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Fitting a Shotgun

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What is meant by a "shotgun that fits you".
How do you "fit" a shotgun?
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Larry, shotgun fit is determined by several things, one of the important ones is the primary type of shooting you will do. A skeet gun is set up differently than a trap gun, trap shotguns are set for a premounted stance, with a wide, tall rib, and are made to shoot high for the rising, going away targets.

So, to start one of the things to look at is the place that the shotgun butt fits your shoulder. As much of the butt pad should fit in the pocket formed where your shoulder meets your chest. If you look at some shooters you will see some pad that is not touching at all. To get the stock down and to keep your head up two things can be done, one is the adj butt pad and the other is an adj comb, some guns already come with a raised comb stock called a Monte Carlo.

If you look down the barrel and you can see more of one side of the rib or barrel instead of just the top of the rib or you see too much rib between the beads then you are tilting or canting the gun. You adj the cant or the tilt of the gun by angling the cut of the stock, by bending the stock, or with an adj butt pad you can tilt the pad to align the sight plane.

How and where your head meets the stock is also a consideration when checking LOP. Adjusting the length of pull by adding spacers or a longer recoil pad or removing stock material or adding a shorter recoil pad.

Take a look at the graphic at the Country Gentleman site, you can see an adj butt pad and an adj comb.

A simple example. Lets just take a look at a single shot shotgun. You pick it up and "try" it out. When you mount the gun and look down the barrel you hunch up your shoulder and bend your neck down to the top of the stock. If you raised the butt end up you could lift your head to a more natural stance, so to if the stock was longer you would stand with a your shoulders in a more squared stance.

Most shotguns are designed for a non existent avg shooter. At many gun clubs and most major shoots there are gun smiths or fitters that can help you adjust the gun to fit you, instead of you trying to fit around the shotgun.

Heres an article from a Corpus Christi paper:

Anybody who thinks a new shotgun might be the answer for shooting woes is ... absolutely right.
It's a fitting answer to a fitting subject based on the fact that some shotguns naturally fit some shooters better than others.

What every wingshooter needs is a shotgun that comes naturally and comfortably to the shooter's shoulder so that the shooter's eyes are looking straight down the top of the barrel, picture perfect every time.

The problem is that many standard, off-the-shelf shotguns are designed to the dimensions of an "average" right-handed shooter who is 5-foot-9, weighs 165 pounds, has a 33-inch arm length and wears a size 40-regular suit.

That leaves out most men over 40, many women and children and all lefties.

Everyone, of course, would love to have a custom-fitted, custom-made Purdy from old England. Getting one, however, would require a two-year wait and the cost of a couple Corvettes.

A custom-fitted Beretta by Orvis would get the price down to four digits, but that was still too expensive for my budget.

Then I talked to Col. Tom Hanzel, former coach of national champion skeet teams at Trinity University in San Antonio and an expert shooting instructor.

"Every now and then I run into an individual who can handle a standard shotgun, but it's about one out of 100," Hanzel said, noting that proper fit was a "necessity" for maximizing shooting skill.

But the coach also said getting a fitted shotgun was not expensive. In many cases, a gunsmith could adjust a standard shotgun to fit a shooter for as little as $50 to $60 (such as at the Texas Gun Shop in Corpus Christi).

I remembered Hanzel's words when I met gunsmith John Smyrl, who did fitting work for South Texas shooters before departing this earthly plane a couple of years ago.

For his work, the gunsmith used what is called a "try gun" with a special butt stock that can be adjusted in numerous ways to fit any shooter. Once the try gun fits, the measurements are duplicated on the shooter's own shotgun, often at minimal costs.

Often, a skilled gunsmith can spot the most common problems of shotgun fit by simply eyeballing a shooter holding a shotgun in a shooting position.
My suggestion to Smyrl was a before-and-after test, using my own shotgun, to see if there was enough difference in fit to make a difference.

I produced an older model but standard Remington 870 pump gun in 12 gauge.

As a simple eyeball test, Smyrl had me repeatedly mount the shotgun to my shoulder while he stood at the barrel end and checked the position of my eyes in relation to the top of the barrel.

"I can tell you right now that this gun doesn't fit you worth a darn, but let's take it out to the range and see how you shoot it," he said.

