Trap Shooting Shotguns 101 & What You Need to Look For

The first thing you need to know about trap shooting shotguns is that there are specific shotguns made for this activity, like the Citori XT Trap from Browning.  But in a pinch, almost any shotgun will do.

The major differences between trap guns and other guns are that traps are more adjustable, with a higher barrel and rib to accommodate for tracking quickly ascending birds.  As far as trap shooting itself, though, it is one of the three major approaches to competitive clay pigeon shooting. The other disciplines are skeet shooting and sporting clays.

Skeet and trap are very similar in approach. The major difference is, in skeet, shooters gather around the rounded part of a semicircle. They shoot at birds launched by two trap houses on the corners. Meanwhile, a trap squad consists of five shooters at five well-marked stations behind one trap house that launches birds.

Trap Shooting Ins and Outs

According to one source, the shooter on station one gets to shoot a “bird” first, followed by the rest of the squad. Unlike skeet, shooters in the trap are allowed only a single shot per target. It is considered proper form to load your gun when the participant two stations before you call for a target, and not before. This endeavor continues for five rounds before participates rotate.

While moving from station to station, guns must remain unloaded. When each shooter has had a turn at each station, the scores are tallied by a scorekeeper who is not a shooter. The shooter with the highest number of hits or broken targets wins. This record is in the players average and sometimes submitted to the book average. Altogether, trap shooting is a relatively fast-paced game, shooters will pick up a rhythm in no time.

More on what to do

Shooters need to be prepared and follow the rules, so everyone has a good time. Plus, they want to get invited to the next game, right? Trap targets are shot a between 25 to 50 yards. A 12-gauge shotgun is the most common trap gun, although 16, 20, and 28-gauges are acceptable as well.

The trap will throw the bird in the air at between 22 to 44 degrees from the ground, a determination that mimics that of a real game bird. And, though the arc can be predictable, trap machines can also be random. Some birds may take hard lefts, hard rights, or straight-ahead directions.

Because of this, especially in doubles, it is recommended for shooters to mount their guns before calling a target.  Also, the most effective spot for your shot is directly behind the trap house, where the target first appears.

Shotgun and ammunition considerations

When considering buying any shotgun, the first things you want to look for are fit and feel. Use this trick to determine if a gun is the right size: When the butt of the shotgun is in the crook of your elbow, try to wrap the first joint on your index finger fully around the trigger. For people with short arms, 20-gauge youth shotguns generally meet this rough test. Even if they don’t fit exactly, recoil pads can add length and shock absorption to make up the difference.

The choke is also an important feature in trap shooting. It allows the shooter to squeezed together the pellets in the barrel for a tighter pattern over a longer distance. Less choke means that the pattern of spread is looser and casts a broader net of pellets. Many trap shotguns also come with various screw-in chokes for maximum accuracy when needed.

But perhaps just as important as the shotgun’s actual features is the ammunition you use. This ammo is measured in gauge rather than in caliber (as with a rifle). You will find a wide array of types, power, and sizes when considering the proper ammunition. Your only limit is that the gauge of the shotgun must match the gauge of the ammunition.

And, here again, according to one source, length does matter. The 2-3/4 inches, 3 inches, and 3-1/2 inches are the most common length shells for shotguns. And, just because a shell is long doesn’t mean it is for your gun. It may contain more shot pellets and powder than your shotgun can safely handle.

The best trap shooting shotguns

The best trap shooting shotguns, as discussed, are the ones that fit. However, we wanted to give you some examples of what to look for. We start with some pump-action models.

Versatile, reliable, and inexpensive, many of these classic guns are available for under $300. Still, many claims state that the pump action shotguns have poor balance and lead to fatigue quickly. They prefer semi-automatic or over-under varieties. Also, when playing trap doubles, it is more difficult to keep up with the two birds simultaneously. Regardless, here are some of the best pump-action shotguns on the market.

