June 17, 2013
How to Find a Shotgun That Fits You Just Right
By Phil Bourjaily
In my recent call for questions to be answered on the Gun Nuts TV show, there were many worthy queries that did not make the final four. One was from mspl8sdcntryboy (which I finally figured out spells “misplaced country boy”), who asked: “How do you choose the proper shotgun fit?”
Unfortunately, mspl8sdcntryboy, you will not be getting a prize for that other than my sincere thanks for sending in a good question which I will now attempt to answer.
Before I get started, I should say that the shim kits on many new semiautos let you experiment with stock dimensions, which is progress to be sure.
There are a few ways to choose proper gun fit. The most elaborate is to have a fitting done with a try gun, a gun with a stock that adjusts in many different directions. The fitter can change any dimension; you shoot the gun at a pattern plate, the fitter tinkers some more, and eventually you have a gun that shoots where you look. it can cost a few hundred dollars to have a fitting done, and it’s a lot of fun. When you’re done, you have a piece of paper with your measurements that you can give to a gunsmith.
However, to get the full benefit of a fitting session, first you need to develop a good, consistent gun mount where you bring the gun to your cheek first, then tuck it into your shoulder pocket the same way every time. You will find, too, that if you stand a little squarer to the target and push the gun out as you bring it to your face you can shoot a much longer stock than you may have thought.
But, there is a Catch-22 to this: you need a gun that fits you pretty well to practice with so you can mount the gun well enough to get it fitted. So, you might start with a simpler method: check fit by closing your eyes, mounting the gun, then opening your eyes to see if you’re looking straight down the rib, or maybe seeing a bit of the rib if that’s what you prefer (I do, for targets). When you do this, remember no one cheeks the gun as hard in the field as they do in the store, so bring the gun up without squishing your cheek down on it extra hard to simulate your real gun mount.
Or you can shoot at something. Sometimes when kids on our trap team are having trouble and we think gunfit or eye dominance is the problem, we’ll set a clay target halfway up the berm of the pistol range at the club and have them stand 25 yards away and shoot at it without aiming. It’s easy to see then if they are on target, above, below, left or right.
A bedsheet, hanging 20 yards away as I have mentioned here before, is even better because you can shoot it several times before a hole appears, which then represents the aggregate center of your patterns. And you can’t see where you shots are hitting so you don’t subconsciously cheat and correct.