Proper Shotgun Fit
A shotgun’s fit can easily make or break your performance. When your gun doesn’t fit properly, you’ll miss targets and experience more recoil—not to mention frustration. It isn’t difficult to ensure a shotgun fits you, it just requires a bit of knowledge.
When Things Don’t Work
A poor-fitting shotgun shows its flaws immediately. If the length-of-pull (the distance from the butt plate to the front face of the trigger) is too long, the stock will catch on your shirt just below the pectoral muscle, or you’ll feel the need to push the gun away from your body to shoulder it.
If the comb (the top of the stock) is too high for your facial structure, you’ll feel you can’t get down on the gun enough to look down the barrel. If the comb is too low, you’ll feel it against your upper molars when the gun is aligned properly, or you might need to extend your neck to an awkward position. This results in a swollen face, as the comb will rise up and bite you during recoil.
If the pistol grip of the gun is too small, your hand will feel bunched up; if it’s too large, you’ll have trouble reaching the trigger properly. A grip that’s sized right will allow your shooting hand to align naturally, putting the trigger in the center of your index finger pad, halfway between the end of the finger and the first joint.
A shotgun with a proper fit will naturally come to the pocket of the shoulder and be aligned without any adjustment. There will be even pressure between both hands. The non-shooting arm will be bent in a comfortable position when gripping the fore-end, neither extended too much nor bent too severely.
Assess The Situation
To see if a shotgun’s length-of-pull fits you, first check that it’s unloaded, then hold it with your shooting hand on the pistol grip and finger on the trigger, muzzle pointed to the sky. Bend your shooting arm at a right angle; the butt of the shotgun should fit comfortably in the crook of your arm. If the butt doesn’t reach, the stock is too short for you, which will force you to creep up on the gun when shooting. If the butt is too long, it will put too much pressure on the arm, making it feel like you have to wedge it in there.
The comb should be at a height that gives you a clear view down the barrel with a comfortable cheek weld against the stock. If you can’t shoulder the gun with your eyes closed and find yourself looking straight down the barrel, seeing the bead but none of the rib when you open them, you have a problem.
Ideally, we’d all use these criteria to find an off-the-rack shotgun that fits us. But since shooters come in an endless array sizes and factory guns do not, that’s often not the case.
Good news is there’s a wide variety of aftermarket butt pads, comb height add-ons and other accessories that will let you tailor virtually any gun to fit your body. When you do, the gun will point where you look, and that means you’ll see a definite improvement in the number of targets you break and birds you hit.