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Do I Need A Backup Gun?

ears ago when I first began shooting trap, I shot just for the fun of it and didn’t take my scores or equipment too seriously. My shooting buddies, who were mostly my office friends, were a tad more into the game than I was. A couple were even reloading their own shells, but Jimmy, who was the leader of the pack, so to speak, was quite serious. He shot a gun that, until that time, I had never heard of — a 12–gauge single–barreled beauty called a Ljutic. It was quite the shotgun, great–looking custom wood, tall, ventilated rib — and it hammered targets.

Jimmy told me he had custom–ordered the gun and the stock had been specially fitted to him. He said the gun was a target–breaking machine, if he did his part, and he never experienced any trouble with it. I noticed he had several other guns in the back of his Suburban when we’d meet at the club and asked him once, “Jimmy, if your main trap gun never has any trouble, why do you bring other guns with you to the club? You never shoot skeet, just trap. Are those other guns trap guns, too?”

He replied, “Yes, they’re trap guns, and they fit me, too. Why do I bring other guns? Because you never know what’ll happen, and I don’t want to be left stranded without a gun to shoot.”

Backup Remingtons

When you opt to equip yourself with a backup gun, it may not be practical to create a gun identical to your main trap gun. A good avenue to take is using a gun you are used to shooting and fits reasonably well. Great choices for many shooters are a Model 1100 or 11–87; 870s and Model 12s are also very popular.

His response got me thinking maybe I needed to get another gun as a backup. Naw! I’m never going to be that serious about my shooting. Well, guess what? I became that serious a few months after I shot a 50–straight. My checkbook has never been the same. First, I changed from the gun I had been shooting to a “genuine” trap gun, a used Browning BT–99. A few small nicks here and there, but in very good shape. Then I started reloading my own shells. But I’m sorry, I digress.

I shot the BT–99 for about three years with no hiccups. Then one day at my club’s trap championships I was starting my last trap and was doing okay, for me. I had an outside chance of tying for my class if I held everything together. But the trap gods had other ideas. The short version of this part of the story is my hammer gave up the ghost, and I had no other gun with me to shoot. Luckily, since I knew everyone there, I had plenty of offers to use someone’s gun or backup gun. I finished the last trap with a 95 total and no tie for the class money. I learned my lesson.

Getting back to the original question: Do you really need a backup gun? Since that unfortunate incident, I am definitely of the opinion all competitive trapshooters should seriously consider setting up a gun as a backup to their main competition gun. Guns are mechanical creations made by man. They can and will fail.

I put together another trap gun for myself. It’s not another BT–99, however. I shoot it pretty well, good enough to hold me over until my main gun can be fixed, if it ever gives me trouble in a tournament again. Which brings up another question: If you’re going to have a backup gun, should it be the same as your main gun?

Trigger-pull

Matching trigger–pull poundage between your main and backup guns is important. Make use of a qualified gunsmith to tune your triggers.

Ideally, yes, in my opinion. Care needs to be taken so the obvious things match: same brand and model, barrel length, choke, length–of–pull, cast, drop, weight, balance, sight picture, point–of–impact and trigger poundage. The triggers should feel the same, with very similar, if not identical poundage. The let–off should be the same, too. Try to get the same recoil pad, if possible, for that familiar snugness against your shoulder. If you can, have the sweep and circumference of the grip on the backup gun the same, too. Often it’s the tiny details that are hard to identify that can make a gun that looks, weighs and balances the same shoot differently in your hands.

If you cannot get a backup gun identical to your main trap gun, what is the next best thing? You have to understand the role of a backup gun in its fullest and minimal sense. Perfectly done, as we have already discussed, the backup can step right in and take over for your main trap gun while it’s down. It’s basically a twin to your main gun. So, theoretically, you can shoot it as long as you need to. There should be hardly a hitch in getting used to it, so good practice sessions with it from time to time will pay off. Of course, cost has to be considered in this scenario, too.

That’s the ideal situation. In the not–so–perfect situation where an identical backup trap gun cannot be set up, my suggestion is to fall back to a gun you’re used to and shoot reasonably well. Remember, in this particular role, the backup gun is only going to hold you over until your main gun is repaired and you can get it back on the line. But scoring well throughout the event is still a prime factor. Be sure you have taken time for some practice with your backup gun prior to any event.

Your backup might be a gun you started out with and simply grew away from. It might be your son’s, daughter’s or wife’s gun that you can shoot with a little adjustment. It could be a field gun you use to hunt birds and generally shoot well. It does not have to be even the same type of gun, if it is one you know well and are comfortable with. It could be a pump–action versus your break–open top single or unsingle.

That is the situation I see most often with shooters I know who have backup guns. They have a main trap gun, like a BT–99, Krieghoff or Perazzi, and their backup is an 870 or Model 12 with an adjustable stock and recoil reducer. Or they might have as a backup a semiauto, like an 1100 or 391, that belongs to a family member but fits them pretty well.

Stock setup

Some items on your backup gun should be matched as closely to your main gun as possible, like length–of–pull, cast, drop dimensions and even pitch, if possible. Other points, such as weight and balance, are very helpful in mating a backup gun to your main gun.

The setup of a backup gun is important. If time and finances allow, try to get the not–so–identical backup gun set up as close to your main trap gun as possible. Since backup guns will not normally see the same kind of action on the line your main gun will, it’s normally not the case shooters will spend a lot of time and money on it. I’m not saying take out a loan to make your backup a clone of your main target–cruncher, just make some effort to get the important specs right for you to feel reasonably comfortable with the backup on the trap lines, and in competition particularly.

I know a fellow who shoots trap with a custom–built Krieghoff and has in his truck an old 870 as his backup. He is a fine trap shot, and I have never seen him shoot the backup at the club. Once he entered a fun shoot at our club on a day when the only reason he showed up was to buy some shot for reloading. He hadn’t even brought his main gun with him but happened to have his backup in his truck. He was bugged by friends to enter the shoot, but he said, “No, no! I can’t shoot, I don’t have my gun with me.” His friends kept on him about entering, telling him he could borrow their gun, confident he would end up donating to the pot with little chance of winning since his main gun was miles away at home.

He succumbed to the friendly persuasion and headed to his truck to get the pouch that was always there, along with the appropriate number of shells needed for the event. He opened the door and smiled when he spotted his forgotten backup trap gun. He told his buddies, who were still confident they would get his money in the shoot, “I’ll just shoot this, if that’s okay.” You guessed it he won the most number of hams and turkeys, and all with his backup gun. I asked him later in the week how he could shoot so well with a gun he never takes out of the case. He replied, “It’s the gun I started with. It fits like an old glove, and I’m just comfortable with it.”

United States Olympics Double Trap and Skeet Champion Kim Rhode, as most of you are aware, had her pride–and–joy Perazzi stolen this past year. This was the same gun she had competed with in four Olympic Games and garnered four medals with, so it obviously was a treasured item in her life. The gun was recovered by police in the search of a house where a felon on probation resided. Kim was overjoyed to have “Old Faithful” back in her hands, although the stickers from all the Olympics and World Cups she had attended had been removed. Kim stated after being reunited with her Perazzi, “I’m going to have it gone through and, hopefully, take it out and start shooting again. One of the biggest lessons I learned in all of this is to have a backup gun.”

So, do you really need a backup gun? I’m going to say, if you’re a competitor and want to stay in the running if your main trap gun gives up, definitely have a backup. But, hey, don’t take my word for it. It’s good advice from an Olympic Champion, too!