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Fit 101...

Discussion in 'Shotguns' started by Dave McCracken, Jul 17, 2003.

  1. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    I got really trounced last night. It was my introduction to wobble trap, and I was handily outshot by a Net friend with a shotgun I've been less than kind to in print, the S&W 3000. My guess,he's still grinning like a possum eating fresh roadkill.

    Even so, said friend mentioned a sore jaw and shoulder last night, and swore he'd forsake 1 1/8 oz loads for wobble in the future, choosing something like the ultralight 7/8 oz jobs I've been experimenting with.

    The bigger cause of his affliction though, is his shotgun doesn't fit him well.

    Good fit enables us to direct that cloud of shot to the target in comfort. Combined with good form, it helps us hit and increases our ability to soak up recoil comfortably.

    Here's what I suggest to improve your fit. Naturally, this being shotguns, there's lots of wiggle room and generalities with exceptions. And the best fit can change with the mission. For instance, one used in warm weather with light clothing may be a bit longer in Length Of Pull (LOP) than a waterfowler used with 5 layers of polypro, fleece, wool and Goretex. Another example, short range brush hunters after quail oft opt for stocks with a bit more drop, they seem to work better in those close range, short time frame, shot opps.

    Older shotguns tend to more drop, either the old style of heads up shooting required them, or the crooked stock mandated the heads up style.

    LOP is where everyone starts, and it's one of the least critical factors to a good fit. We all adjust without thinking to some degree by changing the hold with the forward hand, moving it back for a longer stock and forward for a shorter one.

    And, all else equal, a stock that's a bit short is easier to deal with than one too long. If in doubt, err on the short side.

    NOTE: The old thing about measuring by placing the butt in the crook of the elbow is, at best,only a rough guide. Better, mount the shotgun, and check the distance between your nose and thumb. If a finger or two fits in, it's close enough. Longer or shorter, adjust in increments of 1/8 to 1/4 at a time. Note than stock length affects DROP, longer stocks have more, all else equal.

    The other dimensions can be best dealt with on a patterning board. Using LIGHT loads,a full choke if possible, and good form, shoot at the center as if it's a bird flying straight away.While 40 yards is traditional,I suggest patterning at the most common distance of your shot opps. For quail, woodcock and grouse hunters, this may be more like 25 yards.

    Take a couple shots, and check the Center of Impact (AKA Point Of Impact or POI) in relation to the Point Of Aim(POA).

    Let's say that the pattern centers nicely horizontally, but POI is lower than POA,a common problem BTW. Here's where DROP comes in.

    DROP is measured from the line of sight to the nose and heel of the comb, the top edge of the stock behind the grip. If you see just the top of the receiver or the bead, or just a little rib or barrel near the muzzle, it's probably close.Proof is in the pattern, if it's hitting low, adding some material to raise the comb will bring the POI up.

    You'll see people talking about 60/40 patterns. That means 60% of the pattern hits above the POA, 40 at or below. Every 10% raise means a shift of 3 inches at 40 yards. Many shotgunners prefer a pattern just a little high, so this is a way of quantifying the shift.

    Pitch is the angle between the butt and the center of the bore. A few degrees off 90 either way can influence the POI, but mainly pitch is important because it adjusts the butt to press uniformly against the body,thus spreading the kick equally. A few shims between the stock and pad can help determine if the pitch is correct, and oft a slight rounding of the pad toe can mimic good pitch on many women and barrel chested or overweight men.

    Let's assume on this hypothetical shotgun that it's hitting perfectly vertically, but it's off horizontally. This brings us to cast.

    CAST is the relation between the center of the bore line and where the eye is placed behind it.For good results, the eye has to be directly in line. Altering the cast can be done by shaving off material, adding some, bending the stock so its centerline lies to the right or left of the action's center line, or making the stock from scratch with its centerline,uh, not centered.

    Many shotgunners fill the need by just tilting the head a few degrees on mount to place the master eye correctly.

    Fit yourself by using good form, and fit your shotgun by adding or subtracting material, shimming and so on. Cardboard, masking tape and moleskin are often used for temporary adjustments, later made permanent.

    When fitting one's shotgun to one's self, get the drop right, then the LOP,recheck the drop, then mess with the pitch, until the patterning board shows the pattern RIGHT where you want it. Then go shoot some clays, game birds if in season, etc, and microtune if needed to make it work on the moving targets you prefer. Write down the numbers and keep in a safe place.

    HTH, sing out if this is not clear....
  2. sm

    sm member

    Thanks Dave.
    As always, great advice!
  3. dav

    dav Well-Known Member

    Okay, Dave... for us neophytes here:

    Drop is what directly affects "how" you aim. Cheek against stock, where are your eyes? More material raises your head, effectively lowering the stock and thus raising point of impact (pivot point being support hand).

    But what some beginners (me?) do, is adjust where I am holding the butt of the stock so I can see what I want for sighting. This makes POI correct, at the cost of having the butt out of position.

    Without the aid of a knowledgeable observer, is there any way for us to know when we have proper form and it is the gun that needs adjusting, versus bad form and it is US that needs adjusting?

    Hope this makes sense to you... thanks.
  4. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    Many thanks, Dave. Good info. You mentioned using cigarette paper or tinfoil to shim the stock - is this at the receiver end, to produce a slight cast? Please advise.
  5. sm

    sm member

    pssst HI Preacherman

    B/t receiver and stock can be used for drop.
    B/t buttstock and recoil pad for cast.

    I have after getting the fit, replaced matchbook material with plastic dividers ...those flexible ones from a tackle box work well, make good shims. Make notes and match dimensions.

