Skeet was invented by Charles Davies, an avid grouse hunter, in the 1920s as a sport called Clock Shooting. The original course was a circle with a radius of 25 yards with its circumference marked off like the face of a clock and a trap set at the 12 o’clock position. The practice of shooting from all directions had to cease, however, when a chicken farm started next door. The game evolved to its current setup by 1923 when one of the shooters, William Harnden Foster, solved the problem by placing a second trap at the 6 o’clock position and cutting the course in half. Foster quickly noticed the appeal of this kind of competition shooting, and set out to make it a national sport. The game was introduced in the February 1926 issue of National Sportsman and Hunting and Fishing magazines and a prize of 100 dollars was offered to anyone who could come up with a name for the new sport. The winning entry was "skeet" chosen by Gertrude Hurlbutt. The word "skeet" said to be derived from the Scandinavian word for "shoot" (skjuta). However Mrs Hurlbutt must have been a very poor speaker of scandinavian languages or made the word up. Because shoot sounds more like skjut than skeet does. During World War II, Skeet was used in the American military to teach gunners the principle of leading and timing on a flying target.
Skeet is a recreational and competitive activity where participants attempt to break clay disks flung into the air at high speed from a variety of angles. For the American version of the game, the clay discs are 4 and 5/16 inches in diameter, one and 1/8 inches thick, and fly a distance of 60 yards (+/- 2 yards). The international version of skeet uses a target that is slightly larger in diameter (110mm), thinner in cross section (25mm vs. 1 1/8 inches), and has a thicker dome center, making it harder to break. International targets are also thrown a longer distance from similar heights (over 70 yards), resulting in a faster target speed.
The firearm of choice for this task is usually a high quality, double-barreled over and under shotgun with 28/30 inch barrels and open chokes. Some gun shops refer to this type of shotgun as a skeet gun. Alternatively a sporting gun or a trap gun are sometimes used. These have longer barrels up to 34 inch and tighter choke. Many shooters of American skeet and other national versions still use inexpensive semi-auto and pump action shot guns with great success. The use of clay targets replaced the more traditional target of live birds, as a cheaper, more humane and more reliable alternative, one reason they are also called clay pigeons.
The event is in part meant to simulate the action of bird hunting. The shooter shoots from 7 positions on a semicircle with a radius of 21 yards (19 m), and an 8th position halfway between stations 1 and 7. There are two houses that hold devices known as "traps" that launch the targets, one at each corner of the semicircle. The traps launch the targets to a point 15 feet above ground and 18 feet outside of station 8. One trap launches targets from 10 feet above the ground ("high" house) and the other launches it from 3 feet above ground ("low" house). At stations 1 and 2 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house, then shoots a double where the two targets are launched simultaneously. At stations 3, 4, and 5 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house. At stations 6 and 7 the shooter shoots at single targets launched from the high house and then the low house, then shoots a double. At station 8 the shooter shoots one high target and one low target. The shooter must re-shoot his first missed target, or if no targets are missed, must shoot his 25th shell at the low house station 8. This 25th shot was once referred to as the shooter's option as he was able to take it where he preferred. Now, to speed up rounds in competition, the shooter must shoot the low 8 twice for a perfect score.
In the U.S., registered, formal, competition is administered by the National Skeet Shooting Association (NSSA). A full tournament is typically conducted over the course of five events. These include four events shot as described in the preceding paragraph, each with a different maximum permissible gauge. In the usual descending order in which the events are shot, these maximum gauges are 12, 20, 28 and .410 bore. The fifth event, usually shot first in a five event competition, is Doubles, during which a pair of targets is thrown simultaneously at stations 1 through 7, and then from station 6 back through either station 2 or 1, depending on the round. The maximum gauge permitted in Doubles is 12. Each of the five events usually consists of 100 targets (four standard boxes of ammunition). All ties in potential winning scores are broken by shoot offs, usually sudden death by station, and usually shot as doubles, from stations 3, 4 and 5. Tournament management has the right to change the shoot format with respect to the order in which events are conducted, the number of events in a given shoot, and the rules governing shoot offs.
Each event normally constitutes a separate championship. In addition, the scores in the four singles events are combined to crown a High Over All ("HOA") champion for the tournament: a coveted title. On occasion, the scores for all five events are also combined, to determine the High All Around ("HAA") champion.
The requisite use of the small bore shotguns, including the difficult .410, is a major differentiation between the American version of the sport and the International version. Some would argue that it makes the American version at least as difficult as the International version, though perhaps at greater expense, given the necessity of one or more guns capable of shooting in all events. The most popular and effective solution to the multiple gun requirement is a two barrel, over & under shotgun, commonly a 12 ga. with a mechanical trigger, which can accept full length machined tubes or shorter chamber inserts, which permit the gun to shoot all gauges and the .410 bore.
So effective is the tubed gun solution that perfect scores are often required to win the open title in individual events, and combined scores of 395 to 400 may be required to win the open HOA in a major shoot, depending on the weather (though a perfect score of 400 remains a rare and noteworthy event). For example, the HOA title at the 2007 U.S. Open tournament, shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico between September 6th and 9th, was won in a shoot off between two competitors, each of whom shot a combined score of 399 out of a possible 400.
Recognizing that a high level of perfection is beyond the skill, interest, or time available to most shooters, NSSA competitions are subdivided into several classes, each based on the average score shot over the last 500 targets fired upon, in each of the five events, prior to any given competition. This permits shooters of roughly equal ability at the relevant point in time to compete against each other for the individual and HOA titles in their class.
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