Claybrakn... Basic Gun-fit and Set-up (5/11)

Basic Gun-fit and Set-up

By Frank Neumayer


     Here's the question I get often, especially from new shooters.  "I just bought a new shotgun and I want to make sure it fits me properly and that I have it set-up correctly.  What information or advice can you give me on this topic?"  My answer is simple, proper gun-fit and set-up is crucial to being successful in the field or on the range.  It’s also unique to every shooter, and to the specific gun(s) they plan on using.  It doesn’t matter if you have a standard field grade or a custom target gun, the basics of proper gun-fit and set-up remain the same. 


     I’ve mounted new Perazzis and Kreighoffs right off-the-shelf, that didn’t fit me as well as a field grade Remington 1100 right out of the box.  The point is… whether your shotgun is a high-end target gun or a field grade hunter, the right gun-fit and set-up is imperative for any target breaking or hunting success.  Let’s look at the basic elements of proper gun-fit so you can make certain your gun is properly set-up for the shooting game or activity you plan to undertake.  Remember, these two factors are critical to your shooting comfort, fun, and success! 

     First of all, we need to establish two baseline dimensions from which all elements of gun-fit and set-up relate.  1)  When looking down on the top-view of your shotgun, picture a straight line or centerline running from the heel of the stock to the end of the barrel.  2)  When looking at your shotgun from the side-view, picture a straight line running flat along the length of the rib or barrel the entire length of your gun from the tip of the barrel on out to the heel point of the stock.  The key shooting factors involved with basic gun-fit and set-up relate to comfort, control, and alignment.  When all of these factors are properly addressed, the result leads to consistency or repeatability.  Again, most of the elements of gun-fit and set-up are taken from the top-view centerline dimension, or the side-view straight line dimension.  Let’s start by defining the elements of gun-fit, and how each directly relates to successful shooting.

Cast:   This is the only element of gun-fit that relates to the top-view dimension mentioned above.  This is where only the stock portion of your gun is Cast (by only a degree or two) right or left from the centerline of your shotgun.  Cast relates to proper (right or left) eye-alignment to the barrel, rib, and beads.  For right handed shooters, Cast-off is to the right of the centerline and Cast-on is to the left.  Some shotguns models have tapered shims or spacers inserted at the stock-receiver connection to help adjust Cast. 

Length Of Pull:   From the side-view, this is the distance measured from the trigger to the butt plate of the stock.  Standard Length Of Pull (LOP) for factory shotguns is around 14.5”.  With the gun mounted and your face down on the comb, there should only be about 1” to 1.5” between your nose and the heel of your thumb of the hand gripping the stock.  LOP is critical for gun control and pattern placement.


Drop:   Again, from the side-view, Drop is the distance from the straight line dimension of the barrel and rib to the heel point of the stock.  Drop directly relates to proper eye alignment when looking down the rib or barrel to the bead.  The pupil of your eye should sit level with the base of the rib.  If the pupil is below the base of the rib, your view of the target is impaired and your POI will be to low.  If the pupil is too high, your gun’s pattern point of impact (POI) will be to high. 

Comb Height:   The height of the comb directly relates to the pattern POI.  From the side view, Comb Height is measured in relation to the straight line running along the rib and barrel.  Raising or lowering the comb raises or lowers the pattern POI.  Raising the comb 1/8" will raise the pattern POI by 4" at 40 yards (3/16" = 6"; 5/16" = 10"; 3/8" = 12").  Adding 1/8" - 3/8" thick (peel & stick) pads to the comb can help raise the POI.  On some shotgun models, lowering the entire stock with factory shims at the stock/receiver connection will raise the POI.  Conversely, raising the entire stock will lower the POI.  A four way adjustable butt plate or recoil pad assembly can also help with POI adjustment.  


Pitch Angle:   From the side-view, Pitch Angle is the angle of the butt plate of the stock in relation to a 90 degree angle from the straight line that runs along the top of rib or barrel.  Pitch Angle can affect shooter comfort and the placement of felt-recoil at the shoulder.  It can also cause the gun’s muzzle to kick slightly up or down upon the shot, which can translate into an inconsistent pattern POI. 


Balance:   Shotgun Balance is usually measured at the hinge-pins on break-open guns, or centered just forward of the trigger on pumps and autos.  Gun Balance effects barrel swing, speed, and control, and weights can be added to the barrel or the stock to make minor adjustments.  The overall weight of the gun is important, so choose one that’s on the heavy side, but still comfortable to easily mount, swing, and control.      


     Hopefully, by understanding these basic gun-fit and gun set-up elements, you’ll realize just how important it is for successful shooting.  Again, the critical factors we’re trying to achieve are shooter comfort, gun control, eye-rib alignment, and gun mounting consistency or repeatability.  Whether in the field or on the range, the key to success is being accurate and consistent on every shot every time.  Accuracy and consistency can only come from having a gun that is properly fitted and properly set-up specifically for the shooter using it. 


     Start with getting your gun fitted properly for comfort and control, then focus on proper gun set-up for face-eye-rib alignment, and the desired POI.  You may want to see a custom gun-fitter to make certain of all the correct adjustments.  Remember, the key in all of this is knowing exactly where your gun is shooting for every target or bird you attempt.  Think of your gun as a precision tool that you’re using for a precision task!  If and when you miss… you want to know that it’s the shooter and not the gun causing the problem.


     If you have a specific question, send me an email at and I’ll do my best to get it answered.  Please keep your questions brief and to the point.  

See you at the club… Frank


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