that determine which two of the three center traps are used. Scheme A employs Traps No. 7 and 8, B uses No. 8 and 9, and C throws from No. 7 and 9.

A built-in delay of up to one second is used between the call for the target and the traps’ release. This variable delay plus the fact that the traps are set one meter apart and the shooting stations are in a straight line (with only the No. 3 station being directly behind the active traps) produces a very difficult game.

Double Trap is shot in the same basic sequence as ATA doubles; that is, a right-hand shooter will shoot the right target first on stations 1, 2 and 3 and the left target first on stations 4 and 5. A left-handed shooter will shoot the right target first on stations 1 and 2 and the left target first on stations 3, 4 and 5. Sometimes for Station 3, both right- and left-hand shooters will switch the sequence in order to shoot the straightaway target first.

Choke selection is similar to ATA doubles and not as important as might be thought. Anything from improved cylinder to modified in the first barrel and modified to full in the second will get the job done. As in other trap disciplines, most of the better shooters tend toward tighter chokes.

Because the angles are shallow, many shooters prefer 32˝ barrels, opting for control and pointability over speed. There is also a recent trend toward high ribs, which sometimes extend over only the front half of the barrel and which the users believe give them a quicker and better look at the first target.

As in International Trap, there are six shooters on the squad. You shoot your target, and after the shooter on your right shoots, you move to his station. Shooter 5 rotates to Station 6 and then Station 1 after his shot. Once the match starts, it continues uninterrupted until over. A match usually consists of 25 pairs from each of schemes A, B & C, which totals 150 targets. The six highest-scoring shooters go to a final round, consisting of 25 pairs from Scheme C.

Since women’s Double Trap has been eliminated as an Olympic event, women Double Trap shooters are no longer supported by USA Shooting, although overseas and in World Cups the event is still shot. This event’s elimination is a shame as Olympic women’s Double Trap had a distinctly American perspective because Californian Kim Rhode medaled in each of the three Olympics in which it was contested: gold in 1996, bronze in 2000 and gold again in Athens in 2004.

The most effective technique for Double Trap is a little different than may be expected. The foot position and natural point of aim for a right-handed shooter is set for the break point of the first target on stations 1, 2 and 3 plus the second target on stations 4 and 5. That is the right-hand target. So a right-handed shooter sets his feet for the right-hand target at every station. A left-hander wants to set up for the second target on stations 1 and 2 and the first target on stations 3, 4 and 5; that is the left-hand target. So a left-hand shooter sets up for the left-hand target.

It is terribly important to watch the targets of the shooters preceding you and to get the line of the target down pat. Then the shot must be planned. Everything is dependent upon how efficiently the first target is broken.

During the pre-shot routine, the break point for the first target is selected and pointed at with the gun. Then the visual focus and gun are brought back down the line of the target and slightly below that line to establish the hold point where the gun will wait to anticipate the target. Then visual focus is removed from the gun and brought farther back down the target line toward the bunker to establish the look point, somewhere between the gun and the front edge of the bunker where the target is most easily and readily seen. About halfway is a good place to start.

Exact placement of the hold point and look point varies for each shooter and can be learned only through experience, but there are some guidelines.

The best techniques break the first target with a minimum of gun movement, so the hold point is relatively high, with the gun roughly parallel with a line from shooting station to bunker roof. The target is shot with a decreasing maintained lead. The target never gets to the gun. This is not a spot-shot, but gun movement is minimal. It is what Army Marksmanship Unit shotgun coach Dean Clark calls a controlled ambush. Immediately after the shot, the eyes must go to the second target, and the gun will follow.

Soft visual focus on the look point (target acquisition point) is an absolute necessity. Proper selection of the look point is also crucial to consistent scores. Soft focus, proper selection of look point, and pausing before calling the target (sometimes called “Quiet Eye”; see last month’s article) will allow the eyes’ peripheral vision to function as intended and lead your macular or central vision (which tracks and shoots the target) to the target in the most efficient and consistent manner.

Because the angles are very shallow—5° on schemes A and B and only 10° on C—there is a great tendency to power the gun on past the second target. Many good shooters intentionally stop the gun on the second target before firing, especially on stations 2, 3 and 4.

Double Trap is the most difficult of the Olympic clay target games. This is easily demonstrated by the fact that the minimum qualifying scores needed to shoot in the Olympics are lower for Double Trap then for International Trap and Skeet. No perfect score (150x150) has ever been shot in either USSF or USAS registered Double Trap competition.

Double Trap is the newest of the Olympic clay target games, becoming a medal sport in 1996. The rules for Double Trap have been in transition, the up-to-one-second delay having been introduced only in 2003. As a result, the doctrine and training techniques are still being developed; however some constants are appearing. Here is how I see it.

Double Trap is a lot like shooting pool. It is not so much putting the ball in the pocket as where you leave the cue ball to set up the next shot. As assistant national shotgun coach B. J. McDaniel once said of a successful pool shooter, “Well, of course he ran the table—he had all easy shots.”

Double Trap is learned in three stages. 1) learn to break the first bird; 2) learn to break the second bird; and 3) learn to break the first bird in a way and in a place that makes it easy to break the second bird. That’s where the good scores come from.

The elements are as follows:

 absolute concentration and identification of the line of the first target from each station;

 the precise selection of the target break point, the gun hold point and the visual look point (that allows the first target to be broken with minimal gun movement and in a place that allows a smooth transition from first target to the second target);

 after the first shot, the eyes must go to the second target before the gun moves; in other words, the eyes must lead the gun. This gun movement must also be a minimal one to prevent the gun carrying on past the second target and causing the shooter to miss beyond (where 80% of misses occur).

Because you know exactly where you want to break both targets, imaging, visualization or mental rehearsal during the preshot routine works very well in Double Trap.

Holding down on the roof of the bunker and chasing the first target will never yield good scores. It takes up too much time. The second target will be falling before you get to it. And it builds up too much muzzle speed, so you will blow through the second target and shoot beyond it.

Many shooters will hold a high gun but still track the target a short way before shooting, and that method sometimes works well when there is a gentle incoming breeze that holds up the targets. But if the wind is erratic or from behind, even that method takes too much time. The first target must be shot from in front; it cannot be allowed to reach the gun. It is hard for trapshooters to learn to find the line of the target from in front—they are used to chasing the target down from behind. However, if you are going to be successful in Double Trap, it is a skill you must learn. Skeet shooters who are trained in maintained or sustained lead come to it naturally.

Minimal and efficient gun movement on both the first and second targets is the key to good scores. The actual gun movement is not the smooth swing and follow-through universally taught by shotgun instructors and coaches, but is actually more of a poke-poke or jab-jab, with very limited lateral movement. Looping to the second target is no longer recommended.

Double Trap is a great game. It is a technique rather than a reflex game. The doctrine is still being developed. Because it requires only three traps, it is a lot less expensive to build this layout than a full 15-trap bunker is. Several Olympians, including Kim Rhode, have trained on a three-trap bunker. It is a great place to start kids in the Olympic clay target sports because at national-level matches, there are about one-third the number of Double Trap shooters as there are Trap shooters. That is a lot fewer people to compete with to get to the podium.

For a young male shooter, Double Trap is an open avenue for advancement.





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