Gun Fitting

Mr. Buck,

I have recently purchased a Browning 425 Sporting Clays. I believe I should have been fitted for the gun. What is your recommendation to get this gun fitted now, or is it too late. If it can be fitted, whom do you suggest I contact.


Dear Bob,

You bought an excellent gun. I did a gun review column for “The Clay Pigeon” some time ago. The subject was a 30″ Browning Citori XS Sporter, a model differing from the 425 in only some cosmetics. Your 425 is a touch lighter up front (and thus more responsive) than the XS, but the interiors are all identical.

Should you get your new gun fitted? It depends. Gun fitting is like buying a suit. You go into Brooks Brothers, pull a size 42 Regular off the rack, and try it on. If you are lucky, it fits perfectly and you don’t have to do a thing. If not, you call the tailor and have it altered.

It’s the same thing with guns. Every gun fits someone perfectly. The question is simply whether or not that someone is you. The gun/suit analogy fails slightly in one respect. A suit either fits correctly or it doesn’t. A shotgun is surprisingly adaptable. Well, actually the gun isn’t, but the shooter is. Most shooters will quickly alter their shooting style/stance to accommodate a gun which has a pretty close fit. I have personally seen one of the US National sporting clays champions swap from a long, high stocked O/U to a short, low stocked gas gun without missing a beat. He won a national championship with EACH gun. Less experienced shooters can do it even easier as their styles aren’t fully formed yet.

Gun fitting is a long way from being a precise science. In the early eighties, I had the opportunity to be fit by ex-head of one of England’s most prestigious gun schools. I had him give me a fitting once a year for three years. The fitter gives you a little piece of paper with “your” dimensions (much like a optometrist’s prescription) when he’s done. I kept that little piece of paper each year. At the end of the third fitting, I compared them. They were all different! No kidding. The difference wasn’t much, but most dimensions changed each year. My weight and condition hadn’t changed and my shooting style had gelled years before that. Each set of dimensions would have resulted in a gun that would have served me very well as I made the small, unconscious adjustments everyone makes. It’s just that fitting is an art, not a science.

Still, I do recommend a fitting if it is convenient for you. A good fitter will avoid a grossly mis-fitting stock. While I don’t really believe that there is such a thing as “perfect” fit, I do believe that there is such a thing as “good” fit, or “close enough”. A good fitter will get you close enough so that your natural adaptability can take over. After you live with that new gun for six months, then the fit will miraculously change from “close enough” to “perfect” because you will have unconsciously made slight adaptions to the gun.

It is quite possible that your gun is a perfect fit for you as it is right now. Generally, if you can easily hit straightaway targets (skeet low seven or trap targets) starting from the low gun sporting clays position, AND you have between 1″ and 2″ of clearance between your eye glasses and the back of your hand on the pistol grip, you are in the ball park. If you are a newer shooter and might have a bit of trouble with those targets under the best of circumstances, then a fitting will reassure you that all is well.

Remember, a good fitter is in a bind with a new shooter and is in hog-heaven with a seasoned one. The shooting style of a new shooter is bound to change and his gun fit with it. A fitter has to anticipate what the new shooter will need when he learns to shoot correctly. An experienced shooter is generally easier to fit because he can be fit for the way he shoots right now.

Good fitters are where you find them. Fitting is NOT stockmaking or gunsmithing. You cannot get a proper professional fit by looking down the rib at someone’s eye in the gunshop. Gunfitting is a dynamic process involving shooting at a plate and then shooting at moving targets.

I don’t pretend to know all the capable gun fitters around. I have heard excellent reports on the work of Keith Lupton (914-646-1528) Dover Plains, NY), Michael Murphy (316-775-2137, August, KS) and Brian Bilinski (231-933-0767, Traverse City, MI). I am sure that there are many others who do just as good a job. Black’s “Wing & Clay” is a fantastic shotgun source book with an extensive listing of fitters and stockmakers, as well as listings of everything else to do with a shotgun.

One last thing. It is never too “late” to have a gun fitted. Many instructors recommend that you shoot the gun as it comes for a little bit to get a feel for how it does, or doesn’t, suit you. That way you can help the fitter out by pointing out certain problem areas. On the other hand, the more you shoot it, the more you will attempt to adapt to it. There is a fine line. Just like there is in everything else.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC

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