Q: I have started my New Year’s resolution early, which is to begin hunting upland birds and small game. I’ve been practicing mounting and swinging the gun, a 20-gauge 1100 Special Field, in the garage, twice daily. I’ve noticed my gun is naturally canted from northwest to southeast about 12 degrees every time. Will this cause misses? Should I correct it?
A: First of all, congratulations on your New Year’s Resolution, which is way better than mine (being sure to close kitchen cabinets after I get things out of them—it drives my poor wife nuts when I leave them all open). Congratulations, too, on being one of the few to actually do your dry-fire practice, and twice a day no less. Also, congratulations on owning a neat upland gun. Those Special Fields are nice, and were made back when Remington did a good job with fit and finish.
Now to your question. Canting is, as you say, the act of angling the gun slightly rather than holding it plumb-level straight up and down. There is another kind of canting, which is tilting your head over the stock. The latter kind of canting often indicates cross-dominance, as the shooter tries to put their off-side eye over the gun by tilting their head. Head canting puts a crick in your neck, makes it difficult to move the gun, and subjects you to more recoil. If you’re canting your head, you need to stop doing it and learn to shoot with your eyes level.
Canting the gun mildly, on the other hand, isn’t ideal, but I’d put it way down on the list of flaws to correct. Unless you’re twisting the gun at a radical angle, a little cant is unlikely to put you off target. That said, it should be fixable, either by concentrating on it during your dry-fire practice or by fooling with gun fit. Not everyone’s shoulder pocket is shaped to accommodate a vertical gunstock. Sometimes changing to a recoil pad without a prominent toe, or grinding down the toe of an existing pad, helps the gun better fit your shoulder without digging into it. Personally, I don’t like shooting guns with sharp, protruding toes. Or you can add an adjustable buttplate that lets you angle the pad slightly outward at the bottom.
More important than this, though, is that you spend your practice sessions concentrating on bringing the gun to your face rather than your face to the gun, and focusing on mounting smoothly not quickly. Finally, as you swing the shotgun, imagine moving it in time with the target.