We did.

Since my focus was on dove hunting, we set up on a skeet range to try shooting clay birds on various crossing angles. To better judge the fit of my shotgun, Smryl suggested I not shoulder it until a "bird" suddenly appeared.

I broke 13 of the first 25 birds and 15 of the next 25, for a total of 28 out of 50. That was better than I expected, but nothing to brag about.

Smyrl made little comment until the final shot was fired, then he got down to the basics of shotgun fit.

The measurements that count most, he said, are "cast," "length of pull" and "drop of comb." Cast is the measurement of how the centerline of the stock fits to the centerline of the receiver. As the stock varies off the centerline to the left or to the right, it is said to be either "cast on" or "cast off."

Many standard shotguns have a slight cast off for right-handed shooters, which can be a disadvantage for southpaws. Smyrl said many shooters could benefit from a cast that centers their eyes on a shotgun's sighting rib.
Length of pull is the measurement of distance between the butt of the shotgun's stock and the trigger.

For a simple test of length of pull, Smyrl said a shooter can bend his or her shooting arm into a right angle at the elbow with the palm open and flat. Then, place the butt of the shotgun against the crook of the elbow, with the receiver flat against the palm. If the shotgun trigger falls about the first joint of the index finger, the length of pull is about right.

Drop of comb is the distance which the comb section of the stock just behind the grip drops below the top of the receiver. Since the shooter anchors his or her cheek to the stock behind the comb, the drop determines the level of the eye to the top of the receiver.

"The problem with your shotgun," Smyrl said, "is that there's too much drop in the stock. It's too low for you, but that's common for a lot of shooters.

"When you get your cheekbone down on the stock, you're seeing too much of the back of the receiver. So when you shoot, you are lifting your cheek off the stock to see the target better, and you're shooting high," he explained.

So custom fitting my shotgun amounted mostly to adjusting drop of comb, a simple task of slightly bending metal at the back of the receiver.
Back at the skeet range, I shot worse than ever, breaking only 9 of 25 birds, while eliciting a few chuckles from the gunsmith.

"Look," he said, "you're shotgun fits right, but you haven't changed your old habit of lifting up your head when you shoot, which puts you way off target now. I want you to plant your cheekbone on that stock and concentrate on keeping it there."

I broke 38 of the next 50 birds.

Some misses came when I lifted my head, but I wasn't complaining.

The difference between my "before" score of 28 out of 50 and the "after" score of 38 out of 50 represented an improvement of about 35 percent.

It was a fitting exercise. ... 97,00.html
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That was a really great answer, Rick.

Here is what I've experienced with my gunsmith;

You want a LOP (length of pull) that generally positions your face about 2-3" from the back of the receiver of your gun. Close your eyes, and mount the gun; a good LOP will allow you the 2-3" plus a relaxed arm on the foregrip without having to stretch that arm out (do this about 5 times). A stretched (non-relaxed) foregrip arm can seriously affect both your mount and your swing. Also, a good LOP will never ever cause your stock to hang up on your vest.

As for LOP at the trigger, you should be able to squeeze the pistolgrip firmly and pull the trigger without stretching it out.

Stock cast affects the left-to-right view of your mount. Again, mounting your gun with closed eyes, open both eyes and check your sight picture with your shooting eye (again, do this 5 times for repeatability); if youre not looking straight down the rib, you need to think about some cast adjustment to your stock.

Stock drop affects the up-down view of your mount. The comb (top edge of the stock) is what typically affects drop. A high comb pushes the tip of the gun up, while a low comb does the opposite. A closed-eye mount 5 times will tell you how your drop looks; of you continually see the top of the rib, your comb is a bit high, if you see the back of the rib, but not the tip, then your comb is low. Note that with most angled combs, you LOP will affect your drop - the farther forward your face, the "higher" the comb feels.

