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bosco mctavitch

Patterning for stock fit

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bosco mctavitch

This topic comes up quite frequently, so I figured it might make a good sticky on top of the forum if it'd be helpful for people.  I copied most of this from a few previous posts I'd made, and added a bit to fill in the holes.  Feel free to make comments or add on or argue or whatever, I just figured I'd put it all down here so we could point to it instead of re-writing it every other month when it comes up again...

Until then, hope someone finds it useful.

Patterning for Point of Impact (POI) and Gun Fit

Patterning a shotgun to see where it hits allows us to make conclusions about how it fits, and using the resulting information to inform making gun modifications is an important tool that many good shotgunners use.  Some people of average build may shoot off-the-shelf guns well, but others have a hard time with adjusting to various guns, and others are not of average build and the contortions necessary to adjust to an ill-fitting stock make shooting consistently very difficult.  A properly fitted stock can not only improve the consistency of your shooting, it can also be more comfortable under recoil, it can serve as an aid to target acquisition and maintaining a hard focus on your target, and the whole process can improve your understanding of the mechanics of good shooting.  In other words, it can be an aid to better shooting on a variety of levels.  And, for many people, the process itself is enjoyable.  

First, an understanding of the goal is in order.  When you shoot a rifle, you align the front sight and the rear sight of the gun with the target.  When you “sight-in” a rifle, you move the rear sight around (which causes you to shift the entire gun slightly in order to align the sights with the target) until the bullet hits where the sights are pointed.  A shotgun is different in that you don’t aim it, but the “sights” are still there, at least in a manner of speaking—in this case your hands naturally point the gun at the target and your EYE is the rear sight.  The theory goes that your eye is fixed, so assuming a consistent mount, you can alter the shape of the gun so that each time you mount the gun it is pointed exactly where you are looking—instead of aligning the (adjustable) rear sight with the rifle, you are aligning the shotgun with the (fixed) rear sight, your eye.  This allows you to maintain a hard focus on the target and utilize your body’s natural eye-hand coordination to point the gun in the right place more consistently. If you have to adjust your body subconsciously to the gun, it is much harder to consistently utilize your natural eye-hand coordination, and you wind up “aiming” which almost always causes one big problem—missing!

The first rule of thumb that most people subscribe to is that it makes no sense to get fitted for a gun or to really change anything until you have a good, consistent mount.  Obviously if you mount the gun differently each time you do it, it will rarely be pointed in the same place, so it’s difficult to achieve a consistent-enough result to be able to draw any conclusions from it.  The only quibble I have with this is that I believe it is very helpful to start out with a gun that fits at least reasonably well.  If you are an average-sized dude most off-the-shelf guns will get you there, but if you are especially short or tall or wide, or if you are a woman, it may be helpful to get fitted from the beginning in order to start the learning process with a gun that’s at least close—it will help in learning consistency and hopefully avoid the bad habits that can easily be picked up from trying to shoot an ill-fitting gun.  It’s also more enjoyable, and especially if recoil is an issue it’s more comfortable.  

So, let’s say we’re ready to get started—you have a new gun or a gun you seem to have trouble with, and you are considering getting the stock bent to fit you.  There are a few steps to the process:

1) Check eye-dominance, address if necessary

2) Measure the gun for “baseline dimensions”

3) Check barrel regulation (double guns only)

4) Pattern for Point of Impact (POI)

5) Make “mock” changes to fit that should address POI being off, repattern/ test

6) Alter stock for fit

Eye Dominance

First, you need to check your eye-dominance.  If you have an eye-dominance issue, that should be addressed first.  That’s a topic unto itself so I will offer only a basic solution—if this doesn’t work you should get it checked more thoroughly and consult a pro about what to do about it.  Get a piece of paper at least 8x11” and poke a ½” hole in the center.  Hold the paper at full arm’s length, and with both eyes open look through the hole at a fixed object across the room—a doorknob, or something like that.  Keeping both eyes open, very slowly pull the paper towards your face while maintaining your focus on the object.  The hole will naturally align with your dominant eye.  If, on doing this several times, the result is the same, you probably just figured out which is your dominant eye.  If you are right handed with your right eye dominant, or left Just found out which is your dominant eye.  If you are right-eye dominant and right-handed, or left-handed with your left eye dominant, life is good.  If your opposite eye is dominant, then you need to address that issue before going any further.  There are also more subtle dominance issues that can crop up that are beyond the scope of this, so if you have mixed results it is a waste of time to go further before addressing that issue.

