Head Placement


Dear Technoid,

As regards skeet shooting, what is the correct way to place the head on the stock. Should the top of the stock rest just under the bone at the bottom of the eye socket or should the top of the comb rest against the lower jaw bone or some other way? At my club there seems to be no consistent method among our better shooters.

I’ve watched some of the top guns at local skeet tournaments and it is hard to tell exactly what they do? Have reviewed tapes and books on skeet shooting as well as once took the Bender-Shima clinic and none of those addressed this question except to say to keep head on gun.

Your comments would be appreciated.

Arthur
Dallas, TX
Arthur,

Good question. I haven’t seen much written on it myself. John Brindle’s book (“Shotgun Shooting, Techniques and Technology” now out of print) had quite a bit on maxilofacial structure, stock placement and how it all depended on head angle, but I haven’t seen much else.

The goal of head placement is consistency. You want to put your face on the stock in such a way that you can repeat it exactly the same way each time. It is also important that your head placement be secure enough to resist head movement during recoil between the first and second shot and also when the body is turning with the target.

You also want to place your head on the stock in such a way as to enable maximum visual acuity. If the head is tipped too far forward, you will end up looking through the upper porting of the eye. This is not optimal. They eye works best when the head is erect and the vision is through the center of the eye.

Unfortunately, an erect head is not the most comfortable way for most shooters to hold a gun, especially for those with average or longer necks. An erect head necessitates a stock with a great deal of drop. This accentuates face slap. Everything is a compromise.

You must also decide whether you are best turning you head slightly into the stock and looking a bit out of the corner of your eyes, or holding the stock along the face so as to face the target directly with no facial angle. If the latter’s the case, you will need a good bit of cast off. Cast off also increases face slap. Did I mention compromise?

Most of the better tournament shooters “crawl” their stocks. Go back through the “Updates” on SR and you will see an article on this. Crawling the stock means that the head is tipped forward slightly and faces in towards the stock slightly. Not only is this stance more emotionally aggressive (very important in clay target shooting), but it allows the comb of the stock to be placed IN THE CHEEK NOTCH.

In premounted games (trap, American-style skeet) most do not shoot from side of the jaw. They shoot from the cheek notch. The reason is simple. When you shoot from the side of the jaw, there isn’t any consistent place to locate the comb. The pressure is all lateral. You could easily place the stock 1/4″ higher or lower and not notice it. It may work in the rough and tumble of field shooting where speed outweighs consistency, but it is less than optimal in target shooting where consistency outweighs speed.

When the comb is placed in the cheek notch, there is pressure UP and also IN. It takes a bit longer to “find” the notch, but in a premounted game that isn’t a problem. In return, you get a reliable and very repeatable mounting position. You also have to turn your head slightly into the stock and sometimes a touch forward to line up the stock in the notch. That’s the compromise you pay for consistency.

Into this mix you must also factor the extreme differences in individual body and facial structure. I have a friend with a short neck who has set his gun up so that he can shoot with an erect head facing forward. There is very little head tip forward or laterally. He uses a radical gun with an elevated rib and prominent Monte Carlo. He cheeks more on the side of his face, but I think he still manages to catch a slight corner of his cheekbone. This is visually optimal, but not every shooter would find this physically possible or comfortable. He’s an excellent competitive skeet shot and it works for him, but his approach certainly doesn’t look like the photos of other top notch shooters who crawl noticeably more.

Bottom line: if you believe in “majority rules” and if your physical coupling is pretty much standard, go for mounting the stock in the cheekbone notch. Build your stock so that it accommodates this. Don’t make the mistake of trying to adapt to a factory stock if it doesn’t feel comfortable. Stocks are like shoes. They have to fit or life is misery. The idea some shooters have of shooting a factory standard stock to “keep the gun original” in case you want to sell it is hooey. If the gun doesn’t fit you, you are guaranteed to want to sell it. Do whatever it takes to make your gun suit you. A gun, ANY gun, is only a small part of the expenses of an active competition career.

Best regards,

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

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