Remington 870

Remington® Model 870™ Express® Hardwood Pump-Action Shotguns

The granddaddy of all shotguns, the Remington 870 is the pump-action shotgun to rule them all. First produced in the 1950s, the gun is durable, easy to use, and widely utilized for hunting, sports shooting, law enforcement, and self-defense. With no less the 9 variations, the 870s go for between $350 and $500 new. Your best bet is to pick a used one at a gun show or on eBay, as they reportedly load more smoothly and shoot more accurately.

Mossberg 500

Mossberg® 500 Pump-Action Shotgun

Designed in the 1960s, this gun is just as popular and effective as the Remington. However, it reportedly never came with the variety of controls or model variation that the Remington did. Although, it did see plenty of action. Favored by law enforcement and the U.S. military for close-range ballistics action, the gun was a prime choice during the Persian Gulf War, the Iraq War, and military skirmishes.

That brings us to semi-automatic shotguns, which offer better balance and a more reliable shot than their pump-action counterparts. With semi-autos, you are not constantly loading shells. Many gun users prefer semi-autos for trap shooting shotguns. They must be mindful, though, of the person standing next to them. It is not considered proper etiquette to pepper people with a pile of used shell casings.

Stoeger M3000

M3000 Shotgun

The 12-gauge shotgun takes up to a 3-inch shell and costs between $550 and $750. Although you might be inclined to think a semi-auto gun would lack features at this price point, it is durable, water-resistant, and straightforward to clean. Plus, the Stoeger reportedly uses a similar inertia-driven action as the highly regarded Benelli guns.

Remington 1100

Remington 1100 Trap-T 12 Gauge 28"

Classics are classics for a reason, and the Remington 1100 has fired rounds and shucked cartridges for more than 50 years. New models will ring up between $1,050 and $1,300. But, there are many gun shows and eBay listing this beauty at anywhere from $400 to $600.

Beretta A300


The famous semi-auto handgun-maker, Beretta, had been around forever. Lately, they have branched out into the semi-automatic shotgun markets. The A300 does not disappoint, making its mark in the areas of reliability, snug fit, and a bevy of new features. What’s more, the A300 Outlander uses a proprietary valve system that accommodates a wide range of loads. The gun is lightweight and water-resistant due to the composite synthetics used in its construction.

Over-under choices

The last type of trap shooting shotguns are over-under shotguns. These double-barrel classics comprise a class of trap shotguns that make up an elite group of target-shooting favorites. Plus, this is the top choice of many of the world’s top marksmen. That’s because of the easy-loading action, the smooth swing, the excellent weight and balance, and accuracy.

Plus, with a mechanism that glides as smoothly as butter, using an over-under shotgun is an elegant and artful process. Watching the gun’s operation in the hands of a master is truly a sight to behold. The caveat, however, is that the over-under market is incredibly complex. Many entry-level guns won’t get you any closer to championship-level shooting, despite the cost.

Although over-under guns can get pricey, we have whittled down some affordable options that we like a lot. We hope you do, too. Featuring many of the options as more expensive over-under shotguns out there, our list will at least open your eyes to the world of over-unders.

Yildiz SPZ ME/12

Yildiz SPZ ME Steel 12 Gauge Over-and-Under Shotgun

The Yildiz shotgun hails from Turkey, as do the Stoeger and CZ models. Yildiz shotguns have a championship level of performance that punches well above its price range. You can pick up a basic-level Yildiz gun about $500 to $800. However, buyer beware, these bad-boys are light and known to have quite a kick.

Mossberg Silver Reserve II

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field 12ga 28"

Mossberg is another Turkish import, and these shotguns have been around for a long time. The Silver Reserve II, however, is the company’s latest over-under shotgun. They cost between $600 to $850. Available in various lengths and gauge-sizes, many Reserve II models come with up to five chokes and adjustable stocks. The Silver Reserve II looks great and, at 7.5 pounds, the extra weight softens the recoil.

Stoeger Condor

Stoeger Condor 20ga 26" Walnut

The Stoeger Condor is an immensely popular budget over-under shotgun, and it retails around $400 to $700. Imported from Brazil, these trap shooting shotguns come with a plain-jane design and a dark walnut stock. It is about as minimalistic as they come. But the mechanics are solid, and it has a nice weight at about 7 pounds. That makes the recoil manageable, and the action is fast.

