Head Position Vs Stock Fit

Dear Technoid,

The issue you talk about in an earlier question on gun fitting has bothered me for a long time. Over and over you read and hear how you need to have your gun fitted. I have read where gun fitting is done as close as 1/16 of an inch. But! when I press my face to the stock I can get different site pictures down the rib depending upon hard I press my face into the stock. I can mount my gun see a “figure eight” then press down a little and line the beads up. If I press hard I don’t see the rib at all (if I shoot the gun like this I will get punched in the face).

I don’t see how anyone could fit me down to 1/16 (comb height). So how do you judge “firm” ?

(Completely different question- Is the trigger on the Urika 391 made out of plastic? I have been told it is by a very reliable source, but it doesn’t look like plastic.


Dear D,

Great question.

You are quite correct in stating that 1/16″ of an inch is about as close as makers can fit you or cut a stock. Wood moves around with changes of humidity. 1/16″ is generally considered close enough for gummint work.

Equally clearly, even with perfect placement more or less cheek pressure can change your line of sight by a 1/4″ or more due just to the thickness of your flesh. To compound this, an alteration in stock placement on the face, say from cheek notch to jaw edge, can change fit far more than that. If your stock slopes rearward from nose to heel, as most stocks do, where you place your head on the stock will affect sight line. Your fit requirements also move around with changes in weight or clothing. With all these variables, it is amazing that a stock can be fit at all.

But they can be and are. The reason is that an experienced shooter learns to place the stock in the same place and use the same pressure each time he shoots. With practice, it becomes instinctual. You just automagically know how much to push the stock into your face because you’ve done it so often before. Possible cheek pressure varies from “painfully on the bone” to “just barely touching”. If it helps, I personally shoot with about a 70% pressure, a bit closer to on the bone than just touching. The idea is to mount firmly enough so that you can repeat the mount with consistency. You don’t want to use too much pressure as that will be uncomfortable and may also promote a slight head bob when you tuck in. Too little pressure will not be reliable. It all varies with the shooter and shooting style. I’ve seen remarkably consistent shooters shoot barely touching the corner of their jaw. They rely on hand/eye coordination and instinct. Works for some. Just think about all the birds you’ve hit when you knew you screwed up the gun mount and it wasn’t any where near your face. Some people happily shoot like that and do very well. The majority of good shooters don’t. They use every advantage they can get and proper head placement on the stock produces a consistently more reliable mount.

The better shooters in the low gun games (sporting clays, International Skeet, hunting) learn to watch only the target. They may quite aware of the muzzle/bird relation as the gun is being raised to the face. Indeed, most better shooters establish their leads as the gun is being raised, not after. Once the gun is felt to be properly into the face, the shot is taken as quickly thereafter as practical. The shooter fully concentrates on the bird, never the muzzle or rib at this time. Looking “back” to the rib at the moment of the shot almost always ensures a miss. When the gun “feels” right in the face, the seasoned shooter knows that he has obtained the proper eye/rib alignment and he can take the shoot. He doesn’t have to check back with his eyes. He does it by feel and a properly fit stock allows you to do that.

You would certainly think that with so much going on, it would be almost a certainty to introduce a few degrees of mismount. It probably would be if all you were trying to do was to mount the gun. But what you are really trying to do is to get the correct barrel bird relationship. That’s the primary goal. Not mounting the gun. Natural instinct somehow makes it easier to do this. A good example is when you were a kid and your maiden aunt asked you to bring her a cup of tea. As you walked across the living room fixedly watching that cup of tea the whole time, you were almost certain to slop it into the saucer. If you looked straight ahead, not at the tea cup, your natural balance worked fine and you didn’t spill. It’s sort of the same thing with mounting and shooting a shotgun. As in life, it’s usually best to look ahead to where you are going, not concentrate on where you are.

