Parallel Combs

Dear Technoid,

I would like to know what your feelings are on parallel stocks. I have a problem mounting my 391 in the exact same place every time and I am shooting below my talent. After reading articles about this it seems that maybe a parallel stock would help me since minor mounting differences are hurting my point of aim and performance. I am thinking of purchasing a 391 parallel sl. Would you please give me your opinion.


Dear Dennis,

I’ve sort of put off writing this one until I had more time. It’s a bit involved.

Basically, I think that parallel stocks are just fine for mounted gun games like trap and skeet, but I have slight reservations about them for sporting and game shooting.

First I must confess that I shoot an almost parallel comb Beretta 303 trap gun for all clays games when I pick a gas gun. When I go with an O/U, I shoot an FN with a trap stock. Not parallel, but with only 1/2″ drop nose to heel, most people would consider it an almost parallel comb.

I feel that heavily dropped stocks (the old 1-1/2″, 2-1/2″ Ruger/Remington approach) offer good flexibility in field situations, particularly for those who choose to shoot with a head’s up technique. In situations where less flexibility is required and more consistency is desired and the style involves a bit more of a stock crawl, then the straighter comb starts to have it’s place. It’s a combination of the game being played and the shooting style being used. It isn’t one or the other. Note that when I use the word “straight” referring to a stock I use it in the sense of the angle of the comb, not the height of the comb.

The theory behind the parallel comb sounds good. Any place that you put your face will result in the same picture. But that really isn’t how it works in real life. Take a driven shot, the high incomer. The gun takes an almost vertical angle effectively tipping the head forward onto the stock and diminishing the eye to rib distance. Yes, I know that it shouldn’t because your body should be bending far backwards like a pretzel, but it doesn’t always work that way 100% in the real world. You end up tipping the head forward as you raise the muzzle. Now take a shot that is below your feet (a gully shot) or at ground level (close rabbit). In theory you should bend forward so that the head alignment remains perfect, but humans aren’t perfect. The head never goes forward quite as much as it should so you are shooting with a more erect head and a bit further back on the stock.

In the first case (driven) your head is tipped forward, so you will need a slightly higher stock at that point to accommodate the lessening of the eye/comb distance. It’s always pushed forward a bit so you want a slightly higher stock towards the front. In the latter case (low bird) the head is more upright than normal so you will want a slightly lower stock to accommodate the increased distance between eye and comb. It’s also a bit rearward so you will want that slightly lower stock to the rear. Starts to sound like a conventional game gun stock, doesn’t it? A bit higher at the front and lower at the rear.

That’s why virtually no game gun stock has a parallel comb. The makers know that game shooting results in different head positions and the slightly sloping stock is supposed to partially compensate for that.

Of course, target shooting, even sporting clays, isn’t game shooting. In trap and skeet, you have all the time in the world to get ready and premount. Also the birds are vertically predictable. A parallel comb can be helpful here. In sporting it all depends on your style. If you have a pretty good gun mount, are quite consistent and shoot with a good body flex (so that your head doesn’t have to move) the parallel comb may have some pluses. If your mount is a bit off, you may find the greater flexibility of the field stock to have some advantage.

This sounds like just the opposite of your requirements. I think that you have to have a good mount to use a parallel comb. I find it slightly more restrictive, though more consistent. A traditional stock will slightly make up for some of your mounting errors and less than perfect head position and body flex. That’s why it’s been the most popular style, especially in the field.

The parallel comb came from trap shooting. Well, the name Monte Carlo associates it with pigeon shooting, so it may have been pigeon traps. Either way, it was built for a mounted gun technique. I think that the Monte Carlo comb was devised as much to raise the comb to the face of a straight up shooter (because they have an increased distance from shoulder to cheek) and also to lower face slap. My guess is that a repeatable cheek position was a side benefit. Today most Monte Carlos are stylistic, rather than truly functional, as to the raising of the comb above the shoulder. The parallel comb aspect is what has survived, though if you look at Krieghoff even that has been stylized away. The Krieghoff sporter Monte Carlo stock is absolutely the silliest I have ever seen. Watch how it is mounted when someone shoots one. The Monte Carlo cutout is almost always below the shoulder level, not above it.

One aspect of parallel combs that is overlooked is their reduction of face slap. Every time you can eliminate an angle (cast off, stock drop) from a stock, you will lower face slap. That’s why I like stocks with minimal drop. They are simply more comfortable to shoot. The parallel comb slides past your cheek, not into it. Ditto the cast-off-less comb. Zero pitch too. Of course the latter are partially dependent on the shooters physiognomy and shooting style.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)

This entry was posted in Shotguns and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.