Measure your gun

Eventually you will want to quantify some stock modifications, so measure the stock dimensions now to get a baseline.  There are a number of dimensions that go into a truly fitted gun, but the 4 main ones we are concerned with here are Length of Pull, drop at comb, drop at heel, and cast.  The first Three are easy to measure, the third not so much.  Here’s the quick and dirty.  First, you’ll need a tape measure, a long string, some masking tape, plus a pencil and paper (write it all down or you’ll forget!)

Length of pull (LOP) is the distance from the trigger (the front trigger if there are two) to the CENTER of the butt (not the heel or the toe of the butt).  Use a tape measure to measure this, and be sure to go to the outside edge of the butt, many are significantly rounded which can make them look shorter than they really are.  Length of Pull will not affect where your gun hits, but if you change this it WILL affect where along the comb of the stock your face hits—because of this it’s important to establish the correct length of pull before you do any pattern testing.  There is some disagreement about how long is “correct”, it depends on shooting style and some other factors, but generally you want the length so that your thumb doesn’t jab you in the nose under recoil and your elbow on the trigger-arm is at about a 90-degree angle.  For most men this is between 14.25-15.25, but many smaller people, women, etc will want a shorter stock, and especially tall folks may want a longer one.  For a temporary fix while you are patterning you can usually stack washers, a wooden or plastic shim, etc between a buttplate or recoil pad, and the stock, to get the length you need for POI patterning.  This is the one modification you should make BEFORE patterning your gun.

Now put the gun rib-down on a flat table, making sure the front bead is BARELY hanging off the edge of the table.  If it’s a swamped rib there may be a gap in the middle, that’s OK.  Use a padded spring-clamp or a bag of shot or something to hold it in place, or have someone help you—you need both hands.  Make sure the measurement on the tape measure starts from the end, many rulers begin the measurement an eighth or ¼” from the end, this won’t work—and measure from the tabletop to the comb—it’s usually around 1.5 inches.  Be precise, look from the side.  Now measure the same at the heel—usually around 2.25 or 2.5 inches.  Write this down so you don’t forget it.

Now for the hard part—Cast.  Turn the gun right side up and put it in a padded vise or cradle.  I like to remove the buttplate or pad for this, but it’s not critical.  Tear off 6 or 7 inches of masking tape, and stick the entire height of the butt so it curves up over the top.  Find the line that goes from the tippy-top of the heel to the tippy end of the toe, and carefully trace this onto the masking tape.  Tie a small loop in the end of the string, and loop this over the front bead.  Stretch the string back over the length of the rib and action, all the way to the heel of the butt.  This is not a perfect way to do this, but it eliminates the need for a fancy tool—we’ll measure a few times to make sure we’re accurate because of this.  You’ll note that you have to bend the string down over the action and top-lever to reach the butt, and as a result it’s very difficult to keep the string perfectly straight.  You can either pull the string taught and keep it aligned with the rib so you know it’s straight, and sight down on the string to mark its location on the tape on top of the butt, OR you can sight along the string to make sure it’s straight while you bend it down to the heel, and mark where the string touches the butt—either way you do it this is the center-line of the RIB.  Do this several times, each time re-sighting to be as accurate as possible, until you are confident that your mark is accurate to within 1/16” or better.  Note that if the gun has any cast, the center-line of the butt you drew will not be in the same location as the center line of the rib—looking down, the center of the butt will be farther to the RIGHT than the center of the rib on a gun that is cast-off for a right-handed shooter.  The distance between these two lines is the amount of cast, and is always described as cast OFF (butt-center to the right of rib-center) or cast ON (butt-center to the left of rib-center, for a left-handed shooter).  

If we were building a new stock or being really thorough we’d take more measurements including the pitch, cast at the toe, etc, but once you have LOP established, and then DAC, DAH and Cast measured and written down, we’re off to the next step here.

