Be Fit

Dear Mr. Buck,

I have a dilemma that I would like your opinion on. I currently have a Weatherby Orion SC II shotgun. It shoots a little high 80/20 to and 60/40 bottom). I took a skeet shooting lesson recently and half way through it I got a tremendous knot on my cheek. Obviously the gun doesn’t fit me properly. I haven’t had that bad of a problem before but I believe it occurred because of the routine the instructor had me go through before each shot to ensure that I was consistent with my gun mount each time.

Any way he recommended that I get an adjustable parallel comb installed on my gun. Now a couple of concerns I have are first of all this would seemingly raise my head position a little more and make the gun shoot even higher. Am I correct in assuming this?

Second of all in talking to a few gunsmiths it appears that there is no guarantee that this will remedy my cheek problem.

So I am considering trading the gun off and perhaps getting a Beretta 391. I am wondering though if I would be better served to get the parallel comb target model as oppose to the regular drop stock model in the interest of keep a consistent sight picture each time. I am going to use the gun for trap, skeet and sporting clays. Any way what should I do? I really like my O/U but not sure it would be worth while to have it fitted to me or not.

Keep up the great website. Thanks.


Dear Scott,

I can’t really answer your questions completely as so much of it is personal preference. Like you, I use one gun for trap, skeet and sporting clays. Of course, sometimes that one gun is my Beretta 303 30″ trap gun and sometimes it is my Fabrique Nationale B25 30″ Supertrap O/U. I prefer shooting the gas gun and am slightly more consistent with it. Note that both my “universal” guns are trap guns. I probably shoot more sporting clays and 5 stand than any other game, but I shoot a lot of low gun skeet and wobble trap. I shoot very little mounted gun skeet and almost no 16 yard trap, though I do enjoy doubles.

All of this information is just to give you a feel for why I set my guns up like I did. Both my guns (well, actually I have several of each, but they are all the same) have flat ribs. I loathe stepped ribs. The O/Us have typical standard trap stocks with about 1/2″ drop from nose to heel. With my particular facial structure I find that even with the high trap stocks, I still see a slightly squashed “figure 8″. People with fuller faces may need a lower stock to obtain that sight picture. The gas guns have a Monte Carlo trap stocks that I have very slightly shimmed down, but are still basically parallel. I find no difference in the comfort of the stocks. Neither stock has any cast off. I think that’s important. I turn my head slightly into the gun and thus avoid the need for cast off. For me, any cast off greatly accentuates face slap. Head’s up shooters will need some cast off for proper eye alignment, but will also increase their chances of cheek slap. Also, my stocks are quite long. I have a 36″ sleeve. My target stocks tend to be right around 15-1/4”. The length assures a firm mount in the shoulder pocket and less movement along the face when I fire. Short stocks cause pain. I always try to shoot the longest stock that I can comfortably mount.

Now let’s get to you. Any stock on any gun can be made to fit properly with enough work. The problem is that stock fit is often just as much a factor of shooting technique as it is due to the gun. Since I can’t see you shoot, I really can’t comment. My guess is that the routine that the instructor wants you to do before each shot involves pointing the gun up into the air, mounting it, and then lowering into position. Many people teach that, though I don’t.

Since I can’t see you shoot, I really can’t comment on whether a parallel comb or an adjustable stock will help your problem. They certainly aren’t universal cures, though a properly installed adjustable stock should be able to down just as easily as up. Generally, parallel combs are a little softer on the face. The fewer angles any stock has (cast, drop nose to heel, pitch) the more it is inclined to be soft shooting. It’s always a compromise between face slap and eye alignment. Don’t think of a parallel comb as a panacea in all respects. If they were, field guns would have them. No field gun ever has a parallel comb. Think about why not and then think about sporting clays. The parallel comb is fine for a premounted gun and consistent targets. For sporting it is far less so. I’ve talked about why before, so I don’t want to get into it here. Root around in the archives.

The Beretta 391 will certainly be a softer shooting gun than any O/U, but a soft shooting gun won’t solve stock fit. They are two different things. A softer recoiling gun just means that it will take longer for your face to hurt. If your shoulder hurts, then that’s recoil and a soft shooting gas gun will help that. Face slap is different.

Whether it’s worth it to swap your O/U in for a gas gun is up to you. The fact that your O/U shoots the top barrel higher than the bottom (VERY common in O/Us) would drive me loony. I’d sell the gun for that reason alone. That’s one big advantage to the gas gun. The top barrel always shoots to exactly the same point of impact as the bottom!

In general, I find that most newer shooters have a far easier time learning on a good gas gun like the Beretta 391. It’s stock is somewhat adjustable, whereas the O/Us isn’t unless you have a gunsmith install a special stock or bend it. The 391 is softer shooting and it is very well balanced. And it’s half the price. All great things for a beginning shooter. Also note that in sporting clays, the Beretta auto is the choice of many of the champions. Gas guns aren’t just for beginners any more.

As a shooter becomes more experienced, I find that the gun matters less. A good shooter can do equally well with either an O/U or a gas gun. Look at Andy Duffy. He has been a top rank sporting clays shooters with both the O/U and the auto. In skeet, at the highest levels, the O/U is seldom seen in the 12 gauge event. It’s either a 12 gauge gas gun or 20 gauge tubes in a 12 gauge O/U. Only in trap is the auto not used much by the top guys. Most trap shooters prefer a combo set of an O/U for doubles and a single barrel for singles and handicap. In the big leagues of Olympic shooting, the O/U rules. There are very few autos.

Life is far too short (and shooting far too expensive) to spend your time getting whacked in the chops. If you want to keep the O/U and if you feel that your shooting style has jelled enough to make a fitting practical, by all means get a fitting. It’s money well spent. Shooting a gun that doesn’t fit you is like running a marathon in someone else’s shoes. Shooting is supposed to be fun. Besides, you’ll never get any good waiting to get whacked upside the head every time you yank the string. Life is short. Spend the money. Do it right.

Best regards,

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

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