Articles & Reviews

Correct Shotgun Fit Written by Hugh Bradley

I can recall working as a youngster for Blanton's the Gunmakers of Ringwood in the U.K. well over 40 years ago and listening to clients coming into the small retail shop wanting new shotguns. These buyers were quoting their stock dimensions for gun fit to the salesman a bit like the average person buying clothes, who know their waist, chest, and inside leg measurement etc. This knowledge of personal stock fit dimensions of LOP, Drop at Comb, Drop at Heel, and Cast is a rarity in New Zealand. The average kiwi shotgunner tends to buy the gun first, disregarding whether the gun fits or not and then tries to adjust him or herself to fit the gun.

 

A gun collector purchases a gun because of the make, model, rarity, or condition. When a competitive clay target shooter wants to purchase a gun the most important feature is not so much the; length of barrels, width or style of rib, type of choke, gadgets or gizmo's offered but infact is correct fitting. 

 

How many people are guilty of purchasing a gun off the rack without any real regard to the correct fit?

Virtually all production shotguns on sale in shops are made to fit the average sized shooter and as people are of all shapes and sizes, the chances of purchasing a gun that really fits and performs well for them instinctively is quite remote.

 

I have seen many people try other people's guns and state I could shoot this gun, however the reality is that many guns do not actually pattern where they are aimed at the distance that targets are shot, even if they appear to fit and feel comfortable to the individual. Looking at someone pointing a gun at you does give some indication of certain aspects of personal fit to a gun but the real proof of correct fit is where the pattern is, at the distance you break the targets!

Many people pattern their guns at 15 metres, this is ineffective as the shot charge is constantly dropping and the centre of a pattern at 15 metres is quite different to the centre of a pattern at 40 metres which is the distance most second barrel shots at a DTL target are made. Also the quality of the pattern and the performance of the ammunition at this short distance are far less evident.

 

I also see many people adjust themselves to their gun every time they shoot at a target; many feel the need to check facial alignment before calling for their target by having a center bead on their rib. If the shooter has to align them self every time they shoot, they are actually rifle shooting their targets and constantly adjusting themselves from shot to shot to fit the gun. Shooters using this technique will often shoot quite well, but never well enough.

 

The human body is controlled by two parts of the brain; the left side and the right side. The English style of traditional shotgun shooting uses the left hand to support and point the gun and right hand just the pulls the triggers, hence the straight English stock with no pistol grip. The other style is where the right hand points the gun as well as pulls the trigger whilst the left hand takes the weight of the barrels. Here in NZ I see both styles and a combination of both. It is important to ascertain the style the shooter has developed in adjusting for correct fit.

 

With two parts of the brain involved it is bit like a computer (the brain) with two hard drives, a computer with one hard drive can be confusing enough, especially if your hair has gone grey, but two hard drives are double trouble! Things like eye domination problems need to be eliminated as many right handed shooters may well be right eye dominant but at times of stress the left hand hard drive can say I can help and the left eye has a turn at aiming and this is where the shooter can miss by meters! The rifle shooting style of shotgun shooting is affected by this more than most people realize.

There are two parts to correct gun fit, even when individuals have differing body shapes and or physical abnormalities. There are basic principles that effect correct stance and fluidity of movement.

 

Part 1. Gun Fit to the Individual.

 

The first part of correct shotgun fit is the gun to the individual. This is where the arms are held at their most balanced and strongest point of extension (this improves recovery time from recoil of the 1st barrel and a faster and more precise 2nd barrel shot), the head is held in the correct position and does not drop down or creep forward on the comb when the gun is mounted, with a head down position, the shooter is looking through the roof of their eyes, this greatly impairs their ability to see clearly or judge the horizontal and vertical, as well as all the angles in between, making angled targets especially difficult, plus increasing the microseconds it takes to get on to the target

Making adjustments to the Blaser Vario Try Gun to optimise performance.

The pitch of the stock depends where the stock is mounted against the shoulder and on the individuals shoulder pocket shape. (The pitch effects muzzle rise on the shot and incorrect pitch can result in bruised cheeks and slow recovery for the second shot.) The shoulder mount/ pocket can also create a canting problem.

 

When the shooter is correctly holding the gun the arms and head are held in their most balanced positive/aggressive position. (The shooting stance is very much like a boxer's stance and can be called aggressive.) The next part of gun fit starts.

Checking where the gun shoots at the distance targets are broken.

Most clay shooters targets are shot at between 25 and 35 metres, the only correct way to confirm correct gun fit is to shoot at a pattern target at the distance the shooter normally breaks their targets.

 

(There are many reasons why guns will shoot to different points, ribs not in alignment, beads not centralized, barrels not aligned, chokes out of alignment etc)

With the gun mounted and the shooter in their most balanced stance a shot is fired at the distance of approximately 30 to 35 meters at the pattern target. (This distance depends on a shooters measured 1st target break point) This shot must not be aimed like a rifle by using the bead as a sight but be made purely on focusing and concentrating on the center point of the pattern target whilst holding the gun with the head and arms in the correct balanced stance.

 

The position of the pattern strike is noted over a series of shots and adjustments are made to the gun stock to correct elevation or windage, just like adjusting the back sight on a rifle. The gun stock fit is adjusted until the shooter consistently places the center of the pattern central on the target. The shooter must always see the target clearly and the target must be in the center of the pattern at the distance that the shooter breaks his targets.

 

This means what ever target the shooter is looking at, the pattern will be centered over it, and this applies to any form of shotgun shooting.

The balance of the gun, barrel length, barrel weights etc which effect speed of swing and point ability are done as fine tuning after correct gun fit has been established.

 

The pattern at 35 metres through a 40 point full choke will extend out to a circumference of approximately 28 to 30” with an effective reliable clay breaking pattern of 24 to 26 with a 28g trap load.

In the course of a correct fitting where over 50 rounds are fired at the pattern target the shooter will learn a huge amount about pattern quality, choke performance, ammunition performance, all of which can vary tremendously even from gun make to gun make.

Checking pattern quality after testing with the Blaser Vario Try Gun

Stager Sport and Blaser are pleased to offer every purchaser of a new F3 shotgun the opportunity for a fitting session to establish the exact dimensions of LOP, Drop at Comb, Drop at Heel, and cast. This will insure that the client will perform at their very best. This comprehensive and correct fitting service takes about four hours from start to finish and the Blaser client will see an immediate improvement in their ability to break targets. In the course of a fitting where over 50 rounds will be fired at a pattern target the shooter will learn a huge amount about pattern quality, choke performance, and ammunition performance, all of which can vary tremendously. The client will then shoot a further 50 rounds or so at varying targets to test the fit. To finally confirm that the correct fit has been achieved the client will then shoot the Blaser Vario Try gun with the barrel masked so that the shooter cannot see the bead, rib, or barrels and is unable to cheat and aim it like a rifle. The results of a series of blind shots at the pattern target establish final proof that the gun is shooting exactly where the client is looking!

 

That's Shotgun Shooting!