Wife’s Sore Jaw

Dear Mr. Buck:

No, no, it is not what you are thinking. It’s the right side of her jaw, and my left hook was always my weakest punch. (None of the others have been much either.) Yesterday my wife and I went to the gun club at which we are members and shot about 220 shells between us, probably about evenly split. She was shooting her Beretta 390.

This morning she indicated that her jaw/cheek was tender (which interpreted means it was sore – she’s really not much of a complainer.) I noticed several times yesterday that I thought she was wincing a bit, and I asked if the gun was punching her. Her response was non-committal, and she wanted to continue shooting. While I admire her tenacity I’d like to make the process as painless as possible. The stock has been cut to fit her by a professional stock worker. Length was the only change – we did nothing with cast or pitch. Do you have any suggestions?


Dear John,

It sounds to me as though your wife has a gunfit problem, not a recoil problem. If it was a pure recoil problem, there would be a headache involved. When recoil is the real culprit, the shock goes through the shoulder and up the spine into the head. It has nothing to do with the face.

If the face gets involved, then it is gunfit. There may also be a recoil problem, but you have to sort out the fit and face slap first before you will know that. A gun that fits right should NEVER hit you in the face no matter how hard it kicks.

You don’t mention whether or not your wife is a seasoned shooter, but face slap due to poor gun fit can be caused by 1) actual poor gun fit, and/or 2) poor gun mounting technique. Sometimes it is hard to separate the two.

Since I haven’t seen your wife shoot, I really can’t tell which is the problem. Going to a lighter shell will obviously help, but if it is a fit problem, it certainly won’t solve it. It will just hit her in the face a little less hard, so it will take a few more shells until she starts to suffer.

You don’t mention what kind of Beretta 390 stock she has. I have high cheek bones and found the stock on my Beretta 390 sporting clays model to be much to “sloped”, i.e. having too much drop from nose to heel. No amount of fooling with the shims could correct that. I sold the 390 sporter and used the 390 field gun with the field stock. That suits me much better and lowered face slap a good bit. For clay shooting I use a 303 trap gun with a Monte Carlo parallel comb. That is even more comfortable.

Cast off can also cause a face slap problem. Women and children had smaller faces then men. The cast off which many full faced men require will give someone with a small or thin face terrible face slap.

Excess pitch can also increase face slap. If you haven’t altered the pitch from the original, it probably isn’t the problem, but check it out anyway. You don’t want more than an inch or two. Zero pitch would be better.

Try setting your wife’s gun up so that it has zero cast. If that doesn’t help, then consider going to a parallel comb stock. You might be able to experiment with this by building up the rear of the stock with masking tape so that it tapers forward in thickness to make the comb parallel. Tape is nice because if it doesn’t work out, you can always take it off and start again. Price is right too.

Other alternatives are to have an adjustable comb installed. Just make sure that it is adjustable for cast and rake as well as height. Be prepared for the adjustments to loosen up at the wrong time too. They always seem to.

You could also have the top of the stock “slabbed”. Just band saw the top of the stock off, glue on a hunk of wood and start carving a new comb. If you screw up, band saw again and start over. You could also get a stock made.

You would think that you could simply call up Beretta and get a Monte Carlo trap stock and be done with it. Well, good luck. The Beretta stock configuration seems to beat up an inordinate number of people and they all want trap stocks. When I called Beretta, they had none to sell and suggested that I might buy a trap gun. They came with trap stocks. That’s one way.

Sometimes http://www.jeffsoutfitters.com/ has Beretta knock-off wood for very good prices. I don’t know who makes the stocks, but they work fine. Plain wood, but fine.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
The Technoid at <www.ShotgunReport.com>
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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3 Responses to Wife’s Sore Jaw

  1. Bob Shemeld says:

    Last March I wrote an anecdote that may be germane to the conversation. My wife took to shooting in a big way; she is 5’ 9” with a long neck and thin face (and yes, high cheek bones); great for a cocktail dress, but not for gun fit. One Monday morning after a weekend of sporting clays she was called into her companies HR office. The HR Director said it was obvious she was being abused, presumably by her husband. My wife laughed, thanked her then explained that her shotgun didn’t fit very well and was smacking her in the cheek. I suspect the HR executive is still puzzling over that answer. Our next visit was to a Beretta Gallery where we had her 686 professionally fitted; that and a moleskin did the trick.

    As mentioned in this blog many times, gun fit cannot be over emphasized. No one, man or woman, is going to enjoy shooting if they get slapped in the face every time the trigger is pulled.


    • Bill says:

      Mr. Shemeld,
      I am in 100% agreement with your comments. In addition to removing any joy from shooting; I can think of no quicker technique for developing a monstrous and debilitating case of Flinchitis, than using a gun that slaps you on the face every time the trigger is pulled. That is a HUGE deal in my book and to be avoided at all cost!!
      Also, I am sure that Sir Technoid is as usual correct about the Beretta designed stocks being the worst offenders in this fit issue. After six decades of shooting dozens of different shotguns; I had never had the face slap issue until I ran into it with that S56E Beretta.


  2. Bill says:

    I have an older Beretta S56E O/U that started to be a real “pain” to my face when I used it in a pre-mounted sport such as Olympic Trap. I was only practicing so it was not anything that bothered me too much, until I found that it did slap my face at other times. I confirmed with Sir Technoid that reducing pitch would generally speaking reduce recoil impulse to the face. I bought an appropriate negative pitch tapered shim from Brownells (1/4 – 1/16″ NEGATIVE PITCH SPACE 365-114-025WB) and had it fitted. The problem disappeared COMPLETELY! Easy fix for $10.
    Also have a friend who has a Beretta 391 who was experiencing the same face slap issue. I had him order the same Negative Pitch Shim from Brownells and after he had it fitted; his face slapping 391 was no longer a problem. The issue was totally eliminated! Same complaint on another shooting friend that was using an Italian O/U and after he too reduced the pitch, no mas face slap! Based on my experience; before you do ANYTHING else, reduce the pitch and give that a try. You can do temporary testing by adding washers under the toe area of the recoil pad as Sir Technoid first recommended to me.
    Try it-and I bet the problem of face slap is eliminated.


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