This is just a laymans experience. I hope it helps!
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These have all been great posts, BUT...there is a whole lot more to good gun fit than what anyone can put down on paper.
For example, all of us see a different target/bbl relationship, and because of this there is no amount of writing that can describe how to make a gun fit anyone EXACTLY. We can get a very close fit-and by the way, a good fit should include comfort as no one wants to get beat up by their gun-by following the advise posted, but the proof is in the shooting. This is why all professional fitters worth their wages insist that you shoot your gun at the sport you intend to pursue as they make adjustments. Even shooting patterns to check point of impact is not enough as when you make your move to the target the alignment with your cheek will change. For most of us, however, this is as close as we can get without the assistance of a competent fitter. Too, some guns simply do not shoot exactly where they should. That is to say, if you were to align the beads precisely on a target and fire (as in shooting a rifle)
the point of impact may be right, left, high or low. This can be corrected by repositioning your eye (ie modifying the stock since your eye serves the same purpose as the rear sight on a rifle) or by making a barrel modification (moving the front sight on a rifle). Most changes on shotguns are done to the stock.
This is all well and good, but when you have the gun shooting exactly where you are looking and then shoot at a moving target
you will probably not hit exactly where you feel you should. This is where the comfort of the fit starts to come into play. Too, there are other variables such as: the type of shirt you are wearing: the type of targets thrown: the way you are feeling, etc, etc. Gun fit changes as we age, add/lose weight, start wearing glasses and on and on.
So, what am I advising? Well, from a whole lot of both experience and experimenting this is what I do. I set up a large paper target with a small dot in the center, step back 20 yards or so, bring the gun to my face once, take it down then bring it up and fire without aiming-just look at the spot and fire as soon as it hits my face. I do this 10 times and don't look at the target between shots. I also use a full choke as the point of the test is to determine exactly where the center of the pattern is. A few shots may be slightly off, but the center will be apparent. Be sure the target is at about chest height. I then make any adjustments I feel necessary to the stock/butt and repeat the test. All of this is my starting point. Then I head to the range and see how the setup actually breaks targets at about 20 yards and at greater/lesser distances. I tweak the adjustments to get better target breaks if necessary and then shoot it on paper again to see where it patterns. Now, leave it alone and shoot it. After about 6 months or when the seasons change take it back out and shoot it on paper again. If it has changed points of impact don't start adjusting until you review your techniques...are you leaning more/less into the shot, is your front hand where it used to be, etc? If all this is the same then change the poi back to where it was 6 months prior and go back to the range.
Sound like a lot of trouble? It can be or it can be fun, but it is a necessary thing for most of us if we are striving for consistency. Just remember this, it has to be comfortable. I have set guns up to shoot really well, but I couldn't use them-hurt too bad.
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Can anyone refer me to a good gunfitter in Dallas Fort Worth Texas?
The Gun Guru at McClellands gun shop.

McClelland Gun Shop
1 (888) GUN-GURU
1 (888) 486-4878
Local 1 (214) 321-0231
Local 1 (214) 321-7549
Fax 1 (214) 328-1246

Don't forget to say Hi to "Beretta" the Jack Russel Terrier at the front door, by the way he's in charge of Customer Service.
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And can anybody refer me to a top notch trap gun fitter in Kentucky. My 10 year old just got a brand new BT-99 from his grandparents and he needs a good fit that has some adjustability for his growth. He's also left handed and the gun appears to have a little right hand cast. He is enthusiastic and shows some great potential, he just needs to get into this one gun and stay with it. Thanks guys
First, let me say that visiting a good, professional is the best way to check and if necessary, change your stock's dimensions so they will fit you. The best stock fitters are also coaches on shooting form since form has an affect on your correct stock dimensions. If you're having a gun fitted, you are much better off having it fitted to a correct shooting form (feet position, gun mount, body posture, weight distribution.)

I have to disagree with some of the opinions above, however. The most important dimension is the drop at the comb. It positions the height of the eye relative to the rib with the eye acting like the rear sight on a rifle; its position when the shot is fired is very important since the pattern's size can do only so much.

With the exceptin of cast, I would rate the importance of the other dimensions about the same with drop at the heel coming in just below drop at the comb.following that would be the lengthof the stock. there should be about one and one-half iches between the nose and the thumb. After that would be the pitch. When the gun is being mounted slowly, the top of the pad (heel) should make contact with the shoulder just before or at the same time as the the pad's lower toe. Last would come cast. It exists to horisontally align the eye with the rib but guns with no cast when cast is needed can be shot just fine by rotating the body slightly during setup. With the body rotated, the comb of the stock passes closer to the shooter's eye.

