Gunstock Dimensions

Dear Bruce:

Like all hackers I’m always interested in the equipment (and specifications for same) used by the pro’s, including the technoid, for sporting clays.

While stock fit is constantly emphasized as perhaps the single most important criterion to effective shot placement, gunstock dimensions used by the pro’s are never mentioned. I recognize that individual physique, shooting style, equipment (high rib vs. low rib etc.) and other factors make such measurements irrelevant for specific individual application, there might be some general trends that would be interesting.

In addition to the standard dimensions (drop at nose and heel, cast, pitch) information on grip shape and dimension as well as any special treatment given fore end wood might be beneficial.

Perhaps this is carrying the whole thing too far, but it does beat pondering anything too serious. I don’t want to discourage anyone from a fitting by a competent stock fitter and if you feel my inquiry would do so trash it immediately.


Dear Jim,

I am not so sure that you can generalize about stock fit trends. In sporting clays, stocks seem to get higher and longer as the shooter gets better. In skeet and trap I find that the stocks seem to get shorter. Honest. Just from looking around, I could swear that was the case. No, it doesn’t make any sense at all to me, but I do keep seeing good skeet and trap shooters with their glasses touching the backs of their thumbs when they mount. I remember Kay Ohye telling me that he liked his stock on the short side.

For some reason, the low gun game people (IntSk and sporting) seem to like longer stocks. I guess that a longer stock gives you a better chance of a firm placement on the shoulder, though it is harder to raise. Hunters have traditionally used shorter stocks, but that is because they often do a lot of twisting when they mount. Except, of course, for English driven shooters who use longer stocks than normal.

Do I spot a trend? Nope.

For example, I shot a fair amount with Andy Duffy. When he started winning, he shot a relatively high stocked Browning 325. He did well. Then he changed to a lower stocked Browning Gold auto. When I last saw him he was shooting this gun off the corner of his jaw, not his cheek notch. He did even better. While he was shooting the Gold, he bought a Browning Pigeon grade B-25 from me for pigeons. It was a trap gun and he shaved the stock a bit, but not much. He also shot what well. The fact is that he is just a good shot and can prosper with just about anything.

As for myself, I have always shot trap stocks on my skeet and sporting clays guns. I have high cheek bones, so a trap stock may not be as high for me as it is for someone with a different maxillofacial physiognomy (oops- the coffee just kicked in). Back in the ’70s, I noticed that Dan Carlisle also used a trap stock on his 1100 when we shot IntSk at the US Army Marksmanship Unit. Dan was in the unit. I competed against them as a civilian.

I set my sporting, skeet and wobble trap guns up all the same. They have flat ribs (I just hate, loathe and despise arched or elevated ribs) and trap stocks with parallel or near parallel combs. I set the combs up so that when I cheek down to the bone I can look right down the rib. I don’t shoot cheeked to the bone, only about 80% of that pressure. At 80% pressure, I see a squashed figure 8 (on the guns that have mid-beads). This sight picture prints about 60/40 or 55/45 for me so I can float most of the birds. I prefer to float the bird a bit, rather than cover it when I can.

The reason that I don’t like elevated ribs is that they force you to look flat down the rib, rather than over it. When you look flat down the rib, it only takes a tiny bit of extra pressure to drop your head down a bit more and lose the rib entirely. I never want to lose the rib like that as it makes you blind for a moment and forces you to pick your head up slightly in the midst of a shot.

Naturally, there are as many different opinions on rib types and stock heights as there are shooters, but I did notice that when Beretta came out with the ultra successful 390 model, they put stepped ribs on all the trap, skeet and sporting guns. There was such a hue and cry from the sporting people that a black market developed in converting the flat rib 303 barrels to use on the 390. Beretta actually wised up and redid the 390 with flat target ribs on the skeet and sporting models, but they kept the step rib on the trap version. American-style trap’s constantly rising target lends itself to a high shooting gun and the step rib has its rightful place there.

As to length, I am personally happiest with the longest stock I can shoot comfortably. The specific dimension actually depends on the shape of the pistol grip as much as anything else, because meaningful stock length measurement is dependent on where you put your hand on the grip, not the distance between trigger and butt. That measurement is for the convenience of the gunsmiths. Generally I shoot a 15″ to 15-1/4″ in an O/U or gas gun. I add at least 1/2″ for a SxS. To put it in context, I wear a 17-35 shirt and am 6′-1″ with a normal length neck. I also crawl my stocks a bit.

When I set up a stock, I set the length first, then the height. I keep adding spacers under the recoil pad until I know that I have gone too far. Then I remove one. As to height, I usually raise the stock with tape or shims until I can look right down the flat rib when cheeked to the bone. I will shoot the gun festooned with tape and uncut spacers for a while, making small adjustments as required, until it is right. Then I take it to the gunsmith and he finalizes everything.

Like many stock crawlers, I shoot zero cast. Any cast at all gives me grievous face slap. Life is tough enough without putting up with that. I usually leave pitch alone (at 0″ to 2″ depending on what the stock came with) unless I notice the gun sliding down my shoulder or up into my face. Then I keep shimming the pad and testing until it stops whacking me. I shoot the Terminator pads on many of my guns. They remain quite sticky for their life and this makes pitch somewhat less critical- and gun mount more so.

As to the forends, I really don’t notice people doing much to alter what comes from the factory. If I am converting a trap gun to sporting and the gun came with a big beavertail forend, I will have it slimmed down, but that is about it. I am also not a big fan of Schnabel forends and tend to have the lip cut off and rounded out. Sometimes I like to run my left hand out pretty far and the Schnabel lip disturbs me. It makes it harder for me to point with my left index finger. Plenty of people leave the Schnabels just the way they come. Maybe it is all aesthetics. The Schnabel on some Krieghoffs is really clutzy looking. Of course, that fits just right with the rest of the gun.

Best regards,

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

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