Which Manual Clay Pigeon Trap?

If you were to ask me what sort of trap to buy for a few clays in a field, it’s obvious that you’d be told to buy mine. That’s because my stock traps are built to last; they’re solid, professional club traps sold in their thousands over many years by manufacturers who know exactly what they are doing. Farey, Bowman, Juba, Stuart and several others have made traps which are still going after 10, 20 or 30+ years. They are built to withstand heavy handed trappers and 100s of thousands of clays – that’s why I recommend them. In contrast, there are many cheap traps, (£20 upwards), now on the market which I won’t touch with a barge pole. More often than not, my customers have bought one of these cheapies expecting to throw club targets for £49.99 and then they’re severely disappointed when they don’t perform to their expectations. I’ve spent a long time using, maintaining and building all sorts of clay pigeon traps and now specialise in selling brand name, professional traps to home or club shooters.

The result of all my waffle is this – you get what you pay for. If you are happy with a couple of dozen clay at a time the cheap clay pigeon trap would do, as long as you are very careful. The option is yours – spend less and throw a few for a while, spend more and you’ll probably throw clays for years to come.

Regardless of whether you buy from me or not, nothing is more important than safety, which should be the top priority for a buyer, followed closely by reliability so with that in mind, I’ve put a few bits and pieces together to help you search for your ideal trap. After reading this, you should be armed with enough knowledge to avoid what’s known in Suffolk as a wrong’un….. Otherwise, you could just buy one of my guaranteed traps knowing that I’ve done all the hard work for you.

The wrong spring may cause damage to the trap or trapper; too short and it would be overstretched, to long and the spring could unhook itself. The wire the spring is made of should be the correct size and there shouldn’t be excessive wear to the two hooks. Check that the secondary sprung shaft hasn’t been bent under excess tension.

If the correct spring is fitted and adjusted properly there should be a small, visible gap between each coil when the trap is uncocked. If the spring has uneven gaps between the coils, the spring may have been stretched and should be replaced.

In my experience, springs are more likely to cause premature wear to the trap than they are to break. Having said that, I have seen a trapper hopping about after being caught on the kneecap by a flying bit of broken main spring – it doesn’t do to take risks with something which might take nearly a quarter of a tonne to stretch it.

Shafts, Bushes & Linkages.
Lack of maintenance can lead to shaft seizure, excessive wear and premature failure of metal parts. Sometimes a trap will give you the idea that all is not right, for instance you will probably have to slam the lever on a Farey if it hasn’t been lubricated regularly or you would have to ‘throw’ a partially seized trap arm.

I’ve also come across the trick of loosening the top mainshaft nut on a seized trap, the trap will work but not for long. Ideally you would need to take the spring off a trap to properly inspect shafts and bushes but if that’s not possible there are tell-tale signs of any lack of maintenance:-

Hammer marks underneath a mainshaft; loose nuts or bolts; old grease between surfaces, usually mixed with clay dust; missing grease nipples; blocked oilways; excessive wear in nylon parts; missing or broken secondary springs; excess sideways movement in shafts or linkages; rollers that don’t turn; worn casting spigots.

Throwing Arms.
If the arms are straight and free of aluminium spurs or nicks, if the drive rails have sufficient rubber, if the teal clips are tensioned properly and the stops aren’t too far forward then you should throw a good target every time. If you find you’re throwing broken targets, first of all check that the clays aren’t damaged – if they’re not, then the clay is probably touching metal on its way off the trap arm.

Stops can be used to adjust target travel to the left or right rather than move a trap but their main function is to spread a pair of clays apart once the trap is in place. A properly set up trap will throw a top single standard in the direction that the trap arms point when at rest, i.e. uncocked.

Bases & Frames.
Before trying out a potential trap ensure that all the bolts that hold it to any sort of stand are tight, then make sure any elevation adjusters are tight. More than once I’ve seen someone try to cock a trap without checking – movement that you’re not expecting will come as a surpise even if it doesn’t hurt.

Elevation adjustment is sometimes by a ‘T’ bar which should rotate freely or by a hex head of some sort. It’s always best to use a ring spanner for any trap work to avoid the risk of damage to some very tight bolts.

Check that the design of the trap is compatible with the base – a rear pivot teal trap on a cradle doesn’t work. Similarly if the base is the wrong size or the seat is wrongly positioned it might make a trapper’s life a bit difficult.

Worn out bits you don’t want to see.
All these bits are from traps described and sold as being in ‘good working order’.
Broken and bent main springsThe left hand spring has snapped, more than likely due to over-tightening, the ends were put together inside a tube which had each end welded to one bit of the spring. The centre spring thread has snapped and been welded together. Most of the thread has worn away and the bolt worn thin by the spring due to being too loose. The spring on the right has stretched due to being too tight.Seized main shaftThis is the mainshaft of a trap which was throwing standards up until the day I sawed it up. The shaft is seized solid and partially worn through; the trap was working because the top nut was loose and the arm swivelled around the shaft.

Worn out spring linkagesOn the left is a bronze link from a rabbit trap. The main shaft hole is good but the spring has nearly worn through the side of the link. The right hand link is from a heavy double trap where the second shaft has bent and nearly worn through one edge of the link.

Worn out pivot bolt and linkThis is the pivot bolt and spring linkage from a Juba double trap, obviously working in this condition but probably wouldn’t have gone on for much longer. The trap will have been designed to allow for a bit of wear but the shaft of the M12 bolt is now about half the width it should be

Damaged trap arm and shaftThis is a trap arm and its main shaft. The holes in the arm were enlarged because both retaining nuts were loose, they should be the same size as the thread on the shaft on the left. The nuts were loose because the shaft is a replacement made from soft bronze rather than steel, if the nut was tightened it would have stripped the thread.

Mobile Clay Pigeon Shooting, Traps & Spares by Andrew Walne (Framlingham, Suffolk)