Barrel Regulation

If it’s a double gun, you want to make sure both barrels shoot to the SAME place.  It does you no good if you have a perfectly fitted gun for one barrel, but the other one shoots to a completely different point.  Many guns are off a little, and that’s OK—it’s major differences we are concerned about.  Aiming the gun as if it were a rifle, you sight the gun and align the rib with the target using your eye...the bead is the front sight and lining it up with the rear of the rib is the "rear sight".  This should be done from a rest to check the regulation of the barrels, i.e. do both barrels hit in the SAME place, regardless of WHERE that place is.  Shoot 2 or 3 shots from one barrel at the same target to get an “average” pattern.  Then switch to a different paper target for the other barrel and shoot 2 or 3 shots at it.  You want the center of each pattern to be within a few inches of the point of aim on both barrels, at a normal shooting range.  I use 20 or 25 yards for this, but if your normal range is different you might alter that a little.  

Keep in mind that this only tells you if both barrels will hit in the SAME place, it tells you nothing about where that is.  Shooting from a rest or standing or any position while AIMING does absolutely nothing to tell you where the gun will shoot when you are instinctively mounting and firing at a bird.  You can worm yourself very quickly and easily into a position to aim virtually any gun pretty well, but your instinctive mount could be way off from this.  

Pattern for Point of Impact

Assuming both barrels print their patterns more or less to the same point of aim, you proceed to pattern testing to determine the point of impact (POI) that results from your mount.  

Remember that when shooting a shotgun, you don't aim the gun...you point the barrels at the target and the fit of the stock against your cheek/shoulder determines how the "rear sight" lines up with the barrels...in this case your eye IS the rear sight.  It is entirely possible and even likely that the results will be completely different from your earlier aimed exercise when you mount and shoot instinctively.  When you sight-in a rifle, you essentially keep the rifle stationary and you move the rear sight around till the gun shoots exactly where the sights line up.  When fitting a shotgun, the rear sight--your eye--is in a fixed location, so you alter the stock fit so the entire gun automatically lines up with the "rear sight" (your eye) as it is instinctively mounted.  The mount is the key element here, and must be incorporated into your patterning in order to determine where it is hitting, and the resultant fit that should move the pattern where you are looking.

If the length of the stock is where you want it, then this is how I pattern a gun to see how it fits, which is what determines WHERE it hits.  

Get several big sheets of paper, at least 3 feet square.  Draw a 3" or so spot on the center of the paper in a color that really stands out--you need the center to be eye-catching.  Don't draw anything else on the paper.  Put one target on a backstop of some sort at head level--save the rest for later.  

Pace off 16 yards and mark a line here--16 yards is the accepted starting point and theoretically will allow you to quantify to a degree how much stock movement is necessary if you are off.

Get yourself 4 or 5 shells.  I like to use the tight barrel for this.  Stand in your ready position, load the gun with one shell at a time, and do a few practice mounts to get yourself in the swing of things.  This is a "practiced" exercise where you want to be as consistent as possible, but you need to eliminate ANY aiming from the equation and replicate a field mount, so focus HARD on the bullseye and mount deliberately but quickly, without taking any focus off the target.  DO NOT AIM.  Do not shift your focus to check how the barrels line up with the target, you will not check results after any shot.  You don't want yourself to subconsciously alter the way you are mounting because of where any shot landed--if you are missing, that's ok--you will still focus on the center bullseye and mount and shoot instinctively.  If you get a bad mount and pull one shot way off, it will not be a big deal--you are shooting multiple times in order to get an average so no one shot really matters, it's the collection of shots that you care about.  So relax.

When you feel relaxed and comfortable, focus hard on the target, mount, take the safety off as you mount, and fire as soon as you complete your mount.  DO NOT HESITATE AND AIM, and after you shoot DO NOT GO CHECK THE TARGET.  If you didn't hit where you think you should have, relax, it doesn’t matter--Reload, and repeat as you did before focusing on being fluid and consistent but quick and instinctive.  Repeat 3 or 4 more times, DO NOT check the target in between shots, do not correct for any mounting errors, do not do ANYTHING except focus on the bullseye, mount quickly but fluidly and consistently, and fire as the mount finishes.  

Now, the result will be a 4-5-shot AVERAGE pattern.  A tighter choke makes it easier to see smaller differences in POI, and the more consistent your mount is, the tighter and more concentric this "average pattern" will be, but no one will have a perfectly consistent mount so it's going to be a little wonky looking.  It doesn’t matter, you are shooting several shells specifically to get an average.

