Sloping Stock Theory

Dear Bruce,

I have seen Monte Carlo stocks, which have no drop, at the trap fields. I have seen parallel stocks in magazines and catalogs, which also have no drop. These stocks make intuitive sense to me. It seems that you would have a constant eye/rib relationship, and that you would minimize the variability involved in poor mounts, creeping the stock, and overhead or under foot targets.

However, the vast majority of shotguns have some drop in the stock. It would seem that with these stocks, there is only one place to put the face to have the proper eye/rib relationship. What is the value in the drop?


Dear Bob,

Your gut reaction- that a parallel comb would eliminate most “cheeking” errors- sounds good, but in practice it doesn’t really work out quite as well as it sounds.

The famous British game gun, the paradigm of field guns, virtually NEVER has a parallel comb. Trap and skeet guns often do. Think about the difference in the targets they are shooting and position of the gun start.

In field shooting and in sporting, targets are presented at all angles. I was once shooting driven grouse in Scotland from a butt high on a rocky outcropping. The grouse curled around the mountain thirty yards below me. I had never before shot down at grouse.

The advantage of a stock with some drop at comb is that it sort of auto-adjusts to the angle of the head position and angle of the barrel. Here is what I mean: when you are shooting a high overhead shot, your head automatically tips forward in relation to the stock- like you are very much crawling the stock. Yes, your head is straight up, but the stock is even more so. As the stock becomes vertical, the distance between the pupil and the line of the rib decreases. This would make you shoot low if it were not for the fact that, when shooting overheads, the face is pushed forward and thus higher up on a sloping stock. The tipping forward of the head on the stock decreases eye to rib distance, but the increase in height of the stock as it goes forward compensates for this.

It is the same on a low shot. On a low bird, say those grouse sweeping through below, the head is automatically more erect in relation to the stock (no matter how much you try to bend from the waist to compensate). This increases the distance from eye to rib line. However, on those shots, the head is normally a bit further back on the stock where the stock is lower and that helps compensate.

Naturally, this is all a matter of degree and each shot is different, but you get the idea. The angle of your head and placement on the stock vary slightly depending on extreme target presentations. I believe that the slightly down sloping comb helps even this out.

That said, too much downslope (such as on the current Beretta 390 sporting clays stocks) just causes me miserable face slap. It doesn’t bother some others, but it gets me pretty badly.

I shoot a Monte Carlo stock, shimmed slightly down, on my 303s and I shoot standard trap stocks with a slight drop at comb on my O/Us. These guns are used for wobble trap, International Skeet and sporting clays. Nothing is parallel, but there isn’t much drop either. For me that is the best compromise. In clay target shooting, I know what the bird is doing and I can get in proper position to deal with it. This makes me much more consistent than I am in the field where I usually don’t have the vaguest idea what is going to happen next. When I know what the bird is going to do, I can be more careful in my gun mount and thus can afford the luxury of a more parallel comb and less face slap.

Stocks are like suits and come in different sizes to suit different people. What works for one person may not work for the next. Still, I believe that most target shooters would shoot a little better with slightly more parallel combs than with steeply dropping ones, regardless of the clay target discipline. That doesn’t mean that sporting clays combs should be dead parallel, but they certainly shouldn’t have as much drop as some of them do. At least to suit my face, they shouldn’t.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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