Shotguns

The Art of Gun Fitting

gun_maker

Image Amanda Slater flickr

Very few shotgun shooters understand gun fit and gun fitting. It is a confusing or totally unknown subject to them. Why it is so important to have a shotgun which fits?  How does a gun which doesn’t fit affect their shooting? They may even wish to make a few alterations to or changes to a stock when really it is their technique that is at fault.

after the alterations have been made they may have no clue whatsoever what has been done and why

The mystery of gun fit has two categories into which most shotgun shooters fall; either it is something they’re completely ignorant of, having never heard of it, or it is a topic of mystery that they know a little about, don’t really understand  or why it is important. Basically what they do ‘know’ is incorrect.

The beginner or novice could be easily be forgiven for being somewhat bewildered. But he or she should spent time with a fitter and have their gun (or loan gun) altered, even if it is only temporary. Even after the alterations have been made they may have no clue whatsoever what has been done and why things needed to be altered in the first place. This is the best way to start shooting, to have a gun which ‘fits’ before they go off to learn how to shoot.

Gun fitting seems to be  only really popular in Europe. In Britain Robert Churchill developed ‘try guns’ and made each gun fit the shooter. He knew that you could only really shoot properly when the gun had been ‘fitted’ to your own stature. A six-foot six gorilla needed a gun stock that is significantly longer and somewhat different dimensions to someone who is 5 foot six.

After alterations on a custom-made stock the client at this point will start to notice the gun feeling more comfortable when mounted. Best gun makers and their shooting schools are very understanding towards their clients. They are extremely proficient and can make a stock for you which will fit like a glove and have you shooting well (as long and you put work into the technique as well).

The skill of their gun fitters is one of the highest levels in craftsmanship anywhere, it is incredibly refined and quality beams out from the finished product in every way.

At the far end of the scale though are the ‘bargain bucket’ operators who make changes which are counter-productive. There are a number of these ‘outfits’ abroad which use the allure of  so called ‘customising’ or tinkering with the stock to make unnecessary costly and expensive alterations. You would never find this with a Best London Gun maker where service to the client is the pinnacle of their business. They know that if they treat their customers well they will be back in a few years for another best gun,

Whenever you take anything for repair or maintenance; say your car for example, it is quite usual to be completely ignorant of what’s been done and why it’s been done. This cannot be the case regarding gun fitting. The client must know or at least have an idea what is wrong with his current stock or problems he may have and be able to communicate these clearly. This is obviously something he is not used to doing and so gun fitters have developed numerous questions and questioning techniques to get the answers that they need so they can construct and build a stock fitted to the client.

The specialist try gun has been made with an interesting and ingenious multi-variable arrangement of mechanical adjustments within the stock

It is only worth going for a fitting though if you have had a bit of shooting experience You will then have an idea how the gun should feel and perform in your hands. There is no point trying to correct a problem with your shooting technique by altering some aspect of the gun fit, your technique must be remedied first! The client must at least be aware of what it is he wants and be willing to bring that to the fitting with him so the stock maker can make the stock he deserves. The shooter must be part of the design process as he is the client and end user.

           

 

Bespoke design;  construction and craftsmanship is best associated with London best guns. The skill of their gun fitters is one of the highest levels in craftsmanship anywhere, it is incredibly refined and quality beams out from the finished product in every way. They are not just ‘pretty guns’ though and attention to detail is paramount in all sorts of areas from the design and curvature of the trigger to the smoothness of the breaking action and the workings of the ejectors.

To make the gun fit the client perfectly Churchill developed the try gun. The specialist try gun has been made with an interesting and ingenious multi-variable arrangement of mechanical adjustments within the stock. The try gun can be made to fit anyone in a bewildering and daunting combination of settings. Alterations can be made to the length; drop, offset and comb of a stock so that it fits the client and will produce a consistent shot every time in his hands. It could almost be said that British guns, have developed from the try gun used by the London best gun community.

the reason they think this is no doubt because they have never shot with a gun that fits properly

driven_pheasant_shootingThe purpose of the try gun is to get the best measurements possible which can be then transferred to blanks (or a pair of blanks) which can then be crafted into the perfect shape for each stock for the individual client. Guns that are sold in ‘pairs’ are fashioned from a pair of blanks where one piece of wood is ‘matched’ together to ensure the grain is identical.

Many gun makers these days have a large selection of pre-made gun stocks which clients try in turn until they find something that feels approximately right. They then go onto the try gun to make the final adjustments. Prior to using this strategy just using the try gun on its own lead to a lot of  wasted time. Once the gun maker has got down to very fine settings it is more or less pointless tinkering with final minute alterations. The best advice for the shooter now is to improve his or her technique again with some proper instruction.

To some shooters the try gun is a ‘gimmick’ and an unnecessary. But the reason they think this is no doubt because they have never shot with a gun that fits properly. This years latest ‘off the rack’ gun is just not going to be all it is cracked up to be if it just doesn’t fit.

you need in your hands a gun which has benefited from gun fitting

side_by_sideChurchill himself saw that instruction with a reputable shooting school was a significant step in the right direction to improving someone’s shooting. Nearly all of Churchill’s methodology was taken from approximate fittings using try guns, however Churchill had a specific method for diagnosing shooting faults and was famed for offering advice on how to alter one shooting technique for improvement in results. All the information we have reading his comments shows that Churchill used pre-formed gun stocks with the try gun used to make many new alterations towards the end of the fitting.

Cartridge_bagA fitted gun is still a prerequisite for a bespoke stock coming from a London best gun maker.  The fitting process has become much simpler and more focused than in years gone by.  Going for a gun fitting is a special experience, after all it is not something you do each day.

Today the try gun is still used for alterations to factory stocks and the crafting of bespoke guns. Modern try guns tend to be much simpler than their 19 century equivalents with all their measurements and angles. These days a fitted shotgun tends to have rather fewer alterations made to it, and more focus is made on shooting technique. However it is always more advantageous to have you gone stock well fitted to you individually.

On a wet day when Devon’s pheasants are flying high or on a hot August afternoon when the grouse burst down the heather moor in tight covets you need in your hands a gun which has benefited from gun fitting

If we put several stock makers in a room together they would have a very ‘vibrant’ discussion about which measurements mean what, and what problems can be solved by various different angles and lengths. None of them would agree! If you went around to a number of London best gun makers and had a fitting from each gun maker, the stocks would be  different as each company has their own preferences, ideas and ‘style’ to solve various problems their own way. There is a large difference in opinion as to what a good ‘fit’ is. No wonder clients can leave feeling somewhat ‘numb’ with awe.

The interesting question is how much does fit really make to the individual shooter? The answer is simple, it make a huge amount. On a wet day when Devon’s pheasants are flying high or on a hot August afternoon when the grouse burst down the heather moor in tight covets you need in your hands a gun which has benefited from gun fitting. A gun that will serve you for years to come.

Article Eye Dominance part 1

Article Eye Dominance part 2