Cheek weld?


January 24, 2014, 01:26 PM
Greetings! I've always heard that you should have a "cheek weld" when shooting a shotgun, and assumed the same is likely true of a rifle. I have an old savage .22/.410 (used to be my grandfather's) that I'm planning to take to the range tomorrow to sight it in and see if I can get minute-of-squirrel accuracy out it.

I'm new at this business, so please don't hesitate to school me if i "say" something stupid.

The crux of my question -- when I shoulder the gun and align the sights, no portion of my head or face is even close to touching the stock. Is this normal? To make matters worse I recently discovered that I'm cross-dominant so I'm planning to learn to shoot left-handed (I'm right handed, left eyed).

With some sandbags and a bench I suspect I'll be able to get the rifle sighted in, but when it comes to off-hand shooting do I just let my head hover? Do I build up some sort of cheek-piece? Do I hang Grand-Dad's "rifle" over the fireplace and go get that Steven's model 30 "favorite" that I've been lusting after down at Larry's Pistol and Pawn? (though I'm not sure how much better that will be)



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January 24, 2014, 01:33 PM
Yes, I feel that proper cheek weld is important to using a rifle accurately. This sounds like you already noticed this. Maybe look into an aftermarket stock? Or low rings and mounts? Or an aftermarket cheek piece.

January 24, 2014, 01:44 PM
Thanks, witchhunter.

Or low rings and mounts

Oh, i forgot to mention that I'm using the stock iron sights, not sure how much lower I could get them.


January 24, 2014, 03:10 PM
It is very important on a shotgun and a rifle...the recoil on higher calibers or gauges will give you a fat lip if your cheek is not down well on the stock I would suggest an aftermarket cheek piece.

January 24, 2014, 08:44 PM
Cut section of foam pipe insulation and wrap with med cloth (self gripping material) or even duct tape. I've done this on a few rifles where the scope is a bit to high for existing comb ect.,

You will see this on a lot of roles at some Appleseed clinics especially for youth. It works, is no permanent and even comfy :-)

January 24, 2014, 08:47 PM
.. Double tap. Delete

January 24, 2014, 10:37 PM
'Ideally' you should shoot with your dominant eye. If you can close your left eye then you could shoot right handed. Some of your cheek weld problem could be from shooting right handed while trying to use your left eye...I've seen it many times with new shooters. I haven't seen very many iron sighted guns that you get NO cheek weld off a bench.

January 25, 2014, 08:55 AM
How tall are you and what is the firearm's length of pull (the distance from the center of the trigger to the center of the butt-pad)? Are you putting the butt-pad in your "shoulder pocket" (thats the region below your collar bone where a bra strap would pass)?

I'm not tall (5'6") and I know that standard LOPs (13.5"+) give me a lot of trouble. I end up with the butt-pad on my shoulder (outside the pocket) and my head too far back on the stock, both of which make cheek weld very tough. If LOP is too short you can add a slip-on butt-pad, if it's too long you'll probably want to get another stock (I'm assuming you may not want to take a wood saw to Grandpa's rifle).

If you're having trouble with the iron sites a red dot site may be in order, as their point of impact isn't affected by your head position, but you should make the firearm fit you well first.

Shawn Dodson
January 25, 2014, 10:06 AM
A solid, consistent cheek weld is essential for accuracy. It locks you to the buttstock and makes you "one with the gun". Without it both your head and the sights just sort of "float" around in space.

January 25, 2014, 10:13 AM
The crux of my question -- when I shoulder the gun and align the sights, no portion of my head or face is even close to touching the stock. Is this normal?
Normal? No. Common? Too much so. Right? Absolutely not, but the solution is pretty easy. As others said, look into cheek risers. You can buy them, or you can make your own which is likely to get you more of exactly what you need.

This is a matter of stock fit which ideally is sorted out by a good stock maker working to produce exactly what you need for your body type. The gun makers tend to make something that's supposed to work ok for everyone and really works "meh" for just some.

To make matters worse I recently discovered that I'm cross-dominant so I'm planning to learn to shoot left-handed (I'm right handed, left eyed).You're totally on the right track with that. Good plan!

January 25, 2014, 02:33 PM
I have not found a rifle or shotgun yet where I can't get some portion of the side of my face into solid contact with the stock. Even the worst combo I've tried still allowed me a "chin weld".

So for starters I'm thinking that your manner of holding the rifle is suspect. You're likely shouldering the stock too low. I've seen this with first time shooters that seem to want to line up the butt of the stock in their armpit instead of up and even with the ball of the shoulder. Also again from these first timers you may be trying to stand too square on. Turn a little sideways so your head moves more into the stock.