Squint at the pattern...we're talking big-picture here.  Ignore the bullseye, and find the area of the pattern with the maximum density of pellet strikes, where the pellet holes are the absolute closest together--this is where the hot core of each shot overlapped.  Some people keep shooting until they have a ragged hole to show this spot.  It may not be exactly in the center of the pellet holes on the sheet, but it should be fairly close.  Draw a vertical line through the center of this spot, and a horizontal line through that spot, forming a crosshairs...this is the center of your average pattern.  It's not necessary, but if you were to draw a circle around the center as large as possible so that it is 100% more or less evenly filled with pellets...that's your average pattern at this range.  You may see one shot extending outside this circle, if so that one shot was way off from the others, a botched mount--no biggie...it's that average center you care about, not any one shot.

Now, before you do anything about it, I would repeat the whole exercise on a fresh sheet of paper.  If the result is essentially the same, you have a consistent-enough result to do something about it.  If it's off by more than an inch or three then I'd do it a third time...if you don’t see much consistency and your centers are within a few inches of the bullseye then working on a consistent mount will make more of a difference than altering the gun.  

Making “Mock” alterations

If your results are fairly consistent, then it’s time to draw some conclusions.  Most people want their pattern to be perfectly aligned with the bullseye along a vertical line (i.e. the pattern is not to the left or the right of the bullseye), and a touch high.  Most people want around 60% of the pattern to be above the bullseye in order to avoid having to cover a target with the barrels in order to hit it.  Don’t get too hung up on whether it’s 58% or 62%, if you are looking at roughly 60% of the pattern above the bull you are in the sweet spot for a hunting gun.  Now, assuming your pattern is off, what to do about it.  We all know how to adjust the sights on a rifle—move the rear sight in the direction you want the pattern to go.  If you are hitting low and left, you would raise the stock (to raise the pattern) and add some cast off (to move the pattern Right)...make sense?

In theory, for every inch that you are low you should raise the stock 1/16 of an inch (lower the comb if you are high), then for every inch you are off left/right you move the stock L/R 1/16" (i.e. if pattern is to the left, you add cast off and this will move the pattern to the right) till the center is where you want it to be--generally that is perfectly aligned with the bullseye vertically and a touch higher than the bull.  

The quick and dirty way to do this is to simply measure your POI as the distance L/R and Up/Down from where you want the center of the pattern to be, and tell the smith to bend your gun 1/16” in the appropriate direction for each 1” off on the pattern plate.  This rule of thumb is only an estimate though, and will rarely be perfect--but it works very well for many people and probably gets you dimensions that are close enough to make most people very happy.

However, there is a way to get accurate dimensions from this exercise.  If you decide you need to raise the stock it's easy to add moleskin or tape some corrugated cardboard to the comb or use one of the neoprene or rubber comb-raising kits that are available to add the required dimensions and verify.  Just be careful, because raising the stock alone could also alter the cast you require, so change one thing at a time.  You are likely to need more cast if you raise the comb, so raise it first and then play with the left/right once you have the pattern height correct.  Do this is in a methodical and reproducible way for best results.

If the stock is too high or you need a lot of cast it's a bit harder to adjust and verify, since it’s difficult to temporarily remove material from the stock.  Depending on the gun, one option is to loosen the throughbolt, use thin shims (folded paper, matchsticks, cardboard, etc) between the stock and the action of the gun—this can work to add cast as well—and then re-tighten the throughbolt with the shims in place.  Some modern auto’s come with shims that go between the stock and action, just for this purpose.  Another option is to actually remove some material from the stock, but do this with extreme caution—it aint easy to put it back once it’s removed!  A professional fitter will usually have several different stocks or a try gun with an adjustable stock to allow for greater and easier adjustment.  One alternative that can be viable especially on modern guns where parts are easily and cheaply available is to buy a cheap or used stock or a semi-inlet stock for your gun.  By using a belt sander, rasps, and adding automotive Bondo where the stock needs to be built up, it is possible to build a very serviceable stock that, while not pretty, is perfectly suitable for taking good measurements from, and even having it duplicated to build a new stock to your dimensions.  If you can get a cheap replacement stock for your gun this could be a solution for many people.

