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How to avoid getting a bruised face when shooting

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

Female gun

An instructor checks his client's gun mount; if the mount is consistent, correct gunfit can make a big difference

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 to stop getting a bruised cheek from a shotgun.

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.

Getting a kick out of shooting

Q: I have recently started shooting with my husband. Although I enjoy it, I do suffer from the recoil. What can I do to ease it?

A: If you are using the same gun and cartridges as your husband, they may not suit you. You might get on better with lighter cartridges (such as 21g), which will smash the clays just as well. Also, the stock dimensions may not be right for you. It could be too long, meaning you feel recoil in the shoulder through an inconsistent mount. If the comb height is too low, it will make you have to float your head away from the stock to see over the action and this will result in recoil issues at your cheek.

The pitch angle on the butt affects the way it sits in your shoulder, and if the toe is connected but the heel is not, the felt recoil is greater through a smaller connection to your shoulder. With the right gun dimensions for you and suitable cartridges, recoil should be minimal.

Steiner Ranger 8 BT 4-32 x 56mm BT rifle scope

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.

A few years ago a member of the British Sporting Rifle Club gave me a lesson with a stalking rifle. 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.