Several months ago I saw a Saturday morning television show about a ranch in the East or Southeast where there was a gentleman from a shotgun manufacturer who spent a half a day or so fitting a shooter to an o/u shotgun; the fitter then spent the rest of the weekend shooting with the shooter to make sure the try gun fit before a final stock was built.
Are you aware of any such places in the U.S. open to the public? Thanks for your help.
Since the advent of sporting clays there has been a tremendous surge in the number of gunfitters. Before sporting clays, and its English influence, came along America’s trap and skeet shooters mostly fit their guns themselves. Sporting clays has attracted a new kind of shooter who is more than willing to take some lessons and get a gun fit.
There are too many gun fitter/coaches out there for me to list here. Like doctors and lawyers, some are better than others. Gunfitting is a dynamic process and absolutely, positively can never be done properly by just checking the pupil of they eye over the rib and stopping there. You must, MUST shoot the actual gun that is being adjusted or at least work with a very similar try gun to get the measurements.
Years ago, one of the most famous English gun fitters who came touring America used a 20 gauge SxS try gun for his fitting. The results, when translating the measurements to a standard 12 gauge O/U, were predictably miserable. Fortunately for him, the average weekend executive shooter that he coached never shot enough to know the difference. They were just so pleased that they were being “fitted” by a genuine English instructor from a famous maker, that they assumed that their guns were perfect and that the consistent missing was their fault. A lot of “pros” are sheltered by the ignorance of their students.
Of course, that is the down side. There are some very, very good fitters and instructors in America today. To some people, a perfectly fit gun can make a world of difference. To others, they seem to get used to any gun that is fairly close to the correct dimensions- if never quite exact. The human body is amazingly adaptable.
A properly fit gun will benefit you in two ways:
1) the gun will shoot where you point it – consistently, and
2) you should suffer virtually no face slap. If the guns shoots where you point, but has heavy face slap, that stock is worse than useless. Many Brits insist on putting cast-off in stocks because they shoot with erect heads and cast off is useful there. Many Americans crawl their stocks a bit and cast-off on for these people is the kiss of death. There is not a right or wrong of stock design. It has to suit the way you, and only you, shoot.
I will not get into all the details here, but an ideal gunfitting would take the form
1) initial shooting style analysis by a coach,
2) style correction if necessary,
3) a couple of further lessons just to make sure that the shooting style is correct,
4) THEN the first gun fitting of a temporary nature
5) followed by some more shooting for a week or two then
6) a second fitting followed by
7) some more shooting and
8) stock finalization.
There is no point in “fitting” a stock to someone who is just learning to shoot. In a month they may totally change the way that they go about things. It does sound a bit like a chicken or egg type argument, but that is the only to do it really right- practice, fit, practice, fit, etc.
One alternative to all this- if you are a new shooter, get the most popular gun for your sport in the most popular dimensions for a shooter of your size and just learn to shoot it. It may not be ultimately ideal, but you will probably be able to adapt.
The best source for gun fitters and coaches is BLACK’S WING AND CLAY,
Shotgun Report’s Technoid