Trap Shooting Shotguns Comparison Table





Remington® Model 870™ Express® Hardwood Pump-Action Shotguns

Remington® Model 870™ Express® Hardwood Pump-Action Shotguns

Gauge120 GaugeBarrel Length 26 inchesCapacity4+1Weight 6.25 pounds

Mossberg® 500 Pump-Action Shotgun Field/Deer Combo

Mossberg® 500 Pump-Action Shotgun

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 43.5 – 47.5Capacity5Weight 7.5 pounds

M3000 Shotgun

M3000 Shotgun

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 49.75″CapacityWeight 7.5 lbs.

Remington 1100 Trap-T 12 Gauge 28″

Remington 1100 Trap-T 12 Gauge 28"

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 28″Capacity4Weight 20.00 Pounds



Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 28″Capacity3Weight 7.25

Yildiz SPZ ME Steel 12 Gauge Over-and-Under Shotgun

Yildiz SPZ ME Steel 12 Gauge Over-and-Under Shotgun

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 28″Capacity2Weight 7.2 lb.

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field 12ga 28″

Mossberg Silver Reserve II Field 12ga 28"

Gauge12 GaugeBarrel Length 28″Capacity2Weight 

Stoeger Condor 20ga 26″ Walnut

Stoeger Condor 20ga 26" Walnut

Gauge20 GaugeBarrel Length 26″Capacity2Weight 

Trap Shooting Further Defined

Trap shooting takes place on a fixed field with distance markers. The shooting marks are predetermined. There are also a trap house and a supply of scorecards. You might have one or many fields, and each has its own trap house with a machine that hurls birds into the air. This trap machine throws the birds at a maximum of an approximate 44-degree horizontal arc.

Birds exiting the trap house generally come out at between 47 to 50 miles per hour. They travel at a maximum of 50 yards before hitting the ground. Scorekeepers determine the score by tallying how many targets or birds a shooter hits. The scorekeeper must not only record the results but also listens for the shooter’s call to signal the trap machine to launch a bird.

Five trap shooting stations radiate in a semi-circle in back of the trap house, measuring 16 to 27 yards away. Depending on the angle, each one is 11 degrees away from its neighbor. Also, it is important to note that because the firing is fast, birds are usually around 15 to 25 yards out. The upshot is that, if a shooter is at a 16-yard station, the bird is likely to be in shooting range at 31 to 41 yards away.

Trap Terminology

There are three different variations of trap shooting: singles, doubles, and handicap.

To further understand the game, we decided to brush up on some vocabulary. It is important to know what you are talking about if someone invites you for a game of trap. If this happens and takes you by surprise, try to stay calm. Lean on scorekeeper for clarification and commit the following list of terms to memory.

  • Average — refers to the percentage of targets the shooter has hit compared to the total he has shot at
  • Average book — a yearly tally of all of your averages
  • Call — a signal given by the shooter for the bird for release
  • Dead — a target broken by a shooter
  • Lost — someone missing a target
  • No-bird — the call by the scorekeeper for which the shooter is allowed a redo
  • Straight — breaking all of the birds in a game
  • Zone shoots — the ATA’s five zones of trapshooting

Of course, there are a few more, and the intricacies of play may reveal some clever interpretations from scorekeepers and judges on the spot, but these terms will get you started.

Trap Shooting Shotguns Wrap-up

This info should give you an idea of what you are looking for if you want the best trap shooting shotguns. Most listings here are affordable, durable, and come with a fantastic gun-maker reputation.

So, from Remington to Mossberg, get out there and try them all. If you are nervous, try a gun course. Remember, sports shooting, though competitive, is usually made up of a group of tight-knit enthusiasts who want to see you succeed. And nothing is more stimulating than a little friendly competition.

Keyword: trap shooting shotguns

Dakota R.

My name is Dakota, Since I was a little boy, hunting has been my favorite things to do. Being outdoors meant I got to spend more one on one time with my father. I've learned so much from my dad over the years, and I hope you can learn and enjoy following my blog!

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