What Is Length of Pull and Why Does It Matter?

man shooting shotgun

One thing that is often overlooked when introducing a new shooter to long-guns is the rifle or shotgun’s length of pull. The length of pull or LOP is the distance from the middle of the trigger to the end of the gun’s buttstock. It is one of the most important aspects of a gun’s dimensions and determines whether the gun will fit you. Meaning how comfortable the gun feels to you and how accurate you can shoot it. With the correct length of pull, you will have quick sight acquisition, better control, better accuracy, and feel more comfortable. Most rifles and shotguns are designed for the average adult male, but many of us, especially women, are not built like your average adult male. Therefore, you will find that many long guns will not feel comfortable when you go to take your first shot. You know you have found the right length of pull for you that when you go to shoulder the gun; your sight picture is right on target, your finger can easily reach the trigger, and you don’t have to strain your neck too far to rest on the gun’s cheek piece.

Every time you shoulder the gun properly, the barrel should be naturally pointing exactly where your dominant eye is targeting.

It is not a simple task getting your exact length of pull correct. There are many determining factors. For example, your overall size, how long or short your neck is, how puffy your cheeks are, the long gun’s drop at comb and heel, to even what you plan to wear when you shoot. The drop at heel is the length between the line of sight and the end of the buttstock. The drop at comb is the measurement between the line of sight and the comb of the stock. The comb is the top part of the gun’s stock where you rest your cheek.

Your correct length of pull actually has nothing to do with how long your arms are. There is an old wives’ tale saying the measurement between your thumb and elbow equals your correct length of pull. However, this is incorrect. The only way for a proper fit of your length of pull is by visiting a gun fitter. A gun fitter is different from a gunsmith. The gun fitter has a special type of long gun with a special adjustable stock called a fit gun. This service can be costly, time-consuming and difficult to find. High-end shotgunners are more likely to use this service than the average shooter. Because the vast majority of us are NOT high-end shotgunners and simply just looking for a gun we love to shoot, I will help you find your right length of pull.

When trying a rifle or shotgun you are considering purchasing, shoulder the gun exactly as you would if you were to shoot it. Have someone else measure the distance between your nose and thumb. There should be a one to one and half inch gap or about two finger widths of space between your nose and thumb. If there is more space than that, the length of pull is too long. If there is less space, the length of pull is too short.

If the length of pull on a long-gun is too short for you, your thumb may obstruct your line of sight. Further, if it is a scoped gun and the LOP is too short, you run the risk of the scope hitting you in the forehead. You might experience more felt recoil if the LOP is too short. If the length of pull is too long, the buttstock can get caught up in your clothing and can affect the speed of your shots. A too short or too long LOP will make the gun uncomfortable to shoot and most likely make you an inaccurate shooter.

The majority of guns come from the factory with a length of pull that is too short. This is okay, because it is easier and more affordable to make the LOP longer than it is to make the gun’s length of pull shorter. You can extend your long guns LOP with stock spacers and recoil or butt pads. To make a too long LOP shorter, you will more than likely have to take your gun to the gunsmith to cut down the stock.

Plenty of guns come with an adjustable length of pull. The Mossberg 100ATR bolt-action rifle and Mossberg’s 500 Super Bantam shotgun include an adjustable length of pull system. Remington’s 11-87 and 870 Youth shotguns have an adjustable length of pull. In addition, Weatherby’s Vanguard Youth bolt-action rifles have an adjustable length of pull. Further, guns like the AR-15 with collapsible stocks have an adjustable length of pull. Aftermarket accessories, such as stock spacers and Remington’s adjustable length of pull system for shotguns will also help adjust an ill-fitting factory gun. Magpul’s PRS stock with adjustable length of pull also has an adjustable cheek piece. Pachmayr’s slip-on recoil pads are an excellent way to extend your length of pull when you are wearing a thinner shirt.

Many of us end up adapting to the gun’s length of pull. Others prefer an “incorrect” length of pull. It comes down to you. Are your shots accurate? Are you comfortable? Do you enjoy shooting the gun? If your answer is yes, then shoot on! If your answer is no, try adjusting your gun’s length of pull and see if that helps.

Do you know what your ideal length of pull is? If so, tell us in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (14)

  1. Most shooters will fit an extra soft an thicker recoil pad to a gun or rifle that kicks making matters worse

  2. My “measured” LOP, elbow crook to shooting fingers first joint is: 14.30″.

    Most of my rifles and shotguns have LOP’s of anywhere from; Rifles: 13.75-14.25″ and Shotguns: 13.75-14.75″.

    My Rifles are very comfortable and have proper eye/scope alignment. My shotguns; the ones with the shorter LOP; 13.75″- 14.5″ shoot much more…..”naturally” and are “one with me”!

    I guess you could say that my neck is “average or medium” in length.

    Aloha from Hawaii, Eric

  3. I love to shoot .410 bore shotguns. However, I found that most .410 have a shortened LOP. I had my gun fitted with a Gracoil recoil suppression system. It can adjust for LOP, Cant and Recoil pressure……And it really looks cool! I had Mcknight gunsmith do mine and was very happy with the service, and the fit.
    I am teaching my grand kids, and having a quick method to adjust for their size is very helpful.

  4. none of the”experts” in my shooting club could tell me about a subject i didn’t know existed until 2 months ago. the gun shops were only interested in selling me a new rifle. why when my old one had less than a 1000 shots fired. after some research i learned of lop and a few other things. it is not difficult to make “spacers” to give extra lop. i started with 20 mm(3/4″) and kept stacking out to 75 mm (3″), fit is good ,now to visit range for test fire, if all is ok i will adjust all my other firearms and hopefully get some consistant accuracy.
    happy hunting

  5. I believe the article contains some incorrect information. Most guns are too LONG for the average shooter not too short. As a gun fitter, I estimate that 60-70 % of shooters shoot too long of a gun. The two finger method between knuckle of thumb and tip of nose is almost correct. A consistent gun mount is the most important part of proper gun fit. Practice your mount a minimum of 10, 000 times to get it correct. Not kidding.

    1. Thanks for saying that. I am trying to find the right shotgun for my son and he (like me) has short arms. I am finding it very difficult to find a stock shorter than 12 inch that’s not a pistol grip. I really need one about 9 or 10 inches. Is having one custom made my only option???

  6. 12.5 is my length of pull I hve to modify most of the stocks on my rifle to get a comfortable fit.And it does make me inaccurate to shoot a rifle with a too long stock exceptionally so in winter for some reason.Since I modified my Marlin 336cw I hit 250 yards (with good ammo)consistently and I was told .30-30 wouldn’t hit 250!

  7. Suzanne,
    Good write, Good read, great subject! This is a little touched on area but one that, gals most of all, should be aware of. I think that we could get more woman in the shooting sports if they were more comfortable with their platforms. Tactical shooters are very aware of this metric which is why some Tac Platforms come with adjustable LOP and Combs as an intrgeral part of the platforms furniture. I’ve also seen several shotgun stocks build with internal adjustments for these metrics too.
    The rule of thumb may be to buy short and add on, other than buy long and have to cut off. As you state a “gun fitter” is hard to find and many are shotgun oriented and may not e able to accommodate the long gun shooters needs. The differance between shotgun and long gun stocks is quite different. This makes finding an LG fitter even harder! Find out who services ones local state, county, or town law enforcement Tac Teams LG Platforms. Most will be sending them out for service as the don’t have internal “shops” and will tell you where and who they use if you ask. Another resource of interest is MacMillian Stocks, not only their many products but also what their shop can do for a client. There are still a few “old school” smiths out there who do this work too but like all things “firearm” there getting very hard to find.

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