Balance Points- Again

Dear ubiquitous grand master of thingys technical that go bang,

Just finished reading your tract on custom 28g’s. Most variables discussed were familiar to me except for the bit about balance points.

I can understand quite clearly barrel weights, trigger pulls, stock dimensions, etc. but balance points are not something I think I have ever seen discussed in specific detail. “Balance” seems to be the magic that master craftsmen instil in their guns. I have read new factory screw chokes make the gun muzzle heavy; adding weight at either end only makes the pig, or the shovel, or both, bigger; etc.

Can you please mention in more detail, thingys relating to balance points?


Dear Peter,

I really should never have mentioned “balance points” as they are usually a bunch of hooey and show only a little part of the real situation. I have a picture in my mind of a sharp eyed salesman sticking his finger underneath some snappy SxS and murmuring to the drooling buyer/victim- ” See sir. The point of balance is directly under the hinge pin.”

That means next to nothing, nada, zip. Even a two by four balances somewhere. The point of balance is only a tiny bit of the story. I have used this analogy before, but it is a good one so I will use it again.

Envision a broomstick with a brick at each end. It balances perfectly in the center. Wave it around like a gun and you will find that it is slow to start and hard to stop. It has a “high moment of inertia”. Take the same broom stick and move those bricks so that they are side by side in the center. The boom stick is not very fast to start and stop. It has a low moment of inertia. In both cases the balance point is exactly the same, but the handling qualities of the “gun” vary tremendously. That is about how much balance point matters.

It is almost the same with the target shooters who try to add weight to the front of their guns by gluing or screwing on a gob of lead just in front of the forend. If you add 3 ounces of lead in this way and compare it to a barrel which has 3 ounces more steel built into it all along the barrel length, the barrels will weigh the same but the gun will definitely, positively feel better balanced with the barrels that are built heavier, not with the ones with the weight stuck on.

This is what is happening with most of the modern screw chokes. The makers have taken the standard solid-choke balanced barrel and simply bulged out the front and added the screw chokes. This just adds a glob of weight right in the very front of the gun. The longer the choke, the more the weight. It is like putting a small brick right on the front of the broom stick and produces a higher moment of inertia. Extended screw chokes are just that much worse. This is NOT the case when you have a solid choke gun after-market screw choked by someone like Briley or Teague. There the screw choke installation simply replaces the original metal and there is no balance change at all.

Factory screw chokes vary in their offensiveness depending on the manufacturer. Now some of the makers are even making the effort to thin the barrels down to make the barrels better balanced. Compare the original Remington 1100 “thick wall” screw choke barrels to the current Beretta 390 sporting clays screw choke barrels. Still, I have yet to shoot a factory screw choke O/U with the same sweet balance as the solid choke gun from the same factory. Compare the 30″ solid choke British Mirokus (38 or 3800) with ANY of the current 30″ screw choke Citoris from the same factory. The solid choke Mirokus have a remarkably well balanced feel, reminiscent of Belgian Browning B-25 30″ sporters sold in Europe.

Now, I truly won’t say that point of balance means nothing. Once your gun has the proper weight distribution so that is has the correct moment of inertia, then balance point becomes important to the extent that you want a neutral or slightly forward biased gun. Still, the WAY that the weight is distributed is a very, very important consideration in making a well balanced shotgun.

Having said all that, I want to mention that trap and skeet shooters may have very different balance requirements than a sporting clays shooter- who has different balance requirements from a field shooter. Mounted gun games deal with entirely different balance structures. Some excellent skeet shooters prefer guns which are grossly nose heavy due to those tube sets. Many trap shooters seem to prefer guns which are extremely heavy (for recoil), but with the weight more centrally balanced. A sporting clays shooter will generally require a bit more weight (about 8#) and forward weight bias than an upland shooter.

Balance, weight and weight distribution will depend on the use of the gun. Just remember that there is a LOT more to it than just where the gun teeters on your finger.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid
(Often in error, never in doubt.)

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