Which invention has given trapshooting its biggest advancement? How many of these technological pieces do you own or use? Now choose one you think has given the best advantage to the shooting population. Got it? Keep reading.
Let’s take a look at each one and check it out. We all know choke tubes are designed to control shot columns and release them in a uniform pattern so that the shot is not deformed. Deformed shot does not fly true and causes shot patterns to be erratic. The advantage is that the shooter can achieve the best pattern with enough shot in the middle to ensure a broken target. Previous to this invention, you got what you got. Whatever your barrel was machined with determined what choke you had. There was no way to make the pattern larger or more dense depending on the type of shooting you were doing. Now you can shoot one gun and have a variety of choke tubes to shoot a whole array of games.
Recoil reducers are designed to limit the amount of recoil (backward movement of the gun) your shoulder feels. Anyone who has shot an old Model 12 knows what recoil used to feel like. Recoil can deter anyone from shooting. If something hurts, why would you continue to do it? And, in Doubles, recoil will take your face off the gun, thus making it difficult to see and break the second target.
Placing an adjustable comb on your gun allows you to change your point of impact while still looking down your gun the way you want to. In other words, you don’t have to contort your head or squish your face to see the site picture you want in order for the targets to break; you simply adjust the comb until it shoots where you are looking. Before these were invented, many shooters invested in Mole Skin and added it to the stock until it was high enough for them. There was no making it lower unless you wanted to cut on your wood.
An adjustable rib is another feature designed to change the point of impact. You can adjust for higher or lower targets without having to hold closer to (higher) or further away (lower) from the target. Some may call that being lazy, but it sure is an advantage when you realize that you don't have to change where you shoot (meaning the sight picture stays the same) even though the targets change!
Gunfitting companies have people readily available to help any shooter who may not know how to modify their gun so it fits them. These people make their living helping others fit their gun regardless of their size or shape. This was not always as readily available as it is today. Shooters were stuck with whatever they bought, because they didn’t know how or what to change. Now they can hire experts to do it for them.
The above-mentioned devices and services give a shooter an advantage due to the fact they can manipulate the gun to make the adjustments that would normally have come from a shooter having to make the adjustments while still moving to the target. Let’s face it, anything that can enable the shooter to not have to work as hard to compensate for something else is advantageous. Clay targets have improved over the years as well. My dad, George Snellenberger, who has been shooting since 1956, tells stories of walking on targets, or picking up targets in the fields where numerous BBs had gone through the target, kind of like Swiss cheese, without them breaking. The formula from White Flyer has been perfected (a 27-step process) so the targets shatter now when centered. They keep striving to design and produce targets that break/smoke better, and, they do it so well.
Ammunition is better than ever, too. Companies have greatly improved the quality of the product. The variances between speeds that used to be seen in flats, or even in boxes of ammunition, has greatly decreased. The increased speed of the ammunition helps many by getting to the target faster, not having to lead the target as much, which is just one more advantage.
Trap machines used to be hand-set. That means a kid had to manually load the targets one at a time. If the kid was slow you might not get a target. If the squad was fast and the kid had his fingers smacked by the machine (that’s what would happen if they were still putting the target on the machine when someone called or the button was pushed), he would likely throw the targets on the machine and the targets would not necessarily fly the correct path, thus making it difficult to shoot at. The invention of the automatic trap such as the Pat Trap, allows a loader to load 540+ targets at a time. The machine is always ready whenever the trap is set.
No one can deny that all of these advances in technology have given the shooters of today an advantage over shooters in previous years. However, one advancement stands out among all others having helped everyone, not just the majority who were using that particular product or service: the voice activation system for the target release, also known as voice release.
There used to be a time when you’d go to a shoot and the pullers would have to listen for a shooter to call for the bird, push the button, look at the target, score it and then be ready to push the button again when the next shooter called. Pullers pushed the button:
A) when the squad had a rhythm going and they thought it was your turn to shoot (yes, they anticipated your turn).
B) when they saw the shooter mount the gun (hey, it’s your turn to shoot…shoot already).
C) when they heard another person yell from an adjacent field (it’s your turn and someone did call, right?).
D) because it was an accident (remember, their thumbs were always on the button and moving in the chair sometimes would do it, too).
E) late because their thumb wasn't directly on the button (their thumbs would cramp and they needed to vary the distance — you know, "thumb stretches").
F) late when they couldn’t hear you and realized you had called (they gave you a target, what else did you want?).
G) whenever they felt like it (hopefully you were nice to them and they didn’t mix you up with someone who wasn’t).
H) when you called for it (the way it was supposed to be, but rarely was).
Another issue many had to deal with was at the local clubs, each squad had the same pullers, who got accustomed to your call. Then you’d go to a bigger shoot with different pullers, and you would then be subject to the list above in which your puller would push the button for any number of reasons.
Do you realize how difficult it is to put down your gun when you have it mounted and you’re just about to call or had just started to call Pull when the target is in the air? Of course you do, we’ve all experienced it. A shooter often jumps at fast targets and moves the gun before the target actually appears on slow targets. How many times have you yelled at yourself because it happened to you and you didn’t put your gun down and start all over again? Okay, you can quit counting now. The point is that this would happen all the time. Whenever things go wrong, especially when it’s out of your control, like getting targets on time, shooters have a hard time managing their frustration and/or anger.
Almost all of the top shooters would agree that shooting is at least 90% mental. Yes, you have to have your basics, but once those are mastered it’s strictly a mental game. How many times have you missed a target because your mind was thinking about something else? How many of those were because you were upset/mad/frustrated? Or, let me ask it another way: How many times have you been angry/upset/frustrated and shot well? Not many, right? And now you’re getting my point. Prior to voice-activated release calls, it was a time filled with many frustrations and lower scores.
For the entire shooting fraternity, it has to be the voice release that’s created the biggest advantage. However, as you read through this article, you might have noticed one or more technological advances that you may attribute to your success. Technology can be great.
The top shooters take advantage of these technological advances because it makes them better. Like anything else in life, trapshooting changes and evolves. The scores are consistently higher than they’ve ever been.
I wonder what the next big technical advancement in shooting will be…
What technology would you like to invent to help improve shooting?
Jacque Snellenberger, a Michigan Trapshooting Hall of Fame Inductee, and soon to be ATA Trapshooting Hall of Fame Inductee this August at the Grand American, has been shooting since the age of 15. As a 5th grade teacher, she utilizes the summer months to travel and compete, which allows her to maintain her current streak of 22 consecutive All-American placements. She gets her talent honestly since her father, George Snellenberger, was inducted himself into the ATA Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 1983.