Cones And Face Slap

Dear Technoid,

If lengthening the forcing cones is such a must for good patterns and less recoil, like so many shooters say, why don’t mfgs make their that way in the first place.

2ed question: I have shot a Browning Special Sporting Clays 12ga for the last three or four years. No problems except even though I had an adjustable comb the gun never seemed to feel right.(I came to it from a Win Mdl 12. I shot a Browning Ultra Plus up at the range and it seemed to fit like a glove. I bought the gun. It just snugged right up to my shoulder, and cheek. The line of sight down the barrel is just right. I shoot the gun better than the Sporting Clays.

The problem—-I cant shoot fifty shells through it that my cheek bone starts to hurt. Seventy five shells or fewer I have to quit as my head comes off the stock. It has more drop at the comb, and butt. The stock is about 1/4″ longer than my old gun, but by adjusting the trigger, I can make the pull the same.

Is there an answer ? Can I make some adjustments to solve this problem? How can a gun that feels so good batter my cheek so Bad? I feel that I must be missing something along the line. I shoot with some very experienced shooters. They look and say,”you look good”. Am I too far forward? Too far back? If you can give me any idea how to solve this I would appreciate it.



Dear Jim,

Forcing cones first. I have generally been an advocate of long forcing cones, but now I am not so sure. In theory, long forcing cones are a good deal. By having a gradual taper, they permit the shot load to enter the bore with less shock. This should result in less recoil and less pellet damage, thus a better (more reliable) pattern.

I have had the cones on several Belgian Brownings lengthened. In each case I felt that there was a barely perceptible reduction in recoil after the operation. It wasn’t enough of a reduction to make a hard shooting gun soft or an ill-fitting one produce less face slap, but there was a tiny difference. After a week, you don’t notice it, but on the first day you get it back, you might. The reduction might be more noticeable with heavy hunting loads than with the standard target loads I use.

Were my patterns with long cones better? Nope, not that I could really tell. They should be a tiny bit better, but I really couldn’t measure it. My testing is done with fine target shot (usually #8s) and they flow through a short cone pretty well as it is, so there might not be much room for improvement in that area anyway. With course shot, as found in hunting loads, I would expect there to be more of a difference.

Is there a downside to long cones? Youbetcha there is. It’s call gas blow-by. Here’s a story: I once bought an almost new Belgian Browning B-25 Pigeon grade 32″ trap gun. I thought that it would make an ideal sporting gun. I shot it a bit, but preferred my 30″ Beretta gas gun, so I sold the Browning to a friend who one of the top sporting clays shooters in the country. He did some stock work on it and had super-long forcing cones cut in. The work was perfectly done. Long story short, he sold the gun to a friend of mine and I had the chance to shoot it after the “cone-ectomy”. I couldn’t really judge any change in recoil because he had altered the stock, so it wasn’t apples to apples. BUT I could easily notice that I was getting off-sounding reports when using Remington Gun Club promotional shells. High quality factory shells sounded normal. Clearly, the Remington promo wad was not sealing properly in those long cones. This was in warm weather. It would have been much worse in cold. I noticed the same thing in one of Stan Baker’s “Big Bore” Perazzi conversions. If it’s cold out and the shells don’t use a premium wad and/or generate a bunch of pressure, you can get some gas blowby.

It is interesting to note that the Japanese Brownings generally have short cones and back bored barrels. The premium Belgian Brownings have short cones and tight barrels. The common Berettas have medium cones and very tight barrels. Krieghoff K-80s have long cones and backbored barrels. The ultra expensive high end Krieghoff Ulm has short cones and tight barrels. Clearly, the manufacturers haven’t decided what works either.

Your face slap: This is easy. Your gun doesn’t fit you. If a gun hits your shoulder hard and the sensation is transferred from your shoulder through your back, up your neck and into your head, you have a basic recoil problem. If the stock whacks your cheek, you have a gun fit problem.

Since I can’t see you shoot the gun, I really can’t offer an opinion as to where your gun doesn’t fit you. It could be something as simple as pitch or cast off. I just can’t analyze it from a distance.

Changing the “length of pull” by moving the trigger up and back may change the technical measurement, but it really has absolutely no effect on the effective length of the stock. That is measured from where the hand holds the pistol grip to the butt, not from the trigger.

The fact that your sight picture is perfect really doesn’t bear on face slap at all. If the comb of your gun slopes heavily to the rear and you are a bit of a stock crawler, you are gonna get smacked in the chops. Ditto any real amount of cast off. If you shoot “heads up” there probably won’t be a problem.

I’m a stock crawler and find that I can avoid face slap by 1) never insulting a lady who is bigger than I am, and 2) setting up my stocks so that the combs are parallel or almost parallel, plus eliminating all the cast off. Sometimes I have to thin a stock to do this and still get my face far enough over. When you work on a stock, think about the angle you are creating vis-a-vis the stock. A down sloping standard stock kicks straight back and HAS TO hit your face. Greatly exaggerate the down angle and you will see what I mean. Cast off is exactly the same only side ways. An extremely exaggerated cast off is almost a right angle and that would really pound you if you kept your head down instead of holding it up.

Also, too much pitch can create face slap, but so much is required that it is usually apparent.

That’s about it for my long distance gun fitting for this morning.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck

The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC

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