Once you have the gun temporarily modified, you go back through the POI patterning again to verify that your alterations actually accomplished exactly what you wanted—in most cases it may take several trips to the pattern board to get it just right.  

At this point, many people are tempted to move the pattern board further away.  30 yds will show you a greater distance between the point of aim and where you are hitting.  If you are close at 16 yds but not exactly on, and perhaps you are having some trouble seeing exactly how far off you are...then perhaps going out to 35 yards is helpful.  However, what I typically do is once I have it where I want it at 16 yards I'll "proof" the fit on a clays range.  The actual moving targets, using a variety of different presentations, allow me do a better job of fine-tuning the fit than a longer-distance stationary target.  I'll shoot simple straightaways to see if I'm off left/right, and simple crossers to see if I'm off up/down, all from a true low-gun position--the reason I choose to use these presentations is to largely eliminate the most-typical user-error of being behind or in front of the moving bird.  Here, apart from trying to see the shot pattern to determine where the gun is shooting on each presentation, I'm also looking more for a pattern of hits and misses (i.e. if someone breaks all the right-to-lefts but is behind all of the left-to-rights, then it's likely the gun is shooting to the left of where they are looking...and if I'm seeing a decent mount then more cast might be in order), or I'm looking for HOW the targets are breaking, i.e. I'm looking for chips off the left side of a straightaway on a consistent basis to tell me the gun is shooting a bit left.  I'll put all of this together--and there's usually multiple signs of any fit issue to serve as confirmation--and then make further minor modifications.

Also keep in mind that while a "perfect" fit is usually fine on a target gun, some of the most accomplished shooters I know prefer a gun with a slightly sloppier fit for hunting...i.e. a touch lower and a touch more cast than their patterns might dictate, because in a hunting situation they rarely get quite as perfect of a mount as they do in a "laboratory" setting like a pattern board—it’s much easier to proof this on a skeet range with moving targets.  A little lower/more cast (like 1/16" maybe) is a slightly more forgiving fit on moving targets that may help with consistent hits.

Making stock alterations

If you can verify your instinctive mount/shoot pattern with the temporarily-adjusted stock this way, then by quantifying how much and in what direction you altered the stock you should be able to have many stocks bent or re-inletted to fit you.  Obviously this involves re-measuring your gun with the temporary modifications in place to see what the difference is in the “new” measurements.  For instance, you would bring the gun to be bent or re-inletted for fit and instruct the ‘smith that you need a thicker buttpad installed and you want it raised ¼ inch and cast off ¼ inch at the heel.  Make sure to use a straight edge and a ruler to extrapolate your cardboard shims and keep your measurement technique consistent.

Not every gun will be able to be bent, and sometimes a large bend or alteration will introduce other problems—for instance, bending a stock way up or down will cause the pitch to change significantly, which can create other issues.  For this reason it’s a good idea to talk to your smith about the particular gun you are thinking of modifying in order to gauge the feasibility of it and get a sense for what other issues might come up.  

Another thing to keep in mind is that knowing the stock dimensions that fit you well is a huge advantage if you are shopping for guns, since it gives you some significant info about how the gun will fit, what the feasibility of modifying it is, etc.  It’s a good idea to measure the modified stock not only to describe how much to bend it from its current dimensions, but also so that you have the raw measurements for future reference.  Just remember that due to different grip shapes, different thickness of stock, etc, between various guns, not every gun will hit to exactly the same POI with exactly the same stock dimensions—but this should at least get you close and probably help avoid guns that stand little chance of modifying enough to fit you.

If you’re inclined, going through this exercise with a pro as part of a fitting/shooting lesson is a huge learning exercise, and it's worthwhile no matter how much shooting you have done.  There's a lot more to it than this, as fit can also influence how easy it is to be consistent in your mount, how easy it is to maintain focus on a target, how the gun handles under recoil, comfort under recoil, etc. so someone that really knows what they are doing can help you get everything as right as possible in all areas.

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wiscborn
Well done and very useful. This should help demystify the process of stock fit and alterations. Well worth saving on this site! goo job!

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Country Nate
Well done and very useful. This should help demystify the process of stock fit and alterations. Well worth saving on this site! goo job!

Agree.  Much appreciated. :)

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Hunshatt
Cliff note version please... you lost me at "This topic comes up"

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Bonasa
Thanks Dave. A valuable dissertation.

