Finding a good fitting stock on a shotgun or rifle isn’t always an easy task. For shotguns, a good fitting stock allows you to quickly mount the firearm so that the bead is properly aligned while your cheek rests firmly against the stock. On a rifle with a scope, the length of pull is even more important because the optics need to be brought up properly aligned, but also within eye relief with good cheek weld. Consider the following when looking for a long gun that will fit you: Ergonomics:
- Perform cheek weld and natural aim test
- Can I reach and am I familiar with all the controls?
Grasp the rifle or shotgun and, with your eyes closed, quickly bring it up to your shoulder into a firing position letting your head fall naturally along the stock to ensure proper cheek weld (your cheek should be firmly placed along the top of the stock). Open your eyes and look down the barrel at your sights/scope. Are the sights/optics naturally aligned? If so, you have a good fit. If not, a different sized stock may be needed for a good natural point of aim (the position your body naturally wants to relax into with the firearm.) If you find that you are hunching your shoulders or unnaturally bending your neck, the fit may need some adjustment. The addition of a larger/adjustable butt pad or adjustable comb can help you achieve a proper fit.
Check to make sure that, when gripping the firearm in a firing position, you can easily reach all necessary controls. Controls on most firearms should be able to be manipulated without breaking your grip (some long guns such as an AK-47 or a break-action firearm will necessarily require you to break your grip to perform certain actions). You should be able to reach the safety, magazine release (if equipped) and any other controls (bolt catch release, etc.) without breaking your grip. Grip:
- Perform the grip test
Your grip with your trigger hand on the long gun should not need to support much weight. With the long gun shouldered, you should be able to completely remove your trigger hand and have the firearm supported with just one hand on the fore end and your shoulder against the stock.
- Make sure the stock fits well into your shoulder pocket
- Be conscious of any recoil flinching or recoil anticipation
- If recoil becomes a problem, work on getting a surprise break or use a smaller caliber.
When firing any shotgun or rifle, the stock should be firmly placed in the pocket just to the inside of your shoulder. This allows any recoil from the rifle or shotgun to push against your body mass instead of flying back and striking you. There should never be any gap between your body and the stock. After firing the long gun a couple of times, if you find you are flinching, closing your eyes, or jerking the trigger you are probably anticipating recoil and should either practice relaxing and getting a “surprise break,” or move to a rifle or shotgun with a smaller caliber.
Not every caliber is appropriate for everybody. The following is a breakdown of appropriate calibers/gauges.
|.22 LR, .22 Magnum||.30-30, .243, .223/5.56||.270, 6.5×55||.308, .30-06||.300 Win Mag 7mm RUM||.50 BMG, .338 Lapua|
|Comfortable for anyone||Insignificant Recoil||Low recoil||Moderate Recoil||Significant Recoil||Extreme Recoil|
|Children, Youths||Youths, Small framed adults||Experienced youths and small framed adults||Medium framed or experienced small framed adults||Experienced shooters only||Experienced shooters only|
|.410 Bore||20 Gauge||12 Gauge||10 Gauge|
|Low Recoil||Moderate Recoil||Significant Recoil||Extreme Recoil|
|Experts only – very difficult to hit clay pigeons despite low recoil||Experienced youths, Small framed adults||Medium framed or experienced small framed adults||Experienced shooters only|
- Perform a timed weight test
For any long gun other than a bench rest rifle, you should be able to comfortably shoulder the rifle or shotgun and aim it down range for as much as 60 seconds or more. If it is too heavy, it may be better suited as a bench rest or bipod/shooting stick supported rifle, or you may consider transitioning to a lighter long gun.