How do you tell if the gun fits? David Turner explains
Gun fit does matter a great deal.
With poor gun fit the gun is less likely to be pointing at the target or where the shooter is intending. This in turn can cause the shooter to unknowingly develop all sorts of corrective measures to address the problems. What can sometime be worse is that these can become learned bad habits and are difficult to shake off.
Good gun fit equals fluid and natural shooting
- Shooting with a shotgun is an “art form”, based on a relaxed, easy and natural technique, ideally shooting with both eyes open to perceive distance and depth of field without conscious thought. Unlike that of a rifle, which is altogether a more calculated and measured sport.
- In the case of a shooter with the wrong eye dominance, and thus closing an eye to shoot, then some of the more intuitive and natural aspects may not be as relevant.
- We’ve all seen a shooter who makes it look easy, with a relaxed style, not hunched or reaching, tight or snatchy – but fluid and natural. That is, in part, due to good gun fit.
How to tell if the gun fits
Most off-the-peg guns are intended to suit and fit the average shooter with an average build and stature. In simple terms, a taller person needs a gun with a longer stock, while a person of smaller stature needs a shorter one.
Comb height can be easily seen by mounting your gun at a mirror to see the position of the eye in relation to the rib and the view. If the eye is too high, the gun will shoot high, whereas if the eye is too low then the non-shooting eye will take over and the gun will not shoot where it’s intended or the head will be lifted. Then, of course, the relationship of the eye to the gun is completely destroyed.
Above we can see a young shooter struggling with a big, heavy gun that’s way too big and long for him. The gun is causing him to lean back to counter the weight and with a stock that’s also too long. The consequence is defensive shooting, fatigue and a lot of missing!
Here it’s a different story, as he looks much more comfortable and suited to a smaller, lighter gun with a stock that’s the correct length for him. He now shoots more confidently and hits more!
Wrong gun, wrong cartridge
One aspect that is related very closely to gun fit, which can have a huge affect on success and failure, is the suitability of the bore and cartridge load used. This is most significantly seen with female and young shooters that have to have a gun and cartridge combination to give them a positive “do-ability” factor. By this, I mean a gun that they can manage and a cartridge that is comfortable to shoot and doesn’t knock them about. I have found 20-bore with a 21g load to suit them very well and encourage them to pursue the sport. All too often I meet shooters who have a notion that they need as much lead in the air as possible, however excessive loads can cause all sorts of aversions to develop which will cause them to miss. Lighter loads certainly help me to shoot in a smoother fluid way.
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To sum up
In summary, we can say that a taller person would need a gun with longer stock and a higher comb, a medium height person will need an average length stock with a slightly lower or more normal comb and a shorter person would need a shorter stock with a lower comb.
- With the help and advice of a good instructor and gunsmith, alterations and adjustments can usually be made to your existing gun to help you achieve a good fit and improve your shooting success.
- There are all sorts of items available to address these issues, such as simple slip-on butt extensions in leather or rubber, and temporary comb raisers, as well as professionally fitted adjustable combs.
- In the event of your stock being too long or altering the cast, then a gunsmith is your best bet to professionally deal with those issues.
- On the other hand you could always treat yourself to a brand new gun that is just right for you!
Common reasons for poor gun fit and how to identify them
- Length of pull: Too short – this can cause a shooter to develop a cramped style and perceive more recoil. The gun may also have a more lively and uncontrollable feel to it.
- Too long: The gun is going to feel too big and beyond a comfortable reach. Due to the slope of the comb, the shooter is likely to get a poor view along the rib, which, in turn, may cause the other eye to take over or the head to lift for the shooter to see the target.
- Comb height: A comb that’s too low, thus causing a poor view along the rib, can cause head lifting for the shooter to see the target. Or, in the case of a right-handed person, using both eyes, the left eye can over dominance of the view.
- Cast-off or cast-on: The degree to which the stock is off set for the handedness of the shooter. In the case of a right-handed shooter the stock is bent away from the right cheek – “cast-off”. In the case of a left-handed person, it is bent away from the left cheek – “cast-on”.