It's hard to suggest more without seeing you. But if you look at various pictures of rifle and shotgun shooters and try to emulate their stance and in particular the height that they hold the rifle you should find it becomes far more natural to get a good and natural feeling contact with the side of your face.

Now having said all this the vertical location of where the stock and your face meet is all over the map. Lots of folks put high mount scopes on rifles with stocks intended for use with plain iron sights. Then they wonder why the only point of contact is their chin. But in this case it sounds like you're using the iron sights so it really comes down to the simple fact that your gun holding posture is likely wrong.

January 25, 2014, 05:15 PM
BCRider is certainly right, and I'll only caution that there's a balance to be had there.

Many tall, gangly shooters (and some others) try to chase a good cheek weld with a stock that doesn't fit them all that well, and end up with the butt so high that they end up taking the recoil on the very point of the butt, instead of across the whole face of the butt-plate or recoil pad. That's not a good way to dissipate the energy of recoil and will quickly lead to bad habits.

Do work on your stance so it is appropriate for the kind of shooting you want to do, and then make the stock work BEST for that stance. In the end, it should be a very natural feel. It should come up to your cheek and rest against the full pocket of your shoulder. Don't scrunch yourself into the gun, bring the gun to you.

January 25, 2014, 06:12 PM
Totally agreed Sam. I've seen that opposite side of the spectrum as well. Folks that perch a 12Ga up so high that the lower point is digging into their collar bone. Then they wonder why it hurts and they get a big bruise.

OK, a revised first position.... :D

With the new provision that the butt end of the stock is making a good amount of contact with the upper shoulder so that the points are not digging in then a good natural stance would put at least some portion of the side of the face in contact with the stock when the sight picture is achieved.

If one has to reach with their head other than a slight side tilt then something is wrong with the basic posture.


I saw this a lot with new shooters while helping out at a local rental range for a couple of years. Smaller folks, and in particular slight women (we had a LOT of Asians in the clientele) would put the stock to the shoulder and lean WAY back to hold up that heavy 870 tactical. From there it was pretty much impossible to achieve a decent sighting lineup. Hell, it WAS impossible unless they had rubber bones. But once a proper stance was coached into them their heads pretty much lined up with the proper sighting position automatically.

Which is why I suspect that gbeauvin's basic stance and balance isn't correct.

Once you make the most of what you've got then, of course, the finer points of proper fitting come into play. I prefer my point of contact to be just under the cheek bone when my eye is lined up with whatever sighting device I'm using. Having the jut of my cheek bone sit right on the crest of the comb results in the best repeatability possible and the most support for the rifle or shotgun.

January 25, 2014, 06:25 PM
Sounds about excellent to me.

The biggest problem I guess I really have with the (cool as heck) old Savage 24 type combos is that most shooters want a rifle to fit one way and a shotgun to fit another. And it's hard to really strike a balance. Or it is often hard, anyway. I think the best bet is really to fit the gun like a shotgun -- for a more upright mount and swinging, wingshooter's stance -- and accept that it makes it less perfect off the bench or for prone work. Or for a scope.

I happen to like some rifles to be set up that way, too, especially for stalking and fast work in the field.

January 25, 2014, 10:06 PM
Thanks everyone for the advice and comments. I believe you are right that my stance and hold are off. While bench shooting at the range today (more on that later) I found that I could get my cheek in the stock right handed, but not so well left handed. When playing around with the stock just now I discovered that I was holding it across my body way more right handed than left handed. All is not lost!

To answer a question several posts back, I am a hair over six feet tall (a portly 6' rather than a gangly 6') and the gun appears to have a LOP of 14".

Now - back to the range! I had a box of CCI bulk ammo (AR tactical?) and a few 50 round boxes of blazer I picked up at the range. I "fired" 5 of each -- 3 shots fired, 7 just went "click". I took it out to the man at the counter and he cleaned the face off, said the hammer felt "stiff" and said it might just need a good cleaning. Having already paid my range fee I decided to go ahead and shoot some to see where POI was (about 4-5 inches right at 20 yards as happens). By the time I'd gone through 50 or 60 rounds I was getting a little better than 50% firing.

I believe that in order to move my POI left I must slide the rear sight left? It appears to already be all the way to the left but I'm not entirely sure. Any advice on how to adjust this would be appreciated. I'll get some pics uploaded.

