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Shotgun's stock should be right size

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By Don Lewis
Friday, Oct. 7, 2005

As far as some small game hunters think, a shotgun's stock is little more than just a piece of wood.

The conventional shotgun stock, especially in years back, was 14 inches or more long including a rubber pad of some type to cut down the recoil. This length of stock is basically too long for many small game shooters.

So, while a stock may look simple, it is really quite complex. There's more to a stock than meets the eye. Here's what I mean.

A stock can be designed for a variety of shooting types. Trap and skeet shooters are probably the most fussy about their stocks, but this doesn't mean the rabbit and grouse hunter should simply accept a stock as it comes from the factory.

A stock consists of a wide variety of measurements.

There are such things as cast on, cast off, comb, drop and pitch. Each one of these ingredients plays a major role in where the shot charge impacts.

Cast on is that distance which the butt plate is offset to the left of the line of sight. Cast off is the same as cast on except the butt plate is moved to the right of the line of sight, For instance, for many women, the toe of a stock should be cast off to some degree on account of their breasts.

Basically, it's the build of a person that determines how much cast on or cast off is needed.

The comb is the upper edge or part of the buttstock. Properly slanted, it guides the eye, to the line of aim. Many of today's rifles come with high combs to lift the shooter's face in alignment with a scope.

We do not hear much about comb thickness or width. The thickness of the comb is governed somewhat by the thinness or thickness of the shooter's face. Some shooters have narrow faces while others have wide faces.

I doubt if comb width is of any real degree of importance of a hunting gun. Competitive shooters pay a great deal of attention to the thickness of the comb, but they are shooting from a solid stance at targets that travel the same angles and heights.

A grouse hunter never knows what the next shot will, be like.

Drop is a controversial subject. Shotguns built in the gas light era had too much drop.

Drop is the distance downward from the line of sight.

To make this a little easier to understand, simply draw an imaginary line along the top of the barrel back to the end of the stock.

The distance from that line down to the heel of the stock is the amount of drop. Drop is measured at two places on the stock; at the comb and at the heel.

The measurement for comb height is taken just above the end of the pistol grip. It's important to have the correct amount of drop to enable the shooter to see directly along the top of the barrel.

Pitch is particularly important in shotguns since the point of impact can be raised or lowered by altering the slant of pitch.

Shotguns that shoot high are classified as having a Long Toe or a small amount of pitch down. To measure for this, place the butt of the shotgun flat on the floor next to a wall. Move the shotgun against the wall until contact is made in the receiver area. The distance between the muzzle and the wall is the amount of pitch down.

It's true that competitive shooters worry continuously about all these stock ingredients.

They are constantly changing comb height, thickness, and pitch.

It's just as true that the average small game hunter seldom touches a stock except to put a coat of finish on it every 10 years of so.

That sad part about this attitude is that a stock that doesn't fit will make the hunter miss in the field.

Some hunters have used a too-long stock for years because they believe cutting an inch or so from the stock will damage it or be detrimental to the balance of the shotgun. This is not true.

I hunted for years with a small game hunter who had a too-long stock but adamantly refused to have it shortened. His argument was based on the false belief that the factory knows best. He claimed if the stock should be shorter, the factory would have made it shorter.

If he would have listened to sound advice, his success ratio in the field would have gone up dramatically.

The next time you pick up your small game hunting shotgun, take a long look at the stock. Keep in mind, it is not just apiece of wood.

If you have any doubts the stock is not correct for you, check it out with a stock maker.

It might be the smartest move you ever made.

(Don Lewis is a longtime outdoor writer for the Leader Times and other publications as well as the author of several books. His column appears each Friday on the Armstrong Afield page in the Leader Times.)

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