Trapshooting is Our Hobby – Protecting Hearing is One of Our Goals

Wayne Staab
May 14, 2012

Editor Note:  I have a couple of friends, Darrel and Marilyn Miller, of Scott City, Kansas, who are avid trapshooters.  Each winter they gather certain belongings and head for the warmth of Arizona to spend about three months competing in different trapshooting events, and visiting with friends they have accumulated over the years.

As one can surmise, there is substantial occasion to be exposed to loud shotgun blasts – many of them!

I have asked Darrel and Marilyn to report on their sport hobby so that the casual reader who knows little or nothing about this can get an idea as to what is involved, and also to show that those who engage in “Registered Trapshooting” take necessary precautions to protect themselves, their vision, and especially their hearing, which is our interest area.

Figure 1. Friends gathering at a registered trapshoot. Left to right: Don Eikenberry, Marilyn Miller, Art Peyton, Diane Peyton, and Darrel Miller. Eikenberry and Millers are from Scott City, KS and the Peytons are from Peers, Alberta, Canada.

Trapshooting is Our Hobby

 Darrel and Marilyn Miller

 A Little History

In 1900 the American Trapshooting Association was formed with John Phillip Sousa (yes, THAT John Phillip Sousa) as the first president of the organization.  Sousa was an avid trapshooter and a great promoter of the sport.  The name of the organization was changed in 1923 to the Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA), which is the current governing body.  The ATA sets all rules pertaining to registered trapshooting tournaments and keeps the records of each individual member.

In 2011 28,073 ATA members participated in one or more of 6,248 registered tournaments contested throughout the world.  A total of 58,973,186 registered clay targets were thrown by 882 gun clubs.  This is just for trapshooting, which does not include other forms of clay target shooting such as skeet, five-stand, Box Birds, Columbaire, Helice (ZZ birds), Olympic Trap, sporting clays, or practice rounds.  People of all ages – boys, girls, men, and women – compete, and until the Boston Marathon, the “Grand American Trapshoot” was the largest single day sporting event in the world as related to the number of active participants.  Since 2006 the Grand, as it is called, has been held at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex at Sparta, Illinois.  This location has 120 traps and the trap line is 3.5 miles in length, part of which can be seen in 2006 aerial photo below.

Figure 2. Aerial photo in 2006 of the World Shooting & Recreation Complex in Sparta, IL where the Grand American World Championship is held. The trap line consists of 120 traps covering a distance of 3.5 miles. The area on the left is a camping area that has around 700 hookups for camping vehicles.

Trapshooting is a shotgun sport consisting of three different events: singles, handicap, and doubles.  The targets, called clay pigeons, are thrown from a house in front of the shooter’s nearest position to the trap house.  The targets are thrown within specified angles from the shooter; straight, right and left randomly, and at a certain height and distance according to the rules set forth by the ATA.

Singles targets are shot from 16 yards behind the trap house.  Handicap targets are also single targets but are shot from varying distances back from the trap house depending on the shooters ability.  Doubles targets are just that – two targets in the air at the same time, so obviously a gun capable of firing two separate shots is necessary.

Trap guns are made by many companies, both here in the US and in several foreign countries. As with most things, prices vary from fairly reasonable to the sky’s the limit.  Mostly the higher priced guns are more expensive because they may have engraving, gold inlays and fancier wood.  You don’t have to spend a huge amount of money to get a gun that will break targets just as well as the high dollar ones, However, that said, you get what you pay for.  Target guns are built to withstand hundreds of thousands of rounds with little or no repairs.

Our Shooting Experiences

We shoot 12 gauge shotguns.  Marilyn shoots a Browning Citori over/under and a Perazzi single barrel.  I shoot a Kolar combo, which means that it has two or more sets of barrels that fit the same stock and receiver.  The idea behind the combo gun is that once you get it set it will shoot the same point of impact regardless of the set of barrels attached.

Between the two of us we generally shoot 16,000 to 18,000 registered targets a year plus whatever practice targets we shoot.  We have our own trap at our farm, so we can practice whenever we want.  So, we probably shoot around 20.000 total targets per year.  As you can imagine, that is a lot of sound that we are exposed to.  Plus, we are also in the vicinity of other shooters, meaning that we are further exposed – say to about 60,000 shotgun blasts per year.  Some shoot a lot more than we do, but probably more shoot less than we do.  During a regular week of competition, one could easily shoot 1000 to 1400 rounds.

Figure 3. Back yard trap shooting setup for Marilyn and Darrel Miller. The square blocks represent shooter locations for station and for distance.

