International Skeet


Hiya Technoid-

I was wondering if you could fill me in on the International game. Are there any major shooters that have gone to autoloaders or is it still basically an O/U club? Is there any inherent disadvantage to using an autoloader for International?

The reason I ask is that I have been seriously considering a move from my Beretta O/U to a 390 as I have just plain found that I shoot the 390 better. So far, however, all of my 390 endeavors have been on the sporting clays course, not on the skeet field.

Also, having recently taken up International and enjoying the heck out of it, what is the best way to get involved in shooting registered shoots. I have been to the NSSA website and, while they make it a point of mentioning that they have an “International Division”, they do not provide any specific info about it or how to get registered, where to find shoots, etc.

Any response would be greatly appreciated.

Justin

Dear Justin,

I shot IntSk from 1972 through 1988 when I decided to hang it up and get a life. I took IntSk pretty seriously and flew all around the country. I competed in the ’76, ’80 and ’86 Olympic trials. I never made the team but finished in the top ten at the team trials often enough to give me hope for the next time. I was just never good enough to consistently beat guys like World Champions Matt Dryke, Dan Carlisle and Bill Clemmons. It is always tough to shoot against men who are just plain flat out better shooters than you are, though if you catch them at the right moment, miracles can happen. I also spent a couple of summers coaching IntSk at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to try to give something back to the sport which had been so good to me.

After about four years in the game, I switched from a Browning B-25 O/U to a Remington 1100 trap gun with a skeet barrel. My scores immediately jumped. Then we were using the 32 gram loads, not the 24 gram loads of today, so the gas gun made a huge difference. At that time, Dan Carlisle was at the US Army Marksmanship Unit along with Matt Dryke (IntSk Gold in 1984 in LA). Matt shot a 3200, but Dan always shot an 1100 with a trap stock. Dan’s main game was trench (bronze in ’84), but he was also world champion in IntSk with that 1100. I believe that he is the only guy who ever became World Champion in ISU trench and skeet. Most of the ranked shooters used O/Us then and even more of them do now.

Things in IntSk have changed in two big way since I was shooting. The 24 gram loads are now so light that recoil isn’t an issue and there are doubles at all stations. Both of these changes work against the gas gun in in favor of the O/U. There is no recoil to worry about any more and malfunction become more of a problem with so many doubles. My 1100s were well maintained and suffered about 3 malfunctions per 1000 targets. Since you ALWAYS have a second gun on the field anyway, it never bothered me. I can’t think of any time my 1100s cost me a bird.

Today IntSk isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be. IntSk was always the “cowboys'” game and now they have mostly gone to sporting clays, at least on the civilian side. This leaves the “accountants” in AmSk and AmTrap. These terms aren’t pejoratives, just descriptions based on my personal observations of the games over the years. IntSk, Olympic Trench and sporting clays are still, for the most part, games of “hits”. AmSk and AmTrap are strictly games of “misses”, though the difficult 27 yard handicap game, doubles and 410 skeet might qualify as “hits” games. 16 yard trap and the first three skeet gauges are definitely “misses” games. As to whether or not you prefer the thrill of a “hits” game or the elusive perfection of a “misses” game, is up to you. Both types of games have their advocates and neither has a monopoly on good shooting athletes.

As to whom to contact about IntSk in the US, several years ago the NRA was stripped of its Olympic governance of US Team selection due to their constant violation of the athlete support rules they had agreed to. It was the rifle shooters who finally got fed up and pressed their case with the USOC. Shotgunners had been trying to do this for years, but there were never enough shotgunners to matter.

The NSSA’s game is American-style skeet, not the Olympic event. The NRA always used to handle IntSk. The NSSA has always given lip service to IntSk, but never really done too much about it. I think that it is included in one of their “all around” shoots, but am not sure. I wouldn’t be far from the truth if I said that they recognize the game, but don’ t really actively promote it. I have no argument with that at all. The NSSA was built around American-style skeet and there it is. The ATA has even less to do with Olympic trap.

A newly formed Olympic governing body, “USA Shooting” (719-578-4670) at One Olympic Plaza,Colorado Springs, CO 80909, now represents and selects our Olympic shooting teams. Though small and relatively poor, USA Shooting is made up of competitive shooters and really does have the competitor’s best interests at heart. The NRA has cut off all its support for our Olympic shooting teams (or at least I am unaware of any) and USA Shooting really doesn’t have a lot of money, but they are hanging in there trying to produce Olympic contenders. As a consequence, the US teams rely heavily on the Marksmanship Units of the Air Force and Army.

The Olympic team selection has been changed from the old days of one giant five day trials, winner take all, to a series of team selection trials culminating in a National Championship. In order to be eligible for the US team, you have to attend a number of these trials. This is both good and bad. In theory, it produces shooters on the team who are consistent rather than “streaky”. Unfortunately, it also virtually eliminates most civilians from contention as one has to remain in training the year around. Not only is this tough if you live in the northern half of th US, but this also precludes having a real life, like a job which actually earns some money and supports you. This is to the advantage of the service teams as it eliminates much of the civilian competition. This isn’t a knock on our service shooters. It is just a fact. If it weren’t for the dedication of the service teams, we wouldn’t do as well a we do. On the brighter side, the US Olympic Training Center now does have far more facilities for resident athletes in training than it used to. If a qualified civilian can take time off from his career, he can be a resident shooter at the USOTC. This doesn’t help many civilians, but it is of a great help to a few.

In partial consequence of this team selection trial structure (and also due to the attractions of sporting clays), civilian participation in International Skeet has fallen precipitously and it has become mostly a game for the Military marksmanship units and a very few supported civilians. As a “popular” game, it has virtually disappeared and is now about as rare as Olympic Trench is. If games go in cycles of popularity, IntSk in the US would be at low ebb right now. It’s a shame. It is a great game and very, very demanding. It is truly a world competitive sport. I remember watching Sikhs in turbans compete in IntSk in the ’76 Montreal Olympic games. It was great and really made me feel part of an international brotherhood. Sometimes I had to remind myself that IntSk was the skeet game that the rest of the world played.

It is ironic that, at a time when the game is in low ebb, one of the biggest problems we had as IntSk shooters has now been overcome. When I was playing the game, most of the traps were the old Winchesters. The IntSk target is thrown about 50% faster than the AmSk bird is. Cranking the Winchester machines up that high would start them hemorrhaging. Range owners were VERY reluctant to turn their machines up for us and we were constantly fighting to get a field to practice on. Today, there are far more Beomats and other foreign machines in use. These were originally designed for the fast Olympic target and handle them with ease. At my club, we have Beomat skeet machines and they wind up to IntSk speed with just the addition of a couple of spacers behind the spring. It takes two minutes and they throw great targets, even with the soft ones we get here in the US.

If you want to know more about IntSk, contact USA Shooting at the number above and join this Olympic sponsoring organization for a modest fee. Their magazine has all the Olympic shooting events shoot dates across the country. The US Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, GA may still have open clinics and always welcomes civilian participation at their shoots. I am sure that you can get in touch with them through information. You may also be able to get some training time in at the USOTC if you ask around and have talent.

Now as to switching from the Beretta O/U to the Beretta 390, by all means do it if you feel more comfortable with the 390. The 390 is a more reliable gun than the 1100 ever was. Like you, I like the long single sighting plane of the gas gun. If you shoot the 390 better, definitely do it. The 390 has the advantage of having a micro adjustable stock so that you can achieve perfect gun fit. You won’t see too many others out there with automatics, but perhaps you will get them to switch when you take your place on that center podium, put your hand over your heart and listen as they play our national anthem.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <www.ShotgunReport.com>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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