The new Mattarelli Traps from Italy
Ennio Mattarelli Traps have been the rage in Europe at least 12 years. Virtually all "bunker" trap installations involve these Italian-made traps—on the other side of the Atlantic. In the USA and Canada they're not as well known. Yet! I say yet because Briley Manufacturing in Houston, Texas has become the Mattarelli USA marketing arm. Briley, of course, has a very high profile name among shotgunners.
Until fairly recently it was difficult to import traps from Mattarelli because all the production was being sold in Europe. But now Cliff Moller at Briley assures me that delivery is no longer a problem. In fact, I saw quite a few Mattarelli traps stacked up in storage during a recent trip to Houston.
No wonder Mattarelli traps are so sought after in Europe. Even if you're not all that knowledgeable about clay bird-throwing traps, it's easy to see why these are such a standout—even with only a first, cursory inspection. Built like the proverbial Mack Truck, Mattarelli's should not only last and last, the engineering that is also obvious certainly takes them to the head of the figurative class.
The first eye-grabbing feature is that Mattarelli uses just one machine—whether you want to use it for trap, skeet or sporting clays. I know this sounds impossible, but the company has discovered an ingenious way to pull this off. Note some of the accompanying photos. What changes between the three throwers (trap, skeet and sporting) is simply what goes "under" the basic trap-throwing machine. The trap version has an oscillator built into the motor. This motor is plugged into a small computer unit that selects "where" the next target is going to be thrown, making it impossible to "read" that next bird.
Pricing of all three—trap, skeet or sporting versions—is about the same, save for the additional cost of the trap computer unit that selects where the next target will be thrown. Interestingly, this computer selects the trap position for throwing, then stops, actually shuts the trap off—until the release button is pushed. The motor and computer then immediately select the next "throw" position, then automatically shuts off—until the release button is again pushed.
The motor (trap, skeet or sporting clays version) only runs to release the target. A solenoid activates the motor upon release of the button, then the motor shuts off just prior to full cocking of the release arm. Consequently, far less electrical current is used important between shots, but far more important to wear and tear when no electricity runs between rounds, which can sometimes be significant. Sporting versions are set up for 12- volt power (i.e. nearby battery), while trap and skeet versions are set up with 110 volts. Sporting clays layouts with underground 110 wiring, of course, simply opt for the 110- volt models.
The big racks that hold the targets are remarkably simple. You can lift them on and off the basic trap unit with ease. Of course, this is a little difficult if they're fully loaded! These target holders fit into three chromed posts built into the top of the machine. Once the target-holding rack is mounted it is locked in place with cotter keys. You have the option of several different target racks. Cliff suggests a rack that holds 600 targets, but racks holding as many as 800 birds are available. The spring which throws the clay birds is taken from a military Jeep, yep, one of the leaf springs from a common old Jeep.
Like a couple of other modern-day traps, the target-to-be-thrown sits on a big metal plate, not on an "arm," as with a traditional Remington or Winchester trap. Once on the plate, the target-throwing arm (which only touches the side of that target), softened by a strip of neoprene where it touches the target, is ready to go. As the bird slips from the holding rack onto the throwing plate a built-in knife-edge separates the birds, insuring only a single target will fall onto that plate.
Target adjustment is remarkably easy via four different knobs. One adjustment is for spring tension to throw the bird farther, or not so far. A second adjustment controls elevation. A third control moves the right side of the entire trap up or down. This is a "cant" control that makes it easy to take the "curl" out of a target. The fourth knob adjusts for throwing the target more left or more right. All four adjustments can be made in seconds, and you don't have to even shut the machine down to do it, or remove stacks and stacks of targets. The target-throwing arm is beefy. Though I wouldn't recommend it, Cliff Moller demonstrated the arm's strength by lifting the entire machine—by the target-throwing arm! Try that with your old traditional trap.
If your club experiences an electrical failure, the Mattarelli can be operated manually. One cam on the target-throwing arm raises the target-holding plate to accept the next bird, while a second cam on the target-throwing arm shifts to the next target holding stack. As the "stack" nears the station where a bird will be accepted onto the target-holding plate, a bird automatically settles into a "lower" position, resulting in no target breakage at this critical point of operation.
There's also a "wobble" trap version of the Mattarelli. It doesn't even need to be bolted down, so you can move it around—say from standard trap use—to the area your club uses for wobble trap shooting. The only difference between this machine and the standard trap Mattarelli is that two motors and two oscillators are involved, one to oscillate to the new horizontal position, the second to oscillate to the new vertical position. This is the most expensive Mattarelli (not that much more), but it's also the most versatile. Again, setting target distance, elevation, right and left, and cant can be accomplished in just seconds, and on this "wobble" version you do it via control buttons on the controller itself instead of making those changes manually.
All structural parts are massive on the Mattarelli traps. Parts subject to wear are either made of long-lasting materials or made extra beefy. In either case, parts replacement is designed to be easy. Club members will be able to do most all of this themselves, negating the necessity of trap removal and shipping.
The skeet and sporting clays versions of the standard Mattarelli machine have a single motor and no cam oscillator or computer control box —since neither is necessary. There's a "teal" version, which throws targets nearly straight up. All sporting clays layouts have at least one of these on their course. To insure a target will drop onto the teal machine's throwing plate consistently, this version has a motor that swings the whole machine to near the horizontal position. After the bird is thus dropped by gravity onto the target-holding plate the whole machine swings back into the near-vertical throwing position. There's also a rabbit-throwing Mattarelli.
Interestingly, Ennio Mattarelli was in partnership with Danielle Perazzi when Perazzi got started in shotgun making, according to Cliff Moller at Briley. He says Fabbri was involved too. Evidently, Mattarelli and Fabbri wanted to keep the Perazzi company private, while Perazzi wanted to expand his shotgun-making company. Mattarelli and Fabbri thus went their separate ways, Perazzi to untold fame. Fabbri went on to the making of perhaps the world's most expensive and treasured shotguns. Mattarelli did a number of things before getting into the trap-design business, like designing the very successful Sig Sauer model 200 rifle, then the Rottweil Paragon O/U, plus managed the Beretta Shooting Team. If the Mattarelli name sounds familiar to you, maybe it's because he was the Olympic gold medal winner in bunker trap back in 1964. He is also a two-time world champion.
As mentioned at the start of all this, until very recently Mattarelli trap machines have not been available. Because they were in such limited supply there was no reason for Briley to begin an advertising program designed to sell them. Also, as discussed, Moller claims that the Mattarelli machines really have no competition in Europe—where there are so many bunker trap installations. Since these new-to-our-shores Mattarelli trap machines are competitively priced, built to such truck-like standards, and designed so simply that use is easy and breakdowns rare, you're bound to see more and more of them in USA clubs. Initial sales by Briley have been mainly to sporting clays courses, but Moller feels certain that standard trap and skeet layouts are going to become just as important to the new Briley/Mattarelli trap machine business. For more information contact Cliff Moller at Briley—800-331-5718.
"This article first appeared in the Skeet Shooting Review."