Beretta Blog

Basics of the Shotgun Games: American 16-Yard Trap

Posted by Bill Miller

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on Jun 29, 2018 9:00:00 AM


Shotgunning’s clay target games are all sports in which young and old can participate and enjoy – for a lifetime. However, to the newcomer, they might be a little bit intimidating. When you show up at the range for the first time, it will probably seem like everyone else knows just what to do and where to go, and you don’t.

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To ease that apprehension a bit, let’s look at how a standard American Trap field lays out and how you move through shooting a round of trap.

The Trap Field

The machine that throws the targets is called “the trap.” So that’s where the game gets its name. In American Trap, there is one thrower. It oscillates randomly left to right 22 ½ degrees to either side of center. When the shooter calls “pull,” the trap throws a target on one of five flight paths. The elevation and speed of the target are consistent except as affected by wind.


Five shooting stations are positioned 16 yards behind the house containing the trap. The center station is located directly behind the center of the trap. Four more stations, each 9 feet apart, are located two to the right and two to the left of the center station.

Looking down on the trap field, the stations are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 from left to right.

On nearly all trap fields today, you’ll find a portable microphone at each station. It’s there to capture your voice when you call “pull,” and tell a computer to cue the trap to launch a target. A scorekeeper, also called a “trapper” is positioned in an elevated seat (sort of like a lifeguard’s chair) behind the line of shooters.

That’s all there is to the basic trap field layout.

Moving Through a Round of Trap

Five shooters (called a “squad”) move to the firing line at once. Each one goes to a shooting station carrying at least 25 shells with them.

Important: keep your gun unloaded and its action open until it is your turn to shoot!!! The most important rule in all clay target sports is you do not load your gun or close the action until it is your turn to shoot! If you follow this rule, then everything else will fall into place.

The shooter on station 1 is Shooter 1. He or she looks down the line to see the other shooters are in position, then says, “Squad ready?” The rest of the shooters verify they are set with a nod or a “yes.”

Then Shooter 1 says, “Trapper ready?” and the scorekeeper verifies he or she is ready.

Finally, Shooter 1 says, “May we see one please?” and the scorer throws a target for everyone to see to verify the trap is working and ready.

It’s important to note that the number of the shooting station on which an individual shooter begins the round is the shooter number that follows him or her throughout the round. The shooter who starts on station 1 is always Shooter 1 for the round. The shooter who starts on station 2 is always Shooter 2 for the round … and so forth.

To begin, Shooter 1 loads his/her gun, prepares for the shot, calls “pull,” and shoots. After the shot, Shooter 2 on station 2 loads, prepares, calls, and shoots. Then Shooter 3 on station 3. Then Shooter 4 on station 4. Then Shooter 5 on station 5.

After Shooter 5 shoots, Shooter 1 repeats, and on down the line.

It goes this way until all five shooters have taken five shots from their starting station. Then the scorer says, “CHANGE!” and reads out the score of each shooter beginning with Shooter 1.

With guns unloaded and actions open, the shooters all move one station to the right, and Shooter 5 – barrel pointed in a safe direction – walks behind the line to station 1.

Once Shooter 1 who is now on station 2 sees everyone is safely in position and ready, he or she loads, preps, calls, and shoots. Then Shooter 2 now on station 3, does the same, and so forth. Once each shooter has fired five shots from their current stations, and the scorer calls, “Change!” all shooters move one station to the right, and Shooter 4 leaves station 5 to advance to station 1. Again the scorer reads the score of each shooter beginning with Shooter 1.

Shooter 1, now on station 3 sees everyone is ready on their new station …and so forth … and so forth.

This goes on until each shooter has fired five shots at each of the five stations, and that completes a “round” which includes 25 shots … which conveniently equals one box of shells!

So wasn’t that easy? It actually sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Just follow the lead of the more experienced shooters and you’ll catch on quickly to the flow.

Again, the most important rule to remember is to ALWAYS KEEP YOUR GUN UNLOADED WITH THE ACTION OPEN UNTIL IT’S YOUR TURN TO SHOOT! That goes for the firing line or anywhere on the grounds of the club.

The next most important rule is to relax and have fun!

Topics: Clay Shooting


Written by Bill Miller

Bill Miller is an outdoor writer/editor who has hunted and/or shot competitively and recreationally in 41 states, 9 provinces, and on 5 continents. While he enjoys all kinds of hunting and shooting, at the core, he's a shotgunner - ever since his youngest days when his parents issued his allowance in shotshells rather than cash. He shoots trap, skeet, sporting clays regularly and has shot the international clays games, FITASC, helice, ZZ bird, live pigeons, StarShot, and more. His writing has appeared in North American Hunter, Delta Waterfowl, Clay Target Nation, Waterfowl & Retriever, Game & Fish Publications, Quebec Outfitters magazine, and many more. He hosted hunting and shooting sports shows on ESPN, espn2, ESPNU, Versus, the Outdoor Channel, FoxSports, Sportsmen's Channel, and Pursuit Channel, He is currently the Executive Editor for - the world's largest media platform for family campers.

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