The premier event in ATA trapshooting is the handicap. As we learned earlier, the singles and doubles events are shot from the 16 yard line and competitors compete according to their registered target averages. The handicap event differs is the fact that competitors shoot from various distances behind the trap; from 18 to 27 yards. Most new shooters start at the 20 yard line. There are a few exceptions to this rule; for instance, new lady and sub-junior shooters start at the 19 yard line. Competitors earn yardage, move further back from the trap, in various ways. Shooting a score of 96 automatically earns one a ½ yard, 97,98, or 99 earns 1 yard, and scoring a perfect 100×100 earns one 1 ½ yard. The half yard designations are basically bookkeeping items.
A shooter whose yardage is 22.5 would shoot from the 22 yard line. In addition to scores, prize money won can also earn yardage. Win $750.00, earn 1 yard, $1250.00 earn 1 ½ yards. Shoot size, that is the number of competitors, also influences the yardage earned; for instance, shooting a 97 in a major shoot will often times earn the shooter 1 ½ yards. Finishing in second or third place in a large shoot can also earn the competitor yardage.
Like singles, competitors in the handicap events compete with shooters of like abilities. Most Montana events have 3 yardage groups; short (19 – 21), mid (22-24), and long (25-27). Usually, the most accomplished shooters are in the long (25-27) yardage group. Also, an overall winner can come from any group with the highest score of all 3 groups. And like singles, additional categories such as lady, junior, senior, senior vet, and occasionally other categories enable shooters more opportunities to win a trophy.
With the increased yardage the margin for error in the handicap event grows quite small. Targets shot at from even the 22 yard line can stretch to 40 and 45 yards. Targets shot at from the 27 yard line can be 55 to 60 yards away. Breaking a 4 inch disc traveling 45 MPH at 55 yards is truly an act of skill and explains the title “Premier Event” for the handicap competition.
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