Is it possible to fit a shotgun from measurements like a pair of pants (inseam, waist ect.)? If so, would you recommend a resource I could use?
If not, do you recommend trial and error for the beginner or finding someone to measure properly? Experience at a sporting range today clearly demonstrated the difference in trigger/stock length. Are other measurements important?
Michael Yardley’s book “Gunfitting: The Quest for Perfection” covers this subject quite well. It’s out of print, but if you check around on the internet, you might be able to find a copy. Any number of shooting instructors and gun shops offer fitting. Like doctors and lawyers, some are better than others. Check out the ads in Black’s “Wing & Clay” directory and also contact the instructors in your area on the NSCA list. <www.nssa-nsca.com>
Gunfit is a chicken/egg deal. In order to shoot well a new shooters needs a gun that fits, but a gun can’t be well and truly fit until a shooter’s style gels. The general compromise with a new shooter is to get a gun that is pretty close and then have the shooter adapt to the gun.
You can indeed measure a gun. That’s how they do it. The usual measurements for a fit stock include length, height at nose, height at heel, cast at heel, cast at toe and pitch. I have not yet seen any reliable measurements used to describe the configuration of a pistol grip. I’ve always used the distance between the center of the trigger to the web between the 3rd and 4th fingers when holding the pistol grip. It’s not perfect, but I can’t think of a better way.
These measurements go only so far. Notice that they don’t include the width of the stock, an aspect critical to the amount of cast. And then there’s the pistol grip problem. Also, measurements don’t always translate from gun to gun, certainly not from an O/U to a SxS. You normally stock a SxS higher to counter barrel flip.
Generally, I’m all for gunfitting, but I don’t put tremendous faith in numbers generated from having someone look at your eye over the rib in the gun shop. The best measurements are in a “shooting fit” using a try gun. This is a gun with a fully adjustable stock. The fitter makes adjustments and then you start to shoot it. At a pattern plate first and then on clays. Subtle adjustments can be made to find out what suits you.
Even shooting fits can differ. I was once measured by the head of one of the prestigious London shooting schools each year for three years in a row. I saved the measurement sheets. All three were different! One to a surprising degree. It’s an art, not a science.
I’m fortunate in that most guns are too low, too short and have too much cast for me. When I buy a factory gun I just start loading it up masking tape and stock spacers in the right places. Then I shoot it for a month, tinkering and adjusting as I go. It’s sort of like a duct tape try gun. When I get things the way I want them, I put an “X” where my cheek goes, drag it to the stockmaker and have him bend and pad it to fit. Of course, this only works when you are adding dimensions. Reducing dimensions requires sanding and cutting. This works fine too, but proceed slowly. Sand a little. Shoot a little. Try a thinner recoil pad. If you are a seasoned shooter and take your time, you can self-fit remarkably well. If you are a new shooter, get some professional help fitting.
The Technoid writing for Shotgun Report, LLC
(Often in error. Never in doubt.)