About bunkershooting/Olympic trapshooting:
years of running a bunker:
the maintenance, internecine gun club politics and
running shoots, I really don't want to do it any more. I now
someone else do
it. However, I still believe in giving back to a sport that I have
enjoyed for 30 years or so. . . Hence this website.
trap and skeet which has
plenty of videos, magazine articles and books available, I
few, perhaps three books and one magazine (the UK's Clay Shooting
Magazine) over the years that give any significant (English language)
coverage to this
only three, but an excellent three, videos (See books).
I hope this give-back web site will
be a start toward
filling the beginner's information gap. It provides web site
info about bunker shooting
apparently not readily available elsewhere to those people interested
bunker or OT/Olympic trap/Olympic Trench
as it is known outside of the USA. I
do recognize there will be differences of opinions in the following
comments. It's what makes horse racing profitable.
begin: what does a bunker look like? Here are a
from station 4
at the Coon Creek bunker,
Lincoln, California. The roof is at ground level,
unlike the little
"house" in ATA/DTL. White marks show the 3-machine bank's center.
View of the Coon Creek bunker's shooting pad. Note station 6's pad behind station 1. Since bunker is always shot at the same distance, some bunker platforms have sun covers.
The 15 fixed machines as installed, three traps for each station. Note the large target and repair parts storage area. The machines are NASTA's from Finland.
current cost of constructing a bunker installation is
$60,000 and $100,000+. Final cost
will depend on brand of machines
chosen, whether used or new, manually loaded or fully automatic,
the current ratio of the Euro to US dollars and
extent of luxury desired in the complete installation. (Some construction pics
(New Keystone Shooting Park, PA. and at Pikes Peak Gun Club, Colorado Springs, CO: trapshooters.com.)
is all volunteer and most construction material is donated, then the
might well be driven down to $20,000. . . but I don't recommend
manually loaded bunker. Too many potential problems with target loader
shooter confidence (has the trap really
the extent of luxury. For an excellent example, see: www.cieliaperti.com.
in the USA remotely resembles this facility. Indeed, very few US
bunkers have even simple covers for protection from the
elements. . . Never mind
finding on-grounds (white table-cloth) restaurants, hotels and
fully A/V equipped delegate/competitor meeting facilities. See the links
page for more examples of bunker
facilities worldwide for
comparisons. Watching the World Cup shoot-off videos on www.issf-sports.org
you an even better sense of world-class venues.
the need for an expensive 15 machine venue instead of a single,
oscillating trap? The answer is to make it fair for every competitor:
with a single ATA/PITA style oscillating trap, it's impossible for each
and every shooter to get the exact same (angle) targets as every other
shooter. For example, a shooter on peg 5 could get 2 straight-aways and
3 hard right angle targets. The next shooter on that station could as well
get all straight-aways. It's pure chance; the luck of the
draw. With 15 (fixed) trap machines available—and a
properly programmed computer—all shooters will receive the exact
same targets: 2 lefts, 2 rights, and a straightaway from each station
on a totally random basis. Thus an absolutely level—and completely
this is an Olympic discipline: intrinsically, chance should
play as little
role as possible in the outcome. The results should be dependent as
possible on the skill set of the shooters, with an absolute minimum
intervention by lady luck in the final scores. And with
National pride at stake, cost becomes a minor issue in the pursuit to
fairness of competition.