    Have also re drilled holes and "scooted" the recoil pad Up/down or over. I may or may not have had to "whittle" the buttstock to get the angle I wanted. I usually use an old Decelerator for just this purpose. Then gunsmith hears " ok this is the fit, new Decelerator please and call when done". Being oversize he can smooth to fit...you can't tell its been 'smithed. One can only tell if mounting a factory gun and one 'smithed...the fit is there.

    Same deal as adjustable stocks the clay players use. Which btw, if you fit yourself using a adjustable stock...write down dimensions...works pretty quick and saves your matchbooks. Be sure you shoot the adjustable stock in the type of shooting you will be using if for first. Clarks's -don't they have a "try gun". Surley they'd let you use a Adjustable stock to speed this up.

    For me, I didn't want a adjustable stock. I used mine for everything. I DID insist on Toe, Heel and Inside of Deeclerator being smooth and rounded--no snags when mounting/dismounting or any handling. Int'l skeet and S/c taught me that real quick.


    I'd drive down during my break - knowing you - while touring your work- I'd get lost , and never heard from again. :uhoh::D
  6. 45auto

    45auto Well-Known Member

    Good information.

    I've always felt stock fit was part science and part magic. The magic comes in with all the different physical characteristics of shooters, shooting style, bird presentation and "cheek pressure" on the stock, particulary with sports that are not premounted.

    I would follow Dave's advice and then shoot, trial and error. If you can't/won't pattern then I might suggest station 7 on skeet, for starters, to determine where your gun might shoot. The target path is known, close and slow, on American skeet, so you can take many shots and adjust up, down, left, right, etc. Then move on to different stations and on to trap.

    Stock fit is more important as the target distance increases. You can hit a station 8 bird with the gun stock completely off your face. Try it on station 4, trap, etc and you will probably miss.

    For someone trying to fit themselves, I might suggest mounting in front of a full length mirror, unloaded gun of course. Head should not be cocked to either side, face forward on the stock, and your "shooting" eye should be above the rib, i.e. not obscured by the rib( stock too low) which reduces you vision. If you want to test your concentration at the same time, try this nude ;)

    Stocks have been getting a bit higher with less drop than the older guns.
    I think that's a good change, although I handled a Browning 525 the other day and they 'increased' the drop and/or lowered the stock compared to their older 425... didn't like it.
  7. Gila Jorge

    Gila Jorge Well-Known Member

    Pitch is far more important as to POI than you suggest above. Most foeld guns have way too much pitch for most men. Women's breasts are a different can ow worms, so to speak. I use 1.5" of pitch for a 14.5" stock for field useage just as many would for a trap gun. Skeet is also the same as in windy weather I float my birds so I can see any irregular affects of wind. Cast off at toe I like between .25 and .375. Drop at heel keep at 2" or less. I want straight back recoil. Less muzzle sjump and lessened recoil effects. I was AA in both in both Skeet and Trap for a number of years and have fitted many of my clients over the years when I had my FFL and also shot competitively. Used to average 10-12,000 rounds per year.
  8. Preacherman

    Preacherman Well-Known Member

    Gila, forgive a neophyte's ignorance, but could you define "pitch"? Do you mean "stock drop"? (This is a term we used in South Africa to define how low the heel of the stock was in relation to the bore axis.) I find myself struggling to understand some of the terms used in the USA in comparison to the British/Colonial terms used overseas.
  9. Hkmp5sd

    Hkmp5sd Well-Known Member


    On a side note, after several weeks of practice, your previous instructions on trigger control have greatly improved my shooting. Still not 100% consistent, but getting there. Thanks!
  10. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

    Thanks for the responses, guys.

    73, you're very welcome.

    Dav, it's not easy, and this may be one reason many neophytes lose interest and quit.Bad fit exacerbates kick too.

    Quick check. With a shotgun KNOWN TO BE EMPTY, hold it ready and focus your vision at a spot on the wall, a distant point,etc. Close your eyes and mount without moving your head.Open your eyes and see if the thing's pointed where you were looking.

    Preacher, never tried cigarette papers, have used foil, matchbooks covers, hull segments and so on. Loosen the stock bolt and insert between the receiver and the front of the stock. Retighten and try.

    45auto, nude testing may not allow for usual clothing. That affects fit also.

    And like a country song heard at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival a few weeks ago lamenting age, "I just don't look good naked anymore"....

    Seriously,agreed on distance. Saw someone shoot a Station 8 bird from the hip recently, and smoke it. But most birds from that station bust less than 15 feet off the muzzle.

    Jorge, agreed that Pitch is important,but many of us shoot well with the Pitch a little off, not true with Drop and LOP. I see it more as aiding comfort. Stance affects Pitch, an aggressive forward stance changes the angle. Consistent form is a prerequisite.

    HK, glad to help!

    A note to newbies. The sooner fit and form are good, the better and more comfortably we shoot. I suggest getting the fit close, getting good form down, then tweaking and microtuning the fit because as we improve, proper fit may become subtly different.

    And don't get discouraged. This can take some work, but the bennies are well worth it.
  11. Gila Jorge

    Gila Jorge Well-Known Member

    Preacherman: if you stand a shotgun on its butt agains a door jamb and then measure the distance from said jamb the front sight is...that is pitch.
    Ceteras Parabis the less pitch the less recoil....also it affects pattern
    point of impact. Experimentation with matchbook covers will generally show the affect of changes in pitch versus impact POI. Like I said, I prefer ptch associated with trap guns for field and skeet purposes for the reasons stated.

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