Our friend Wayne Staab, editor of this blog (Wayne’s World) reports 12-gauge shotgun blasts at the near ear (ear closest to the muzzle blast – left ear for a right-handed shooter) of about 153 dB SPL, and far ear of about 146 dB SPL as shown in the following Table {{1}}[[1]] Staab WJ, Lindberg R, and Rintelmann W, Auditory levels of firearms, unpublished.[[1]]

We have noticed that the average age of the shooters is getting older.  This may be due to the fact that trapshooting is an expensive sport and many young people cannot afford to get involved until their families are grown.  Dr. Staab comments further that hearing loss, even for those who protect their hearing, deteriorates as a natural result of the ageing process.  It is for this reason that we take such care to protect our hearing from noise exposure because we hope to avoid the double whammy on our hearing of noise and advancing age.

Hearing Protection

It is required at all registered shoots that eye and ear protection be worn.  However, this is standard practice in any shooting club.  When I started shooting in the 60’s there were quite a few shooters that did not wear any ear or eye protection.  Some of the ear plugs that were available at that time were not very comfortable to wear and there wasn’t much selection.  Many of the shooters wore shooting muffs and a few still use the newer electronic noise reduction/amplifier muffs, but these are uncomfortable in the summer and don’t fit over some of the headgear that is worn.  Some shooters used to use cotton in their ears and some even tried using the filter tip from filtered cigarettes.  I started with muffs, but went to the molded ear plugs when they became available.  Many shooters also use the disposable foam or other material plugs.  I prefer to have most of the sound around me pretty much blocked out when I shoot so that I can more easily concentrate on the targets.  Marilyn uses molded plugs and a new electronic ear plug being evaluated by Dr. Staab for Etymotic Research.  This plug allows her to hear conversation and sounds around her but suppresses the sound of a shot. Being able to hear our “dead” or “lost” scores both during shooting and when changing stations following each 5 shots is important so we know where we, and the other 4 shooters stand on the round of 25 shots.  This is where the amplified earplugs come in handy.  We were asked if we ever experience ringing (tinnitus) in our ears after shooting.  Neither of us do.

Back in the “Old Days”, I don’t think many of the shooters wore any ear protection.  Most of the Old Timers I know are pretty severely hearing impaired.  For them, the old saying of “You can tell an old trapshooter, but you can’t tell him much,” is very telling.  Marilyn and I have always worn hearing and eye protection and as a result, we don’t think our shooting has had much effect on our hearing.

We use hearing protection any time we are close to the shooting line, such as watching shootoffs or just walking up and down the line while shooting is taking place.  Marilyn especially likes her amplified earplugs for much of this because it allows here to carry on normal conversations and still have her hearing protected.

Trapshooting – Friends and Travel

Trapshooting gives us the opportunity to travel because you can shoot somewhere in the US every weekend of the year.  Each state has its own State shoot, and these usually last about a week.  There are several special large tournaments in various parts of the country throughout the year and then in August is the “Grandaddy of them all” – The Grand American World Championships for ten days at Sparta, Illinois.

In the winter months there are “Chain Shoots” in Florida, Arizona and California.  These are usually a week long and you can then move “Along the Chain” to another club for a week and so on for three or four months.  We go to Arizona for three months in the winter and shoot on the “Chain”.

Our experience has been that as a rule, trapshooters are some of the nicest, friendliest people we know.  They are positive thinkers and are always willing to help you in any way they can.  They come from all walks of life and all economic levels.  We have made many friends who have become more like family than just friends.  There haven’t been many shoots that we have attended that we don’t find someone we know.  Trapshooting gives you a reason to go somewhere!  Marilyn and I have been fortunate to have shot registered targets in 21 states and attended State Shoots in 18 states.  We have attended our Kansas State Shoot – me for 22 years and Marilyn for 17 years.  I started shooting registered targets in 1967 and Marilyn in 1994. We travel with our motor home and often park in camp areas that are part of the shooting site.

Preparation for our Yearly 3-Month Odyssey – the Arizona “Chain” Circuit

During the Arizona trip we collectively expect to shoot approximately 12,000 to 14,000 targets, including regulation and practice shooting.  We take about 10,000 shells with us and purchase shells for the targets we shoot over that amount.

We reload a lot of the ammunition we shoot, but we do shoot new shells too.  Up until the past three or four years we could load a box of shells for about half the cost of new ones.  The cost of lead has gone up so much lately that we can sometimes buy new shells in large quantities almost as cheap as reloading.  We use MEC reloaders – one operated by a hydraulic system and one on an electric unit.  With the hydraulic unit we can load 700 to 800 shells per hour and 600 to 700 with the electric one.  It is less expensive to buy the reloading components in large quantities also.  These consist of wads, powder, primers and shot.  The better shotshell cases can be reloaded 8 to 10 times before they have to be discarded.  Target loads are lighter, as in reference to recoil, than field loads (used for hunting) and use less powder and shot.

Figure 4. Darrel with two types of relaoders - electric and hydrolic. Approximately 600 to 800 shells can be reloaded with each of these reloaders.

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