As to the
height, by dropping the height to ground
level it becomes much quicker to see even the lowest-set
Since the targets are thrown at speeds considerably faster (Around 62
mph vs. 42 mph depending on a given bunker target's height; by
meters/83.1 yards vs. 48
yards. To put it in a different perspective, the bunker target is about
its highest trap-powered point as the ATA/PITA target is hitting the
ground.) as those in
the ATA/PITA game, you want/need to see them as soon and as well as
the round, the targets are selected in a random sequence by the
as a practical matter, you can always know what the last five targets
are going to be as a process of elimination—but you better count
right!). Unlike the now common ATA/PITA microphone system, targets are
released with virtually no delay. You make a noise, you now own it and
had better be ready to enjoy your purchase. The computer will activate
only one microphone at a time, minimizing false target releases from
talking shooters on other stations and is
quite insensitive to gunshots originating from close adjacent
allows shooters to use relatively low volume calls; screaming isn't
necessary. The newer
also offer station-ready
lights on the microphone stands, indicating which station is ready to
release a target. This feature enhances shooter confidence. For those
practicing alone, a reset button can also be installed on the
microphone stand as well, to
allow re-shooting the same target, as in a practice session. The latest
model computers also
offer programming options to throw only lefts, rights or
straight-aways for those needing only those targets to resolve
difficulties or for special training sessions. The computers are also
custom-programmable to throw only specific selected targets, as needed
resolve difficulties with those targets.
How is the game played? Always good to read the instructions first! Here is the link to the ISSF (the world governing body) bunker shooting rules: ISSF Rules. Go to section 9.14.1 "Conduct of a round of trap." The rule gives the somewhat dry basics on how a round is shot. Note the specific calls to the disqualification and penalty rules. In practical detail, here is a description of how a new shooter might well experience it: IF it's a tournament, the referee will allow a test fire at the beginning of the first round (On a practice day, test-firing is very much the exception). Generally, referees do it by the numbers, where shooter on station 1 will test fire, then the second shooter on specific permission from the referee and so on. Note that shooter number one will move out of the station to allow shooter six to test fire there (the sixth shooter waits at a non-shooting station behind station one). See the shotgun section in the ISSF General Technical Rules for all Disciplines, P250, Figure 18.104.22.168.4, 2005 edition 2nd printing, 01/2006 for bunker station layout and/or the pictures above.
test fire completion, the referee or computer operator will
the computer for the new round (each round has a unique sequence to
shooters not knowing what the early targets will be), turn on station
one's microphone and signal the first shooter to begin. Shooter number
one then has 10
seconds to call for his/her target after the referee gives the
begin, usually saying something like "Ready, one." (In
in America, the 10-second rule is rarely enforced and then only if a
shooter is truly abusing the privilege. A good referee
quietly speak with him in warning during his passage from station 5 to
1). After shooting
his target, shooter one waits for shooter 2 to do the same, then moves
over adjacent to station 2 until shooter 2 moves after shooter 3 has
shot his target. This procedure insures the orderly, efficient, and
progress of the round until completion. In most US bunker
tournaments, a missed target decision is advised by the use of
a loud bicycle
electronic buzzer and not the sometimes mumbled aural call of "lost" as
shooting. Some clubs have a computer monitor displaying the scoring
the round—sometimes even having a screen in the clubhouse to show
the round's status for each field. Larger shoots
may well have a HUGE
mechanical or electronic
"flipper" billboard. Watch the videos on www.issf-sports.org
of the various past
World Cups to see typical examples.
that shooters who have completed their shot on station 5 move to
station 1 via the specific return path to minimize interference with
shooters on the firing line. For safety, after shooting his target, the
station 5 shooter opens his gun, removes all
empty casings and live ammunition, THEN turns to his right to leave
the station. This RIGHT turn prevents possible gun damage from the
shooter from station 4 that may well occur if he turns to his left,
directly into the approaching shooter. It's
all too easy to
not unload the second, unfired, cartridge before leaving station 5 but
a shooter by tournement rules is immediately
disqualified for this
safety infraction (See rules 22.214.171.124 and 126.96.36.199.1. Red
Card), so this habit is
wise to deeply ingrain early into your bunker shooting ways.
Some long-time bunker shooters
have developed the habit of raising the gun and dropping the remaining,
unused, cartridge out into
the hand while keeping the muzzle safely pointed out into the
firing area after batting/pushing/placing the cartridge hull
the spent shell bucket in the
process of turning right as a station 5 mnemonic to
insure the gun is unloaded—and that they turn right.
