There is so much terminology thrown around that can bamboozle a novice shooter, so Midlands Gun Services’ Kristian Reilly gives us his guide to gun fit
It is becoming more and more clear to the modern shooter that factory ‘off-the-peg’ guns made to fit Joe Average do not quite make the grade for those serious shooters who are looking for an added advantage in competitions.
What constitutes a well-fitted gun?
There are a large number of factors that make a custom stock and over the course of this article I will try and expand on a few of the terms that are used in the trade to assist the stock maker. A well-fitted firearm will help the shooter mount the gun consistently and make target presentations more effective.
To access the drop on a gun, the stock maker will use a straight edge rested on the top rib running parallel down the entire length of the firearm.
The drop is the distance between the heel of the gun to the underside of the straight edge – put simply, it is the distance set between these two points. This dimension varies from person to person and places the pad in the correct position relative to the shoulder.
‘Monte Carlo‘ is a term used for what is more often produced by the addition of a parallel comb – the dimensions of the comb run parallel to the straight edge put across the top rib.
During the course of our day-to-day fitting, we produce a number of parallel combs as I feel that the Monte Carlo helps with more consistent mounting in certain disciplines.
For example, Sporting or FITASC shooters are sometimes required to shoot from a tower setting, meaning the face is a little more forward on the stock when mounted on the gun than it would be when shooting, for instance, a driven bird. This helps the shooter to see the same sight picture of their target, allowing them to quantify the lead better. With a tapered comb, their head moves slightly backward when shooting down so that they see less of the ribs as they would normally.
As mentioned above, the comb sets the line and distance at which the eye can see down the top rib. The height is set by the fitter to ensure the shooter can see targets in the correct way. Too high and they will see more of the target but shoot higher, too low and they won‘t see the target – or, worse still, their other eye will take over and they will be shooting nowhere near where they think they should be.
Sometimes it‘s necessary to use what is known as an offset comb, meaning that it‘s not in line with the general line of the stock. This is especially helpful if the client has light bone structure in the face, causing them to see down the outside of their rib and thus not a true line of sight. Shooting on a pattern plate, I would like to see the pattern shooting at 60 per cent high and 40 per cent low of centre, so that the shot lands fairly centrally to the target.
The heel is the top of your pad, which should be located comfortably at the top of your shoulder while the gun is mounted. No excess pad showing above as this will serve of no use to the shooter as well as increasing the felt recoil over what is left of the pad.
The toe is the bottom or more pointed part of your pad and more often than not is cast more than the heel from the true centre line of the gun. This is set by the fitter so that you don’t cant the barrel at the muzzle end.
Cast on would be for a left-handed shooter so that their left eye lines up with the line of sight down the top rib. Cast off is for your right-handed shot, allowing them to mount the firearm off the right shoulder and look down the rib with their right eye.
The amount of cast varies from person
to person, and also according to their stance and build. If the shooter stands very flat to the target or isn‘t very broad then less cast is necessary.
The pitch is the angle of the pad that best suits the build of the shooter and the discipline they expect to shoot. In my experience, a negative pitch is best for the larger shooter as there is more in the chest than someone of a more slight build.
The types and styles of build vary a lot but for the purposes of the article, we will stick to two – flat and shaped. It is easy to ascertain the style of pad that the client is best suited to during fitting. Those who shoot from what we term the shoulder pocket more often than not have a shaped pad, therefore allowing as much of the pad to be in contact as possible and reducing felt recoil to a minimum.
Length of pull
Finally, the length of pull is the overall length of the stock from the heel of the trigger to the centre of the heel pad. A good stock fitter looks at how the client mounts the gun, sees where the face is placed on the stock and adjusts accordingly. If the shooter is of tall stature, the length of pull would be more. By the same token, if the shooter is smaller, the length of pull would be less. In short, it is set so that the customer isn‘t bunched up on the gun or reaching out too far to mount comfortably.
There are a number of other factors involved that tend to affect the grip area. If the dimension set from the nose of the comb to the standing breech of the action – more simply known as breech face to comb – is set wrong, you will feel the nose in the meat of your thumb.
Grip circumference is obvious but does play a major role in comfort and control.
If you make it too big, it will be difficult to grip. Likewise, too small and the stock is weaker, causing you to wrap your fingers around too far.
The grip length on a pistol grip is measured as the distance from the centre of the trigger to the tip of the grip. This varies as a result of a shooters‘ hand size and is measured from the top of the grip, where the thumb rests, to the tip of the grip, where the little finger sits.