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How to shoot automatic ball trap

By instructor Simon Jones. Simon became a qualified Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA) instructor two years ago. If you are familiar with trap disciplines then you will know that automatic ball trap (ABT) could be regarded as a “speeded up” version of down-the-line (DTL). The angles are greater and the clays a bit quicker.

Shooting automatic ball trap

Simon Jones takes the ready position on the automatic ball trap layout

Automatic ball trap is challenging

For the gameshooter, most trap disciplines are ideal for building up the reflexes often needed for walked-up shooting – where game will be going away and may be rising. For the purely competition shooter ABT offers a great challenge, and with the angles greater and the clays quicker you can still pull through into top place if you drop a couple of clays – there is a bit more margin for error. With other disciplines such as DTL, often hitting every one is vital to win. It can be demoralising on a DTL layout to drop a clay in your first round of 25 with 75 left to plough through.

Simon said: “Much of shooting is personal preference, be it clothes, footwear or barrel length etc. I personally like clothing that fits but won’t snag and a good pair of walking boots that give good upright support. Although trap disciplines often see longer barrels being used, some shooters use shorter ones. As a former powerlifter, weight is not an issue for me but for people with slighter frames they have to weigh up the gun and barrel length against how quickly they can swing it, and whether it will become tiring to use.

Automatic ball trap layout

There are normally six shooters on an ABT layout, with clays varying quite considerably

Think about buying a gun with an adjustable stock

“If you are thinking about taking up trap disciplines on a competition level I would seriously think about buying a gun with an adjustable stock. Practice and competitions take place all year round. As such, a gun fitted with a stock that fi ts you in a shirt and vest in the summer will be too long in the stock in thicker winter clothing. “With regard to posture, you should be reasonably upright, with your nose in front of your toes and about 60 per cent of your weight on your lead foot. When I teach a novice about ABT, I show them diagrams of where the clays will go and the layout. I often put them in a squad of more experienced shooters and hopefully they feed off the shooter’s success and it rubs off onto them.

As you become more experienced don’t get set in your ways, learn new tricks and be prepared to accept constructive criticism.


ABT layout

Match the speed

“The clays on an ABT layout vary quite considerably, some may require only a flick of the muzzle that are going away in front, but some left and right handers will require more rapid movement. Start with your gun up and try matching the speed of any angled clays, push through them and shoot – keep swinging for a follow up shot. With regard to etiquette, don’t move from your stand until your neighbour has fi red, and don’t slam guns shut, eject cartridges or throw them in bins when someone is about to shoot.

Shooting automatic ball trap

Push through the clays and shoot, keep swinging for a follow up shot

“Whether you are shooting for fun or at competition level and miss a clay, don’t get disheartened. Most shooting is psychology. Imagine you are throwing the missed clay in a bin – shut it out and start again.”