New Shooter Gun Fit

Dear Technoid,

At the risk of totally boring you with my neophyte question I will proceed anyway. I just purchased an AL390 Beretta field 12 G 28″ barrel. I had hoped to use it for everything – meaning a little hunting, trap, skeet and very limited sporting clays. I’m using the improved cylinder and I have had the stock fitted to me. I had better luck in sporting clays and I am absolutely bombing out in trap. Besides the fact that I am so new to the sport and new to the gun itself is there anything you could suggest to help me.

Does the more narrow rib affect my trap shooting significantly? Did I make a mistake in choosing this particular gun?

Thanks in advance,

Dear Mary,

Chicken and egg questions like this are always tough. Unless the gun is grossly inappropriate, the problem is usually with the beginner’s technique. If a gun is in the “ballpark”, I would estimate that it accounts for only 10% – 15% of the score. Technique is the other 85% – 90%. Certainly, the width of the rib has little to do with your trap scores.

What may affect your trap scores is the following. Your field grade 28″ 390 (a most excellent gun and a great “all around” choice) may have a stock that is set slightly too low for your build and clay target game. Here’s what I mean.

Unlike skeet, sporting clays and game birds, trap targets are always rising (at least when you are supposed to shoot them). Due to this, trap bears little relation to any other shotgun pursuit. To better deal with a constantly rising target, trap guns are built with higher stocks than other guns. This permits the trap shooter to shoot directly at the rising bird, but still deliver the shot a bit high, where the bird is going to be. It works great in trap, but not so well for other things. Your stock may not be set up high enough for trap shooting. This means that you will have to “cover” the trap target with your muzzle when you shoot. Most people find this shooting “blind” difficult to do. It certainly isn’t the best way to shoot trap. Sporting clays has many dropping targets where a lower stock is not a real penalty, like is in trap.

My guess is that when you had the stock fitted, the fitter set you up for skeet, sporting and field, not trap. That is what I would have done unless you said that you were mostly a trap shooter. You might benefit from a slightly higher stock and that can be achieved by a simple manipulation or replacement of the stock adjustment washer and spacer on the 390. Different sizes are available from Beretta if what you need didn’t come in the box.

I shoot all disciplines with one gun. My setting is ideal for skeet, clays and wobble or International trap, but not perfect for ATA style trap. Still it is close to adequate and might be worth a try for you.

Just buy some kind of tape ( I use silver duct tape because I am attracted to shiny things) and start layering it on top of your comb. Don’t get it over the sides, just the top. Build up the entire top (not just a little part) of the comb until when you cheek the gun hard into the bone you are looking right dead flat down the rib. Of course, when you shoot, you won’t cheek that hard and you will see just a little bit of the rib. This ought to be about right for starters. I see about 1/16″ of rib when I shoot.

Shoot the gun with the tape in place for a bit and see what happens to your scores. You can add and remove tape as you feel necessary. When you have it the way that you want it, you can make the adjustment permanent by altering the stock height adjustment washers that come with your gun. It is easier and quicker to adjust with tape and later move the washers than to take the stock off each time you want to make a small adjustment. The adjustable stock washers on the Beretta 390 are a neat feature and reason enough to buy the gun.

Even though your stock has been fitted to you, as a new shooter there is always a little fine tuning involved. Do it with the tape first and then with the washers. See it if works. If it does all is well. If not, just put it back where it was and nothing is lost.

I have always thought that learning to shoot a shotgun was one of the hardest things to do. In golf, when you hit the ball it always goes somewhere. In shooting, if it doesn’t break, it is hard for the beginner to know where they were off. Shooting lessons are always money well spent when you are starting out.

Best regards,

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

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