Correct gunfit can not only significantly improve your scores but increase your enjoyment of clay shooting as a sport. A simple one-hour lesson with a gunfitter can give you the skills and knowledge to make a drastic difference to your shooting.
Make sure you arrive in plenty of time for your fitting lesson as it is always best to start off calm and relaxed. You will need to tell your instructor how long you have been shooting, what disciplines you shoot and your future aspiration in the sport; this all helps the fitter to build up an idea of what they need to consider when they are fitting the gun to you. If you already have a gun bring it with you as most guns can be altered to fit the shooter.
Firstly, you will be asked to mount the gun so that the fitter can see how you stand and the type of gun-mount you use, whether you mount the gun high or low into the shoulder, whether you roll your head and how consistent your gun-mount is. In order to be able to fit a gun to you, you need to be able to mount the gun correctly and most importantly consistently. If the gun mounts into a different place in the shoulder each time it is very difficult to make it fit.
Secondly your instructor will set up a try gun to something approximating your dimensions. You will be asked to mount the gun after which the gun may need to be adjusted several times until both you and the instructor are happy with the result. Now it is time to go out to the pattern plate.
The pattern plate
Once at the plates you will be asked to shoot at a mark on the wall; any errors in the fit or gun-mount will immediately show up as shots high, low or to the side and the gun can be adjusted to achieve a correct fit. This process will continue until both parties are happy with the gunfit and the shot is going consistently to where you are looking when you mount the gun.
Now you are ready to shoot some clays: don’t expect to shoot a 100-bird Sporting on a fitting lesson, however, you do need to be able to shoot with a try gun in order to confirm the measurements and ensure the gun is shooting where you want it to. This is why it is always best to have your gun fitted at a shooting ground rather than in a shop.
You will start off by shooting at a simple straight going away bird, gently rising. If the cast needs adjusting further this will show up as misses to one side and the gun will be adjusted. Next a straight driven bird: again if necessary the gun can easily be adjusted. Finally you will be taken to shoot some crossing targets; this will identify any need to change the height of the comb to make the gun shoot higher or lower.
Using the numbers
Now the measurements can be taken and applied you your new or existing gun: your fitter will measure the length of the stock at three points, most importantly the comb height at face and heel and the cast at three points. This is all transferred to a fitting sheet which all competent gunsmiths will understand so you can have your gun built or altered to your correct measurements. It is important to remember that the fitting is correct at the time of the appointment, but if your body shape changes dramatically, for example if you put on or lose a significant amount of weight, you will need to have your gun re-fitted to take account of these changes. What fitted you ten years ago will not necessarily fit you today – it is worth a visit to a gunfitter.