OK then. What does a first-time bunker shooter need to know before shooting his/her first round? In order: foot position. Any foot stance that allows easy movement of the body driving through a 45 degrees right or left target will work. Everybody is different, so you need to find out what really works for you. Since you're really driving quickly through the speedy 45 degree target, you will probably want a foot position closer together than used in ATA/PITA.
to look: I can tell you a foot or
high, as the US Army Marksmanship Unit manual recommends,
at about 10 yards out, but that probably isn't clear enough.
sense of "a foot or two high," take your index finger and thumb, make a
gap of about 1/2 inch, put the thumb at the top of the bunker and the
top of the gap defined by your index finger is where you should be
looking. It's your starting point. This point has to be high enough to
insure you get a consistent target lock on the high targets, but no
Careful experimentation will find your best height. You possibly might
even adapt separate points for light and dark days. Here's a picture of
the now-deceased Las Vegas, NV bunker,
with a pile of
orange targets at the suggested starting look-point to give you a sense
of what you should be seeing:
You then put your barrel's bead at the bottom of the white stripe, your eyes hard focused at that 1 - 2 foot high look point and open up your eyes in universal vision. The universal vision must be wide enough to be slightly past the adjacent station's stripes in the picture above to insure that you see—can get a really solid target lock on—the low 45 degree targets. If you find that the high targets are getting the jump on you, move the hard focus point a bit higher. Again, everybody is different. With practice, you will find what vision set up will work well for you. The important thing is that you can get perfect visual target lock for first barrel shots on the extreme targets, be they 3.5 meter high or 1.5 meter 45 degrees. You should never miss the easy ATA/PITA type targets; if you have to miss one, let it be one of the toughies! Youtube.com has a little amateur video (looks like it was taken at England's Southern Counties Dorset six-bunker range) that shows, at the beginning and the end, gun set up/target exiting to give a bit better idea of how things look:
tell how well you're getting target lock? You should be
centering OR shooting the underside of targets. Beneath is actually
as good a sign: it means you are seeing them all the way,
fire the second barrel, if/as needed in a controlled manner. It shows
you are controlling the
target: it is not controlling you (But be careful: see Phil Kiner's
article in Trap & Field, May 2005). Knowing you shot slightly
target is an
indication that you really didn't get a good picture of the target's
it exited the bunker. And if you find it difficult, after much
practice, to correct the
gun to get a second barrel break in this case, it may well be time to
consider finding a
gun, or adjusting your gun to allow you to easily make those necessary
corrections. Could be a fitting
issue (For example, most bunker shooters shoot with stocks
that are just long enough so that the thumb does not hit the nose under
maximum recoil). Could be a too-heavy barrel issue. Could be a too-long
barrel issue (most bunker shooters use 29.5 to 30 inch barrels). Derek
has an three-part article that may help you work through these issues: Fitting and Customizing
put extra cheek pressure on the stock during your set-up before calling
for the target to insure you don't get knocked off
It will help insure keeping your head down
on the stock if and when you need to or, want to use, the
Oh yes, another thing is that the computer will not be ready for your call for 3.5 seconds from the previous shooter's target call. Calling before this will get you frustrated as you won't get a target. Then, when you call again, you may well get the target when you're not quite ready, subconsciously believing it won't be there. Computers are programmed with this delay to insure a slow shooter's second shot, and/or you closing your gun, won't falsely trip YOUR target. This also means that you—and the squad as a whole—can't do the rapid, pull-bang, pull-bang, pull-bang sequence that ATA/PITA shooters follow; the 3.5 second delay isn't going to let that happen. Relax and take your quiet eye time (google Dr. Joan Vickers and Quiet Eye—and/or see the reading/video page for more on quiet eye) every time.
There is a
rule of thumb in bunker shooting: if a
shooter calls for
target at less than 7 seconds from the time the previous shooter
finished, that shooter will never consistently score well.
to relax, slow down and set
up using proper quiet eye techniques. Lastly, in
you are allowed to load and immediately close your
gun. ISSF rules, again in a safety-is-paramount consideration,
the gun to be open until it's your turn to shoot.
