Universal Gun Fit

Dear Bruce,

I have found your advice helpful in the past, so I continue to write.

I visited Dale Tate in Ione, California, and spent a full day with him working on my stock fit. He eventually cast on my stock 3/8″ (I’m a lefty). My scores immediately plummeted, but I am now shooting my personal best in all three disciplines.

I read how you will build up a stock with tape and then take it to a gunsmith when satisfied. Mr. Tate gave me a diagram with all of the dimensions noted. It seems intuitively that if I don’t change my body dimensions, the stock dimensions should not change. However, you seem to go through your process with each gun. When you finish, are your stock dimensions the same from gun to gun, or do they vary? If so, is it due to variances among manufacturers, the stock/receiver/barrel relationship, the discipline the gun will be used for, or another variable I don’t recognize?

If you are ever in Southern California, I would enjoy taking you to our courses.


Bob W.

Dear Bob,

You are fortunate to have Dale Tate to work with. He is highly skilled.

I have found that stock measurements do not always translate exactly gun to gun. Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Stock length is certainly partially dependent on the placement and type of pistol grip. If an Italian target gun with the typical tight, bulky pistol grip that they favor is being altered for length, it may well take less length of pull than an older Belgian Browning with the “round knob” Prince of Wales grip. That’s because I can carry my hand further back on the POW grip. I’ve always felt that the true measure of length of stock should be from the web of skin where the second and ring fingers meet to the butt rather than from trigger to butt. For me and for this reason, I take a slightly longer stock in a round knob Browning or English stocked gun than I do in a Perazzi.

As far as stock height goes, If the stock is custom made, you have complete control over height at nose and heel, which dictates height at face. If fitting is to be the bending of an existing stock, you have less control. In the latter case, the most important aspect his height “at face”. That is, where your face touches the stock. If you have to sacrifice slight differences from your ideal in height at nose and at heel to get the height at face that you want, so be it. Ditto cast.

Another aspect where changing guns might cause you to change measurements is the use the gun will be put to. I’ve tended to stock my duck guns (heavy clothing) and grouse guns (twist and shout in the woods) somewhat shorter than I do target guns and “open field” guns where there is more time to prepare for the shot.

I also generally tend to stock my subgauge guns longer and a bit higher than my 12s. The length seems to give them the feeling of a bit more bulk and less whippiness.

Additionally, I always stock my SxS guns higher than my O/Us. I definitely can’t swap stock heights between those two configurations, though I find that my O/Us can have the same height as my pumps and autos. I don’t know if it’s barrel flip or sighting plane that makes my SxS guns “want” to be higher, but they always are.

So, other than the above, then sure. One set of measurements will work for everything. Unless…

Unless you change your shooting style. Aye, there’s the rub-a-dub. Ralph Waldo’s “foolish consistency” was never truer than in stock fit. The stocks that I found admirably suited when I was learning to shoot don’t even remotely fit me today. My stocks have grown longer and higher as my mounting and cheeking techniques have improved over the years.

The “Tape and Shoot” procedure is quite handy when modifying an existing gun, but it only works exactly half the time. I’m right handed and generally prefer stocks that are longer, higher and have less cast off than typical factory dimensions. That means I am always having to add length, height and thickness. Layers of masking tape are great for adding dimension. I just slather on tape (or add stock pad spacers) and go shooting, adjust, shoot, adjust, shoot, etc. Then I take the whole mess to the stockmaker and he bends and lengthens to suit. Nothing easier. It always comes out perfectly because I have shot the exact same gun in it’s final configuration via tape and spacers before having the permanent work done.

The sun does not shine as brightly for those who like shorter, lower and more cast stocks. Shorter may be handled with a thinner recoil pad if the gun has a pad, but lower and more cast is cannot be “tested” in the same way prior to the commitment of bending or rasping. It’s like junk accumulation in your workshop or weight around your waist. It’s oh-so-easy to add, but removal is always painful. There it is. Life just isn’t fair in the addition and subtraction department.

Bottom Line: if the second gun is the same style and is used for the same general purposes as the first, the measurements from the first ought to translate. If not, then not.

Best regards,

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

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