Since the gunstock has to have some sort of measurement, it’s just as easy to set it up right as wrong. A good way to check gun fit is to mount the gun many times with your eyes closed. When the gun is mounted, open your eyes and hope to see sort of a squashed figure eight. If your gunmount isn’t very consistent yet, try to take an average. Then, and this is the most important part, go shoot the gun at a pattern plate and then on known targets like skeet low seven and any others you are very comfortable with. Make sure to start with a low gun and mount and shoot in your normal way. Don’t start with a mounted gun unless you are fitting the gun for a pre-mounted sport like trap or American-style skeet.

It may be that the squashed figure eight won’t have your particular gun shooting just where you want. All guns are a bit different and points of impact are not constant between guns. If you find that you have to “cover” the target to get the point of impact you want, you might consider using a different gun with a lower rib or lower point of impact built into the barrels. Stock fit alone won’t cure all point of impact issues. It’s point of impact that counts. If you have to set up your stock to get the point of impact you want and the rib “picture” isn’t exactly right, you either live with it or swap guns. Rib picture is particularly important to trap shooters as their setup often includes focus on the rib to reaffirm head position. Just as an aside, most guns with flat, parallel ribs shoot 50/50 for me when I see a squashed figure eight or the equivalent approximate 1/1/6″ of rib. The setup that results in a 50/50 pattern for you may vary from what works for me. You wouldn’t think that it would. It would seem that a certain sight picture would always result in a certain point of impact on the same gun, but it doesn’t. It can vary with the person. Perhaps it varies slightly with the amount of forehand you use or how hard you hold the pistol grip. I don’t have an answer for that one.

So, bottom line, even though the potential variations in your mount exceed the tolerances of a proper gun fit, that doesn’t mean that gun fit isn’t important. You don’t want to compound a poor gun mount with a poor gun fit. You’ll learn to mount the gun with surprising consistency by cheek pressure feel. A properly fit stock will ultimately give you the consistency that you have earned with your gun mounting practice.

As to the trigger guard on the Beretta 391, your information was quite right. It isn’t exactly “plastic”, but it is some sort of space age polymer. They used to be aluminum in the 390s and previous. No Beretta autos that I am aware of ever had steel trigger groups. I haven’t heard of any problems with either material. Lots of pistols (like the Glock) have polymer frames these days. They work fine and are quite durable.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Sidelock Vs Boxlock

Dear Technoid,

Thanks for the input. The Garbis that I saw are model 51B boxlock. If you have a specific opinion about them, I would love to hear it. Do you have an opinion on sidelock vs boxlock?

Thanks again.


Dear Steve,

Nope. I have no specific opinion about the Garbi 51B boxlocks. I’ve never examined one. The Garbis I see marketed today in the US market have tended to be sidelocks and at the higher end of the Spanish price spectrum.

Sidelock vs boxlock? The Spanish use the Anson & Deeley boxlock and a modified six or eight pin Holland and Holland sidelock pattern sidelock almost exclusively. I think that the boxlock is less complicated and more reliable as a design. The sidelock is considered the “upper end” gun because it offers more room for engraving, is more traditional and requires slightly more work. Because of this, the sidelocks tend to be made in higher quality. The boxlocks tend to be the less expensive lower quality guns.

This difference has nothing to do with basic design. It has to do with man hours and marketing. A Piotti Piuma boxlock is as well made a gun as any around. The Wesley Richards drop lock is sort of a boxlock and is well made. Purdey made boxlocks. It’s just that the boxlock doesn’t have the prestige, so it is relegated to the lower cost, lower man-hours, part of the maker’s line. If a boxlock and a sidelock were both made to the same standard, with the same number of hours invested, the boxlock would be the superior gun. This is because it is a simpler gun to build, so the extra time could be invested to further improve quality.

I have a 1926 Webley & Scott 500 boxlock which balances and handles as well as any of the Purdeys or Hollands I have shot. Actually, it balances better than many of them. It’s also as strong or stronger. Perhaps stronger as it has less to break, especially in the stock inletting in the head. It doesn’t have the detail work as it was built to a far lower price than a sidelock best.

