Why gunfit makes a huge difference to your accuracy
It’s something many Guns never consider, writes Guy Maddocks, but correct gunfit makes a colossal difference to your accuracy over time
Gunfit is, in my opinion, one of the most neglected areas for the large majority of game shots. The reason for this is hard to fathom. One analogy I use is this: if you were out buying a pair of jeans or trousers and the sales assistant asked, “What size are you?” and you say, “I’m a 34in waist, 32in leg,” and the sales assistant replies, “I have a pair of 32in/30in, will they do?” The answer would most definitely be “no” — why on earth would you buy a pair that don’t quite fit?
The same can be said of guns. Manufacturers make guns for a generic average build, but of course we do not all fit into this group. I fall into the even more problematic category of being left-handed, so up until my current gun, which is a factory left-hooker, I have had every gun I’ve ever owned altered, as finding a secondhand left-handed gun I like is nigh on impossible.
Over the years I have spoken to many Guns, and it is rare to find one who has had a gun fitted. The usual bold statement is, “Well, I have never had a gun fitted.” But why not? I think the problem is possibly twofold: those of us who are men just do not like being told we are possibly doing something wrong. We shy away from criticism, and of course some of us are inherently mean so the thought of spending money on something we can’t see like gunfit puts us off — or is that just me?
Why bother then? If you want to shoot consistently, then start with a gun that fits you. If a gun has the slightest amount of wrong cast or is too high or low in the comb, you will miss — maybe not every time on the 25-yarders, but as the range increases out to 40 to 50-plus yards, you will notice the misses rising over the hits and you will never get the consistency you strive for.
In safe hands
To find out more and maybe coax some of you into having a gunfit session, I thought I’d go along to UK Gun Repairs in Taunton, Somerset, and get one of their experts to have
a look at me. UK Gun Repairs has been in business for 17 years in its current form, started by the late Dennis Stepney and Brian Smith. Dennis fitted my first gun for me when he
was based in Sussex many moons ago, and I had visited him ever since for gun fittings.
Sadly, Dennis passed away last year, but UK Gun Repairs remains in safe hands. They are craftsmen of the highest standard. Brian is a highly skilled stock-maker and his workmanship speaks for itself. Paul Power came to them several years ago and brings with him a high level of knowledge, having been in the industry for many years as well as offering coaching on clays and game.
If, like many of us, you are buying or have already bought an off-the-rack shotgun, be it new or secondhand, and you want it to hit what you are pointing it at, then it’s well worth finding a gunsmith who has the skill needed to check you and your gun over — and most importantly one that can make any necessary adjustments to your gun if needed. You will need to look around for a competent gunsmith with the ability — ask experienced clay shots or call a reputable shooting ground and ask if they can suggest anyone.
Paul suggests that if you are a game shot you bring along the clothes you would normally shoot in for the fitting, or your skeet vest if you are a clay shot. You will see why this is important later.
Troublesome trigger arm
Back at my gunfit session, Paul asked me to mount the gun while he watched on. I used my off-the-rack Yildiz Pro Black LH for the fit. Dry mounting your gun is never easy when asked; you often exaggerate the mount and it bears little resemblance to your usual gun-mount. The key is to relax.
Paul suggested that a lot of problems are due to poor gun-mount, and after a few dry mounts he immediately picked up on a problem. My left elbow (trigger arm) was drifting up and causing me to cant the barrel axis, so the barrels were at one o’clock rather than 12 o’clock. This, he said, would take some work on my part to remedy but can be done by gripping the stock with my left elbow firmly before I mount and leading the mount with my forearm (right arm). Practising at home in the mirror will help to solve this.
Another tendency I have is to tilt my head, creating an unlevel eye plain. The eyes should remain horizontal when the gun is mounted. Whether this was simply because I was being asked to dry mount or yet another ism, we don’t know, but again, practising gun-mount at home in the mirror would rectify the problem. Dry mounting with your eyes closed will ensure your head stays level, then open them to check all is well in the mirror.
Paul then checked the gun’s stock measurements on the jig before giving me back my gun, and he asked me to mount the gun a couple more times. He then pulled a left-handed Browning game gun off of the rack and asked me to mount that. Paul had also seen something else, so he asked me to put a thick polar fleece on and mount both
guns in turn.
What he had seen was that occasionally the Yildiz was not sitting in the pocket of my shoulder correctly, which, when combined with thicker clothing, would most likely cause a miss in the field.
Paul’s analysis showed that my Yildiz is ½in too long in the stock for me. The Browning was a 14 ½in and my Yildiz is 15in length of pull. The 14 ½in stock remedied this. Astonishing, and an easy fix simply by fitting a thinner recoil pad to the Yildiz. This was most likely the reason I was inexplicably missing the odd long crosser last season. It really is so obvious when these easily remedied problems are pointed out to you.
I had some work to do at home, to engage my brain and practise. But a ½in recoil pad would at least fix the length of pull issue.
Shooting the pattern plate
Next, we headed out to the pattern plate. We would shoot from 25 yards, and Paul asked me to shoot the centre of the pattern plate: “Just raise your gun up, and when you touch the centre, shoot, no problem.” Well, actually there was a problem. He distracted me from thinking about my elbow issue and there on the pattern plate was the evidence: the majority of the pattern was over to the right. Yes, I had hit the target, but certainly not the centre of the pattern.
The plate was repainted and back we went for another attempt — this time with my left elbow down. There it was for all to see, the pattern centred. Clearly my elbow is something I need to get on top of.
Now, the bit I’m sure you all want to know is: what do UK Gun Repairs charge for this service? The answer is nothing, not a penny. They will only charge for any gun adjustments you want carried out, if indeed the gun needs adjusting or you want the gun adjusted. Your gun might fit you perfectly, in which case there is no charge. But wouldn’t it be nice to know? You can then put any doubt out of your mind.
If a gun needs cast or drop adjusted in the hot oil bending machine, it is £90 plus VAT. They can fit recoil pads or an adjustable comb, but they will discuss what is needed or how to remedy any problem if indeed one is found. The gunfit process takes on average 20 to 30 minutes but can last up to an hour. If you buy a new gun from UK Gun Repairs, the new gun is fitted to the client and any adjustments are free of charge.
To sum up my fitting, Paul actually found fault in me, which is exactly what I went to them for, and my gun needs only the smallest of adjustments to make it fit me correctly. It is now down to me to practise at home and correct the two points Paul picked up on.
But truth be told, it made a few things about my shooting that I was already vaguely aware of perfectly clear. I had noted on the odd occasion when I had shot a bird that the gun wasn’t quite mounted in my shoulder correctly, but I had put this down to bulky clothing and would never have thought about the length of the stock.
It is worth reiterating the point that even with a perfect-fitting gun, it is gun-mount that must be practised and kept on top of, especially toward the end of the season when things can get a little sloppy. Home practice each day for a few minutes in the mirror is the easy solution.
Gunfit for women is even more important, as so few guns are made specifically for the female form. UK Gun Repairs can help remedy this. Good equipment and good gunfit
will only enhance your shooting. Get that gunfit checked; you know it makes sense.