This is the explanatory post regarding my summer trap shooting league, for those who interested in understanding my tweets on the topic. The tl/dr is, I shoot a shotgun at flying clay disks, on a team, and that a perfect score for a round is 25. (And, for those who don’t know, “tl/dr” is the abbreviation for “too long, didn’t read.”)
Sporting clays means one shoots a shotgun at flying orange clay discs. One fires shot, not slugs, at these discs, so one’s chances are not too bad. The shot spreads out into a small cloud of high-velocity lead, a single piece of which is sufficient to break the disc. The discs are called birds, and the goal is to break them.
The two major kinds of sporting clays are skeet and trap. (There are variations and fine points which I will ignore.) In skeet, the birds are thrown by mechanical throwers stationed at a set number of locations around the periphery of the skeet field. The birds fly out in a set direction and speed from their thrower.
I don’t shoot skeet. I shoot trap.
In trap, the thrower oscillates back and forth behind a small shed, the “house.” You can’t see where it is in its path from where you shoot. As you stand on the line, when you are ready, you call “pull,” and the puller — frequently a high school kid getting paid low wages and tips — presses a button. The thrower launches the bird out from the cover of the house along an unpredictable angle and direction.
There are five stations in trap, places where the shooter stands. At each station one attempts to hit five birds. The shooter rotates through all five stations in a round, for a total of twenty-five birds per round. A score of twenty-five is therefore a perfect score.
On the wall at the Metro Gun Club, there are plaques with names on it, names of all the people who have shot one hundred straight in trap. It’s a long list, but not that long considering it covers around thirty years. There are one or two people a year, at most. I personally have not yet managed to shoot twenty-five straight, though I have hopes for this year.
I shoot trap on a league team at Metro. Supposedly this means we get prizes, but the team I shoot with traditionally shoots for fun, not for prizes. (Though my first year I did get a plague for Most Improved Shooter. Heh.) We meet up on Tuesday evenings, however many of us could make it in a given week. We catch up on each other’s days, talk guns a little bit, and go out in the spring and summer weather. (The rain, the wind, the ever-present mosquitoes, but also the gorgeous sunshine.) We shoot a couple rounds of trap, complain about our personal scores and admire the scores of the others on our team, and blame the wind for a couple missed birds. Then we wander back into the cluhouse and share a few snacks and sodas and talk about how we’ll improve for next week. It’s a congenial bunch, and a fun evening.
It is decidedly odd, though, to be wandering around, and welcome, in a bastion of social and political conservatism. There are signs and placards in the clubhouse discussing the unquestionable rightness of the Ten Commandments. The club owner believes that the township is engaged in a complex liberal conspiracy to shut him down and steal his land. The anti-Obama, Birther, pro-Palin sentiment among the staff and members is quite high. But that kind of doesn’t matter, as long as you like guns.
I don’t have a really strong stance on Second Amendment issues. I clearly own a gun. I really like firing it. I also like firing the handguns that belong to my friends. I don’t think my gun keeps me safe. I do think that the presence of guns in my home is a hazard, despite the fact that they are locked in a safe and we have no ammunition in the building. If gun ownership in the U.S. became more restricted, I would be sad that I couldn’t go fire mine anymore, but I wouldn’t protest much. I honestly can’t think of a reason I need a gun, anymore than I need my mp3 player. They are toys. (I would be a LOT more upset if someone tried to take my mp3 player from me!) But that doesn’t matter at the gun club. At Metro, simply walking around with a shotgun and observing proper manners grants a person a certain level of acceptance and welcome.
I do love shooting. It placates all my adolescent fantasies of saving the world, stopping the bad guy, being the Big Damn Hero. I have wanted to own a shotgun since the summer of 1992, the summer that Terminator 2 was on cable. (I watched it over twenty times after I got home from the late shift of my job at the movie theater. Every time Sarah Connor fell down in the hallway outside the elevator, I whispered “saving throw vs. fear critical fail,” which just emphasizes my constant geekery.) Shooting trap is not something I am amazing at, though I could be better if I practiced regularly, but I am not bad at it. A bad score for me is around 16, and a good score is 19-21. This is good enough to make me feel accomplished when I finish a round, not frustrated. Good enough to enjoy the experience of standing out in the sunshine with friends, pretending to nail the zombies as they climb over the wall.