One of my other complaints about many sidelocks is that they are irritating to carry amidships in one hand. Most sidelocks of the English pattern have a sharp ridge along the middle of the receiver. The boxlocks are usually slightly rounded here and much nicer to carry. Many of the new Spanish sidelocks are offered in a “rounded action”. I find these much more comfortable to carry when I am carrying open in one hand. It’s a small thing, but it’s a consideration that you come up with when you actually use the gun, rather than just look at it.

All sorts of twaddle has been written about the potential trigger superiority of the sidelock due to its trigger geometry. Maybe so, but so often potential isn’t realized. A good boxlock can have a fine trigger and leaf springs too. I’ve also heard the argument that the sidelock is inherently better balanced in a game gun as it pulls slightly more weight rearward. Gimme a break. There are a gazillion ways to balance a gun. Using an overweight receiver doesn’t offer the most flexibility.

Remember too, the boxlock is the more modern design. The sidelock is really a hold over from the hammer gun days. The hammers are just moved inside, but the fragile “four horns” of the stock heading still remain. True, I’m kicking a dead horse, but look at the stock problems the LC Smiths had with cracking around their sidelocks. At the very least inletting a sidelock requires a great deal more time than heading up a boxlock. Time that could be spend elsewhere.

Does that mean I’d pick a basic Spanish Ugartechea boxlock over a Grant sidelock? Not on your life. Would I pick a Piotti Piuma boxlock over an AyA #2 sidelock? Youbetcha. In a heartbeat. Would I pick a $1500 AyA boxlock over a $3,500 AyA sidelock? No way. The same guy made the gun. He just spent half the time on the boxlock. If a boxlock and a sidelock were the same price from the same maker, I’d pick the boxlock under the assumption that it had more labor in the details to make up for the less complex design.

As to beauty, that’s in the eye of the guy writing the check. Though not exactly a boxlock, I’ll stack the smooth lines of a old Dickson or a newer A&S Famars round action against any sidelock Purdey or Holland every made. It’s always seemed incongruous to me that a typical best sidelock has smoothly rounded barrels, forend and stock, but flat plates and sharp edges on the receiver and plates. It just doesn’t seem to flow. All sorts of things like cutting points into the wood behind the sidelocks have been tried to make the transition more aesthetic. It’s up to you whether or not you think that works. Once you deal with boxlock’s awkward vertical juncture of receiver and stock head by a heavy rounding of the flow into the top tang (like the A&S), you have something of real beauty. It becomes the kind of gun you can run your hands over with closed eyes.

If it helps, on the durability side, basically all serious competition guns are boxlock O/Us. OK, the trigger plate/boxlock of the O/U is a different animal, but it’s the same idea. Yes, the sidelock SO Berettas are used in competition, but not in very large numbers. The boxlock has proven it’s durability to be superior in the O/U, so that’s why they use it when there’s money and prestige on the line. Look at what wins in the Big Leagues of Olympic competition. Show me the sidelocks.

Bottom line: There is no bottom line to this one. Buy the best you can afford. You’ll remember the quality of the gun long after you have forgotten what you paid for it. If you want Spanish, you have to be aware that the Spanish sidelocks of today and yesterday are of better quality than their boxlocks, even if the design isn’t inherently superior in practical terms. The sidelocks cost more too. It’s all a marketing decision and a question of where they put the man-hours.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Do The Work, Then Ask

Dear Technoid,

Is there any appreciable benefit from using a Skeet invector choke in my nice little Browning 28 gauge BPS on the skeet range? Presently, the gun has a IC choke which seems OK, but others have recommended popping for the skeet choke to give me a better chance at breaking the clays.

The gun did not come with a Skeet choke, and being cheap, I hate to pay for something I may be able to do without. Your thoughts are always appreciated.

FYI: I did read your technical notes, but still feel undecided since I am rather new to the subgauge business (but like it a lot other than the overpriced shells).


Dear Roger,

Sk choke or IC for 28 on the skeet range? Well, that depends. How does your IC actually pattern? What percentages do you get at 21 yards when you pattern the gun now? What does your IC choke measure? What would the new Sk choke measure? I like a skeet choke tight enough to draw a little smoke on a perfectly centered bird. Some people think that’s too tight, but it’s really the only way to insure that you are getting the maximum pattern area. All patterns are hotter in the center than at the edges. If a pattern is just right in the center, it’s bound to be too thin at the edges. Most people don’t understand this.

