Time to Get Serious About Gun Fit: Why

March 8, 2011 | By | 7 Replies More

When I (Jay) make my annual pilgrimage to the mall to buy “clothes not needed for hunting,” I have a tough time. I’m not a single size. I’m between a large and a medium up top, my waist is too small and legs too long for many off the rack pants, even my feet are sometimes a 10, sometimes a 10.5.

So why am I using off-the-rack hunting guns?

That’s what I have to ask myself after a season of misses – some of which were shots I should’ve made.

I’m a decent shot. Really. Not great, but certainly not as bad as my “stats” this season indicate. I’m simply missing too many, and that’s just not cool. Not for me, not for the birds and not for the time and effort I, Brendan and others we hunt with put into getting a bird to fly.

Put another way, missing – or not seeing a bird fall straight down out of the sky when I pull the trigger – ticks me off!

I realize wing-shooting isn’t a 100% game. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about moving the needle from 20% or so of birds hit (mostly ruffed grouse this year) to more like 50+%, which is where it should be.

And if you’re wondering whether some of this is about excuse removal, yep, it is. I know misses aren’t caused by the flush, the terrain, the ammo, the brain, the form (maybe a little). It’s just that for whatever reason, the pellets aren’t going where I’m looking.

I also know that my main grouse gun – Ol’ Chicken Hunter, a 20ga Browning Citori o/u – doesn’t fit me well. It’s light, balanced, it comes up well and dang it, I like it: We’ve seen a lot together. But the LOP is a little short, the drop is a little much, I don’t hit enough birds with it.

My clays gun – a Blaser F3, sweet gun but I might sell it soon – fits me better. I know it does. So I want to have hunting guns that fit me – like my suits, which are all tailored to fit.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought of getting my gun fitted – here’s why I haven’t done it already:

    1. Nowhere around that’s convenient. Work, kids – what else is there?!

    2. Cost. What if I pay all that $$ and it doesn’t help?

    3. I wonder whether my shooting form will change. At this age I’m assuming not, since I have no aspirations of being a clays champ, but it’s in the back of my mind – in which case the $$ would be wasted.

That’s what I’ve thought over the years. Now I think #s 2 and 3 are dumb, and the bottom line is I must remove all excuses. If the gun shoots where I’m looking, then I know I’m doing something wrong. I’ve just got to know for sure.

Let me know if you’ve gotten a hunting gun(s) fitted and whether it’s made a difference, willya?

And let me know if you know any good gunfitters in the NJ, NY, eastern PA area.

I wonder whether this process requires a new gun…or two….

Category: SBH, Shotguns

Comments (7)

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  1. R Hanson says:

    In the 09/10 season I too struggled and was in the same 20% category of which you speak. I went to a gun club that was having a super retriever event with all sorts of vendors set up. I just introduced myself to a fella who was advertising gun fitting and had every intention of taking that step when a well dressed fella came up and the fitter dropped me like a dirty shirt. I must have looked more like a trodden grouse hunter than a sporting clay type of guy. At that point I did not care what the cost was I was not doing any business with that vendor.
    Back to the shooting aspect. I ran across an article in a magazine that talked about the book “IF IT AIN’T BROKE. FIX IT!” . I bought the book read it practiced and changed it up just a little by using a laser light pin in my 20 ga. and following their instruction. In any case the 10/11 season provided 36 shots and 16 birds for a 2.25 average. Off the charts when compared to 09/10. I happened to be practicing against the wall just prior to reading your latest blog. I will have to see if it was a fluke or if next year continues to be good.
    I may still benefit from a good gun fitting but I will pass, want to be sure to leave some seed for the following years.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks for the post, Jay. I am a beginner in every sense of the word. Purchased my first used gun at age 45 without even thinking about fit. (Which in retrospect was rather silly – I can’t even buy an off-the-rack dress shirt, let alone a shotgun.) After realizing that I needed some help, I bit the bullet and signed up for a two-day shooting school at Orvis Sandanona in New York’s Hudson Valley. Pricey, but worth the splurge. The gun fitting revealed that my trusty side-by-side was a full inch too short in LOP, which explained why I had difficulty with gun mount. After adding a simple recoil pad, I was good to go. I can’t afford a custom gun, but at least I know what to look for when shopping for my next purchase.