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Virgil Kane

I have followed some of your other posts in the past about this subject and have also read the book "Gun Fitting" by Michael Yardly. I had a Uggie that I just couldn't get consistant with. I always shot low and never mounted the gun the same way 2 times in a row. After reading your posts and the book I added 1.5 inches to the LOP. I was amazed at the difference it made. I now mounted the Uggie the same 99 times out of 100 with the added LOP. This last season I didn't get to hunt much but my hits to number of fires shots went way up as did my clay shooting. Having a 7 3/4 inch head and arms that are a 78" span adding that 1.5 inches lowered the comb to the right amount and made the gun feel like a gun in my hands not a toy.

Thanks for taking the time to write this, it really does help!

Virgil

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shinbone
Bosco - Awesome post!  Thanks!

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PartridgeCartridge

Good info Dave.

I might add that this whole process critically depends on a very consistent mount. And many people have never had a lesson in mount, much less practiced a correct mount the many thousand times it requires to get consistent.

Then and only then IMO, are you ready to garner meaningful information from patterning board work.

Anything short of that has to have a degree of inconsistency in terms of fit.

JMO

This topic should be pinned.

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SydneyWI
Cliff note version please... you lost me at "This topic comes up"

Send me a check.

I will send you the dimensions you require

The End.

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bosco mctavitch

Good info Dave.

I might add that this whole process critically depends on a very consistent mount. And many people have never had a lesson in mount, much less practiced a correct mount the many thousand times it requires to get consistent.

Then and only then IMO, are you ready to garner meaningful information from patterning board work.

Anything short of that has to have a degree of inconsistency in terms of fit.

JMO

This topic should be pinned.

Yup, I agree entirely...for the most part.  The only two thoughts I have are this:

First, I still believe that even without a practiced mount, getting at least CLOSE to a reasonable fit will be a significant aid to learning that consistent mount and getting better without bad habits.  Would you start a left-hander out with a stock that's cast-off for a Righty?  Do you think they would develop good mounting habits if they tried?  Well, same thing happens if you try and start a 5'2" woman off with a 14.5" mens stock or a dude with a 78" ape-index off with a 14.0" stock...even knowing that it isn't "fitted", getting close-enough to set-up that person for better success down the road is certainly realistic, especially if this is combined with a lesson from a pro.

Second, this excercise will reliably SHOW you exactly how consistent your mount is.  

Lets say your modified-choke one-shot pattern at 16 yards fits into a 12" circle.  If you AIM the gun like a rifle and shoot 5 shots at that pattern board, the pattern will still be approximately 12" in diameter, just denser and with 5 shots worth of fliers, but the pattern itself will still be roughly the same size.

Now do a mount-and-shoot excercise at exactly the same range, exactly the same gun/choke and exactly the same shells.  If this 5-shot pattern is the same size as the AIMED 5-shot pattern, you have a VERY consistent mount.  Most people with a consistent mount will have a slightly larger pattern, maybe 15-16 inches around--that's still pretty reasonable from the people I've gone through this with.  However, if you are consistently getting much larger "average-patterns", including regular wild shots that indicate a botched mount, then obviously you do not have a very consistent mount.  

What goes along with this though, is that there are elements of fit that have very little purpose other than to serve as an aid to a consistent mount.  As a for instance, if I build a pattern stock for a gun, you can literally watch the average patterns get smaller simply by adding some additonal cast at the TOE beyond the cast at heel (aka "toe-out").  Length to a degree, and also pitch can serve as aids in getting a consistent mount--a grossly too long or too short stock or one with much too much or too little pitch will all make it harder to mount consistently, and you can literally see the difference in the diameter of a mount-and-shoot "average pattern" as compared to an aimed "average pattern", and you can see these changes with both practiced and consistent shooters as well as with those who do not have a consistent mount.  The fact that a newer shooter could do this excercise, and with practice actually watch their average patterns shrink as they get more consistent, is to me a worthwhile end in itself.  

In any case, I agree that the vast majority of shooters are better off not putting a ton of effort into this until they have a consistent mount, I just see clear benefits to an excercise such as this for anyone who has the motivation to improve their shooting.  Perhaps I'd agree that doing this ALONE and without a consistent mount may not be worthwhile, but doing something like this with a pro or someone who is experienced enough to walk them through it and provide some instruction and analysis is still highly worthwhile in my book. As an absolute worst case, they will learn that they need to practice a more consistent mount, and perhaps get help doing that, right?

