The Secret 7

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Ray Stafford

Trapshooting hall-of-famer Ray Stafford shares his seven secrets for breaking more targets in high-pressure situations.

Trapshooting hall-of-famer Ray Stafford has smoked countless targets under pressure since he started shooting competitively in 1965. Along the way, he’s racked up a stellar string of victories in state, regional and world championships—and learned valuable lessons on making every shot. He shared with us his seven secrets to break more targets and have more fun on every trip to the firing line.

1. Choose The Right Load For The Job
Stafford favors the performance of Federal Premium Gold Medal Paper shotshells. “I use a 2¾-dram, 1-ounce No. 8 for the first shot at doubles,” he says. “I like it because there’s less recoil and it’s easier to keep my head on the stock for the second shot.”

As for breaking the second bird—and all singles—he opts for a 1 1/8-ounce charge of 7.5 shot, in the 2 3/4 dram.

When starting new shooters of all ages and statures, Stafford recommends avoiding heavy loads. “Start them out with a 1-ounce load to keep recoil down, so they’re not fighting the gun and are happy to shoot, rather than worried about getting beat up,” he says.

2. Practice With A Plan
Practice makes perfect, and Stafford says the goals of practice are more important than just shooting.

“The secret to productive practice is not shooting as much as you can, but practicing with the goal of improving what you do,” he says. “Otherwise you just repeat the same mistakes over and over.

“ONCE YOU DEVELOP A SOLID ROUTINE AND DO THE SAME THING EVERY TIME, YOU’LL BE A MUCH MORE CONSISTENT SHOOTER.”

“Trapshooting is a game of repetition,” he continues. “Once you develop a solid routine and do the same thing every time, you’ll be a much more consistent shooter.”

Toward that end, Stafford heads for the range with a simple yet critically important plan of attack. “I identify a problem with my shooting and figure out how to fix it,” he says.

3. Don’t Rush The Call
Stafford says one of the biggest mistakes people make is calling for the target before they’re ready. “As a result, the bird gets a jump on them, and they end up playing catch up, which makes it virtually impossible to keep your head down and make a good shot,” he says.

“To me, the most important things are being ready for the bird when you call for it, and seeing the bird when it comes out,” he adds.

Instead of throwing the gun up and calling too quickly, Stafford mounts his gun, takes enough time to get ready and then calls for the target.

4. Look Sharp
There’s an art to watching for the target, and it doesn’t include staring at your shotgun. “Don’t look at the bead on your barrel, look for the bird,” Stafford says.

“I’M NOT LOOKING AT ANY ONE PLACE—JUST ALL AROUND THE BARREL, WAITING TO CATCH THE FIRST MOVEMENT AS THE BIRD COMES OUT.”

“It’s hard to explain,” he says. “I’m not looking at any one place—just all around the barrel, waiting to catch the first movement as the bird comes out.”

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