Parallel Combs

Hi Bruce:

Could you please run down the pro’s and con’s of the so called parallel comb for shotgun stocks. It sounds to me like a good theory, but I notice that I have never seen an English game gun, or a top flight tournament shooter with one.


Dear Mark,

Parallel combs: I ruined a nice 30″ Fabrique Nationale going that route once, but I shoot an almost parallel comb today. Here’s the problem with parallel combs- In trap and pigeon shooting, where the parallel Monte Carlo originated, the cheek is always placed in the same spot and the bird is always shot at about the same height. The relation of the head and the stock don’t have to change during the shot. Parallel combs work great for this.

In sporting, the head position changes all the time. The head is more upright on a “valley” shot, while it is more forward on a driven. On a low shot, as the head becomes more erect, the effective distance between the cheek notch and pupil increases. This would make you shoot high if it weren’t for the fact that the rear of the stock drops a bit more than the front.

On a driven or high teal, as the muzzle is raised to the bird, the head is effectively tilted forward, decreasing the distance between the cheek notch and the pupil. Putting the pupil closer to the stock would make you shoot low if it weren’t for the fact that the front of the comb is higher, thus compensating.

Try mounting your gun a few times with your eyes closed. Mount as though for a very low target, say one down in a valley. Note exactly where your cheek was placed. Now, with eyes closed, mount as though for an overhead driven. Most shooters will find that they mount further forward for the driven and have their head tipped forward more. This is where the sloping stock compensates for head placement and angle. The English game gun has it all figured out for the past 100 years. You never see them with parallel combs.

That said, in the controlled target situations of sporting clays, more experienced shooters can get away with very little head movement regardless of the angle of the target. They might benefit from an “almost” parallel comb. This is why most of the better shooters use trap stocks- not so much for the height (though the more you shoot, the higher your stock gets), but for the fact that the average “non-Monte Carlo” trap stock is about 1-1/2″ at nose to 2″ at heel . This is 1/2″ drop is very little slope at comb front to back and is a good compromise for many between a parallel stock and one that offers more flexible head placement.

Parallel or near-parallel stocks are also much more comfortable to shoot. As it is with cast-off, the more the stock deviates from parallel in any dimension, the more it slaps the face on recoiling rearward. One of the biggest problems with the new Beretta 390 flat rib sporters is that the slope from nose of comb to heel of comb is excessive. It is almost like the dog-legged rifles of the 1700s. The result is severe face slap for about half the shooters who use them. Others who shoot with an erect head seem less troubled. Perhaps Beretta will get around to changing it some day. Perhaps not. The Browning Gold gas sporter does not have this particular stock problem and runs almost a parallel comb.

I am sure that there are all sorts of other theories on parallel combs, but those are mine. I don’t think that most shooters need to go parallel, but they ought to be fairly close to it for sporting clays. General hunting is less so.

Best regards,


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