It was questions like yours that prompted me to write a now 5000-word stock fitting guide. It is intended to teach stock fitting to shooters who cannot visit a stock fitter in a step-by-step mannor and includes how to check and change the stock dimensions that will allow a gun to fit the size, shape, and shooting form used by the shooter. Also included in its 38 pages are correct shooting forms for trap, skeet, and sporting clays.
If you are willing to consider investing $14 to learn stock fitting, click on the following url.

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Note: Original message removed by Shotgunworld

Sorry Brineman, I'm not going to allow personal attacks on this forum. If you feel that the person in question is trying to take advantage of folks then please email me or send me a PM and I will investigate. To date the person you mentioned has been a valuable part of this community and has not given me any reason to doubt him.
Jay Gentry
A bad shotgun fit is this.After two rounds of skeet my best friend's shoulder was black and blue.From a 20ga Citori.And he gets a headache and he gets tired.He has to lean his head way over and down.I got tired of taking Goodies headache powders.So on goes adjustable recoil pads.And adjustable combs.And spacers for LOP.My friend hard headed.Now I just stand perfectly straight up,never move my head,and the perfect sight picture is right there waiting for me.Every time.And this is with a couple of 12's and a 20ga.
Can anyone tell me where I might get a shotgun fitted in the Little Rock, AR area?
I'm going to go to McClelland this PM and see what they have to say about a Cynergy fitting me.

I have always considered myself lucky that Brownings seem, in general, to fit me. We'll see, I guess.

I take it you've done business with McClelland before? I'm probably about to give them $1000-$1500 of mine...
I'm gonna take a different road here. Gun fit is comfort, first and foremost. If the gun isn't comfortable to shoot, then you just won't shoot it after a while! I won't be beaten to death by any firearm.
Now, you buy a good suit the first thing they do is "fit it" to you. Think of your shotgun as a great new suit and have it fitted. You will look better, shoot better, and be more comfortable. Remember this...the gun is the cheapest part of the shooting games. Spend your money wisely.
BTW, gun fitting is not just for works on rifles too! I've got a Kimber 22 Target rifle in the safe that I put a belt sander to the left side of the stock and dished out a spot for the side of my face to fit into....NOW, my eye lines up right with craning or cocking the head, no cramped neck muscles, and better scores to boot. Looks bad, works great and I'll take "works great" over "looks good" any day.
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Well, comfort is good and I'm glad you mention comfort while enduring recoil. However, true fit sometimes means a small sacrifice in comfort.

It should never be painful, though. Sometimes just a bit akward at first. After all if you've been mounting improperly for years, going to a proper mount will seem a little strange.
how about a used gun for a beginner. How would a novice know weather a gun has already been modified to another shooter when he-she mounts it and it feels good. Would it be wise to get it checked out somehow to see if its gonna cost more to recorrect than if you bought a new gun in the first place. I'm seeing anywhere from short of $100.00 to maybe more than $500.00 to get a proper fit. When I bought my gun from a local gun shop ( well known here in DE) the sales person, whom I suspect had something to do with ownership, did give me some good advice and helped me select a Browning Citori O/U that was about 7 years old as opposed to a new gun. I saved about $500.00 and am just about to shoot it in the next week or two. I'm hoping its as close as it needs to be to be happy. I'm now a little worried it might be off some and won't know if its me getting used to a new gun or if some modifications are causing me problems. I'm gonna use it mostly for sporting clays. Just from reading posts I'm seeing the importance of slight modifications. I'm a bowler and I know how little things mean alot.

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LarryB said:
What is meant by a "shotgun that fits you".
How do you "fit" a shotgun?
Neil...Oh, you want an answer to the orginal question! OK, you fit a shotgun by adjusting the stock dimensions/posistions to fit your body and type of shooting you do.

You do this by adding or subtracting length of pull, comb height, pitch, cast on or off, among others. All have some bearing on the other! Sometimes it's as simple as a few strips of mole skin stuck on top of the comb to raise your eye above the rear of the gun, so you see better and stop lifting your head and so shoot better.

The point is to form the gun to your form and in so doing make shooting it much more comfortable and accurate. In my mind is an art form and a blessing!
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