Dear Technoid,

i have had various people tell me that the bead should look like as snowman. the muzzle bead sitting on top of the center barrel bead and other saying the center bear should cover the muzzle bead so i see one bead. i just started shooting skeet again and it looks like i am all over the place regarding where my shot string is going. shoot a 12 ga browning citron 425 sporting clays with AA lie shells.

what is the correct picture.


Dear Barry,

There is no absolutely “correct” bead alignment. There. Does that make it really clear?

Bead alignment is handy in the pre-mounted gun games like trap and skeet. It is also useful when checking for gun fit for the low gun games like sporting clays and field shooting. Obviously, in any game, once the bird is in the air, all you focus is on the bird not on the beads. If you look back at the barrel you will miss. It would be like Perseus looking at the head of the Gorgon Medusa. There are just some things you don’t want to do.

There is also a lot of twaddle written about “ideal” bead alignment. I ought to know. I write a lot of it. The fact is that bead alignment is supposed to give you an indication of where your gun is pointing. Unfortunately, it’s not very reliable. There are other variables, such as rib height. In theory, a flat ribbed gun like your Citori 425 ought to have the center of impact right in line with a view flat down the rib. That sight picture would be with the center bead superimposed right on the front bead. It’s like lining up the sights on a rifle or a pistol. The center of the shot cloud should be where the superimposed beads are. Should be. Often isn’t. You will never know until you test both barrels of your gun for point of impact on the pattern plate. You have done that, right?

If your gun had a stepped rib or one that was higher at there rear than at the front, the same bead alignment would, in theory again, make the gun shoot slightly high. This is because, even though the beads line up, the rib is at an angle so the gun is pointing up. You see this setup on many trap and skeet guns.

With a flat ribbed gun like your 425, if you stack the beads like a figure 8 or a snowman, in theory the gun should be shooting just a little high the same as it would be with a flat view down a stepped rib. Most people like this just as long as a little high isn’t too high. How high is high? Oh, it’s about the length of a piece of string.

Frankly, at skeet distances it really isn’t going to matter much unless high is really high. The way I’d use the beads is as follows: I’d reverse the procedure. Without paying any attention at all to vertical bead alignment, I’d shoot a bunch of targets. Do it while an experienced shooter is looking over your shoulder. He’ll be able to tell you whether you are high, low or just right on the birds. You may have to bend the stock up or shave it down a little bit to get the impact where you want it. Gunfit is key to all this stuff. Once you get the gun shooting where you want it to, THEN take a look at the beads and see how they line up. From now on, you want to duplicate that sight picture to ensure correct point of impact. That’s what beads do. They help you consistently duplicate they way you are holding your gun. Of course, this is really the job of proper gunfit, not beads, but many pre-mounted shooters like the reassurance of bead alignment.

If the stock doesn’t fit, you can’t really make it fit by holding your head so that you get the bead alignment you want. It doesn’t work that way. Let’s say that you want a stacked bead alignment so that your gun shoots just a touch high. In order to do this, you have to put your face on the stock very softly. If you scrunch your face down a bit more, you superimpose the beads and you don’t want that. Well, there’s no way in the world that you will be able to shoot consistently with very soft cheek pressure. It isn’t reliable. You have to be able to cheek with a fair amount of pressure to do it consistently.

The bottom line is that the beads just tell you where you are on the stock. They shouldn’t be used to help you get there. That’s a function of stock fit.

Many instructors remove the beads from their student’s shotguns. That’s because many new shooters tend to look at the beads when they should be watching the flying target. Personally, I’ve always felt that shotgun beads were very useful. When you lean your gun up against a cement wall, the beads keep the rib from getting scratched.

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

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