James Marchington meets a shooter and inventor who has succeeded in building a better trap
A modern clay pigeon trap is a marvel of engineering, throwing clay targets with speed and accuracy at the touch of a button. That wasn’t enough for Ferris Whidborne, though. This Hampshire farmer, game shooter, engineer and inventor reckoned he could do better.
It took him five years, but he did it. On a sunny afternoon in a field near Alton, Ferris’s fabulous Flurry Launcher was unveiled exclusively to Clay Shooting and internet TV channel FieldsportsChannel.tv. We challenged him to shoot Coke cans, land a series of clays in a pond, throw four clays a second, and break the 200-yard barrier. He did all that and more.
The trap is a masterful combination of simplicity and ingenuity. The basic idea is very simple. In a regular clay trap, the clay target is loaded onto a stationary arm. A powerful spring accelerates the arm rapidly, so the clay is flung off the end. In the Flurry Launcher, the arm is constantly spinning at around 600rpm, driven by a 12V electric motor, powered by a car battery. The clay is dropped into the centre of the arm, and picks up speed as it is thrown outwards.
With the arm constantly spinning, you can go on dropping clays into it as fast as you can work the trigger. Four clays a second is perfectly achievable – a phenomenal rate of fire that will keep any line of guns busy.
The constantly spinning arm also gives the clay greater speed and spin than any normal clay trap could achieve. The Flurry Launcher throws clays faster and farther than most shooters would believe possible. Using a laser rangefinder, we confirmed that even with a crosswind, Ferris was throwing clays just over 200 yards. The two shooters below agreed that the targets were as fast and testing as the most expensive driven pheasants.
Ferris explains that, while the idea behind the trap is simple, making it work was something else. Breaking new ground, he encountered many unforeseen problems and in the process learnt a lot about how clays fly, or sometimes don’t.
For instance, there is a cam-operated release mechanism on the spinning arm, which allows the clay to begin its travel down the arm at just the right moment. Too early and it arrives at the end of the arm too early and smashes – literally – into the trap housing.
Ferris learnt early on that a clay’s aerodynamics make it tend to lift off the trap arm. Regular clay traps have a ramped arm to counteract this. That wasn’t an option for the Flurry Launcher, so Ferris came up with another solution – a top plate along the length of the arm that holds the clay in place.
Another important development was the top cover that gives the trap its distinctive ‘dustbin lid’ shape. Early models used a moulded plastic cover, which did the job but proved too flexible. A new solid steel cover makes the whole thing strong and rigid. Ferris has also improved the specification of the mechanical catches, which were wearing with use. “Now they’re made of spring steel, and the two shooting schools using the traps haven’t come back with any complaints,” he says.
The traps have been in use for more than two years at Barbury and Royal Berkshire, where they help keep simulated game shooters on their toes. Ferris says: “The trappers love them, and the shooters have a great time too.”
Now the development work is complete, and Ferris is ready to go into production. He took me into a shed where the parts for 50 Flurry Launchers were stacked up ready for assembly. “By the time people read the magazine, we’ll be ready to deliver finished traps,” Ferris said.
They say that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Ferris is hoping that works for clay traps too.
Ferris is selling the Flurry Launcher at just under £1,000 each. He is also available to hire for corporate shoots and charity days, complete with a van-mounted cherry picker that will launch clays from 120ft up. Find out more at www.flurrylauncher.com, or call Ferris on 07854 400279.