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ScottGrush
Dave and Dave (or anyone else) do you think pattern board fit and field fit can be different?

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bosco mctavitch

Interested to hear what Dave has to say, I know he's been fitted a number of times for both hunting and clays guns.  I'd also love to hear what Huntschool and some others think.  

Mike Campbell and I discussed this a while back, and after playing with it I think he's spot-on.  no matter how practiced and consistent you are, your field mount is never going to be quite as consistent as your pattern-board or even your clays-range fit. Mike and I talked about a "forgiving" fit, one that assumes consistently less cheek-weld, and the resulting fit that might not be quite as tailored as a truly "perfect" fit, but one that is a little easier to be consistent with on that slightly less than perfect field mount.  

Also keep in mind that while a "perfect" fit is usually fine on a target gun, some of the most accomplished shooters I know prefer a gun with a slightly sloppier fit for hunting...i.e. a touch lower and a touch more cast than their patterns might dictate, because in a hunting situation they rarely get quite as perfect of a mount as they do in a "laboratory" setting like a pattern board—it’s much easier to proof this on a skeet range with moving targets.  A little lower/more cast (like 1/16" maybe) is a slightly more forgiving fit on moving targets that may help with consistent hits.

In a perfect world, after the pattern-board work I'll go to an unused skeet range and have someone surprise me with various presentations as I walk forward (i.e. walk in on an imaginary point or move in behind an imaginary birdy flusher).  It helps to have a helper who can help to anylyse your misses and sometimes more importantly analyse your hits.  However you do it, proofing a pattern-board fit on moving targets is standard fare for a good fitting.

The actual moving targets, using a variety of different presentations, allow me do a better job of fine-tuning the fit than a longer-distance stationary target.  I'll shoot simple straightaways to see if I'm off left/right, and simple crossers to see if I'm off up/down, all from a true low-gun position--the reason I choose to use these presentations is to largely eliminate the most-typical user-error of being behind or in front of the moving bird.  Here, apart from trying to see the shot pattern to determine where the gun is shooting on each presentation, I'm also looking more for a pattern of hits and misses (i.e. if someone breaks all the right-to-lefts but is behind all of the left-to-rights, then it's likely the gun is shooting to the left of where they are looking...and if I'm seeing a decent mount then more cast might be in order), or I'm looking for HOW the targets are breaking, i.e. I'm looking for chips off the left side of a straightaway on a consistent basis to tell me the gun is shooting a bit left.  

I think generally the result of this is that when shooting moving targets you pretty much never want a higher stock with less cast than the pattern board indicates, you virtually always want a very slightly lower stock with a touch more cast, and this is also where stuff like getting the cast at toe and pitch right can really make a difference too, as an aid to an easy and consistent "combat mount", as opposed to a pattern-board mount.

We're also splitting hairs at this point, I think the only people who will really notice this nuanced of a fit are competitive sporting clays or fitasc shooters who shoot from a low-gun position.  That said, if you have a gun with shims like a BUL, you could do worse than to use a shim that gives your stock a slightly lower comb and slightly more cast than pattern-board work would indicate, but we're talking 16'ths of an inch here, maybe 1/8" tops.

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PartridgeCartridge
Dave and Dave (or anyone else) do you think pattern board fit and field fit can be different?

That is a great question.

In theory the "fit" should translate into better target shooting and game shooting. In reality, the likelihood of achieving a consistent and perfect mount in the field is certainly less than in a clinical target setting.

Aside from balance issues, the intrinsic nature of snap shooting or shoot from suprise or "survival shooting" almost always equates into a less than optimal move and mount. Not always but often enough to consider it.

So yes, I think there could be two standards for a fit. I would surmise that a field fit would take into account that you would be more prone to less cheekweld and the resultant pattern shooting higher, maybe as much as 70/30. So it follows that a field fit should have more drop at face (DAF). I would think a field fit should take into account a different LOP to reflect actual garment conditions especially in colder weather.

The down side to a pure field fit would be readily apparent on a clays course however, and having to relearn your mount for two different types of shooting seems onnerous and impractical.

I'm gonna think on this some more.

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