Whether you are a novice or beginner, when it comes to traditional outdoor sports such as shooting, knowing what equipment to buy and what to look for specifically can be confusing. For many newcomers, it can be downright intimidating at first—especially when it comes to shopping for firearms, but that does not have to be the case.
In my experience, one of the most challenging areas for a novice shooter is getting a decent gun fit—especially if you have no clue what you are doing. Gun fit is often a daunting task, not to mention an expensive mistake if you buy an ill-fitting gun that just ends up collecting dust on the rack because you hate to shoot it. A poor-fitting shotgun can make shooting uncomfortable and quite often leads to a lack of interest.
Finding the perfect-fitting shotgun requires a little legwork on your part. The first suggestion is to talk to local gun ranges, shooting instructors or staff members at sporting goods stores that sell firearms. You can also seek local members of gun clubs to find their recommendations for an experienced gun-fitting specialist. Another valuable source is the National Rifle Association’s web page, which lists (by state) shooting instructors who may be able to point you to a skilled gun fitter. An experienced gun-fitting specialist will be able to guide and assist you in finding a shotgun that will fit your style, discipline and body.
What if you cannot find, or afford, a local gun-fitting specialist? There is no need to fret, because you can fit a shotgun yourself. However, you first should know a few key things: stock/gun fit, gun feel/balance and gun specifications.
Stock and Gun Fit
If you are a beginner or novice shooter, you need to understand that your shooting style and gun-mounting skills probably will change as you build your shooting skills. If your shotgun fits well this year, it may change through time. As your skills progress and become developed, you most likely will need to make a stock adjustment here and there to keep your ideal eye-to-barrel alignment.
The “fit” can be tricky because it combines a variety of angles and alignments that, quite frankly, are difficult to illustrate in an article. The goal for a novice shotgunner is to have his or her dominant eye over the center of the barrel. A general rule of thumb for stock length is that you want a distance of about three fingers between your thumb and the end of your nose. A large mirror is helpful when attempting to self-fit a shotgun. Thankfully, many shotgun models offer adjustable combs or recoil pads and shim plates to help you achieve a good fit.
Gun fit is an important first step, but like so many things in life, it is a step and not the end goal. With the knowledge of fitting a shotgun in hand, you will have to determine the features you require in your shotgun. Personal choice plays a role, but so does the shotgun’s intended purpose. In part two, we will delve into shotgun requirements based on its intended purpose, such as hunting or competition.
Do you have a shotgun fitting tip? Share it with us in the comment section.