Period. Because there is a fair length of time between shots, most
the gun barrels to rest on the wood block or rubber pad—ISSF:
188.8.131.52—provided for by the rules. (Less
tiring and easier on the back that way. . . I've never seen a bunker
shooter with a back-brace. I have seen ATA shooters feeling the need to
are the basics to get
you started. As you know, to shoot well,
you can't be
working on more than two things. Only one is much better: keep it
relax, and just shoot
the target. The good scores will come with practice. But in warning:
bunker is an extremely addictive discipline given half a
chance. It's the only sport where you can shoot every target,
then legally find a chip from that target,shoot again and
it. Once your
allows you to
do that, you'll want, need, to come back and do that again and again
and again. The only downside(?) is that you will find it very hard to
go back to shooting ATA type targets. It will be like watching paint
dry; we all know how rewarding that is.
a reasonable-speed Internet connection is available, www.issf-sports.org
complete shoot-off rounds of the major World Cup events for a better
feel of how a round is shot.
Please keep in mind that these are shoot-off rounds and are run under
the single barrel only, for-TV shoot-off rules, somewhat different than
used for the preliminary rounds. Or the rules you will normally shoot
Note the use of "flash" targets (give
a BIG puff of orange or red smoke when the target is hit).
For additional discussion, BJ McDaniels has written a series of three articles on upgrading to bunker shooting from ATA/PITA trap. See: ATAIntlTrapPart1.pdf. Derek Partridge has written many very interesting articles discussing bunker and American trap. See: Confessions of an International Shooter, parts 1 and 2 and the many other like articles on Derek's page.
A comment on guns for bunker: The majority of guns seen at bunker shoots tend to be over-under Perazzis or Berettas.The POI (point of impact) is GENERALLY regulated to be 50/50 or 60/40 for the first barrel and 50/50 or dead-on for the second. The first barrel POI could be adjusted for a shooters' speed-to-target after many targets have been shot. Fast shooters could benefit from a higher POI as the target is still rising (the lowest target, 1.5 meters, is set to 1.5 meters at a 10 meter point; the target continues to rise after that measurement point). Slow shooters, who shoot after the target has nearly flattened out, will like a dead-on POI. However, an argument can be made that there is a disadvantage of having to deal with the occasional barely-legal 1 meter target with anything but a dead-on POI. It is not unusual for bunkers to be mis-set. . .
To continue, trap style stocks are used to insure the eye stays aligned for both shots. Choking performance will be at least on the order of modified for the first barrel and full in the second barrel (see "Open It Up" for a further discussion). All of this is necessitated because of the 45 degree wide angles, thrown at variable heights and relatively high speeds bunker targets are thrown at. Note that the target presentation for the most part is to the rear dome and rim of the target: the hardest part of a target to break. Because of the high target speeds (greater than 62mph vs. 44mph for ATA), there is no time to think, to plan out how to shoot the target. The target appears and is then shot completely from the subconscious, all of which requires perfection in balance, fit and pattern performance.
That said, realize I am commenting on those guns found at tournaments. For those who just want to go have a practice round go, the gun is not critical. Essentially, the gun should fit you well enough so that recoil is not a problem. The POI isn't critical either; as mentioned, many bunker guns are set up to shoot spot-on, altho an argument can be made, as previously mentioned, that the gun's first barrel should shoot higher as even the lowest legally-thrown target, a dead-straight-away 1.5 meter target, is actually still continuing to rise after the 1.5 meter measurement point (it's still climbing even after the ATA target has hit the ground). If you think about it, if the gun shoots 12" high, as many ATA/PITA guns are set up to do, you will be still shooting the tops off targets: hitting them. Since most higher-flying, as 3.5 meter, targets are missed by shooting under, not over, due to failure to drive through the rising target to provide sufficient lead, a higher shooting gun in the hands of a beginner may well be an advantage.
