Selecting a Shotgun for American Trapshooting

Trapshooting UniversityThis guide does not replace visiting a gun shop or gun smith for proper fitting of a shotgun. Please visit you local sportsman store to fit a shotgun to the shooter.

When getting started in American trap you can use almost any modern shotgun. Follow the range rules for any restrictions. For example, West Chester Gun Club does not allow any guns with a pistol grip or older guns which have a hammer strike the shell. The basic field grade gun from the sporting goods store is perfect to get started with in american trap.

After many rounds through the shotgun you may want to select a target shotgun. This simply refers to a gun which has been set up specifically for one of the clay target sports. Target shotguns will have any of the following options:

  • Longer Barrel Length – 30″ barrels are most common but some shooters like 32″ or 34″
  • Recoil Reducers
  • Barrel porting
  • Adjustable combs or fixed higher combs
  • Adjustable recoil pads
  • Screw-in chokes

Gun Fit

Of most importance when selecting a shotgun is how the gun fits the shooter. Things to consider with gun fit are constant alignment, physical abuse, balance and point of impact.

Constant Alignment

The stock of the shot gun needs to be placed in the exact same position on the shooter’s face and shoulder every time the gun is mounted. The goal here is to have a mounted gun that placed the shooters eye looking down the rib without making forced adjustments thus making the shooters point of impact the same each and every time.

Physical Abuse

There are several causes of physical abuse from the shotgun that need to be accounted for. Length of pull, pitch, drop at the comb can be traced to the gun. Recoil from the shell, the shooters stance and how tightly one holds the gun will further contribute to physical abuse. The symptoms are flinching and general poor performance.

Recoil is caused by the force of the gun moving back into the shooter after firing and is dependent on the weight of the shotgun, the weight of the shot charge (lead & Wad) and the muzzle velocity. The lighter the gun, the heaver the load, and faster the velocity, the higher the recoil will be. Shooters can reduce the felt recoil by proper gun fit, proper mount, proper stance, and other reducers such as recoil pads.
The proper fit of a gun and pre-shot routine is the key to stopping the gun from abusing the user.


the balance of a gun will determine it’s swing characteristics. A trap gun is more butt heavy with a weight distribution of 60/40 in the hands. You can always adjust the balance of a gun with after market additions. You can also work with the services of a shotgun fitter to get a perfect fit.

Point of Impact

The point of impact is where the shot charge is delivered (to the target) in relation to the shooters perceived point of aim. A field gun may have a 50/50 pattern with 50% of the shot delivered above the point of impact and 50% below. Trap shooters typically shoot a higher POI at 70/30 or more. One can change the point of impact by raising their head on the stock or use of adjustable ribs.