Tiger McKee at tacticalwire.com writes:
When it comes to long guns, one of the most common issues we see is shooters not getting the stock of the weapon in the actual pocket of the shoulder. This creates several problems. If you’re firing something with serious recoil, especially shotguns, the stock will slam into the shoulder with enough force to bruise. The stock needs to be in the pocket for accuracy, creating a consistent platform and efficient recovery from recoil for follow-up shots. Getting the stock located in the pocket is also crucial for efficiency. When you bring the muzzle up and obtain a cheek weld against the stock the sights should fall into alignment with your eyes, without having to reposition your head . . .
To find your pocket, bring the right arm up – for right-hand shooters – so it’s angled ninety degrees to the body, bending the elbow so the hand is positioned where it would be if holding the grip of the gun. Take your support hand, holding the fingers straight, and find the high point on the front of the collarbone.
Now slide the hand outboard, towards the shoulder, following the radius of the collarbone. Your hand will dip down, or inward, and keep sliding until you hit the deltoid muscle of the shoulder. This low spot is your pocket, and where the heel of the stock should be positioned.
How much of the stock you have in the pocket, or the height of the stock, depends on what type weapon you’re firing. The idea is that when you bring the muzzle onto target and obtain a cheek weld on the stock the sights should be aligned with your eyes. For guns with low sights, such as shotguns, the entire heel will be in the shoulder.
The same position holds true for a bolt-action rifles, even those with optics higher than the barrel. Unless your stock is adjustable or has a raised comb you’ll have to add material to the stock, raising the comb of the stock so you can get a proper cheek weld. A cheek pad -Brownells # 851-200-500 – works well for this. In the field you can use duct tape and foam pipe insulation.
AR’s are completely different. Due to the rifle’s design and offset between the sights and barrel only about the bottom half of the stock’s heel should be in the shoulder. This allows you to hit a solid, consistent cheek weld and obtain a good sight picture without having to reposition your head and eyes. If you put the stock too low in your pocket you have to shove your head forward or tilt it sideways to obtain a sight picture. Neither one of these options are good.
The key, as always, is consistency, and consistency is the result of practice. Dry practice is best. You start in the low ready position, stock properly positioned in the pocket and muzzle depressed, visually focusing on the exact point you want to place the shot. You bring the muzzle up and obtain a solid cheek weld. The sights should now be in alignment with the eyes. Lower the muzzle down, and repeat, over and over, until it becomes natural.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of “The Book of Two Guns,” writes for several firearms/tactical publications including (now) TTAG.