I’ve been hunting for several years (ducks, geese, dove, etc) and own two shotguns – a Ithaca Mdl 37 Featherlight and a Remington 870 Express (my beat ’em up duck gun). Both guns as you may know are of the pump variety (oh yeah…and of the 12 gauge type). I am thinking of getting into skeet and trap shooting since it’s a season that never closes, but don’t want to plunk out any cash for a new gun right now. My question to you is, is it possible to shoot skeet or trap with a pump gun and is it kosher or will I be laughed off the range? Have you ever heard of or seen any- one do this?
The pump gun action is just fine for trap, skeet and sporting clays too. Pumps are reliable, economical and they have another big advantage- you already own some! Shooting clay targets with your field guns is the best possible way to practice for hunting in the off season.
If you use your 870 for ducks, it probably has a 28″ or 30″ barrel and either screw chokes or a mod and full. This would be fine for trap. Trap targets are always rising (unlike ducks), so you might want to build up the comb height with a bit of moleskin from the foot remedy section of the drug store. I prefer using the silver duct tape to build up stock height because it is a bit easier to “fine tune”. Make sure to just put the tape/moleskin on top, not going down over the side, as you probably don’t want to change that dimension.
Keep putting tape on top of the stock until you can cheek the gun firmly and still see bit of rib in front when you lay a penny on the rearmost part of the rib. For most people this gives about the right elevation for shooting trap. You might personally like it higher or lower. Easy enough to change with just a little more/less tape.
You can also shim the 870’s stock up and down by placing shims (I use “U” shaped pieces cut from plastic shotgun hulls.) in between the head of the stock and the back of the receiver. You cannot raise the stock too much doing this. It depends what you need.
For skeet, my guess is that the Ithaca 37 might be useful. Although the gun was available with all length barrels, the Ithaca is a bit lighter than the 870 and was often used for upland hunting with a shorter barrel. If that is your case, shoot skeet with it just as it is. Any gun that you use for close range upland birds is ideal for skeet. No changes necessary.
You can also use 30″ barrels at skeet if you have screw chokes and can put in an open one. These long barrels are not ideal for skeet, but if that is what you have go at it. Full choke at skeet is going to be tough. The Ithaca Model 37 pump (a John Browning design) was always one of my favorites.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid