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Last Call For the Sport of Trapshooting reposted.

Discussion in 'Uncategorized Threads' started by kentdeadapair, Aug 23, 2008.

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  1. kentdeadapair

    kentdeadapair TS Member

    Feb 28, 2008

    Hi everyone! My name is Kent Harris and since I am hoping to convince you that there are problems with the handicap system in registered trapshooting, and that we can (and should) make some changes, I think it is only fair that I tell you a little about myself and especially about my trapshooting background and experiences.

    I have lived in Idaho most of my life and retired two years ago after being a Junior High science teacher for 35 years. I was in the Army from 1968-1970 but was lucky and spent most of that time in Italy. My wife Liz is also a shooter and we have 2 daughters.

    I started going to gun clubs, turkey shoots, and registered trap shoots with my dad when I was a little boy and have been around gun clubs continuously ever since. I started shooting trap in the mid 1950’s and have been a devoted bird hunter for a few years longer than that.

    Working as a trap boy at the local club paid for my shooting for the next 10 years and I supervised the trap help for many years before and after I was in the army.

    I have done almost every job there is connected with gun clubs and registered shooting, attended 80+ Idaho state shoots (ATA and PITA) and worked at most of them. Have attended the Grand American twice (1963 and 1990), the Grand Pacific 30+ times and have shot over 300.000 registered targets.

    Idaho championships I have won include 6 handicap (5 ATA and 1 PITA) and I have three 100 straights in handicap (2 PITA). I have numerous wins at the Grand Pacific including a few handicaps and the Doubles Championship and completed my PITA 400 in 1994 (same as the ATA Grand Slam). I got my ATA AA-27-AA pin in 2004 and have been inducted into the Idaho Trapshooting Hall of Fame and the PITA Trapshooting Hall of Fame.

    Some of the positions and jobs I have held over the years include:

    1. Boise Gun Club Board of Directors – 20+ years where I served as President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and director at various times.

    2. State PITA association – 31 years where again I served in all different positions over the years.

    3. Idaho Trapshooting Hall of Fame – Secretary for 11 years.

    4. PITA Handicap Committee – 20+ years.

    5. PITA Rules Committee – 20+ years.

    6. PITA Executive Committee (two different terms).

    7. PITA Trapshooting Hall of Fame – 1st year as a director.

    At the present time I am down to three committees (handicap, rules, and Hall of Fame), I help the state association out once in a while and also put on two registered shoots each year for my local club. I’m a big believer that we have got to keep shooters coming to the small shoots or they won’t be there to go to the big ones.

    I am thankful for any wins I have had over the years but realize there are many, many shooters much better than I have been. I am also proud of the service I have contributed but again, there are many who have contributed much more to trapshooting. I do feel that my experiences over the years have given me insight into some of the things that are good about shooting and some that could be improved.

    By the way, my path to the 27 yard line was a pretty long one. It took me 20 years and “erratic” would be a kind description of my shooting. I would shoot well for periods of time and then fall into awful slumps that could last for long periods of time. Singles scores in the 60’s and 70’s were not uncommon. If it were not for the fun I had at shoots and gun clubs with my family and friends I probably would have quit several times.

    In 1976 while shooting bad (again) and with nothing to lose, I tried shooting with two eyes and began to work more on my mechanics. Since then even though I still had slumps they were not as long and the scores were not as low and overall the results were pretty good. The last two years I have struggled some but (like we all do) I plan a rebound for 2008.

    The point of the previous two paragraphs is that I have had lows that most good shooters never have, and I have had highs that most average shooters never have so again, my experiences color my thoughts and opinions concerning the handicap system.

    I was always interested in the rich history of trapshooting and the great shooters of the past and present. Over the years I collected historical items, did research, and gathered information on many different subjects and shooters. From both a historical and a practical point of view, I came to believe that the handicap system that worked well in the past is not adequate for our sport as it has evolved into the 21st century. I hope to be able to convince you of this also.


    Since many of you who will read this are not from the West, and might know little or nothing about the PITA, I thought you might be interested in what it is, why it still exists after 76 years, if the PITA membership believes there are problems with the handicap system, and what they have done or tried to do with regards to the handicap system as it affects their members and shoots.

    The PITA (Pacific International Trapshooting Association) was formed in 1931. It is a Western trapshooting association and at the present time they have state or provincial associations in: Alaska/Yukon, British Columbia, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. For comparison, the ATA has over 55 state or provincial associations.

    The ATA has about 34,000 members and the PITA about 4,000. For the 2006 target year the PITA threw a little over 5,000,000 targets and the ATA threw about 79,000,000. For the past several years the Grand Pacific has been held at the Evergreen Gun Club near Littlerock, Washington (close to Olympia). The club has 36 traps and is a beautiful place to visit and vacation but a tough place to shoot (my opinion here). At the 2006 Grand Pacific the largest event had 450 shooters.

    In British Columbia and Oregon the PITA is the larger of the two shooting associations while in the other 6 states or provinces the ATA has more members and throws more targets. For example in Idaho the PITA throws about 17% as many targets as the ATA and in Washington about 57% as many.

    When Doug House was President of the ATA in 1981 he came to our ATA state shoot in Idaho and we had a nice conversation about many things and he asked me why I felt there was any need for the PITA. I asked him what his favorite shoots of the year were and he thought a moment and said “ my state shoot and the Grand American.” I told him I lived in a state where we had two state shoots each year and also because of the PITA I had another “Grand” to go to and it was a few hundred miles away rather than several thousand. I loved the Grand American the times I was able to go but for a working guy from out here, the cost and time involved are often prohibitive, so the Grand Pacific looks pretty good to a lot of us. There are other reasons that the PITA continues to exist but the extra state shoot and Grand are what got me involved.

    At the time I started shooting, most of the shooters in Boise shot both ATA and PITA shoots, so my dad did and I did. We would go to one or sometimes both of the state shoots each year (depending on where they were held). I worked and promoted both ATA and PITA shoots when they were scheduled at Boise and had no preference for one over the other.

    In 1973 I was President of the Boise Gun Club when we held the state PITA shoot and not a single state director attended, so I ran the state meeting and realized their state association was near collapse because of apathy. I decided to get involved for a selfish reason – I didn’t want to lose the luxury of having two state shoots each year. Over time I realized that since the PITA was a much smaller organization than the ATA, it would be easier to get changes accomplished there. I sure didn’t get everything I wanted over the years but was able to make quite a few changes. My goal was always to make the game more fair and more fun for the shooters.

    Because of this goal I talked to hundreds of shooters over the years about how they felt registered shooting could be made more fair and more fun for them. In general it didn’t seem to matter if you were talking to a PITA shooter or an ATA shooter (and many of them shot both associations), there would be a few who wouldn’t change a thing, but most had ideas about changes they would like to see take place.

    These ideas covered almost any aspect of trapshooting you can imagine, but over a long period of time I began to see more and more complaints, comments, and suggestions dealing with the handicap system than any other several topics put together. So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at where the handicap system - for both the PITA and ATA stands today (more on the history of the development of the handicap system in a later section of this article).

    Initial Yardage Assignment – ATA. Ladies and Sub-Juniors are put at 19 yards. New male shooters are put at 20 yards. PITA. Ladies and Sub-Juniors are put at 18 yards. New male shooters are put at 20 yards.

    Yardage Reductions – ATA. Shooters get an automatic review every 1000 handicap targets. If their average (after abnormally low scores are thrown out) is below their zone break point (either 89 or 90 depending on where you live) they can get a one yard reduction or they can refuse it. Maximum of 2 reductions per year. PITA. The shooter must request a reduction. If he has 800 handicap (and after abnormally low scores are thrown out) with an average under 89 he can get a one yard reduction. Maximum of 2 reductions per year.

    Yardage Advancements – ATA. A score of 96 earns at least a half yard. Scores of 97-98-99 or the winning of $750 or more in one handicap event will earn at least one yard. A score of 100 or winning more that $1200 in one handicap event will earn at least 1.5 yards. Their punch schedule runs from 15-39 shooters – winner gets at least a half yard, through shoots of 1500+ shooters where high score gets 2.5 yards, second high score gets 2 yards, third high score gets 1.5 yards and fourth high score gets 1 yard.

    PITA. Scores of 97 or better earn at least one yard. Their punch schedule runs from 25-49 shooters – winner gets at least a half yard, through shoots of 500+ where high score gets 2 yards, second high score gets 1 yard, third high score gets 1 yard and fourth high score gets a half yard.
    Both associations also have provisions for reviews and moving shooters back based on high handicap averages, etc. The ATA also has rules that any punch of 1.5 yards or more cannot be removed for at least 2 years and that a state/provincial handicap champion gets at least an automatic one yard.

    This is a very brief summary of the handicap system as it is set up at the present time. For all the details (and there are many) I would invite interested shooters to read these sections of the rules. They are in the association yearly average books or you can request a copy from the ATA and PITA.

    As you can see there are no really big differences between the way the ATA and PITA handle the handicap system (probably the differences that stand out the most to me are the PITA requiring shooters to request a reduction and the ATA having 96 as a punch score and making their larger punches of 1.5 yards and up non-reducible for two years. This last requirement was eased a bit at the 2007 Grand).

    Now, to answer the question: Do PITA shooters feel there are problems with the handicap system and if so, what has the PITA done in response to member concerns?

    Well, since at least the mid 1970’s, members have been complaining and attempting to have changes made in the PITA handicap system. Starting in the late 60’s (Dan Orlich had the first 400 X 400 H-A-A score in registered trapshooting at the 1969 Grand Pacific) and rapidly escalating through the 70’s, good 27 yard shooters began to dominate more and more handicap events at the Grand Pacific and many of the state and provincial shoots.

    In response to this situation, many individuals began to campaign for changes. Some got changes made in their local shoot programs and we began to see yardage groups for trophies which often eventually evolved into the 27 yarders being in a group by themselves. We also began to see purses divided by yardage groups and other modifications designed to limit the impact of 27 yard winners on the handicap events.

    As time went on, more shooters began to press for changes at the parent association level as rule changes and program changes for the PITA Grand Pacific. The punch schedule was eventually modified several times so that today they do not punch quite as much or as deep as in the past. Also reductions became a little easier to get with rule changes that lowered the number of targets for a reduction, took into account ATA reductions and provided a process for hardship reductions.

    A major change in the Grand Pacific program took place several years ago when all handicap added money was divided into yardage groups and the cash purse was also divided into yardage groups. The ATA 2007 Grand American program shows that added money is paid with no regard to yardage and while there is a yardage purse, there is also an open $50 option and an open $25 Jackpot purse on the handicaps.
    Probably the one change that would have had the most impact on the PITA handicap system was proposed in the mid 1980’s. It would have moved the back yardage to 28 yards and created a “master class” of handicap shooters. “Master Class” shooters would have shot against themselves only and for their own monies only. This proposal was ready for passage when threats of a lawsuit and a promise to “come up with something better” (I’m still holding my breath waiting for that one 20+ years later) combined to keep it from being accepted. The PITA was that close to changing trapshooting history and they let it slip through their fingers!

    One reason that the PITA has not made more changes to their handicap system over the years is the reluctance of many PITA officials and members to support major changes because they fear that if they turn out to be unpopular, the ATA can step in and quickly put them out of business (at least in certain areas). This is a valid concern for the PITA because unlike most of the country where the ATA is “the only game in town” PITA members usually have the option of shooting more ATA shoots and targets if they wish. The PITA often walks a fine line to survive in some states and provinces and sometimes is there only because of a few dedicated “pushers” and hard workers who keep the association going. A good example of this is Utah. For over 40 years they had a strong state association and good state shoots and then in the mid 1970’s because of deaths and shooters moving out of state, they lost several long-time staunch supporters and in just a couple of years their state association was completely gone.

    In conclusion, the PITA is having many of the same problems that the ATA is having with good 27 yard shooters dominating the handicap events at many of their shoots. Unless you lived in the West or had access to On Target magazine or the PITA yearbook you would never know this. Many of these good shooters are well known to ATA members because they shoot a lot of ATA targets also and have had many wins and exposure in Trap and Field magazine and the ATA average book for many years. There is also another group of good shooters who shoot mostly PITA shoots. They are good, they win a lot and they are not well known outside of the West.

    It is my belief that if the ATA ever makes significant changes in their handicap system to address this and other problems, that the PITA would quickly follow suit and shooters of both associations (and the sport of trapshooting) would be the big winners.


    We have taken a look at the handicap system we use today, but what did they have in the past? This section is not meant to be an inclusive summary of all the changes that have taken place in the idea of using some form of handicap system. Shooters and their Associations have been trying to find ways to help equalize shooters chances of winning longer than the past 100+ years that we have had clay target shooting.

    The earliest reference I can find in my limited reference library is from Dick Baldwin’s wonderful book “The Road to Yesterday.” I would recommend that every person who really cares where the future of trapshooting will lead should get this book, or at least read through it several times to learn about our past history.

    The beginnings of the handicap system as we know it today date from the first Grand American that used clay targets (1900). Before this time shoots and clubs used various handicapping methods that included allowing extra targets to be shot, counting misses as breaks or adding targets to the number actually hit. (p. 127)

    Baldwin writes:

    By the fall of 1899, it was obvious to the Old Interstate Trapshooting Association and its sparkplug and secretary Elmer Shaner that a new system of handicapping was necessary to keep trapshooting competitive. Since the clay target replaced the glass ball, the game had increased greatly in popularity and attendance was up at most tournaments. The big problem was that a handful of shooters were doing all the winning. Elliott, Gilbert, Fanning, Marshall and a few others had dominated the pigeon rings for years and now their superiority spilled over to trap, where they continued their winning ways.

    Something had to be done to give the “little guy” a chance to win. The officers of the Interstate Association looked to the success of the Grand American Live Bird Championship. The answer might well lie in placing the better shooters farther back and moving the poorer ones closer to the traphouse. This had been the common practice at pigeon shoots for years………………..The vast majority welcomed the idea of a handicap tournament. Those in doubt seemed to be the shooters who won the most at smaller shoots. Many of these “big guns” relied on winning as it was their sole source of income. (p. 125)

    On June 13, 1900 the first handicap event ever shot in American trapshooting took place. The handicap committee had the latitude of establishing yardages from 14 to 25 yards. However, no one was placed closer than 15 yards or farther back than 22 yards to start the tournament. It is my assumption that the committee used known ability and previous scores to assign yardages.

    Baldwin writes near the end of his article that: “The handicap system at the first Grand American was far from flawless (as it still is), but it was a foundation to build on and the end result was by far better.”

    I do not know when the association began issuing “average” books but the earliest one I have is for 1916 and is titled: “Second Annual Review and Fourth Annual List of Official Averages of Contestants in Registered Trapshooting Tournaments of 1916.” It contains the winners of the Grand American Handicap from 1900 through 1916 and it looks as if they were still using the same handicapping system because winners in that time span ranged from 16 yards (3) through 22 yards (2).

    Under Official High Average Winners it is stated that prior to the year 1908 there was really no “official Winner of High Average” for the season’s trapshooting. In that year careful record was kept of scores made and a real “high average winner” was developed. Then the winners of the Interstate Association High Averages at Single Targets for amateurs and professionals for the years 1908 through 1916 are listed. This is followed by the high averages at double targets for these same years but there is no listing or mention of handicap averages anywhere in the book.

    1918 saw a name change from the Interstate Association to The American Trapshooting Association, and it was mentioned in the average book that the State Handicaps, inaugurated in 1918 had been discontinued.

    The 1919 average book shows that they were working on “Inauguration of a class system which would be practically uniform and permit trapshooters of the several degrees of skill to compete for Association trophies with their peers in at least one event at sanctioned tournaments.” I am assuming this was meant for 16 yard targets and there is no mention of any system for handicap events although they were now using 16-22 yards as the distances for the Grand American Handicap.

    For the first time the winners of state shoot handicap events were published in 1920. It would seem however that handicap events were still in the trial stage as it was stated in the foreword of the average book that: “During 1920, two classes of targets were recognized at Registered Tournaments – singles, 16-yard rise, and doubles………..Distance Handicap events were recognized by the A.T.A. at State, Sectional and the Grand American Handicap tournaments in 1920. This was to some extent experimental and it was not known how the registration of handicap targets would be received by the majority of the trapshooters.”

    Over the next few years handicap events must have become popular because by 1928 the average book of the Amateur Trapshooting Association (another name change) listed handicap averages along with singles and doubles. They also listed state handicap champions and on page 13 showed the new rules for classifying and handicapping at the Grand American.

    96% and over…………………………….AA and 24-25 yards
    93 and under 96…………………………..A and 22-23 yards
    90 and under 93…………………………..B and 20-21 yards
    87 and under 90…………………………..C and 18-19 yards
    84 and under 87…………………………..D and 17-18 yards
    Under 84…………………………………..E and 16-17 yards

    There is no mention if state shoots, etc. were using something like this to handicap, and also shooters had no yardages listed with their handicap averages probably because it was often different from shoot to shoot throughout the year.

    Ten years later the 1938 average book lists state handicap champions and runner-ups. The yardages shown (many were not) ranged from 16 through 25 yards. Yardages still were not listed with a shooter’s handicap average.

    There were two more major changes still to come to the handicap system. Vic Reinders in his column “Vic’s Views (T and F March, 1981) writes: “Prior to 1947, at each shoot a Handicap Committee assigned each shooter whatever yardage it thought was appropriate. In 1947 the punched card-system was started. (I was on the committee that set up the system.) However the limits then were 16 and 25 yards.”

    This is what we are used to using today. A shooter is assigned a yardage and he shoots from there until he earns yardage (card punched back) or is issued a yardage reduction with a new paper card.

    The second major change took place in 1955 when the maximum yardage was moved back to 27 yards. (I am assuming this is also when they changed from 16 to 18 yards as the minimum). It is hard to imagine today that one shooter could have such an impact on the sport, but the shooter who is usually given credit for this happening was a Washington state shooter named Arnold Riegger.

    Dick Baldwin writes: “Old-Timers will surely recognize his name. There were many stories about Arnold, some true and others not. Some say that he’s the one responsible for the 27–yard line and they’re right. In an effort to stop him from winning big money handicaps in the Western states, the ATA changed the rules on January 1, 1955 moving the maximum yardage from 25 to 27 yards. This didn’t stop Arnold. In Las Vegas on February 12, 1955, he broke 97 from 26 yards and became the second shooter to reach the 27-yard line.” (p.131)

    Hall of Fame member Hugh “Bud” McKinley told Baldwin that: “Riegger is responsible for the creation of the 27 yard line in registered shooting. He won so many events in the West from 25 yards that they changed the longest yardage to 27.” (p. 92)

    Arnold was a handicap shooter the likes of which had not been seen before. He won a lot and he often won by large margins from the maximum yardage of the day (25).
    Just a few examples of his handicap shooting include:

    In 1951 in Reno, he broke 583 x 600 from the maximum 25 yards and won a new Dodge. (over a 97% average) (Baldwin. P. 133)

    “In one of the sensational exhibitions of trapshooting ever displayed in the Rocky Mountains, Arnold Riegger won the Rocky Mountain Handicap with a 390 x 400 target score. Shooting from a 25 yard handicap, Riegger blasted his way to the win over a large field of shooters. His score was one of the best ever recorded in the nation.” (1954 From Past Pages. T and F. October, 2004)

    Baldwin also mentioned that Riegger won a car in Ohio on his way back from the 1954 Grand and that he led the ATA in handicap average twice. (P. 131)

    We can see that a lot happened in trapshooting from 1900 to 1955. It took quite a while for handicap events to become popular, but when they did, they became very popular. The handicap system evolved over time to become what we still use today.
    Somewhere between 1947 and 1956 they began to publish shooter’s yardages along with their handicap averages. At that time they also showed what yardage a shooter started the year at, and if there were any changes, where he ended the year also.

    In the next section of this article we will take a look at what has happened with handicap shooting since 1955 to the present. This is a 52 year period since the last major change to the handicapping system.


    If you’ve read this far, I hope you will take the time to read (and perhaps reread) this section carefully and then make a thoughtful decision concerning the state of registered trapshooting today. If we (ATA members) feel that the handicap system is working well and needs at most a few minor changes, then we need to move on to other methods of improving and promoting our sport. If, on the other hand, it seems that the present handicap system needs numerous and significant changes to best serve the membership and ensure the preservation of registered trapshooting, then we need to get these changes accomplished as soon as possible.

    Also, I hope you will keep in mind that sometimes what we like as an individual shooter is not what would be best for trapshooting in general and the ATA in particular. The ATA must be successful and maintain high membership and target levels for there to continue to be the tournaments we have grown to expect and that we enjoy today.

    Fifteen years ago when I began to write letters and articles concerning the handicap system I was only concerned with a solution to the problem of 27 yard shooters dominating the handicaps in the West. I was constantly surprised that when I would talk to shooters from the other parts of the country they were having very little problem with 27 yard shooters winning so much. They felt if there was a problem that it was a “Western” problem at best. At that time I was only concerned with “equalization” at the back end of the handicap system but as I talked to shooters and studied the situation I began to realize (thanks to several thoughtful people that will be mentioned later) that there were also serious problems with the system on the short yardage end also.

    Since most shooters do not have the time or resources available (or the inclination) to gather data to help them decide if they think the handicap system is working well or not, the following section will present the findings and opinions of many different people over a pretty long period of time. And also, a lot of numbers (well, what would you expect from a history geek and a baseball stat freak?)

    Any handicap system is supposed to equalize shooters. Everyone realizes that no system can be developed that will make every shooter equal in every handicap event but the question is, can we improve the present handicap system to at least get a lot closer to our ideal goal.

    Let’s take a look at what has happened to handicap shooting since 1955 when we went to the 27 yard line. The 1956 average book shows twelve shooters as high handicap average shooters in three groups – 4,000+ targets, 3,000 to 4,000 and 2,000 to 3,000. Only one of them started the year on 27 (Dan Orlich) and another made the 27 during the year (Bud June). All but one of them was from the West (California, Nevada and Oregon).

    27 yarders were still quite rare. Going into the 1957 target year California had four for about 900 shooters while most states didn’t have even one. New York (250+), Indiana (700+), and Pennsylvania (700+) had none while Ohio (1100+) and Illinois (1100+) had one and two respectively. Nevada probably had the most per capita with Joe Devers and Dan Orlich among their 85 shooter population and Washington had one – Arnold Riegger.

    You seldom saw a 27 yard shooter in the East or Midwest but there would be several at the big money shoots out West. Idaho had no 27 yarders then and it was some time before one got to our local club. We had board walkways back to 25 yards still and he had to shoot behind a line drawn in the dirt. As time went by and they became more and more common, almost all clubs added the necessary two yards of cement or blacktop and we moved into the age of the 27 yard shooter.

    Before we go any further, I would like to make it clear that none of this article is intended as an attack on the shooters who have the ability to dominate the system the way it is now designed. It is really just the opposite because it points out how incredibly good many of them have become. If we had the same ability level, most of us would be shooting (and winning) a lot also because (money aside) it is a lot of fun to win when you are competing in something you enjoy doing. Any sport needs it’s heroes. I will never forget the thrill of seeing Frank Troeh in Portland, or watching, reading about, and talking with Arnold Riegger, Dan Orlich, and Hank Copsey when I was starting to shoot. We will still have our heroes even if we make major changes in the handicap system. Some may be different than the ones we have today, and they may get their rewards from trapshooting in different ways but they will still be “the best” and they will be our heroes.

    Missouri Fall Handicap Championship (1,202 entries) Champion Leo Harrison – 100 straight all alone. 1995.

    Las Vegas Midwinter – 1995. Handicap championship. Champion Leo Harrison – 100 and second Phil Kiner – 100.

    An old-timer once told me years ago: “The best shooters should almost always win the doubles, singles, H-O-A and H-A-A championships. But if you have a handicap system that works, they should not usually win the handicap events.”

    Ray Stafford – Through the 1994 Grand American he had won 28 handicap trophies there including 4 champions. He was champion in two more in 1995.

    Leo Harrison – The only shooter to be runner-up in the Grand American Handicap twice (tied for 1st in 93). Won the Budweiser Handicap at the Grand twice and was runner-up once (tied for 1st). In 1990 when he set the all-time H-O-A record for the Grand American of 991 X 1000 he had 98 in the President’s handicap, 100 in the Budweiser handicap, and 99 in the Vandalia handicap.

    Dan Bonillas – has 45-100 straights from 27 yards (ATA and PITA). He won a handicap at the 95 Grand American and is a four-time winner of the Golden West handicap.

    Daro Handy – Over 40-100 straights from 27 yards (ATA and PITA). He has received over 1,200 yardage punches and averages 80-100 punches a year between the ATA and the PITA. Daro won one handicap and tied for another at the 95 Grand American, won the last two handicaps at the Grand Pacific, and tied for the Spring Grand Handicap this year (95).

    THE TREND – In 1982, 36 of the top 100 averages on 1500 or more ATA handicap targets were compiled by 27 yard shooters. For 1995 the number was 94 of the top 100 and 150 of the top 171.

    The last time the ATA made a vigorous attempt to enforce the throwing of three-hole targets was the 1995 target year. There is a startling difference between the handicap averages of 1994 and 1995. In 1994, the top 39 handicap shooters had an average of 94 or over and the top 112 ATA averages were 93 or over. In 1995, even though the number of 27 yarders in the top 100 is almost the same (94 as compared to 96) the averages took a large drop with only 17 at 94% or better and only 45 at 93% or better.

    “The Executive Committee expressed concern about the lack of ATA membership growth, and invited General Manager Bopp’s comments…………The General Manager’s investigation and research indicated that the greatest percentage of membership loss occurs after the second year of membership, but this phenomenon is wholly unexplained. It becomes more important each year to retain ATA members and to increase ATA membership in order that the ATA can remain a viable and healthy organization. It was the consesnsus of the Executive Committee, joined by the General Manager, that determining reasons for membership loss, and reversing that process, should be a priority matter, and retention of present members is as important to this organization as recruitment of new membership.” (T & F April 95)

    Many shooters including Dan Bonillas and Daro Handy believe the sport should have a professional circuit. Attempts were made in the late 70’s to start a professional organization in this country but according to Bonillas they got no help from the ATA. (Shotgun Sports ? 94)

    Dan Bonillas believes that the 27 yard domination of the handicaps began when the ATA started allowing easier targets to be thrown (softer and two-hole). “Until that domination occurred, you could go after you shot down to the beer tent and everyone would congratulate you for breaking a 97 in handicap, laments Bonillas. Now it’s condolences if you break a 97.” (SS 94)

    “The “big guns” just can’t get past their own gigantic egos,”says Bonillas. “They have no foresight. Their interests lie only in winning everything with the highest average in the country. It’s hard for me to imagine somebody in a business destroying their own business. But that’s what they’re doing – they’re destroying their own game.” (SS 94)

    “The averages are so overinflated now,” he explains. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the game has problems when the average trap shooter is saying, “Hey, this guy’s got a 97 handicap average. Hell, I don’t break 97! Why should I play the money?” Well, the winning score should be 97. What’s always kept trap above skeet is that it wasn’t a perfection game.” (SS 94)

    In 1975 Bonillas posted the first 100 from 27 yards on the Grand American grounds. Winning the preliminary Friday Handicap.

    Daro Handy stated in a Shotgun Sports interview in 1995 that: “In the last 10-15 years, I have taken punches in probably 80 to 90 percent of all PITA and ATA shoots. One of those years I shot 120 or 130 handicap events and there were only nine of them in which I didn’t take punches.”

    Through 1994 Daro had over 40 100’s in handicap (ATA and PITA). Dan had 32 100’s in ATA and 13 in PITA.

    Daro also believes the sport has taken a nosedive because the scores are too high. He feels the high scores can be attributed to easy targets, professionals in the sport, the coaching, the knowledge available today, the equipment and the shells. (SS 95)

    “Thursday Ray Stafford won the McCarty handicap. In 1992 and 1993 he was the runner-up in this same handicap and since 1973 Stafford has won 28 handicap trophies at the Grand including 4 champions.” (T&F Oct. 94)

    “Leo was one of 11 back-fencers to earn a place-award in this year’s GAH, second in number only to the 12 who took hime trophies in 1991. Leo, Steve Carmichael, Sean Hawley and Dan Bonillas have each earned two trophies from 27 in the event while Bob Gilbertson and Kay Ohye join Ray Stafford in winning three from all the way back.” (T&F Oct. 94)

    94 Golden West. Eight handicap events. All won by 27 yarders with three 100’s in the Golden West Handicap.

    94 Western Zone. Held at seven different locations. 27 yarders had the high scores at every location on the handicap championship.

    94 Western Grand. Six handicap events. All won by 27 yarders and almost all of the top 10 scores in each handicap were from 27.

    95 Spring Grand. Spring Grand Handicap. 1-2-3-4.

    94 Grand Pacific. Six handicap events. All won by 27 yarders and almost all of the top 5 scores in each handicap.

    Along with having better equipment there are also many more very good skilled shooters shooting many more handicap targets. These and other factors have combined to make the present handicap system unfair to the majority of shooters today.

    92 Golden West Grand. Seven handicap events. All won by 27 yarders with scores of 100 (4) and 99 (3).

    92 Oregon ATA state. Daro Handy won the state handicap championship for the 6th time. He also won 3 of the 5 handicap events. Last year Daro won a 7-way s.o. of 100 straights (6 of them from 27 yards) to win the Western Zone Handicap Championship. He was the 1991 ATA High Handicap average leader with .9612 on 5800 targets and took 40 punches for 42 yards. Since he also shot 3800 PITA handicap targets last year, it is a pretty good assumption that he took punches for over 60 yards in that year. I sure know a lot of shooters who don’t get one punch in a year.

    Over the years I have talked to some shooters who say the 27 yard super-shooters “have earned their success” or “they deserve it.” I admire their ability a great deal and some of them are good friends, but they have “earned” no more and “deserve” no more in this regard than all other shooters. The handicap system was designed to give most shooters the feeling that they were more or less equal in the handicap events. More and more, all that is left for the average shooter in the handicap events are a few crumbs.

    I have also heard all of the arguments on why we should not change things, and I have been hearing them since the 1960’s, when some folks felt many people were getting too good for the system even then. It is worse (or better, depending on your point of view) now than we believed possible back in those days and we still have done nothing about it. Perhaps we can continue this way for a while longer, but there will come a time when the majority of shooters will realize that unless they have the ability to become one of the best, they are subsidizing a growing roup of shooters in the handicap events. They may then refuse to “play our game.”

    John Godwin (SS Nov/Dec. 92) The majority of shooters are not aware of how serious the problem really is. We need a system which will move the average shooter closer to the trapshouse. These “hot shots” are dominating the handicap game now because the current rules have evolved more to eliminate sandbagging or cheating than to create fairness.

    Our current handicapping rules do not provide enough separation between the extraordinarily capable handicap shooters and the great masses of shooters who don’t possess great handicap shooting skills because we have so focused our rules on eliminating sandbagging that we have penalized our honest shooters. (Godwin)

    “What about the poor fellow who shoots at many small shoots and wins with the ½ yard punch often enough to earn 2 or 3 yards? He is not really competitive at his yardage. I call it “worthless yardage.” (Godwin)

    “Currently, we punch too many places. We give yardage increases to people whose scores do not even make the shoot offs, much less win the trophies……. The main thesis here is the current system is overly punitive to the shooter who shoots a good score but who still doesn’t win or even tie for a win.” (Godwin)

    Why do we punch so many places? What does such deep punching prove? For instance, at the Grand and some other very large shoots, we currently punch as many as five scores from which, very often, only the top two or three can earn trophies! We trophy 20 shooters in the Grand American Handicap, and those are the winners of shoot offs out of the top scores. Why do we punch those shooters who don’t even make the shoot offs?………….Obviously, the very same is the case for smaller shoots, as well. Shooters are currently earning worthless yardage for scores that do not earn wins. They simply get punched for coming close to winning!” (Godwin)

    “If we want to make the average shooter competitive with the hot shots, if even marginally so, then we must devise a system that somehow separates shooting abilities equitably so we move a mass of average shooters closer to the traphouse.” (Godwin)

    “It is true most of my fellow 27 yard shooters feel the present system works quite well and most of them have little idea how the average shooter feels. There is a strong vested interest against change, there always has been at all levels within our organization. I am one 27 yard shooter who believes that change is needed.” (Godwin)

    Godwin (and Sears) article believes there are two basic ways to deal with changes in the handicap systems. 1. You can make changes to make it more difficult for the group of very good shooters who have basically mastered the handicap event OR (and) 2. You can make it easier for everyone else to move up and become more competitive. If you favor changes it probably depends on how serious you think sandbagging is as to which method you would support.

    Since information on the number of punches shooters earn in a year is not usually available except for some of the All-American team members, I believe that most shooters would be amazed at how many shooters there are that earn a substantial amount of yardage from the 27. And just to point out that it can’t be considered just a Western problem anymore, look at some of the shooters listed fifteen years ago for punches in 1992.

    Earl Bangs Maryland 20 Punches
    Larry Bumstead Iowa 49 punches
    Frank Little Pennsylvania 33 punches
    Pat McCarthy Ohio 51 punches
    Bob Munson Minnesota 20 punches
    Kay Ohye New Jersey 42 punches

    Many people claim that the main reason the great shooters are best is because they shoot a lot and work hard at it. This is a little like saying if I shot a lot of rounds of golf and worked hard at it, I could beat Tiger Woods. I would agree that shooting more and working hard to become a better shooter will help most people, but there are thousands of shooters who shoot a lot and work hard at it who will never be in the select group. Natural athletic ability plays a great part. This is the thing that really separates the best shooters from the rest of us. Telling the average active shooter (who the ATA says shot 850 handicap targets in 1991) that he must shoot thousands of handicap targets to be competitive is unrealistic and discouraging. Add to that a system that is geared to a small group of shooters and it is no wonder that the turnover of registered shooters is so great.

    The many different yardage group plans you see in programs today are pretty clear evidence that the system is not working. Because of ATA/PITA inaction, clubs and state associations are being forced to do something to keep the shooters, and many of them are turning to yardage group plans.

    When an average shooter tells me “On any given day I might beat those big guns” it reminds me of a friend’s observation when a shooter made a similar statement years ago. He said the very good 27 yard money shooters like it when you beat them once in a while because it keeps your money in the game. Anyone can be beaten on a given day but the good 27 yarders are not beaten often by the average shooter. (And if the handicap system worked properly they should be.)

    I have talked to many shooters over the years and seldom have ever heard anyone “begrudge the 27 yarder his skill.” Most have great admiration for this skill but more and more I have heard comments to the effect that these people are great shooters but the system is no longer fair when they can win as often as they do.

    Concern over averages is also one of the things that has led to “easy” targets at clubs around the country. Many state associations still pick their state All-Star Teams just of the basis of averages because this is the easiest way for them to do it. A fairer system would be based on wins and accomplishments. This would ease the pressure for easy targets and would also help the “fair weather shooter” problem that clubs run into.

    It has been over 50 years since we went to the 27 yard line. Just a relatively few shooters caused the change from 25 to 27 yards. We have many more 27 yard shooters now, and a much higher percentage have mastered the handicap event.

    For example: Seven years after the introduction of the 27 yard line to handicap shooting, 27 yarders were still quite rare and they did not dominate. On page 33 of the 1962 average book, 60 amateur shooters are listed with a handicap average over 91%. Only 3 of them were 27 yarders and one of them made the 27 during that year. In Idaho that year we had one 27 yarder out of 316 shooters.

    30 years later in 1992 we find 94 of the top 100 handicap averages were held by 27 yarders (and 176 of the top 194). In Idaho we now had 85 of 778 shooters that were on the 27.

    Daro Handy set a long run record of 505 straight from 27 yards and took about 80 punches on his ATA and PITA handicap scores for 1992. This means he got punched on about 90% of his scores for the year. They were not all shot in the west either, as Daro earned 7 ½ yards at the 1992 Grand American.

    High handicap average leader for 1992 Dale Amos shot 2200 handicap targets with an average of and was punched on all but one score. This is amazing shooting no matter where it is done. How can anyone say the handicap system is working for these and many other 27 yarders these days.

    Many shooters are realizing they are not competitive with this group. When these very good handicap shooters show up, it often affects what money options and purses many shooters play and even what events they shoot. It also discourages many shooters from even going to certain shoots. (throw up)

    So as I stated before, the problem is even more serious than most shooters realize because much of it is not recognized. If you go to the Grand American check out the punches on all of the handicaps. It’s a little work but it was really an eye-opener to me the last time I went. If you can’t get there, they will probably be available off the web because I got them for the 2007 Grand.

    One of the arguments I have often heard against changes in the handicap system is that the 27 yard super-shooters don’t always win the big ones. (throw up) Well, every handicap event – giant or small, is a “big one” if you happen to be entered in it. Also, even though they don’t win them all, they win most (or perhaps a better way to say it is they win way more than their share if the handicap system still worked).

    Let’s look at some results from the Grand American to check this argument out. At the 1996 Grand out of eight handicaps 27 yarders won five and tied for first in two others. The only event they did not at least tie for first was the Grand American Handicap so yeah, they “didn’t win the big one” that particular year (just everything else). In three of these handicaps they finished 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-5-6, and 2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Ray Stafford won the Budweiser handicap (3766 entries) all alone and Leo Harrison won the Trap and Field Handicap (1659 entries) all alone. (good thing they didn’t win any big ones here). This was eleven years ago and it was already the tenth handicap Stafford had won at the Grand American and the previous year Harrison won the Budweiser Handicap.

    Golden West Grand. May, 96. 27 yarders were first in six of seven handicaps including the last three where they were 1-2 (both 100’s), 1-2 (both 100’s) and in the Golden West Handicap were 1-2-3-4-5 (all 100’s) with Ray Stafford winning.

    Western Grand. Sep. 96. 27 yarders were first in five of six handicaps including: 1st (100), 1st (100) and 2-3, 1-2-3, 1st (100) and 2-3-4-5, and 1-2-3-4-5-6.

    Missouri Fall Handicap. Oct. 96. This shoot was one of the top six shoots in the nation in size. The biggest handicap (1296 entries) was won all alone by a 27 yarder and the previous year Leo Harrison ran a 100 straight all alone on the Sunday handicap with 1202 entries.

    Many shooters in the West (and the rest of the U.S. will never even shoot in many of the big entry-big money events and one good reason is that they will have very little chance to win because the handicap system is unfair and they are starting to realize this more and more. As Steve Schultz pointed out in a letter to Shotgun Sports, there are probably 27 yard shooters who have more 100 straights from 27 yards than the average 20 or 21 yard shooter has 25’s in handicap. (Dan, Ray, Leo, and Daro come to mind)

    Why are we stumbling and bumbling along and losing shooters? Why can’t we make changes? Well, it is a difficult problem to begin with. It seems there are really many problems in one and also many possible remedies that could be tried.
    As the ATA has recognized (President’s page T & F 96) professionalism means different things to different people and they listed 7 different definitions and then went on to say that: “Only after the Executive Committee had reviewed and discussed a number of detailed proposals was it concluded we were not prepared to write professional rules that would undoubtedly be far-reaching and might very well adversely affect our organization. It was further concluded that as we continue to address the concerns of professionalism, we must narrow our focus rather than attempt to address a myriad of dissimilar concerns.” This sounds reasonable but how long do we continue to spin our wheels, wring our hands and not do anything
    about a problem that was bad then and is much worse eleven years latter?

    Another reason our problems are tough to solve is touched on by Ben Smith in his article titled “The Great American Debate…Are Difficult Targets Justified?” (This article appeared in Shotgun Sports in the April, 1997 issue)

    Smith points out that in other sports, superior talent is drafted into the major leagues – something American clay shooting doesn’t have. Our shooting is the Sunday morning slow-pitch softball league and the majors rolled into one. At the major league level (MLB, NBA, PGA or the NFL) all the participants have a high talent potential. On the other hand, most shotgun shooters aren’t on the same playing field. We have many different degrees of performance in each shooting game. Open to all, U.S. competitive shooting has the problem of handling myriad talent and skill levels at the same time.

    Smith also states he believes that: “If shooters with honed skills and massive talent want to compete in all-encompassing events, let them shoot for their own monies, not that of lesser-talented folks.”

    This reminds me of an experience I had many years ago at the Golden West Grand. I was somewhat of a new shooter (2nd or 3rd year) and it was my first trip to a shoot of this size and my first opportunity to see the “big guns” of the day. As I was signing up I happened to be in line behind one of the very best shooters there. During a conversation with another shooter he was asked if he was “playing everything” and I have never forgotten his reply. He said “Oh no, I’m just playing everything on the handicaps. It is a bad bet to play it all on the singles and doubles because “we” just shoot against each other in those events.” At the time I wasn’t sure just what he meant, but by the end of the shoot I understood very well. It is a bad bet if you have to shoot against others of equal ability but a good bet if you can shoot against lots of others with less ability.

    For those of you who haven’t been shooting for a long period of time or don’t have access to old records, let’s take a look at some selected information on how high handicap averages have changed over the years.

    In 1962 I saw a shooter with a big patch that showed he had the high handicap average in the nation for 1961 (?). I was a newer shooter, up close and shooting well, so I decided to try for that for 1962. In those days you had no idea who your competition would be but you knew it would not be a 27 yard shooter. There were few of them and weather, wind, etc. seemed to keep most of them from shooting good handicap scores except on an occasional basis. The top three handicap averages (and yardages) for 1961, 1962, and 1963 were:

    1961 – 9270 (22-23 ½) 9233 (19-21) 9214 (19-22 ½)
    1962 – 9420 (23-24) 9348 (22-24) 9290 (20-21)
    1963 – 9318 (25-27) 9300 (20-23) 9268 (21-25)

    This was the norm back then. Your high average shooters were short to medium yardage, shooting well, and on their way back. My average books only go back to 1961 so I am assuming that Gene Sears was the first 27 yarder to have the high handicap average for the ATA (in 1963) but as you can see, he started the year on 25 yards.

    Now let’s take a look at some samples about ten years apart and see how things changed.

    1967 – 9386 (23 ½) – 9365 (27) – 9341 (23) The average books no longer listed starting and ending yardages – just end of the year.

    1977 – 9515 (Dan Bonillas – 27). 9453 (9453 (Jim Poindexter – 27). 9430 (Roger Smith – 27).

    1987 – 9648 (Ray Stafford – 27). 9600 (Daro Handy – 27). 9503 (Frank Little – 27).

    1996 – 9628 (Ray Stafford – 27). 9574 (Earl Scripture – 27). 9546 (Daro Handy – 27). 9533 (Dan Bonillas – 27). 9531 (Leo Harrison – 27).

    2006 – 9652 (Bart Kirkham – 27). 9600 (William Sayles – 27). 9591 (Denis Bringelson – 27). 9575 (Phil Kiner – 27). 9571 (Richard Marshall – 27).

    In the high averages of the early 1960’s most of the leaders shot 1500-2000 handicap targets in a year. Shoots were a lot harder to find in those days and I had to drive 400 miles to another state to get my last 200 targets for 1500 in 1962. I can remember talking about other Idaho shooters and if they had 1000 or more handicap in a year we thought they “shot a lot.” Contrast this to 1977 when Dan Bonillas had the high national average and shot 8000 handicap for the year or 1996 when Earl Scripture was second and shot over 24,000 handicap. (Stafford 87 =

    199_ 1400 at 94% me.---------------

    In his article printed in Shotgun Sports (June, 97) Dick Bennett makes several statements about the handicap system. “The problem is, we are trying to equalize groups of people, not individuals. What the system fails to consider is the wide array of shooting abilities. It doesn’t work mathematically, and it doesn’t work in practical application. It’s time to change something.”

    He also believes that a 27 yard 95+ average handicap shooter can let all the shooters who have a 95% or less 16 yard average shoot on the 16 yard line while he competes from the 27 and he’ll win his fair share. When they make the lower average shooters move back to 19 yards or farther, they do not have a chance on the average.

    Bennett believes that shooters are getting smarter and know this and a large number of them are throwing in the towel. This is why 19 to 21 yard shooters and lower average shooters don’t shoot many handicaps. They are smarter than our handicap system and we must change the system if we want to keep these shooters.

    Singles and doubles events are still pretty fair because of the class system in use, but the handicap event has always been the crown jewel of trapshooting – that is where the money and the excitement is for most shooters.

    When a very large group (most probably) of your membership no longer have a reasonable chance of being competitive and winning in the handicaps then why should they continue to shoot?

    It is my belief, based on years of observation and many conversations, that one big reason we continue to lose most of the people who start shooting is that they have little or no success in the handicap events and they are smart enough to see that the system is not designed to give them much hope for the future either. Golf, camping, skeet and sporting clays, and many other activities start to look better and better compared to spending a lot of money for the privilege of getting your brains beat out by the same guys time after time.

    In 1982, 36 of the top 100 averages on 1500 or more ATA handicap targets were compiled by 27 yard shooters. Figures for some of the following years were:

    1983 - 48 of 100. 1984 – 72 of 100. 1985 – 71 of 100. 1986 – 77 of 100.
    1987 – 85 of 100. 1988 – 86 of 100. 1989 – 88 of 100. 1990 – 90 of 100.
    1991 – 92 of 100. 1992 – 95 of 100. 1993 – 98 of 100. 2006 – 96 of 100.

    These figures show a continued increase in the percentage of 27 yard shooters in the top 100. Since there has certainly not been a corresponding increase in the number of shooters (in fact some states have lost significant numbers of registered shooters) it would seem that we now have a higher percentage of very good 27 yard shooters than ever before.

    In 1993, the top 40 handicap shooters had an average of 94 or over and the top 102 ATA averages that year were 93 or over. (See the Neil Winston article later to get an idea of what this means when you compete against these shooters). In 2006 it was the top 49 with averages of 94 and over (with 19 over 95%). While the top 141 had an average of 93% or better.

    Ray Stafford earned 49 ½ yards in 1993 and the handicap average leader for 1993, Dale Amos, averaged 9760 and took a punch on every handicap he shot. When Tom Garrigus was the high handicap average leader in 1980 he averaged 9505 on 2000 targets and took 10 punches out of 20 chances ( five 98’s, one 97, and four 96’s). The runner-up in 1980 was Dan Bonillas who took 28 ½ honorary yards including scores of 100, 99, eight 98’s and six 97’s. Bonillas had been the handicap average leader 4 of the 6 previous years.

    The problem is even more acute than you will see even if you research results printed in yearbooks and shoot results because often you do not get all the information necessary to see the full impact of the 27 yarders in attendance. For example, in the ATA average book, state champions in the handicap are listed but often 27 yard out-of-state shooters will have equal or better scores at that shoot. Also often, especially at smaller shoots, ties that lose shoot-offs are not even listed in the shoot reports.

    1993 Grand American. McCarty Handicap – 1 and 2. Wade Handicap – 1 and 8 of 10 with the 2nd high score. Ohio Handicap – 1 of three 100’s and 5 of 7 with 99’s.
    T &F Handicap – 1-2-3-5-6. Bradford Handicap – 5 of 6 top scores. Budweiser Handicap – 1 and 7 of 13 with 2nd high score. Grand American Handicap – 2-4-10-18-19-20. Vandalia Handicap – 2-4-7-9-10.

