The Grid

The Grid—A training field intended to emulate challenging sporting clays targets

Many gun clubs today have multiple clay target venues, such as skeet, trap and sporting clays. The larger clubs may have additional venues such as Olympic/Bunker Trap, Helice, 5-Stand and possibly even Powder Pigeon.

The club I belong to has several shooters that follow the sporting clays competitive circuit. They indicate some of their out-of-town venues are quite challenging. Basically, what they are saying is they see targets they have never seen or attempted to shoot before making their success more difficult.

The two sporting clays courses we have at our club are frequently set up for corporate and charity events. This can be a problem for the better sporting clays members, as the targets can be set up so as not to discourage the fun for new or less-experienced shooters. As a result, the targets are nothing like the hard targets they would experience at a different club’s competitive event.

So our club decided to create a “training area” offering more challenging sporting clays targets. They call the area "The Grid". Let me explain one of the main differences in The Grid versus a sporting clays course. There is only one lane with a cage. In other words, you don’t need a cart to travel around from station to station. Basically, the setup looks like a stationary 5-Stand with much more challenging targets.

The popularity of this training area has been amazing, and I have no doubt more targets are shot at this venue than on our normal sporting clays courses because our competitive shooters work out there almost daily.

Initially, The Grid consisted of eight traps scattered around an area half the size of a football field, surrounded by trees. The array of traps varies from extremely long crossing shots to Springing Teal, and they can even incorporate a Rabbit into the mix. Some of the targets are extremely long-range, going-away targets. To increase the difficulty of the targets, it is possible to move the cage back 10-20 yards.

Since the initial project was completed, the popularity of the game gave way to two more lanes and cages, one on either side of the original lane. This allows the shooter, without changing the setup of The Grid, to move either left or right to see the same targets with a different angle of presentation.

While I have not personally shot The Grid, the members I know say it is the best practice possible for a difficult sporting clays event. They change the setup of each of the eight machines every two weeks.

As a skeet shooter, the memory of my first visit to The Grid was almost frightening. The No. 1 and No. 2 machines were concealed behind hay bales about 35-40 yards directly out front. When you called for the No. 1 target, it flew directly away and way up high to where it rose above the tree line. After the target reached its apex, it would then become affected by the wind and either drift to the left or right. I watched several shooters fire at the target, but by the time their shot reached the target at roughly 50-60 yards, it had moved laterally in one direction or another. Sound difficult? It was.

Many of the targets were not presented full-face, making it more difficult to shoot. Even those that were full-face targets were presented as crossers, only they were out at distances of 35-50 yards, and the lead was quite substantial both forward and below in many cases. One would need to practice it numerous times to figure it out. Take my word for it — it was not like skeet where you know exactly what the lead is supposed to be. In fact, I heard one shooter comment his lead on one particular target was a school bus long. Being a skeet shooter, I am not sure I can even relate to that.

Not every target on The Grid is extremely difficult. There are a couple of trap-looking targets and nearby crossers that most people hit, but those really far out are extremely challenging. When you add a simultaneous pair, it magnifies the difficulty. You must decide on which target to take first, otherwise the next one might be out of sight over the trees or on the ground.

I know a group of men who shoot The Grid daily, and they say it is the best practice for difficult, unconventional targets that appear from time to time along the competitive trail.

How else would one get to practice truly difficult targets were it not for a practice field such as The Grid? SS

John Bulger started his skeet shooting career in 1988 at 42 years of age. He shot his first 100 straight the following year in the 28 gauge and since then has broken a total of 239  perfect scores: 90 in the 12 gauge, 77 in the 20 gauge, 54 in the 28 gauge, 10 in the .410 bore, and 8 in the doubles. John has been on 16 All-American Concurrent Teams, 21 Texas State Teams. John has earned both his AA and AAA pins including a 4x50 Pin earned at the Hodgdon Mini-Southwest in 2010. John’s most memorable accomplishments were winning the Briley Bradshaw in 1997, the Texas State 12 gauge Champion in 2002 and the Texas State Doubles Champion in 2011. That same year John was awarded the Earl Barroso Award for winning the Senior HOA at the Texas State Championships. John was also the Senior HOA Champion at the Mini-World in 2010.  During his career John has shot 170,050 registered targets. While he’s had a couple of 399s, a 400x400 is still on John’s bucket list. John served on the TSSA Board of Directors from 1997-1999 and has been a member of the Dallas Gun Club since 1989. John has been a contributing writer to Shotgun Sports since 2013.

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