Many shooters think that a try-gun fitting is the ultimate first step in getting a gun to fit perfectly, and for some it is–especially if a custom stock is the desired outcome. We have a try-gun and use it some when extreme length dimension are required to alter a gun to a very tall person or a very short person, but the try-gun is not always the best alternative. Many times a shooter will have a gun that they just shoot well and have for a long period of time and there is a reason that it shoots well for them and that is why we insist that the shooter brings a gun that they shoot well and like to shoot to a fitting. Watching them shoot a gun that they are used to gives us insight into how they mount the gun, how consistent their gun mount is and what shooting style they are most comfortable with.
Examining that gun after we watching them shoot with respect to cast and drop at the face, comb width at the face, and length helps us interpret the dimensions from a try-gun fitting. There are many things that are essential to fitting a gun to a person so that recoil is kept to a minimum and consistency and efficiency in the mounting and shooting process are maximized.
Although the dimensions for cast and drop are taken at the heel, the real dimension is where the stock hits your face, but it is not the amount of cast or drop that is critical, it is the comb width and shape that makes the right dimension correct. The wider the comb the more cast and drop you need to shoot the gun well, and the more narrow the comb the less cast and drop you need. If you have a try-gun fitting, it is essential that the fitter use a pin gauge and give the stocker an exact comb shape at the nose (the front part of the comb), at the face (where the face touches the stock) and at the heel. In fact, we’ve had customers bring us guns with all the same dimensions, but perplexed as to why they can only shoot one or two of them well.
This is why, if you are going to have a custom stock made for your shotgun, you need to go through the pattern stock phase that we talked about in the last issue. After you shoot your pattern stock enough to know that it does in fact fit and it feels good, send it back to the stocker and have them install your chosen wood and shape to the dimension on the pattern stock. Now here is where Neal and we
differ from some in our advice to our customers. We would both tell you to have the stocker fit your wood and shape it to with in 1/16-inch and seal the stock and send the gun back to you so you can shoot it (and shoot it more that once) just to be sure that all is well. After that step (which seems over kill to some but not to us), if it passes the test then make an appointment for you to send the gun back to the stocker for checker and final finish. Just one aside, Neal Bauder was not the least bit reluctant to work with us in each phase because he really does want you to be satisfied with his stock work. Truth be known, he was relieved when we said we wanted to shoot the guns with our wood installed and just sealed! That takes all of the guesswork out of the situation and the extra step allows him and us just to be sure everything is perfect before he puts the final finish and checkering on our guns.
We suppose it would be a good time to talk about cast and drop dimensions here. If you are having a custom stock made for you, remember one thing that we have learned over years of shooting and coaching shooters of all abilities: You can shoot a gun with too much drop and too much cast infinitely better than one without enough of either. When we fit a gun, if the customer cheeks the gun firmly the pupil of the eye should be on the right side and just below
the rib for right-handers (the opposite for lefties). That’s desirable because most shooters do not cheek the gun as firmly when they shoot as they do when mounting it in their living room or at the gun shop or in a non-shooting situation.
If the gun seems to have a little too much cast and drop when you dry mount the gun, we know you will shoot it very well when it comes time to load and call pull. That would be another reason to go through the pattern stock phase, and also to shoot the actual wood prior to final finish and checkering phase. We know it seems like a lot of back and forth, but you do want to have the gun really fit you, don’t you? Look at it this way, you will end up with a gun that really does fit, and will have learned a lot about gun fit and what you like in a fitted gun. One more thought; if you have a gun that you have been through this process with and you want another gun to the same dimension, then now you have something that can be duplicated in the pattern stock phase, especially if you can go to the stocker. It takes very little time to do a pattern stock, so for that matter it is worth it to us to go the extra mile.—Gil & Vicki Ash