The straight-away, or trap-style target, is perhaps the most straight-forward of any target you may encounter on the course. It’s undoubtedly one of the first target presentations you ever learned to break. Having said that, people seem to miss more straight-away targets than they should.

For the purposes of this Target Tactics article, let’s characterize the “trap target” as any presentation that consists of a machine in front of you launching the target away. Sometimes straight away, other times angled to one direction or another. In many ways, the trap target is similar to the teal. The significant contrast being that the trap target is usually lower in height and edgier.

Whether you’ve found yourself uncomfortable with the trap target once again, or you are just missing one here and there, this article is for you. The objective of this installment is to put the trap target back into your “I can hit that, no problem” bin!

General Technique

As is customary with any target on the course, deciding which technique you use should depend on how much angle the target has. Pat notes that “many shooters tend to categorize all trap targets into one classification, whereas they really should be individually assessed.”

For the straight away, shallow-angled trap target, Pat advises most people to either spot shoot or intercept with a pre-mounted gun. “I typically pre-mount with my head just slightly off the stock, and I hold directly on the line of flight.” Your gun hold point should be closer to the break point on the trap target as opposed to any other variety. As general rule of thumb, “the flatter the shot, the closer to the breakpoint I hold before I call pull.” Once Pat sees the target coming from beneath his gun, he simply “moves slightly to connect with the target and shoots.”

As the angle of the trap target increases, so too must your gun movement. This is accomplished by moving your hold point closer to the trap. “As the target’s starting point moves further towards your left or right, the more you should move your gun hold point closer to the trap.” As Pat moves his gun hold back, he also “increases the length of draw, or how far [he] drops the gun out of the shoulder.” The same holds true on a target that is straight in front of you, but the angle at which it is thrown upwards increases.

Pat recommends “making sure you let your eyes look well beyond the break-point.” By this, he means to extend the eyes beyond the muzzle. Allow your peripheral vision to see around the shotgun barrel so that you can perceive the target coming from beneath the shotgun.

Edgy Trap Targets

Pat does not like to let targets get in front of his barrel, but if the trap/quartering target is presented in a way that is extremely edgy, he will insert, or mount, the gun on the back edge of the target and gently pull through. This helps to synchronize with the target’s line. “Let the target get just above the barrel, move to it from just faintly below, and shoot once the connection has been made.” Doing this helps attain the muzzle-bird relationship by giving your brain additional feedback.

The Trap Target on the FITASC Field

The trap target can be especially challenging when encountered in FITASC. Pat notes that in this scenario, “most individuals feel rushed to mount and shoot as quickly as possible.” Shooters tend to feel this way because they are uncomfortable shooting a trap-style target with the FITASC draw length.

You should start by paying special attention to your hold point. If you hold too close to the trap, you’ll get beat and then make a hurried, uncontrolled shot. If you hold too high, you’ll be in front of the target from start to finish. In order to find a happy medium, pay close attention to the height of your muzzle before you call pull.

The trap target in FITASC is “one of the times [Pat] advocates using your back-hand more than your front hand during the gun mount.” You should initiate the movement with your back hand. Otherwise, the gun will get to your cheek much too late.

To be successful, “don’t let the trap target wreck your rhythm.” You should never shoot any target fast. Use a smooth but deliberate move to break the target as quickly as you can, while still maintaining control.

The No Speed Trap Target

Every once in a while, a target setter will employ a trainer spring to set a trap target with no speed. This target is usually quite simple, unless it is paired simultaneously with distance. The lack thereof of speed necessitates more BB’s on target for a break. In addition, “most people find it all too easy to shoot in front by way of too much gun speed.” This is especially true when the target setter puts you out of position or transitions you to the off-speed trap target from a hasty crosser.

The biggest gaffe is shooting in front and off-line on this style of target. To prevent yourself from making this mistake, Pat advises his students to “insert on the back edge for trap target with little spring and considerable distance.” As a shooter, Pat shoots most targets using maintained lead. However, he has found that the no-spring quartering target is one that he personally can’t get a connection with unless he mounts the gun on the back edge first. Simply come from behind and pull the trigger as you reach the leading edge.

About the Author: Drew Lieske is the oldest son of Michigan Shooting Centers’ founder, Pat Lieske, and the Director of Sales for Michigan Shooting Centers. He started competing in sporting clays at age 12 and by 15 became Michigan’s youngest ever Master class shotgun shooter. Drew is an 8-time NSCA All-American and a member of the Kolar Arms pro team. Drew can be contacted at