Gun Fit: How I Cheated This Season

March 7, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More

Jay's 20ga Citori (left) and 16ga Rizzini.

Hey…I Can Shoot!

by Jay

This season – or before the start of bird season – I was going to have my 20ga Citori fitted to me. Even had the appointment to do it. But it was last-minute and I ended up running out of time.

Why I wanted to do it was any easy question – the gun didn’t fit right. Didn’t feel right and I was missing too many birds. I’m not that bad a shot, dang it!

I knew the 20ga didn’t fit me not because I measured the drops and length of pull and compared them to my ideals, but because…I was missing too many birds! And because when I closed my left eye and looked down the barrel (to test fit), I saw a whole lot of lever and not much rib.

So in an attempted low-tech, just-about-to-go-hunting fix, I used a trick the sporting clays shooter Anthony Matarese Jr. once told me: moleskin. Just stack it up. The results:

Look at that stack! Plus I put a leather pad on the back to increase the LOP. Looked jury-rigged, felt like it too…forget it. My confidence in the gun – already shaky – went out the window.

The only other gun I had in my arsenal was my 16ga Rizzini. It’s a true 16, not a 16 on a 20 frame, and it’s awesome – which might make you wonder why I hadn’t used it more in the first place. Few reasons:

1. When I first got it (used), it misfired a few times. Got it fixed, but I’d lost some confidence in it. When a grouse gets up, last thing you need is a misfire.

2. The 20ga is lighter, which is better (I thought) for catching up to dodging grouse. And with the amount of walking/hiking we do, every ounce counts.

3. The Rizzini is a nicer gun. I’d hunted with it, but did I really want to abuse it? (I really did, but had to have confidence in it first.)

So before heading out to Maine in October, I took the 16ga to a semi-local sporting clays course I hadn’t been to in a while, and shot with some buds.

Mistake. Because:

> The course wasn’t familiar, and was a little harder than I remembered.

> I’d never shot sporting clays with the gun before.

> Turned out I didn’t bring enough 16ga ammo (long story) which actually messed me up mentally a little.

Bottom line: My score that day would’ve been an F in school…

…which made me think: Do I really want to take this gun hunting?

But what other choice did I have?

I packed the 16ga with the 20ga as a backup, and hoped for the best.


For whatever reason, when we first get to Maine every year I shoot well. Don’t know if it’s because I’m psyched up or not exhausted yet. This season, with the 16ga, it was about par in that regard.

But over the week we were there, I kept shooting well overall. Certainly didn’t bring down every bird that flew, but here’s how I knew: Brendan said a couple times, “I’m proud of you, man.”

In other words, based on my historic in-the-field shooting performance, he couldn’t believe I was shooting so well. Flip side: I used to be a pathetic shot.

We laughed about it, but sheesh. Didn’t realize it was that bad.

So, what I learned and re-learned (hopefully):

> Gun fit matters (duh). It particularly matters when you only get a few chances at wild birds you’ve traveled a fair distance for.

> Use the best-fitting gun you have – and/or the one you hit things the best with – regardless of other considerations…like looks, weight (to a point), etc.

> More pellets in the air (16ga vs. 12ga) gives me more confidence. Brendan too. He carries his AyA 12ga SxS all day just because he likes the most pellets in the air…but he still won’t sell me his 20ga Grade V Silver Pigeon for cheap…!

> Guns get lighter when you hit birds.

Next Season

My 16ga could fit me better. Will I have it altered for next year? Is a new gun on the horizon? Both are possibilities. If the latter, only if it fits.

Bottom line is I hope my experience here helps another Serious birder hit a few more next season.


Category: SBH, Shotguns

Comments (2)

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  1. Norm Doucet says:

    Although I haven’t owned one for a long time-I had a remington auto once, I believe it was an 11-87 or something-I’ve always liked the 16. I’m looking for a used one in a double. I hunt some state game areas in Mich that offer a mixed bag of grouse pheasants and ducks-steel shot-and I think a 16 would be a good overall when I don’t want to use my 12. Don’t need 3″ mags-don’t think any 16 is chambered for those-so it will work.
    Also, for me clays have no correlation with birds! Like hitting balls at the range versus playing golf. Not surprised you hit the birds but not the clays.

  2. Steve says:

    I suggest you check out Beretta’s Gel-Tek Cheek Protector. It raises your comb, softens cheek slap, looks great and can be removed and re-used.

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