Hello Mr. Buck,
My name is Mike. At 62, I’m a brand new shotgun shooter – never shot them before, was taken along on a trap shoot, and had the time of my life – trap shooting is fun, and I assume that sporting clays is just as much fun. But now I have questions. So I have been reading your articles – great reading, but now I have even more questions!
I am shooting a box-standard Remington 870 Express with a 26 in barrel (“My WORD old boy, what IS that ugly thing you are shooting?”). I know that it’s ugly, but it’s the ugly brother of the venerable Wingmaster, it shoots just fine – thank you, it’s mine, and it’s paid for. Howsomever, I’m 6’3, 190 lbs, with 36 in arms and a long neck – the gun clearly needs work if it’s going to fit my hill-country frame. So, with books and articles, mirror, tools, and gun in hand, I have set forth to tinker with the fit. I find this to be nearly as much fun as actually shooting the thing, and I expect that the knowledge gained will benefit me when I finally “upgrade” to another gun.
In your articles, you talk about using shims on your gas guns to tailor stock fit. Question(s):
(1) When you say that you use “a piece of plastic” as a shim between the receiver and the stock, I can think of about 30 kinds of plastic laying around in bottles, credit cards, etc as potential source material – in order to cut down on the experimentation time, can you tell me what bit of plastic YOU use?
(2) Am I correct in assuming that you can as easily shim the stock of a Remington 870 at the receiver to change drop and perhaps cast as you can for the Beretta 391?
Recognizing that for shooting trap and sporting clays, I will eventually upgrade to an automatic …. Benelli makes a nice looking recoil operated automatic which my hunting friends say sure has a nice soft ‘felt recoil’ – Question: Do you have any direct or observed experience with the Benelli auto for shooting trap or sporting clays?
I know that you are swamped with questions, but when you can get to mine, I will be very glad to read your answers.
Very best Regards
New to shotgunning at 62? Attaboy! Many people shoot quite well into their 70s and a few into their 80s. It’s a great sport with just the right blend of activity, mechanics, science and hokum (mostly from writers like me). And you are dead right about sporting clays being just as much fun as trap. Try them all, skeet too. Some people specialize and some just play all the games.
Nothing wrong with an 870 Express. It is as ugly as a mud fence, but it requires about as much maintenance too. Fitting it shouldn’t be a problem at all. I’m going to tell you the quick and dirty way. I recommend this as you are just starting out. Your fit may change as your shooting skills change, so you don’t want to get too locked into anything at this stage.
First you want to get the length right. Stock length is partially dependent on the shooter’s physical dimensions and partially on the shooter’s gun mount style. Some people simply hold a gun differently than others. I have a 35″ sleeve and shoot about a 15″ to 15-1/4″ stock. But I tend to crawl my guns a bit too. With your 36″ sleeve, you’d be safe starting with a stock about 15″ long and then adding/subtracting as necessary. Your goal is to make the stock long enough so that when you mount it, you have about 1″ to 2″ of space between the rearmost part of the base of your right hand thumb and your shooting glasses lens.
To temporarily lengthen a stock (remember that I said above “quick and dirty”), just unscrew the existing recoil pad or butt plate, get a chunk of wood equal in thickness to the additional length you need, cut the wood to some semblance of the cross section of the stock, put the wood on the butt, put the pad over the wood extention and screw it all down with some long screws. Nasty looking, but effective.
For height, it’s even easier if the stock is too low. It probably will be too as when you lengthen the stock, your cheek should move back and to a lower point on the stock (which slopes to the rear). To raise a stock in the “Junior Technoid approved Quick and Dirty manner”, just go to your local pharmacy and lay in a supply of Dr. Scholls moleskin sheets. Instead of applying them to bunions and blisters, layer them on the top of the stock where your face goes until you get the height you want. Nothing easier. Layer the moleskin all along the top of the comb so that you will be free to put your face wherever it feels best. Don’t wrap the moleskin over side sides of the stock to make it “thicker” unless you want to increase cast. You will only want to increase case if your right eye is to the left of the rib when you mount the gun.
Your gun will now look simply awful, but with some fudging with the wood exention and moleskin, you ought to be able to make it fit you pretty well while you learn to shoot. You can change it at will too. If you fall in love with the gun and vow to cleave unto it forever, just take it with all the junk on it to your local gunsmith and tell him to “Make it so.” He’ll know what to do. It’s probably best not to make it permanent until you have shot it for a month or so because you’ll be switching things around a good bit as you learn to shoot.
If you decide to go to an auto for clay targets, skip the Benelli. It’s a nice gun for hunting, but it’s recoil operated. That means it kicks more than a gas operated auto like the Remington 1100 or Beretta 391. For clay target shooting, I’d pick one of the latter two with the edge going to the Beretta.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)