I am a beginning shooter. How do I know if I need a gun fitting? How will I know if I need a custom stock or just an adjustable comb?
The fit of your shotgun is only as precise as the consistency of your mount and the quality of your stance. Most beginners tend to have an inconsistent mount, improper stance or both. As you gain experience, your mount and stance will evolve and become more consistent. As a newcomer to the sport in search of a well-fitting shotgun, you should focus primarily on comfort and visibility.
There are two elements to comfort: length of pull and pitch. We gun fitters define length of pull as the measured distance between the front face of the trigger and the butt pad. A shotgun that is too long or too short will be uncomfortable to shoot and less efficient to control. Similarly, if the angle of the butt pad is such that the toe sticks into the pectoral muscle when you shoot, you may end up with a bit of a bruise. The butt should have good contact with the shoulder from the toe (bottom) to the heel (top) of the butt pad when you are properly mounted to the shotgun.
As for visibility, you have to see the target in order to break it. If the comb of the shotgun is too low, you will experience a visual “disconnection” with the target as you complete the mount and the gun blocks your view of the target. If you happen to have an adjustable comb, this problem is easily solved by raising the comb so that the eye remains atop the rib as you mount the shotgun and execute the shot. While a shotgun’s “cast” (the bend of the stock) also affects your accuracy, cast issues are less critical for the beginning shooter. As you gain experience and your mount and stance mature, a formal gun fitting, custom gun or custom stock will be of greater benefit. In the meantime, seek the help of a gun fitter or an NSCA certified instructor to evaluate your gun fit. (For a detailed article and video on gun fitting, go to doncurrie.com/gun-fitting).
Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at www.doncurrie.com.