Further, while a gun that shoots two shots is preferable, bunker is actually a one-shot game in that if you aren't close enough to the target to make the correction for a second barrel hit, having the second shot available will do little good. One can see that, by an examination of tournament bunker scores, usually no more than a few targets on the scoring sheet per round is the result of a second barrel hit by the better shooters. Moreover, many new bunker shooters have difficulty shooting a second shot at a target from years of single shot ATA/PITA shooting; they are literally unable to pull the trigger a second time. For them, a second shot possibility just doesn't exist. Finally, the game has changed: putting the target on the scoreboard with the first shot is far more important now. While the occasional second barrel hit is almost certainly necessary to get you into the shootoff, it won't win the shootoff for you any more as all shootoffs are now single barrel, one shot only just like ATA/PITA. So a gun capable of two shots is not an absolute necessity to start with.
As for ammunition, use what you have and don't feel you must have the specialized high-velocity bunker loads. The target will break very nicely if you do your job and point the barrel correctly, no matter what specification shells you have available. Relax and just shoot the target; the score will take care of itself. As to how many shells you'll need to bring, a good bunker shooter will usually use about a dozen second barrel shells in a given round. But best to bring out 50 initially and see how many you use. Harder to keep focus on the last few targets if you're worrying about running out of shells. . .
On lens tints for bunker shooting glasses. Tints are always of necessity a very personal thing as everybody's eyes are different and you are dealing with target contrast to the berm, the field and probably to the sky unless the bunker has a solid tree or wall background. In general, for many shooters, violet lenses seem to work very well against green backgrounds even on dark mornings, but may cause the target to be lost in the clouds. 60% bronze (darkish as described by Decot) works very well on most bunkers, with 15% international brown being useful for darkish mornings. With foggy or dark cloud mornings on some bunkers with an open background, a 15% gold works a bit better than clears, but does nothing for "popping" the target out of the background; it just brightens everything.
Watching the ISSF shoot-off videos on www.issf-sports.org (click on the issf-tv tab) will show what the top shooters are choosing for the various backgrounds at different world venues. It's a pretty strong recommendation to what works best on bunker targets.
It's best to work with a reputable optician who has extensive experience with clay target shooting. Make sure the optician understands the tint is for bunker shooting as you are looking for target contrast against the berm, the field and the sky, whereas an ATA shooter is only worried about the general background at the 2 meter target height and that likely will be what the optician will be thinking you need as they will be the majority of his/her customers. Make sure you have a eye vision test performed yearly.
(From a note recieved from Derek Partridge: to clear up an area of definite confusion: HiDefSpex lens numbers describe the exact opposite degree of light transmission to Decot’s numbers. Whereas with Decot, 15% represents one of their lightest-tint lenses… with HDS, #15 is their darkest lens! Additional info is in Derek's article: HiDefSpex.)
On hearing protection. You may find that you'll need the better quality ear protectors, particularly if you are lucky enough that your bunker has a cover to protect you from the elements. There are several reasons for this. One is that the ammunition used is loaded to a higher velocity, leading to a higher muzzle blast noise level. Secondly, the targets can be at a 45 degree angle so the barrel's muzzle—and the porting to a lesser extent—is closer to you as you stand at an adjacent station than it is in American or Canadien domestic ATA/PITA trap shooting. Thirdly, in the case of a covered bunker, the sound is reflected down from the roof, increasing the noise level presented to your ears. A hearing protection NRR (noise reduction rating) of at least 21 should be considered minimum and a NRR of 30 in some circumstances may be desirable (I remember shooting with a gentleman once whose gun was ported and his commercial loaded ammunition was loaded to 1400'/s (427m/s). Earmuffs with a NRR of 30 were inadequite and comfort was achieved only by the addition of earplugs. And this was on an uncovered bunker). Derek offers some very important comments on hearing protection in his article: Facts about Hearing Protection.
where can you shoot bunker in this country? Click on: the bunker list.
It should be noted that www.usashooting.com
is the US
governing body for bunkershooting and the major US tournament listings
on their website.
bunker list is absolutely not exhaustive. As mentioned above, there are
more but are of limited access, usually because they are
privately owned. At my last count there were about 60 bunker
venues in the United States. I listed those that there should be no
problems in attending, but remember: CALL FIRST!
