Stock Work

Dear Bruce:

I have recently found the shotgunreport and have enjoyed reading your comments.

I purchased a 390 this spring and have had trouble getting it to fit properly. I even had an adjustable comb added to try and fine tune what adjustments you can get from the shims. Still having problems. The stock just seems bulky and as a result uncomfortable. I am at the point were a professional needs to do a proper fitting.

My question is regarding the customized Beretta 390 stock work that you see in increasing numbers at sporting clay tournaments. In particular the soft touch recoil reducers that feature flat combs that move as one unit with the recoil pad. As well as the custom pistol grips made from your hand impression in car body filler.

What your thoughts / comments regarding such modifications? While I’m at it should I go ahead and have the works done?

Thank you in advance for comments and any information that you share.

Best regards, CJ

Dear CJ,

Well, I dunno about too much of this custom stock stuff. It all depends. I’ve shot some 303s and 390s with Soft Touch stocks and also with a couple of other brands. I didn’t feel that the increase in recoil reduction amounted to much when applied to gas guns in sporting clays. In a game like sporting clays, the efficiency of the pneumatic stock is so dependant on the firmness of the gun mount to the shoulder. Any slack at all defeats the stock function. At mounted games like trap and skeet, they work fine, though you will notice it far more on an O/U than on a gas gun.

I have one friend with damaged neck vertebrae who tried a Soft Touch 303 and went back to a standard 390 with light loads. The O/U trap guns which I have used with G-Squares or Soft Touches have been marvelous. The trick stock is a real winner in those situations.

Frankly, I can’t tell you how many complaints I have gotten about the Beretta 390 sporting clays stock. Some people can deal with it, but most really can never get comfortable with it. Why they just couldn’t have copied Remington 1100 stocks is beyond me. The Remington stock seems to please most people. The new Beretta 391, coming out this winter, is changing their stock design yet again to try to please more people. We’ll see about that. I had one of the first 390 flat rib sporters off the boat and kept it for two weeks before selling it. I just couldn’t get that stock to fit. Still, others shoot the 390s well without modification, so it’s an individual thing.

BUT…. Have you tried the stock on the 390 Silver Mallard field gun? It is slimmer and has a much nicer pistol grip. With a little tinkering where the stock heads into the receiver, you might be able to swap. Test the 390 field gun in a local store and you may find that it is all you need.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with taking a grinder and Bondo to your existing sporting clays stock. Lord knows, there are enough discarded sporting clays stocks laying about in the gunsmiths’s shops. Everyone switches them to try to find something more comfortable.

In theory, I just love the idea of an adjustable stock. In practice, I’m not so sure. If I had an adjustable stock on any of my guns, I am sure that I would be spending the majority of my time fussing with it. Adjustable stocks have three drawbacks as I see them: 1) the metal bits and pieces add weight to the rear, 2) sometimes the “grub”screws holding the adjustments come loose at the most inopportune times, and 3) there is the temptation to adjust the stock too much when there is any little shooting problem. Remember, once you get that adjustable stock properly set up, it shouldn’t be fooled with again unless you change weight or shooting style. Aye, there’s the rub. If you have a bad day, there is a tremendous temptation to haul out the Allen wrench and have at it.

I don’t really see the point in having a fitting AND installing an adjustable stock. The whole point of an adjustable stock is that you can fit yourself over time by making little adjustments as you go. In theory, if you know what you are doing, this will beat a one shot professional fitting all hollow. If you are less certain of your fitting prowess, then a professional can combine an adjustment in your shooting style with a fitting to that style so that you will grow into the fit. We tend to forget that the human body is remarkably adaptable within reason. A gunfit which is very close in the hands of a newer flexible shooter, is just about as good as a perfect gun fit in the hands of a shooter whose style is “set”. The newer shooter can adapt to the gun just that little bit needed. Of course, the fit has to be in the ballpark, but that isn’t too hard to achieve in most cases.

I am very fortunate in that I tend to shoot high guns with little or no cast off. This means that I can take a standard field gun and build up the comb (top and inside) with tape bit by bit until the fit is perfect. Then I take it to the stock bender all taped up, get it bent once and I am done. Obviously, if you need a lower stock or more cast off, you can’t test by adding tape.

None of this tinkering though helps in the pistol grip area. The is a major problem for many people with the bulky, vertical grips of many Italian competition guns. The only solution here is to replace or rasp, rechecker and refinish. Bondo or similar works (I have seen dental dam material also used by a dentist) if you want to increase a palm swell. If you don’t want to add material, a nice palm swell effect can also be created by indenting the thumb notch more, especially where the base of the thumb goes. Italian competition stocks (especially the 390 sporter’s) are generally so thick that there is plenty of extra wood to play with on the off side.

Stocks are like shoes. There is nothing nicer when they fit and nothing worse when they don’t. I wish there was a simple solution-and that I had the patent on it!

Best regards,

Bruce Buck The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC

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