Let me give you some numbers that might help. Using Lowry’s and Johnson’s program, if you start with 435 pellets (a standard 3/4 oz load of #9s) you will have your largest possible killing pattern (20″) if you average between 80% and 95% of those 435 pellets in a 30″ circle at the distance at which you shoot the target, ie 21 yards. Anything less or more than this diminishes your killing circle. This is a based on a 6 square inch area of an edge on target and a probability of 95% chance of a one pellet hit, which is mathematically equal to an 80% chance of a two pellet strike.

Since it is normal for repetitive patterns to vary by ten percent, you would be wise to choke for an average performance half way in between 80% and 95%, say 87% or so. Remember, shoot your 21 yard pattern, THEN draw the 30″ circle so as to encompass the most pellets possible. No fair gerrymandering like they do with congressional districts!

As to 28 gauge shooting in general, this is definitely a reloading situation. I reload 28 gauge for about $3.00 a box. Even if you don’t reload, make sure to buy Winchester of Remington STS 28 gauge shells. You will be able to sell the hulls for ten cents each to a reloader.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doub

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Estimating Distance


I don’t know how many times I overestimated the target distance, but probably most of the time. When I was walking outdoors, I would estimate the distance to the next tree, and pace it off.

My point is that I don’t do a very good job estimating distance, and conversely, the lead necessary to break the target. (I over lead crossers).

Also, what about pattern drop at 50+ yards? Should it be part of my mental calculation?



Dear BK,

Estimating distance? What I always do is to estimate the distance to some tree or bush that the target passes over or by. It’s not as hard to estimate distance to a stationary object on the ground. I think of everything in terms of a skeet field measurement house to house. That’s about 40 yards. If the shot is more than the width of a skeet field, then distance is a concern. If it’s a high bird, I estimate the distance to an object on the ground and then add a bit for the hypotenuse of the right angle triangle. A bird 40 yards away and 20 yards up requires that the shot go 45 yards. (A^2+B^2=C^2). I just add 10% of the distance to the ground measuring object. That’s close enough.

At 40 yards #7-1/2s started at 1200 fps drop just under 4″ according to Lyman’s. Around 8″ at 50. At 60 yards it’s just under 11″. I can’t hold that precisely on any bird, so I just ignore holdover at distance. I’d go loony trying to hold 5-1/2″ over a long crosser. Besides, my experience with long crossers is that I tend to ride them a bit and usually end up shooting over the top as the bird is fading.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

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Nikko Trigger


I hope you can help me. I have a Nikko Model 5000-I in 12 guage that I want to use for doubles. The problem is that it has a release trigger. I’m afraid of that and it blows my concentration every time I try to shoot it. Is there anyone that you know of who can either convert this trigger back to a pull trigger?…or does anyone have a pull trigger assembly for this gun?…or does anyone make a pull trigger for it. Any help will be really appreciated. Thank you for taking my question.

Best Regards,


If you are not comfortable with a release trigger, definitely get rid of it. It could be safety issue down the road if you aren’t used to it and no one wants that.

Your 5000 originally came with a perfectly nice single trigger. Problem is that the Nikko only made guns from 1958-1989, so at best parts are 25 years old. They will be tough to find, but perhaps not possible. Google the Golden Eagle Collectors Association and contact the secretary. My guess is that he would have the best info on where to get trigger parts if there are any.

Of course, you could always have a single trigger custom built for the gun, but that would almost certainly cost more than the gun is worth.

Sometimes the easiest way around this sort of thing is to find someone who wants your release trigger Nikko more than you do, part with it and apply the funds to something more to your liking.

Best regards,
Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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Gun Speed = Target Speed

Gil Ash

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October 2015 RELOAD!

October 2015 RELOAD!

Published by the Connecticut Travelers Sporting Clays Association

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