Note that there are very few "public" bunkers available—normally available whenever the club is open for business. Most bunkers are either privately owned or are open only at very specific times, usually run by a separate sub-group in the club. Calling the club can put you onto the contact person(s) to learn when the next opportunity exists. Make sure you ask if the bunker is currently working. . . Go ONLY when there will be knowledgeable bunker shooter(s) to run the facility for you and can supply help as you need it. Also doubly confirm the club isn't running an event that prevents the bunker from being opened for your use. Note also that if you require 24 gram ammunition, you will need to confirm that it is available. The 24 gram load is a specialized load in the US and must be special-ordered; even public bunker clubs tend not to have it and it usually will be more expensive (truth is, a Walmart 1 oz 1250ft/sec shell does very nicely). You are also well-advised to bring water, fruit, lunch and sometimes, exact cash only for each round in advance, etc.
If you feel after shooting for a while you would like to commit further to bunker shooting, then to get the most rapid improvement and most of all avoid developing bad habits that seem so easy to acquire in this ultra-tough discipline, I can't emphasize enough that a coach be found you feel comfortable working with. I don't mean the guys that you shoot bunker with who've just shot bunker locally for several years. I mean finding someone who's been on the world stage at least to the World Cup level and recognized for his/her coaching skills. See the links section for a short list of US coaches.
A word about wobble trap. Probably every area now has a gun club that has a wobble trap, enabling shooters to get a taste of what bunker is like. While bunker and wobble experiences are still checkers-to-chess far apart, if a wobble is the only game in town, it will still give you an idea of what Olympic trapshooting is all about.
The biggest problem with wobble traps in my experience is misadjustment of the vertical field. Usually, the lowest target is set from 0 to about a half-meter in height. If you are stuck with one of these, you will want to adjust your initial hold point from atop the house to perhaps half of the house height to allow faster, more certain pickup on stations 4 and 5. Reverse if you are left handed. Since the club management usually doesn't want to throw a 76 meter target with true International targets, it means that this low target will hit the ground at around 35 - 40 yards. Not enuf time for most shooters to have chance to use the second barrel if needed. Usually, a super low target is very hard to hit and the second barrel becomes a necessity, but it's only usable by the very fastest shooters.
In a discussion with a member of the US Olympic trap team years ago, it was advised that a good wobble has some practice advantages over a bunker. I find myself in agreement. Since a wobble trap tends to throw more straight-aways, a shooter can get lazy with these easier targets and rapidly degenerate into sloppy habits in setting up for each target, then he gets the unexpected, and tough, one, like the 45 degree 1.5 meter target on station 1 or 5 (Actually closer to 60 degrees if you shoot on the ATA/PITA arc.) the result is very often a miss. It means that you must diligently practice making your setup consistent every time, perhaps even more so than with bunker.
I also find that there tends to be more opportunity for chip shooting as well, when shooting the more fragile American targets. That creates the chance to shoot a lot more second barrel practice. Bottom line is that wobble can be quite useful as in practice for shooting bunker BUT is no substitute for the real thing. Some feel that the difference in speed between the usual slow ATA/PITA wobble trap and a bunker makes wobble shooting poor practice. I find that I adjust to the speed difference within a very few targets, and never perceived target speed differences as a real problem, perhaps because trap is shot with a lead developed by swing through, the rate of a swing-through being determined by the target's speed.
If your club's wobble field does not have acceptable microphones, Clay Delay www.claydelay makes a very reasonably priced belt clip-on personal microphone release system that works extremely well. Buying the skeet version will work perfectly with trap so you can get two for one in one unit. A unit option also can be specified for the always-armed state so you don't need to press the arming button for each target. The unit also has a manual release so someone can join you for a quick round. This arrangement will allow you to shoot without the need for a puller and setting the unit for instantaneous release time will duplicate a bunker computer's release time. Make sure Clay Delay knows you want instantaneous release when you order. Here are more details and some Clay Delay setup pictures.
For a much longer and more detailed discussion on shooting wobble, click here.
And a very
big "thank you" to Derek Partridge for his superb editing