Custom Shotgun Fitting

Correct shotgun fit is crucial to successful shot gunning

I can adjust your stock so that your gun will fit your physical requirements. A typical shotgun fitting session will last two hours and cost $350. This will include perfecting your gun mounting technique, pattern board evaluation for point of impact and altering my try-gun to your personal requirements. Once the perfect shotgun fit is achieved on the pattern plate, the try-gun can then be used on moving targets at the skeet range, to check for comfort and accuracy. The measurements are then taken from the try gun and applied to your own gun. By applying hot oil and manipulating the stock in a bending jig, the finished stock will be a perfect match to your physical dimensions. The gun will then shoot perfectly to point of aim. Stock bending is a skilled process and I have an excellent gunsmith in this area that does this for me. A stock bend will cost a further $175. Alternatively, if you intend ordering a bespoke gun, you will now have an accurate set of measurements to send to the manufacture so that these can be applied to your custom stock.

Perhaps the easiest way to answer the question about the importance of gun fit is to quote from my book "Successful Shotgunning".

“Although we routinely accept that other things that come into bodily contact need to “fit” our requirements, for some reason shotguns don’t always fall into this category. What do you do for example, when your daughter or wife has been using your car? My guess is that you re-adjust the seat height and driving position, tweak the wing mirrors and adjust the seat belt to restore your optimum driving position. What about clothing? Would you wear a pair of shoes or pants that didn’t fit? I don’t think so. 

So, if you expect maximum performance from your shotgun, isn’t it worth having it fitted? Absolutely, although sometimes, despite all the evidence of for a good fit, there are some people who don’t bother and even worse some people who will try to adapt to the gun regardless. So lets spell it out; the shooter should be the starting point. The gun should be made to fit his requirements, not the other way around.

Correct shotgun fit is crucial to successful shot gunning, especially in wing shooting situations with unpredictable targets, but just what exactly is gun fit? The explanation is simple one. “Gun fitting” means exactly that, tailoring the dimensions of a gunstock so that they fit our personal physical requirements. The four basic variables of gun fit are, length, drop, cast and pitch. Alterations can be made to each of these to make the gun fit the user.

The shotgun is the necessary intermediary between a shooter and his target. There is no back sight on a shotgun; the shooters eye must become the back sight. It makes sense therefore, that any alterations we can make to allow this to take place as naturally as possible must be an advantage. However, before these elusive magical adjustments have been made, the user must learn to mount and swing the gun accurately. A gun may be altered to fit its user as perfectly as the proverbial glove, but if his gun mount and swing are sloppy before the gun is fitted, he’s wasted his money on the gun fit. Alternatively, we are all perfectly adaptable and resilient animals and the human body is highly contortive.

So if the gun doesn’t fit, we can always wriggle our head about and this is just as good isn’t it? Nope, I’m afraid not. We should be keeping our eyes on the target or more importantly, the space in front of the target where our shot needs to go and not the rib, or our fingernails, or the bead, or anything else. Providing we are of average build, we should be able (over a period of time) to accommodate any gun but if we are wider or taller than Mr. Average then we’ve got problems. Within reason, someone who needs a short length of pull can hold a “standard” gun with his front hand further back on the fore-end and some one who needs a longer length of pull can hold father forward and compensate. A standard, straight field stock with “off the shelf dimensions” of inch and a half drop at comb, two and a half drop at heel and a 14 inch length of pull may shoot well for a 5 foot 10 inch guy of average build but the same gun will shoot high and left for a 6 foot 2 inch guy who needs a longer length of pull and a dose of cast, simply because he will “creep” his head up on the shotgun stock which in turn will elevate his eye above the rib.

So, if a gun isn’t the right prescription for its user he may learn to shoot it by wriggling his head about to align his eye in the right place. Perhaps he will even become a reasonable shot, but he will never reach his maximum potential until he is using a gun that is tailored to match his personal physical requirements. With a perfect fit, the gun shoots to where its user looks.  So, if a gun isn’t the right prescription for its user he may learn to shoot it by wriggling his head about to align his eye in the right place.

Perhaps he will even become a reasonable shot, but he will never reach his maximum potential until he is using a gun that is tailored to match his personal physical requirements. With a perfect fit, the gun shoots to where its user looks. A correctly fitted gun inspires confidence and the shooter also experiences subconscious tactile assurance that tells him that his master eye is where he expects it to be, in correct alignment above the rib. With sporting clays and in wing shooting situations it has to be. A pheasant or dove that flushes from cover gives a hunter little enough time to evaluate his quarry’s fleeing flight without having to consciously align eye with the rib.”

Pattern Board Evaluation

Brits, in contrast to many Americans, are particularly “picky” about shotgun fitting and we use a method to determine our “optimum driving position” that has been used for decades by Purdey, Holland & Holland and virtually all the “best” English gun makers. So just what is the best way to check gun fit? I believe the most conclusive way to find out where your gun shoots is to shoot it! That makes sense doesn’t it?

You can peer down the barrel in front of the mirror as much as you like but the final evaluation of the gun in the hands of its owner is an individual thing and can only be positively identified on a pattern board. This is a thick steel plate about four feet square, the center of which is about four feet from the ground. There is a central mark, which is the target. Stand about sixteen yards away, to use the board, and focus on the target area in the center.

Mount and lower the gun twice, and on the third time as the gun hits the shoulder, fire. Do not aim the shotgun like a rifle. An area should emerge, after five or six shots, where the bulk of the shot is concentrated, and for every inch that the pattern is “off” target, the stock will need to be adjusted by a 1/16 th of an inch. 

If the main shot concentration is 4 inches high and 4 inches left, for example, the stock needs to be given 1/4 inch of cast and 1/4 inch comb height. Ideal shot distribution is 60% above the target 40% below unless a high shooting gun is favored. A trap gun for example should pattern high because in the initial stages of flight the targets are always rising.

A gun that is to be used for shooting flushing birds should also shoot high for the same reason and in the UK many English guns are designed to shoot high to give built in lead to high incomers for the driven pheasant specialist. It is up to the individual but regardless of his personal requirements, he should make it his business to find out exactly where his gun shoots and he must do this on a pattern board. A few shots at the pattern board can reveal a multitude of sins to the trained eye and if it’s done right, pattern board evaluation will make a big difference; in some cases a big difference. Only then will the gun shoot to point of aim and those frustrating whiffs should be transformed into confident hits.

Shotgun Fitting - The Technical Part
Drop, Cast, Comb -- All critical elementsto a proper shotgun fit

Shotgun Fitting with a Pattern Board
The pattern board tells you exactly what your shooting tendencies are with a given gun. This image shows the shotgun does NOT fit and needs to be adjusted!

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