MCSC Mobile LogoMenard County Sportsman's Club
Selecting a Trap Gun for a Youth Shooter - Part 1
8-2-2015 - Chris Robb

There are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a gun for a youth trap shooter. In the following articles I will try to address some of those key areas, offer a few suggestions, and provide you with enough information to begin the hunt for that perfect gun.


Before my son was born my wife set out to procure every possible item needed to welcome him into this world. I bought him a baseball glove.

The truth is that any shotgun that fits a child is suitable to get them started. Purchasing a gun is an investment. If your child is new to trap shooting it will take time to determine if they will stick with the sport. It is advisable to let your child shoot for a season before diving into the purchase of a new gun.

The ole Winchester in the closet.

I mentioned before that any shotgun that fits a child is suitable to get them started. I cringed a little as I wrote those words, so let's discuss that statement a little to make me feel better about putting it in print.

You should work with your child before handing him Grandpa's old shotgun purchased in ought-six. Remember, trap shooting consists of five stations where each shooter will have five shots at each station for a total of twenty five shots per round. Your child will probably be shooting two rounds if they practice with a youth program. That is a lot of repetitive hits to a child's shoulder and cheek. Grandpa called that old gun "the Mule" for a reason. Here are a few questions to consider:
  1. Is he/she able to hold the gun up once shouldered?
  2. Are they able to stand relatively straight while holding the gun?
  3. What kind of gun is it? Do you know how much felt recoil the gun produces?
  4. Have you shot the gun yourself?
If you are a member of a club, there are probably other shooters that have purchased guns for their own children. You may be able to borrow a suitable gun to get your child started. Just remember to keep in mind that if someone is nice enough to loan the gun, you should be nice enough to return the gun in the same condition you received it and KEEP IT CLEAN. You may also consider a token of appreciation for the use of the gun. A box of good shells or a gift card to a restaurant are almost always welcome.


He shot really well with the "Ole Mule". He hit his first target, got back up, and tried again.

The first thing to discuss is the myth that all kids should start with a 20 gauge gun. These guns often have a very sharp felt recoil. They can be a suitable option for smaller shooters due to the smaller size of the gun, but pay attention to your child and make sure they are not developing a flinch due to the felt recoil of the smaller, lighter gun.

Let's discuss the different types of shotguns. First there is the break action shotgun. These are over/under, single shot, or side by side shotguns. In context to gun type and not yet discussing other characteristics such as weight, these shotguns typically have the most felt recoil.

Break Action Shotgun

The next gun type is the pump action shotgun. These guns will also have a considerable amount of felt recoil. Both the break action and pump style guns receive the pressure of the fired shot directly to the back of the gun and into your shoulder and cheek.

Pump Action Shotgun

Gun weight and shell loads will have significant impact on felt recoil, but for now we are simply discussing styles of shotguns.

This brings us to the semi-auto gas operated shotgun. A gas operated semi-auto shotgun will disperse the recoil over a longer period of time due to the nature of the mechanics of the gas operated system. This will give the gun a shove to the shoulder rather than a percussive jab to the shoulder.

Semi-Auto Shotgun

Not all semi-automatic shotguns are created equal. A semi-auto that is recoil driven(such as the old Browning A-5) rather than gas-operated model will potentially have the same felt recoil as the other styles of guns mentioned above. Be sure you know what you are buying before opening that wallet.

Up Next...

In Part 2, we'll take a look at the anatomy of a trap gun and talk about gun fit. Stay tuned...