How to Make Sure Your Shotgun Really Fits You

How To Make Sure Your Shotgun Fits You

If you’re not hitting with your shotgun as much as you’d like, odds are it’s because you’re using a gun that doesn’t really fit you. Gun-to-shooter fit affects accuracy and results more in a shotgun than any other kind of firearm. The problem is, most shooters don’t know the factors that go into a good fit, or how to make a gun they already own fit them better.

A shotgun that fits you as it should works better because it mounts naturally in your shoulder pocket, doesn’t beat you up with recoil and lets you look out over the barrel without head tilt or neck strain. In short, when your shotgun fits you, it naturally shoots where you look. That means more downed birds and broken clays.

The problem is, most shotguns are made for the “average” adult male. That means someone about 5’10” and roughly 180 lbs. The reality is, only a small percentage of us fit that description. If you’re shorter, taller, have longer arms, a rounder face…whatever…most off-the-shelf shotguns won’t fit you as well as they could or should.

How To Make Sure Your Shotgun Fits You

courtesy browning.com

There a number of factors that affect a shotgun’s fit. The primary ones are:

Length of pull – The distance between the back of the butt pad to the trigger. This one’s critical to a good fit as a gun that’s too short or too long results in a bad cheek position, negatively affecting your sight picture and won’t stay in your shoulder pocket as you swing with your target.

Drop at comb — The distance between the shotgun’s rib height and the highest point at the front of the stock closest to the receiver. Too low and your load will fly under your target. Too high and your shot string will consistently be over the bird.

Drop at heel — The distance between the shotgun’s rib height and the top of the stock at the rear. The right drop at heel ensures a good, consistent mount and keeps the stock firmly in your shoulder pocket, minimizing felt recoil.

Pitch — The angle of the gun when the butt is mounted in your shoulder pocket. Depending on how you’re built, your shotgun could be tilted to the left or right. There are adjustable butt pads that let you angle the pad to keep the left or right in order to keep the gun vertical while maintaining solid contact with your shoulder and easing recoil.

How To Make Sure Your Shotgun Fits You

Cast on or cast off — Any amount a stock is angled either toward (on) or away (off) from the shooter versus the center of the shotgun. Depending on how you’re built, you may need to adjust the angle of the stock from the shotgun’s natural center line to get a straight, consistent sight picture down the rib of the gun when you mount it.

Sadly, most of us can’t afford a custom-fitted shotgun. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your scattergun fit you a lot better than it does. The good news is that a lot of shotgun makers include tools to adjust your shotgun to better fit your unique physique right out of the box.

How To Make Sure Your Shotgun Fits You

courtesy hatsan.com.tr

Some include spacers to adjust the length of pull for your arm length.

How To Make Sure Your Shotgun Fits You

courtesy skbshotguns.com

There are also shims to fine tune drop, as well as cast on or cast off.

How To Make Sure Your Shotgun Fits You

courtesy skbshotguns.com

Some models will come with an adjustable comb and-or butt plate to let you get the perfect length of pull, comb height, pitch and even cast. There are good smiths out there who can install these in a gun you already own. For a price, of course

Boyds At-One Adjustable Stock Remington 870

Courtesy Charge Media Partners and youtube.com

Finally if you can’t or don’t want to alter your stock, there are aftermarket options like this Boyds At-One stock. They let you replace your existing stock and give you a number of easy adjustment options to significantly improve your performance.

So before giving up or wasting a lot of time and lead on missed birds this fall, make sure your shotgun fits you they way it should. Then, just like getting to Carnegie Hall, all you’ll have to do is practice.

comments

  1. avatar Steve says:

    A custom fitting is not that expensive, any competent local shotgun smith can do it. First things first though…..take it to a patterning board and see where it’s shooting then go from there.

    Regards,

    Steve

    1. avatar ChanceMcCall says:

      I really liked the article as a great starting point for those not already heavily involved in shotgun shooting.

      I’m not in agreement with the commenter who wrote that any local guy could properly fit a shotgun or that the process was easy and inexpensive. Competitive clay shooters spend considerable time and money on getting their guns fitted and often by someone whose business is several states away.

  2. avatar Mark says:

    Or you can get a Magpul SGA stock for your 590A1 and shoot HK fighting style and not worry about any of this crap. This advice is for FUDs shooting clays….

    1. avatar DrScaryGuy says:

      If you don’t understand the difference between fighting style shooting and sporting clay shooting, you need to take a step back and read some stuff.
      You might as well tell bench rest accuracy shooters to just buy a combat carbine with a 4moa red dot…

  3. avatar Al Bondigas says:

    Those would be elegant FUDDs, not just your average mud and guts blast & miss guys.

  4. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    I used to be a half-decent trap shooter. Then I bought a gun with some cast. adjustable comb and buttstock, and adjusted it to fit me.

    Now I’m a much better trap shooter. And my shoulder doesn’t hurt after a couple rounds.

    Shooting with a “standard” shotgun makes as much sense as bowling with a “standard” bowling ball. If it’s not made to fit your body, it won’t be much fun.

  5. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    Here’s a quick test to see how well your gun fits. Tape a drinking straw on top of the rib, just ahead of the receiver. With your eyes closed, shoulder the gun, then open your eyes. If your right eye isn’t looking THROUGH the straw to see the bead, it’s not in the right place. And if your eye isn’t in the right place, you won’t hit what you think you’re aiming at.

    1. avatar W.R. Chandler says:

      Don’t forget that would be your left eye on the straw test if you are left-handed.

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        Left-handed people are smart enough to figure that out on their own.

    2. avatar Jeff says:

      If you’re aiming with a shotgun, you probably won’t hit it anyway.

  6. avatar Jeff says:

    This article had all the terminology and possible adjustments, but nothing at all about “How to Make Sure Your Shotgun Really Fits You.” Knowing what pitch, cast, and LOP are by definition is not a bad thing, but knowing what they should be, in inches, for you, is what leads to proper fit.

  7. avatar ChanceMcCall says:

    All of this applies to rifles as well.

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      While there’s no doubt that proper fit in a rifle will make the experience more enjoyable, the fact is that if the scope/sights are are properly adjusted, it will hit what it’s aimed at, even if it doesn’t fit you well.

      Shotgunning is a completely separate skill set, where proper gun fit becomes much more important. Felixd below explained it quite well.

      1. avatar ChanceMcCall says:

        I agree that shotguns really should be fitted because of the difference of shooting dynamics (very few are) but a well fitted rifle makes everything easier and better even with a scope or red dot. (And certainly faster on a moving target.) However very few folks in the USA do so.

        Just my opinion

  8. avatar Felixd says:

    Perhaps a greater reason that most people don’t shoot well with a shotgun is that they don’t really understand how. For sporting purposes one wants their gun to shoot where they look, hence the reason for gun fit. For moving targets such as clay sports or flying game, sights, as we understand them, are useless. In this activity your eye needs to be aligned with the length of the gun as you keep a hard focus on the target in flight. Gun fit keeps that alignment, but no sights are used, just the focus on the target. The principal is the same as hitting a baseball. Do you look at the ball coming towards you or the end of the bat? If you’re a three gunner, sights can be used because the targets are less dynamic so, the gun is used as a rifle. In this application the front sight is everything. This all applies to red dots and hologram sights as well. There is much more to successful shotgun shooting. Good coaching can really help. Just remember that if your looking at the bead on your 870 when hunting you’ll most likely miss. That bead is the tip of the bat.

  9. avatar Scott says:

    That group in the picture don’t look too safe,one standing in front of the other shooting.

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