A female shooter has problems with a sore face and a rifle shooter issues with scope bruising. How can they shoot more comfortably? Our expert advises ...

Q: I really hope you can help me. I am tired of getting a bruised cheek from a shotgun.

I am a regular clayshooter but find it very uncomfortable to shoot any more than 50 clay targets due to a very sore face. I have tried lots of different cartridge loads but nothing makes any difference.

So what about using a rubber recoil pad or a Monte Carlo stock? Where would be the best place to source these? I shoot seeing just a bit of the rib and bead and keep my head tight down on the stock.

Please help, as at the moment I leave the shooting ground in pain. (Read here to learn more about gun recoil.)

Avoiding getting a bruised cheek from a shotgun

A: I’m very sorry to hear this but there are some steps you can take.

First off, I’d advice you to look at the weight of your gun and its stock length.

You might find that a Monte Carlo stock may sit more comfortably on your shoulder. However  a rubber pad at the end of your stock will not necessarily help your face. (Here’s a list of low-recoil guns to buy second-hand.)

I’d look around to find a competent shooting instructor who is also experienced at fitting guns.

An instructor will take you out on the shooting ground, have a look at you whilst you shoot and study both your stance and your gun mount.

Having got the full picture they will then be in a position to make some informed recommendations which you can put in place.

You’ll find a shooting instructor who also does gun fitting near you at the Association of Professional Shooting Instructors.

Man with rifle

Q: How far away from a scope should my eye be to avoid bruising?

A: There are lots of variables here, the recoil of the rifle and the magnification of the scope being two of them. With the scope off the rifle, I’d start by holding it up in front of my eye and seeing how far away I could get it and still maintain the full field of view.

This is likely to be more than three and a half inches, and should give you a safe starting point.

Generally speaking, the higher the magnification of the scope, the nearer it needs to be to your eye in order to get the full view.

Be careful – scope bite doesn’t just hurt

Remember, it’s better to start with the scope’s eyepiece too far away than too close. Scope bite from a powerful rifle doesn’t just hurt – it can cut you, and smash your spectacles if you wear them.

I suggest you then try a few shots, remembering that in the field the terrain may force you to adopt shooting positions which are far from ideal, as well as the usual ones of standing, kneeling, sitting, prone, and using a stick to steady your rifle. Some positions may put the scope uncomfortably close to your eye if you opt for the minimum eye relief.

About 30 years ago a member of the British Sporting Rifle Club gave me a lesson with a stalking rifle on the Bisley ranges.

His advice was to always try to shoot in a comfortable, head-up position: “The image in the scope should be like sitting in your armchair at home, watching TV”.

This piece was originally published in 2016 and has been updated.