Are You Fit?
above: The Right Dimensions Allow For Proper Head Carriage On The Stock
There is that one gun in my safe that is my go to gun. Don’t get me wrong I have several guns that I love to shoot and shoot well, but that one gun, I shoot the best. It comes up easier and smoother than the others and I never feel like I have to make a subconscious adjustment before I squeeze the trigger. My guess is you have that go to gun as well. It is your go to gun because it fits you the best.
The idea of a gun fit is nothing new but it can be so overwhelming and confusing. It’s hard to absorb all the different terms and numbers: length of pull, cast, pitch and bend or drops. Numbers in inches ranging from 1/8” to 16” and numbers of degrees like -2 or +5. But the truth of the matter is that gun fit is a very important component to help you become the best shot you can be. The first thing to do in simplifying gun fit is to understand what is happening during a fit.
Measuring a Gun
When you would plink with your .22 cal. rifle with iron sights you would adjust the rear sight’s windage and elevation until until you were punching holes in the center of the target. The movement of the rear sight was the direction you wanted the bullet to go. If you shot high you would move the sight down. If you were shooting left you would move the sight to the right. In shotgunning your eye, or to be more precise, your pupil is the rear sight. If you are shooting high then the pupil needs to come down closer to the plane of the barrel rib. This is done with the drop or bend in the stock (elevation). If you are shooting to the left then the pupil needs to move to the centerline of the barrel rib. This is done with the cast in the stock (windage). Just like your .22 small movements at the gun make for much bigger movements down range.
Fitting Sheet Showing Where Measurements Are Taken
Text books tell us that these dimensions are based around your physical features. Pupillary distance in relationship to face width can determine cast, length of face & shoulder slope affect the drops at Comb and heel while neck and arm length gives us length of pull. If it were that simple then all we need to do is find two gentleman standing 5’10”, weighing 175 lbs, with a 32” shirt sleeve and with similar facial, neck and shoulder configuration and give them a shotgun with identical dimensions. Alas, that’s not the case. We are human and humans have so many variables and quirks we could not fit them all into a text book regardless of the number of volumes.
Over the years of instruction and gun fitting I have coined a phrase, “subconscious reaction to barrel mass distraction”. This part of the gun fit has to do with the eyes and how the peripheral or subconscious vision reacts to the different barrel configurations, single, stacked or side~by~side. More than 80% of the time a shooter will end up with different dimensions between their SxS fit and their O/U fit. Other factors that are typically subjective to the individual are adopted stance, body positioning and head carriage. These are usually determined by athletic ability, sense of balance and upper body strength.
Tools Of The Trade, Try Guns & Vari-Length Guns
If you do have a go to gun as I described, it is possible to measure without the proper tools. A tape measure can give length of pull which is from the trigger (front trigger when measuring a double trigger gun) to the center of the butt of the stock. Turn the gun upside down and rest it on it’s rib with the bead hanging off the edge of your desk. Measure up from the desk to the nose of the comb and again up to the heel this will give you your drops (elevation). A small diameter string with a loop tied to one end can help you determine cast (windage). Place the gun on its bottom panel with the stock suspended off the edge of the desk. Take the loop and put it over the front bead and stretch the string over the stock keeping it center with the rib. If the stock is center to the string the gun has neutral cast if the stock favors to the right of the string it has cast off, which is best suited for a right handed shooter. To the left is cast on which benefits the left handed shooter.
Now by no means is this accurate enough to build a bespoke gun or alter guns you already have. When that time comes you need the help of a pro and the accuracy of proper tools. But it will help you determine why you have a “go to” gun and another little beauty that you can’t hit beans with that never leaves the safe.