  3. LRR says:

    While a fitted gun will help your shooting, most people use off the rack guns, and a lot of those people shoot them well. I think there are a couple of things which are elemental to better shooting. The first is quite obvious; shoot more. Skeet, Sporting Clays, and 5 stand are great ways to practice. And there is no substitute to practice. Next, I advocate practicing your gun mount. A consistent gun mount means your eyes and muzzle are oriented the same every time. You can practice gun mount at home whenever you have a free moment too. Give em a try.

  4. Jay…..I can’t argue the fact that you should (in theory) always improve your shooting when using a firearm that fits you correctly. On the other hand….I have always thought a substantial part of shooting well was mental. When I get on a cold streek…..i start focusing on it….which makes things worse. Just like a slump in batting…..a shooting slump is best cured by practice and not thinking about it. “Think long….think wrong.”

    I also think you would benefit from hunting over a well trained pointing dog. If you want to try that sometime….I would be happy to bring you along.

  5. Bill Fontanazza says:

    Great topic, today people buy guns based on the ‘sexyness’ of the advertising. The gentleman that taught me how to shoot, Jim Steele, instructed me to buy a gun based only on fit. He said “All modern shotguns go boom when you pull the trigger. So, when you look to buy a gun close your eyes, throw the gun up, put your cheek on the stock and pay attention to your sight picture. If the bead is aligned in your dominant eye, the gun fits.” Jim was a wise, wise man and, a great wing and clays shooter. I can shoot a Beretta like it is an extention of my body, I could not hit the wide side of a cow at 5 yards with a Ruger. Nothing against Rugers, they just don’t fit me.

    As for a stockmaker that can fit your gun on the East Coast, you are on your own. In the Midwest, we have Hugh Lomas and Kolar Arms in Wisconsin that do a great job. Wingsport in Traverse City Mi can help too. Everyone that I know that has had a gun custom fitted has improved their shooting.

    LRR commented on gun mount. Michael McIntosh once wrote that “Everytime you walk past your shotgun, you should pick it up and practice your gun mount 10 times.” Great advice, I follow that practice to this day, when I am wingshooting the gunmount is one fluid motion that I don’t even have to think about.

  6. Ted says:

    Hanson without ruining the end of the book care to finish explaining the laser practice technique? I’m guessing roughly dropping a laser pointer in one barrel, mounting and aiming at a wall and play some sort of follow the dot game is the exercise.

    As far as East Coast tailors goes on the not too distant someday pile I plan on going to Cole Gunsmithing in Harpswell, Maine for a fitting of some nicely burled walnut.

    (an admirer of their work but otherwise no affiliation)

    As mentioned in your book one of you, Jay I think, was seeking a lightweight 12 gauge O/U and the criteria included an English stock. One tends to see English in SxS more than O/U so pick your ideal light O/U and solve the stock problem separately getting a fitted work of art in the process… It is much easier to spend your money than mine. Personally I am debating what to hold off on getting or choose to sell for such an endeavor.

  7. R Hanson says:

    Follow up for Ted. Basically it goes hand in hand with what others mention about gun mount. To become proficient you need smoothness and consistency. The book had you using a mini mag which worked okay for a 12 ga but the mini mag for the 20 did not cast a sharp enough light for me. I purchased the laser light at the local office depot for $30.00 added a light piece of plastic sheeting and some electrical tape to make a perfect fit. With that I can practice farther away from the wall. The book talks about details of the mount and smoothness of your lines, your muzzle should be tracking the target or line to it, before the gun gets to cheek or shoulder. When I have shown this to others the laser shows most have an erratic mount and are actually pointing below the target at final mount.
    This is not a replacement for a well fitted gun, but it is a very economical practice tool that can be done in your home and should help even if your gun is not an ideal fit.

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