    Western Grand. 1993. Bingham handicap – top 2. Budweiser handicap – 1st.
    Orlich handicap – top 5. Preliminary handicap – top 5. Western Grand handicap – 1-2-3-4 and 11 of the next 14. Utah handicap 1 and 2.

    Spring Grand. 1994. Tuesday handicap – 1 and 2. Wednesday handicap – 2 and 3. Thursday handicap – 1st. Friday handicap 1 and 2. Spring Grand handicap 1-2 and 3 of top 4.

    In 1993 Neil Winston wrote an article that appeared in Shotgun Sports in which he used statistics based on scores from the 93 Golden West, the 93 Minnesota State and the 92 Eastern Zone to construct graphs and charts to show how higher handicap averages have an effect on the scores shot. He chose averages of 87, 91 and 95 to compare. Less than a third of the 87 average shooters will break 90 in an event and fewer than 5 in 100 break a score that even has a chance of winning (95-97). Shooters that average 91 increase their chances of a score of 95 or better to 1 in 9 but the 95+ average shooter is not just 4% better than the 91% shooter – he is 6 times better and for 98”s and above, he is 14 times better. Winston claims that this situation is no different than allowing a few A class singles shooters to compete against D class for decades and doing nothing about it. He sees two problems with the handicap system. He believes that most people are handicapped for too much and that secondly, a number of 27 yard shooters are not, and cannot be, handicapped enough.

    At the Golden West (93) in the last 4 handicaps 239 punches were awarded, 70% to shooters who were already on the 27 and could not be handicapped further.

    Even those figures understate the dominance of the events by a few shooters. Five back-fences received “yardage in every event. 8 more were punched three times, yet another 35 appeared on the punch sheet twice. Only 8 shooters who were not on 27 got as many as two punches. This pattern of multiple wins by a few shooters is built into the present system and is proof the system isn’t working. (Winston)

    Two questions come to mind: Why does the ATA want to keep a large group of its members shooting so bad? And why do members put up with it? We are keeping them too far back to shoot decent scores and then make them face off with people who are almost certain to beat them. (Winston)

    About a third of our members who actually shoot handicap stand on the 20 yard line and most of them aren’t competitive from there. There are many more assigned to the 20 but shoot only singles or doubles as a result of their experiences with handicap. Based on figures for Minnesota in five years half our membership will have quit registered trap. Most of those leaving will exit by the same door they entered – the 20 yard line. If they were permitted to shoot from a yardage where they could compete, maybe they wouldn’t quit. (Winston)

    Gene Sears is a former Clay Target Champion, a many-time All-American and a member of the ATA Hall of Fame. In an interview published in Shotgun Sports (November 93) he stated that he believes the handicap system needs a complete overhaul. He sees two things happening – the very good shots are getting better and the mediocre shooters are staying mediocre, so in reality, they are getting less competitive all the time.

    Sears does not agree with people who say the current handicap system is working so we should let well enough alone. He simply points out the phenomenal bulk of 20 yarders and the 27 yard domination of handicap events as proof positive that it does not work.

    He also comments on what he believes is one of the biggest reasons for the large turnover of registered shooters when he says: “They get into trapshooting for a couple of years and then, every time there is a decent shoot and they think they are ready, ‘Gaddarnit, along comes some successful 27 yard shooters who win all the money and go home.’ This happens three or four times, and pretty soon the regular shooters turn into fishermen or golfers and don’t go back to shooting.”

    Redlands Thanksgiving shoot – Nov. 07. Maximum # of shooters was 101. Sean Hawley won two of the four handicaps including one with 100 straight and Jerry Parr won the other two with 98 and 99.

    2008 All-American Teams. Leo – captain of the All-American team for the eighth time (new record). In 32 years, he has been on the men’s first team every year but one.

    Kay Ohye – Vet Captain. Point total twice as high as he nearest team competitor.

    Vic Reinders was men’s team captain four times from 1940 through 1958.

    Ray Stafford – 40th time since 1970 (huh? Includes 3 times on the International team).

    The “Perfection Syndrome.” Caldwell and their Buddy Buckle shoot. Can shoot as many times as you want. Many more teams shoot (again and again) when the present high score is lower (7 x 10 one year) than when a team breaks a 10 x 10 right away. You shoot from 44 yards and the targets are set at 60-65 y
  2. crusha

    crusha TS Member

    Jan 29, 1998
    Kent, not saying your observations don't have some merit, but geez...you're like the boring college professor with the broken watch. Are we going to have to flip over the hour-glass when you step up to the podium?
  3. Gary Waalkes

    Gary Waalkes Well-Known Member

    Jan 5, 2007
    Do not understand why you are recycling this. Many of regulars on TS do not even register targets - so whatever they think does not matter. To change rules one needs a delegate who is willing to get out there with the new ideas. Your numbers are skewed to show what you want to see, yet I do not see a single suggestion to improve anything.

    Exactly how are you going to get 89% average handicap shooters "even" with really good handicap shooters?? Top handicap shooters average nearly 97%. So although you wrote a lot, I do not see a proposed solution that might change things. And who really thinks they need change?
  4. AAA 27 AAA

    AAA 27 AAA TS Member

    Jan 29, 1998
    Why does PITA even exist? It doesn't sound as though they have grown much over the years.

    What are you suggesting?

    The handicap system, in my opinion, can only be improved with extended yardage. The conflict for handicap shooting began when we established the limit of 27 yards. Now, it would be virtually impossible for clubs to convert their systems to say, 30 yards. So, now what do we do? The same old thing, talk about it. No one will ever solve this otherwise, and I'm not so sure there is even a problem. It is my choice, as a 27 yard shooter, to compete against Leo, Phil etc., knowing of course they will beat me nearly every time, but there is that one time that I may beat them, and that's what makes this game so great.
  5. mette56

    mette56 Well-Known Member

    Jul 8, 2008
    Camdenton, MO
    Here we go again, wanting to "dumb down" or penalize the best for their achievements to make us "not the best" equal with them. Or worse, and better stated, to make them equal with us. I've asked this question before and still don't have an answer: "What other sport artificially elevates the 'not the best' to be the best?"...not the American way. Now you want 30 yards...next you'll want 31, then 32, then..........what. The cream will always rise to the top unless they leave altogether because we have done what some suggest.

    Here's a new idea nobody has brought up. Since we can't extend the yardage to 30 yards because of logistics, let's have Leo, Phil, Ray, etc. stay on the 27 but must shoot with one leg off the ground. Boy, that ought to get back at those guys for excelling. Baseball pitchers should vary the distance from the mound to home plate depending on each batter's batting average, or height, or ??? IMO.


  6. nipper

    nipper TS Member

    Dec 30, 2007
    most here are, and never will be for changing anything, especially if they have won anything with the current system.

  7. mette56

    mette56 Well-Known Member

    Jul 8, 2008
    Camdenton, MO

    I'm 27 and usually classified AA-A and haven't won a trophy-anywhere-at trap since 2000. But my wife tied for runnerup in the 1999 MO State Hdcp Championship, and won the 1999 MO Eastern Zone Hdcp Champ. in a shoot off...shootin' against those we want to further handicap. And she shot a gun for the first time in her life in 1996 (she retired from shooting in 2000).

    I can see the opposing point, and I do respect it, but I'm not sure many see mine.
  8. grnberetcj

    grnberetcj Active Member

    Jan 29, 1998
    C'mon Nipper....give us your intellectual improvements for the sport if per chance you can abstain from BS rhetoric.

  9. oleolliedawg

    oleolliedawg Banned User Banned

    Jan 29, 1998
    Northampton PA
    I seem to see several posters who are not good shooters or haven't been around this game for more than a few years degrading a well thought analysis of an ongoing problem. There is obviously a serious difference between ATA management of 1955, who, when confronted with a problem, simply said "we will fix it". Today, we have too many people that are unable to see or solve anything without finding many reasons why it can't be done.