I took the barrel off for the first time tonight (thanks to YouTube) but I don't have a driver long enough to remove the receiver from the stock. Any tricks to cleaning out the inner works? There is some sort of lever or cam on the bottom of the barrel that seems to force out the 410 extractor but its very stiff and I had a devil of a time getting the barrel back on until I realized that yes, that tab DOES move and in fact I must move it in order to replace the barrel.

I'm new at this so please bear with me, but thanks for the advice and support!


1911 guy
January 26, 2014, 12:19 AM
Good idea to learn to shoot dominant eye side. You'll have less trouble in the long run that way.

Cheek weld is vitally important. While it aids in stability, the most important factor is placing your eye in the same spot behind the rear sight every time. Altering placement, forward, backward, left or right, will affect sight alignment.

Jersey Joe
January 26, 2014, 10:40 PM
For rifle shooting a cheek weld is essential for many of the reasons given. I was shooting in a Sporting Clay tournament last year, and in my squad was one of the top shooters in the country. I noticed that his cheek only slightly touched the stock. It was almost unperceivable. I asked him about it after the shoot as I had always been taught to use a tight weld. He said in the most southern gentlemanly tone, "well Sir, I like to see the BIRD, not the rib or bead." Now, I just like to tell that story, but the advice you've gotten so far is spot on.

January 27, 2014, 10:56 AM
I've never used a bench and rarely ever a scope so my advice is probably worth what it cost. I learned to shoulder a rifle by first placing the butt into the pocket of my shoulder, then I bring the stock to my cheek. My hands should be in a comfortable position and I should be looking down the sights. As I am shooting from the right the rifle will be pointed up and to the left. Now I lean forward, into the rifle, and bend my body in a comfortable way, mostly above the waist but below the shoulder blades, so that the rifle is level and pointed over and parallel with my left foot. With some practice this became my natural shooting stance and I can bring the rifle to my shoulder and sight it at my target from muscle memory.

Cee Zee
January 28, 2014, 10:58 PM
If you could post a photo of what you look like holding and trying to aim the rifle we might get a better idea of what's going on. Block out your face if you want. Just leave the cheek and chin area in so we can see the problem areas.

I've seen shotguns that have a big drop in the comb height. I've seen them with a huge difference in cast too. Shotguns and rifles are entirely different animals to those who really try to master the art. I grew up on a trap range more or less. I saw properly fitted shotguns there and some were very distinctly different from what you would expect. First thing is that almost all shotgun stocks have a huge cast designed to fit right handed shooters. If you try to shoot a shotgun like that from the left side you are going to have problems and lots of them.

There's a reason people have shotgun stocks fitted especially if they plan on hunting quail or shooting clays. Your stock has to fit you so that the shotgun fires the direction you're looking. You don't have time to line up the bead with a flying target especially if you're trying to hit two of them that take off at the same time. Shotgun shooting has to be point shooting if you expect to be really good at it.

I've always been suspicious about combination rifles and shotguns because of reasons like this. There are still lots of questions we don't know about. Do you have a long neck? Long arms? Is your face long? Are your eyes set far apart or close together? It's going to be hard to diagnose the problem over the net to be honest. You are almost certainly going to need the help of a real pro to get your shotgun to shoot from the left side. I'm not talking about some guy in a gun store that measures the LOP and declares the shotgun fits. Check out how the Brits do things when it comes to shotguns. They have a very long history of fitting stocks to shooters there. We are way behind in that aspect of shooting. Certainly some shooters know about these things and how to fix them but the average shooter doesn't even know the issues in the US.

My suggestion would be to find another weapon to be honest. If you want a shotgun and a rifle buy two weapons. With your cross dominance problems you will have a tough time getting one of the two guns to fire right with the weapon you own. You can find right hand shooting rifles much easier since left hand shooting shotguns are rarely even discussed in America. There are some US built left handed shotguns but I don't believe I've ever seen one in a store and my days on the trap range were a long time ago and I don't remember talking a lot about shooting left handed in those days. But it did come up. It just didn't come up often enough for me to learn the answers to the big questions.

There are web sites that talk about fitting shotguns. Be aware that they fit different than rifles and they are made to shoot from one side or the other, not both. If you know that much you'll be way ahead of most people.

January 29, 2014, 02:08 PM
Thanks, guys. I'll try to get a picture but I've come to the conclusion that the bulk of the problem is my stance/hold, and I'll try to work on that. I have no plans to use this gun for wing-shooting, just squirrels and bunnies. Eventually I want to get a muzzle-loader, but in the meanwhile I'd like to see if I can take game with a gun that has personal significance to me (this .22/.410 was my grand-dad's, and I also have my great-grand-dad's 12ga).


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