Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Gun Fitting - Becoming a better Wingshooter

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With the bird season in full swing, it's not to late to have your gun tuned and dream about chukar flying over head and harvesting a couple.  Chukars are fast flyer's. The straighter you shoot the more success you will have.  A gun that mounts properly and fits your swing will increase your success in the field.

My first gun was a classic semi-auto Remington 1100, 12 gauge in the late 90's.  Purchased for $200.00, it was indestructible and a great first gun but eventually the weight and length became cumbersome. I needed a smaller gun.   My next purchase was a kids, Benelli, Nova, 20 gauge.  When I purchased the Nova, I was told to place the butt of the gun on the crook of my elbow and see if the first knuckle of my trigger finger wrapped around the trigger. Then the gun fit.  That was it; I didn’t realize there were other factors involved in helping me shoot straighter.  

A few years ago, I picked up a Hugo CZ, 20 gauge for $400.00. This gun could take a beating on rim rock, basalt hills but I was missing more chukar then I wanted to. I started looking into a professional gun fitting. I wanted to be a better shooter. I could hit clay pigeons but chukar were giving me a fit. 

Close to home, I found, Dennis Earl Smith, the Stock Doctor a custom stock builder for 30 years. A true craftsmen and gunsmith, he also has years of experience fitting guns.   

If you’re buying a gun from a store, shooters usually don’t have an opportunity to choose stock configuration. Because there is no standardization for action size with gun manufactures.  “Every gun manufacture has a unique size, shape and weight of action. You can’t be fit for one type of gun and think that will be the fit for all guns.  Once you have been fitted by a competent fitter you have a starting point to be fitted for different types of action guns.” explains Dennis.    

Dennis in the office
Dennis used two methods to determine the fit of my gun. He wanted to see if where I was shooting was where I was looking. “Shooting is an extension of the hand and eye coordination.  Not something you force and make happen.” speaks Dennis.  Having a gun fit, will help with accuracy and critical for becoming a better wingshooter.

Method 1: Verify that the gun is unloaded. With the gun held in a ready position, pick out a target on a wall, focus on it; close your eyes, mount the shotgun as if you where shooting and reopen your eyes. You should be centered on the target. Your gun should come to the cheek first and then contact to the shoulder. Your dominant eye should be looking down the barrel and you should be squarely on the target every time. Do this several times. If the gun fits you, it will come almost effortlessly to the same position every time as you repeat the process. If the gun is off line or hangs up as you repeat the mount, the stock needs work. 

Method 2: Testing eye position tells the fitter if you need cast on or cast off and drop of the comb.  “The terms 'cast-off' and 'cast-on' are used to describe stock configuration. They refer to the deviation of the butt away from the center line of the gun. A gun with no cast is straight. A line down the center of the barrel will continue straight down the center of the butt stock. With cast-off, the center of the butt is moved in the direction of the shoulder of the shooter. The opposite is true of cast-on, the butt deviating toward the center of the shooter's chest. Either cast-off or cast-on are commonly built into guns. The purpose of both is simply to make it easier to align the eye with the sights.” Bob Spencer, the Fit of a Gun 
My trusted CZ
 Have someone stand in front of you to look down the muzzle as you aim at their nose. They should see that your dominant eye should be at rib level and not off to one side or the other. If they cannot see the pupil of your eye because your eye is to the left of center, this is cast on. If your pupil is to the right of center, it is cast off. If you eye is below the rib, the comb of the stock is too low. If they see the pupil well above the rib, it is very likely that the stock needs more drop at the comb.” 

That day, I discovered, my gun didn’t fit and I hadn't shot straight for 14 years but compensated for it.   The butt needed to be cut almost three inches and the stock was way “cast-off” and needed to be bent to the left.

Most guns on the shelf have a standard size that fit the average person but everyone has a different physical shape and will benefit from getting your gun fit. A professional gun fitting by an experienced fitter is like a shooting lesson. You will learn a lot about your style and how you shoot. Fitting a gun by a traditional fitter can cost from $300 to $1000 and modifications of the stock are generally additional charges. Because I went to a professional stock builder, Dennis didn’t charge for the fitting.  To have the stock modified was about $250.00. 

Other tips:
·         For those that wish to have a tell all about gun fitting check out Mike Yardley – Gunfitting: The Quest for Perfection for Shotguns and Rifles
·         The best place to find a gun fitter near you is to talk to serious shooters or go to your local gun club and ask for recommendations.
Always best to bring the gun you want to be fitted in, no two guns are alike.   "A BMW and Fiat both get you to the same point but they are different animals." chuckles Dennis

I’m not a professional shooter but a bird hunter that wants to hit more birds. If you want to step up your game, shoot straighter and become a better wingshooter; it’s a great idea to have your gun fitted.