Gee-where does one start in selecting an entry level trap shotgun? I am 5’4″ , medium framed and from what I have read I probably should select a gas operated gun. I tried a 20 ga. Remington pump and while I liked the gun the small pattern of the load I used didn’t give me much success.
If I purchase a new gun what barrel length do you recommend? How can I have the gun fitted to me? Any help or direction would be very much appreciated.
I have a couple of publishing deadlines coming up, so I am forwarding your message to “Lonestar”, our lady trap shooting columnist. She flat out knows her stuff and will give you far better answers than I can. Besides, she can pass the physical.
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)
I suppose a start would be to ask what you like to shoot – do you want to shoot SIngles and handicap alone, or do you want to shoot all three events?
For openers, you should have a 12 ga. gun. Although smaller gauges are not illegal in trap competition, you need all the BBs out there you can get and it doesn’t make sense to handicap yourself right off the bat.
You are about my size, so your barrel length should be 30″ for a over/under, maybe 28″ for an automatic (it has a little bit longer receiver than an O/U usually). If you buy a trap singles gun, you can get away with a 32″ barrel. All of this has to do with weight and balance. You don’t want a neat little light, short gun for trap – even if it feels good. It will whap you upside the head and not swing smoothly because it’s too short and too light. I have 27″ barrels on my sporting clays gun, and I can’t shoot them for beans at trap – even at doubles. I try occasionally though, because they feel cool. Trap needs a very very very smooth swing and follow-through — and with a light gun, you tend to just throw it at the bird with your arms instead of moving very steadily. And a little weight to your gun helps soak up recoil.
Don’t listen to Bubbas who will tell you that “longer is better”. We know that’s never true, right? Well, likewise with guns. Unless you go about 6-foot tall, leave the 34″ barrels alone. They are front-heavy and out of proportion to your arms and shoulders.
Over-Under vs. Automatic: I have an enormous bias. As do most trapshooters. I want to see your gun open on the trap field or around the club when you are not shooting. A “resting” over-under is obviously safe, it’s broken open. I can’t tell if the yahoo next to me with the automatic is safe. And, an autoloader kicks empty hulls sideways, which is guaranteed to aggravate almost all shooters standing next to you. There are devices which direct the hull down, but most trap folks like to see the hulls go backwards when they are ejected, or into your pocket. There are a lot of successful shooters using gas guns, but my personal and irrational feeling is that they are inherently unsafe on a trap field. I am much more comfortable around break-open guns. I also don’t like any gun which goes “clunk” and/or threatens the integrity of your body parts when they close up.
If you decide that as a beginner you want to learn to shoot singles and handicap, then go to another gun later when you want to learn to shoot doubles, I have one commendation. Find an old Browning BT-99 with a 32″ barrel. Or one of the new BT-100’s. It’s a soft shooting gun, shoots where you look, and you can chop up the stock to make it fit your dimensions. I started with a BT-99 years ago, and I’ve just bought one for my daughter to learn to shoot. If you have an adjustable comb put in, and whack off the stock so that it fits you and isn’t too long, then you should be good to go. And you’re spending less than $1000, so you don’t lose much if you decide you want to take up horseshoes or frisbee-flinging instead at a later date. The BT-100’s are more money, but they have adjustable-everything so you can diddle around with stock fit to your heart’s content. You will need to chop the stock off shorter though, something on the order of a 14″ length of pull.
If you want to shoot doubles right off, then I think a 28″ gas gun would do the trick. The maker may not matter – you should probably consult the Technoid on gas guns, as I tend to avoid them like the plague. :-).
How does a gas gun threaten the integrity of your body parts when they close up? The bolt release on most are well below the ejection port and on Remington’s they are located on the bottom of the receiver. Newer Italian guns even have bolt release on the left side of the gun. You have a better chance of snagging “something” closing the breech of O/U then getting an M1 thumb w gas gun. You also “missed” one of the most important benefits of a gas gun – recoil reduction.
Not uncommon to shoot 100 rounds or more shooting Trap and 11/8oz loads @ 1,200 fps min can wear you out. Bud just added Graco’s recoil reducer – $250 for part, $520 installation just to achieve parity w what a gas gun does right out of the box.
Most gas guns also come w shims to help achieve the all important – “gun fit.” Breech guns require trip to gunsmith ($300 adj comb, $150-300 for adj butt.)
For $12 – you can get a shell catcher so you don’t annoy the shooter next to you.
If you reload: O/U’s are easier to check and see if wad exited the barrel for squib loads. Autos require Wad knocker dropped down barrel. $20 approx.
Full Disclosure: I own both but I only shoot 12 ga Trap w Beretta 391.