Sight Pictures

Dear Bruce,

I read one of your recent dissertations, “Gun Fit Again”, and came away from it a little confused. The gist of your response was point-of-impact changes are made in the stock.

But how can that be since, no matter how the stock is bent, one will just contort themselves so that there aiming eye is looking right down the rib while their other eye is closed tight.

OK, I think you know where I am going with this. I’m trying to get a handle on the most basic aspects of shotgun shooting techniques. Very specifically, if I were to mount a gun on my shoulder with the stock firmly pressed against my cheek, and the gun were positioned to be dead on a target 30 or 40 yards away, how should my neck be bent, and what kind of picture should I see.

I’m looking forward to your response.

Thanks a lot.

Dear Ken,

I think that you might really enjoy reading the Orvis Book of Wing Shooting by Bruce Bowlen. It doesn’t cost much and it will give you a really good insight into how shotguns are “sighted”.

The whole idea of shotgun fit is that you NEVER shift your vision to the barrel, the way your do with a rifle or pistol. Once the bird is in the air, the barrel is always in your peripheral vision, if at all. In the low gun sports and hunting, you focus on the target and raise the gun to your face while still focusing on the target. In American-style skeet and trap, where a pre-mounted gun is permitted. You mount the gun and then don’t look at it again as you concentrate on the target.

Also, unless you are cross dominant, always shoot with both eyes open. When you close one eye you

1) are more likely to aim (major sin in shotgunning) and

2) you lose depth perception when closing one eye, so it is harder to judge the target distance and speed.

You never really “sight” the shotgun. You look at the bird and move your forehand towards it. If the gun fits correctly it will literally shoot where you look. You really don’t need beads or a rib for most shotgun shooting. You point. You do not aim.

When you raise a stock to raise point of impact, you will indeed place your eye higher above the rib. This means that (absent changing the rib to a higher one), you will “see” more rib when you shoot- even though you aren’t supposed to look at the rib. Seeing more rib, or having your eye higher above the rib, really shouldn’t be a problem as you are concentrating on the target, not the rib. You see the most fooling around with ribs when trap shooters are setting their guns up to shoot a little artificially high- sort of building in some vertical lead. Some people like to have the same amount of rib showing, even though it is just in their peripheral view. Those people would use a ramped or higher trap-style rib which is higher at the rear. This permits a “normal” rib picture, but sets the gun to shoot high. Other shooters just raise the stock and “see” more rib. This results in the same point of impact, but a very different sight picture. For most shooters, however, a slight raise of the stock results in being only slightly higher above the rib and you don’t notice because you are looking at the bird, not the rib (notice how I keep repeating this- it’s important). It is all personal preference.

As to what kind of picture you “should” see when your gun is pointed at something with your head firmly down- this depends on your preference. Depending on which type of rib you select (higher or lower at the front and rear), you can get pretty much any kind of sight picture you want. My guns seem to shoot dead on for me when I see a slightly squashed figure “8” formed by the mid bead and front bead. I know that it would seem that it should shoot high with that sight picture, but it doesn’t for me. It shoots flat when I see a bit of rib. Trap shooters with ribs that are raised at the rear and low at the front may be able to look down the rib dead flat and actually have the gun shoot a bit high.

Buy the Orvis book. It really is the best one for explaining things at the basic level. I am simply not smart enough to keep it simple. You know how that goes. Bowlen is smarter and does a good job of explaining things clearly.

Best regards,

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

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