    Simply admitting that Handicap is not Singles would be a good start. That time worn argument regarding averages and how changing anything wouldn't bring an 85 average Handicap shooter into the winners circle holds no water. We can't make that same shooter competetive with Leo and his 99+ Singles average either. Our goal should be an attempt to make the Handicap system more equitable which it obviously is not.

    Reduced shot charges in Handicap, extending the yardage markers, lower velocity standards and maybe even a wider target should easily solve this problem. Our most successful area club throws straightaways from one and five position. You would never know it when they have as many as 55 squads of 50 targets every Thursday. Handicap scores are traditionally lower at their ATA shoots which proves it works.

    This problem can be solved with the right medicine We must be willing to take it for the good of our own game. Credit should also be given to our outgoing President Neil, for admitting the Handicap event has issues. I commend him for his comments but recognize the difficulty any President has when trying to gain a consensus of change!!
  10. recurvyarcher

    recurvyarcher Well-Known Member

    Apr 26, 2006
    I haven't been shooting for a long time, especially compared to a lot of you, so I have some questions for y'all who are at the back fence and have been at it for a while:

    1. It seems to me that making the the angle wider would hurt the short yardage shooters who don't have as much experience just as much as it would the longer yardage shooters who do. So if someone could enlighten me on this, I would very much appreciate it. I am serious...not being a smart a$$...I would like to understand.

    2. Can't short yardage shooters use the same powder charges and and speeds as do the 27 yarders? I know that they typically don't, but they CAN. If everyone has access to the same shells, why do we have to regulate it? Again, I'm not trying to stir things up, but get some more experienced opinions.

    I haven't been shooting long enough to have seen a long term trend, but in the 2 years that I have been shooting, I have seen us short-yardage shooters win a fair amount of the handicap events, including Nick's win at the Grand last year. I feel like I have an equal chance at winning, if I do my job and perform. I don't want someone to hand me a trophy if I shoot in the low 90s. That would teach me to be complacent instead of competitive.
  11. JBrooks

    JBrooks TS Member

    Nov 6, 2006
    There are two classes of shooters that are under handicapped and consequently are disproportionately represented in the winners lists.

    The first is the really good shooters who have just started competing and are shooting from short yardage. The prototypical one is the well coached SCTP kid who can run 100s from the 16. He steps back to 20 and puts up a 100. We got a winner.

    The second is those handful of 27 yarders who expect to break 96+ everytime they go to the line and if you have 5-10 of them at a shoot, one may break 100, but several will break 98s-99s. These shooters are under handicapped because they have mastered shooting at the 27.

    What you never or very seldom find are the shooters in the 22-25 range putting up 100s because they will break a punchable score and move back before they master a mid yardage to the point they can break a 100.

    Fixing the first is easy. Start everyone at the 22 or 23 with 500 target reviews and if they are bad they'll quickly move up and if they are good they will move back.

    Short of pouring more concrete or reducing loads JUST for the top 27 yarders, both of which are REALLY bad ideas, we can create a master class for those high average 27 yarders and let them shoot against each other.

    To think that the average 27 yard club event shooter can compete with shooters who are on the Sat Grand and big event circuit with 100,000s of HC targets and shooting several more hundred every other week, is just silly.
  12. oleolliedawg

    oleolliedawg Banned User Banned

    Jan 29, 1998
    Northampton PA
    Reduced loads for all yardages in the Handicap event or pouring more concrete is a really bad idea. Why was it good in 1955 and earlier but not today!!
  13. kentdeadapair

    kentdeadapair TS Member

    Feb 28, 2008
    I posted this for Kent and didn't realize it only gave part of his article. His article is 43 pages long. If you want to read all of it. Go to August 10-14 and look for the same title part 2 + 3. I beleive you will be pleasantly surprised on how well it is researced and written. Liz Harris
  14. JBrooks

    JBrooks TS Member

    Nov 6, 2006

    I have built 2 new fields at our Club this past year. We realistically can't add concrete to our 4 fields and the 3 other Clubs where I regularly shoot ATA can't either. We are talking 10s of thousands of rounds of ATA targets just for these 4 clubs. End of discussion.

    As for reduced loads, if everyone shoots them they just lower the water level and everyone stays relative. If you segregate out just the 27 yard shooters, who gets to random check the reloads at all the clubs?

    Based on average, put your shooters who have mastered the 27 yard line in a Master Class. Simple, no concrete and no policing different loads.
  15. oleolliedawg

    oleolliedawg Banned User Banned

    Jan 29, 1998
    Northampton PA
    Brooks, do all clubs have have walkways that drop off a cliff or fall in a bay at the 27yd line-I doubt it.

    Are you telling us that there are some shooters still shooting 1 1/4oz. loads even they were outlawed decades ago-hint-they're all dead. 1oz. loads average weight is 618 grs. while 1 1/8oz. averages around 682 grs. Easily determined by a cheap balance beam scale.

    Do you honestly believe real big dogs would play this game if forced to shoot for their own money and could you hear the shouting if something like that was actually proposed!!
  16. JBrooks

    JBrooks TS Member

    Nov 6, 2006
    "Brooks, do all clubs have have walkways that drop off a cliff or fall in a bay at the 27yd line-I doubt it."

    Why would I lie to you? Our club has two fields that only have 3-4 feet to a retaining wall and 2 fields that are already too close to our covered patio and club house location.

    The other 3 clubs have chain link fences, a sidewalk and then the parking lot or roadway. Adding concrete is NOT going to happen.

    "Easily determined by a cheap balance beam scale."

    Who how and when is this little chore going to get done. We hardly have time to sign everybody in and run the rest of the shoot.
  17. oleolliedawg

    oleolliedawg Banned User Banned

    Jan 29, 1998
    Northampton PA
    Brooks, the same people who are checking for illegal loads now will be doing it then-nobody. Are you saying everyone does or will cheat?

    When's the last time Harlon, Kay or Ray visited your club?

    Sidewalks and parking lots are ideal for line painting-you're luckier than most and I'll bet you can squeeze a few yards out of two traps!!
  18. ivanhoe

    ivanhoe Well-Known Member

    Jan 29, 1998
    Oxford MA
    Dawg here we go what was the point of this comment "When's the last time Harlon, Kay or Ray visited your club?" Please clarify does this mean that you are suggesting that these shooters are the only ones capable of moving beyond the 27??????

    I don't believe that I will get an answer however I will ask anyway. When was the last time you shot a score that would normally pay out yardage at a shorter yardage???? I know in your mind I am not qualified to say what I am going to say because I am not a long yardage shooter. At any rate here goes please remember I am asking in relation to your question about Harlan,Kay,or Ray visiting the before mentioned club. It is not a flame or am I trying to belittle anyone there is a reason for the question.

    Bob Lawless
  19. JBrooks

    JBrooks TS Member

    Nov 6, 2006
    "I'll bet you can squeeze a few yards out of two traps!!"

    How much are you willing to bet? $5,000? Would you be willing to Deposit $5,000 with an escrow holder of your choice. Call any two concrete contractors in Santa Clarita, Ca. and fly out to meet with us. If either will bid the job of extending any two of our fields for less than $10,000 you get your money back and we'll pay your expenses.
  20. phirel

    phirel TS Member

    Jan 29, 1998
    JBrooks- I recognize the difficulty you would have extending the shooting posts a few yards. My club also would have great difficulty. Our first step would be to blast a nearly vertical 100 foot high rock cliff.

    Now, I don't compete well with my friend Phil Kiner in singles, doubles and handicap. If we are considering changes that will allow me to compete with him better in handicap, why not also make changes that will help me compete with Phil in singles and doubles?

    I am afraid that we are, and will always be in a game where the best shooters break more targets than the average shooters.

    I could become a better shooter. That would actually require me to shoot a little less and work harder at the targets I do shoot. But, shooting is fun, working hard at shooting is less fun. I shoot for fun.

    Pat Ireland
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