We have been getting questions about the new high rib guns we see in the sporting clays market and more specifically what do we think about them and if that high rib creates a problem if the gun is canted? We just might ruffle some feathers here but inquiring minds want and deserve to know. The first thing that we have discovered is that you either love the high rib concept or you hate it. We know it sounds crazy, but it is true that you either can shoot a gun with a high rib or you can’t.
All of the manufacturers have their own way of spinning the need for a high rib gun, and for them their perception is their reality. It seems that the high rib guns do well on outgoing targets and incoming targets because those targets take very little lead and can be “shot off the end of the gun” like trap targets. You see, trap is a game where all the targets are going away from the shooter and the point of origin is known, but the angle the target will fly is the big unknown. We think it is safe to say that all trap guns have high ribs and are regulated to shoot high so the shooter can just “bump the bird with the bead,” and because the gun shoots high the lead will be built in and the shooter never looses sight of the bird. It’s the crossing presentations that determines or creates that love/hate relationship that people have with the high rib concept. For now, let’s concentrate on things like shooting with an erect head position and canting the gun and moveable combs.
The book definition for going to a high rib gun is so the shooter can shoot with his/her head in a more erect position allowing your eyes to be more level and for a greater field of view. This erect head position will give you a better target acquisition and a better bird/barrel view. That reasoning holds up when shooting the outgoing and incoming birds, but when the birds begin to become crossers the erect head position begins to create visual confusion. That’s right, we said visual confusion.
When we shoot a shotgun, we look at the target and point the gun ahead of the target and are not looking down the gun. Where does the visual confusion come in you ask? When looking at the target with both eyes you will be aware of two barrels in your periphery. As you gain experience in shooting your shotgun, your brain actually suppresses the off image which would be the one to the right if you are right-handed and the one to the left if you’re left-handed. On outgoing and incoming targets the off image is not a factor, but when targets begin to cross and need to have lead, then the off image gets in the way.
We are sure that you have seen this when shooting, but because you didn’t know what it was just did not recognize it. We can demonstrate what we are talking about with a simple exercise. Pick an object out across the room and focus on it and at the same time make a fist with your thumb sticking straight up. Put your thumb under the object and keep your focus on the object! With your focus on the object, you should be aware of two thumbs in your periphery. They will be next to each other and be the same height. Now slowly tilt your head to the side as you would if you were mounting the gun, but keep your focus on the object. Do you see how the off image moves down in your periphery? This means little if you are right-handed (just the opposite for lefties) and shooting a target from the left, but if you are shooting a target from the right, the off image gets in the way of the eyes staying on the bird if the head position is erect. With the head tilted slightly toward the gun, the off image is lowered and is less confusing on a right to left crossing target. Our experience shows that shooting with an erect head position is not so much of an advantage and that having your head tilted slightly into the gun is of great advantage on crossing targets and not a disadvantage on outgoing and incoming targets. One word of caution, just like having an erect head position is not good, too much tilt is not good either.
Now what about this canting of the gun? High rib guns can be made to “shoot flat” and all the manufacturers we talked with seemed to agree upon the distance that they can be regulated to a 50/50 pattern is between 30 and 40 yards. There is one thing that must be considered when shooting a high rib gun, and that is if the gun is canted even the slightest bit, it can create intermittent confusion. The farther the eye is away from the centerline of the bore, the greater the necessity to keep the gun level throughout the shooting sequence. If the gun is canted even the slightest bit from just rolling your shoulder, it can cause problems and inconsistencies especially at distance. Why at distance? On closer targets, say, within 25 to 28 yards where the pattern is at its maximum spread, the size of the pattern will usually make up for any parallax created by canting the gun. But when the target gets farther away, it is a “whole new settin’ of eggs!” The same can be said for the actual mounting of the gun, because with the high rib guns the gun mount becomes more critical. Why more critical? Well, with the eye higher and farther away from the centerline of the bore, if the head is off the stock just a little bit when shooting, then the gun will shoot really high. With the low rib version of the same gun, the eye is closer to the centerline of the bore and the gun will not shoot as high. Our research shows us that most shooters don’t mount the gun nearly as hard when they shoot as they do when practicing their mount. Another way to say that is their cheek pressure when dry mounting the gun is greater than when actually shooting it.
So if you are looking to shoot the new high rib guns on the market, go for it, just be aware that they are not the silver bullet that everyone is looking for. They will not be easier to shoot and be consistent with just because they have a high rib, nor will they be more forgiving if your gun mount is inconsistent. There is one other thing that we have noticed in looking at the current high ribs configurations and that is they all have adjustable combs on them, which, at first glance, would be great for the shooter.
There’s one more bit of experience we would like to share. We have had students come to us with guns on which they have had movable combs installed and asked us to adjust them. We have not been able to accommodate them. Why? Well it seems that their gun was too high for them in the first place, and so they took some “free advice” and had the comb installed. Well free advice will always cost you more than you paid for it.” We have said this before, but the need to repeat ourselves: In order for a moveable comb to be an effective tool for adjusting the gun to fit you, the comb must be too low for you when it is in it’s lowest position with the comb centered on the stock. This way it can be raised to accommodate a variety of body shapes and sizes, so make sure that the gun you buy is not too high for you. All the manufactures have lower stocks that allow you to adjust the gun to the correct height and give you the best chance of optimum performance if the standard stock is too high.
What is our advice on the new high rib guns? As we said in the beginning you either love them or hate them, and you will never know until you try them, so the answer to that question is up to you.–Gil Ash