Article 11 – 2011
Question: I am keen to get a shotgun set up perfectly to shoot clays with. I shoot mainly trap these days for fun as I have a few clubs within a couple of hour’s drive that offer this type of competition. I have used a sporting gun in the past and completely understand that the stock is too low to shoot a rising trap target consistently. I have tried a few guns and finally have settled on a Beretta 686 which seems to point nice, but the only issue I have is that it seems to recoil a little strangely as it tends to push itself away from my face after I have fired the first shot. Any suggestions how to rectify this?
Alan Bateman, Richmond NSW
Answer: Alan to answer your question without actually seeing your gun, stance and technique you are adopting is nearly impossible, but I can give you some generic ideas where to start. I will make the assumption the length of the stock is correct and your general gun mounting technique is also adequate. The starting point for what you explained in your email would be the pitch of the gun. Pitch is generally measured by the angle the barrels are pointed off parallel when the shotgun is stood upright when its pad or butt plate is placed on a flat surface. It can be measured in degrees such as five degrees off parallel or as a measurement, which typically can be around 40mm when measured from the end of the barrel against a flat 90-degree surface such as a doorframe. Be sure to place the action of the gun up flush with the doorframe when measuring the distance between the frame and the end of the barrel. 40mm or 5 degrees are typical, but not necessarily correct measurements for everyone. Too much pitch can make the shotgun recoil downwards and away from your face as you have described. The opposite will cause the barrel to kick upwards and often-greater perceived recoil is felt.
Many shooters who are heavily built in their chest need what is described as more cast off in the toe of the butt of the stock. An incorrect measurement here can also cause the gun to recoil unnaturally. The toe is the bottom of the pad that sits lowest on your shoulder. If this part of the pad is digging into your breast bone when you have the gun mounted to your shoulder then you are a candidate to have a little more cast added here to make the shotgun feel more comfortable and recoil better.
A simple test I like to do for anyone that is having trouble in this area is as follows. Pick a tree or object that is on the horizon several kilometres away. Load the gun and mount it in your normal manner. Focus your eyes on the object in the distance and then once you have taken aim and are steady then refocus your eyes on the end of the barrel. Pull the trigger and watch closely where the end of the barrel ends up. If it is not perfectly back on the object in the distance you were aiming at initially then you will need some adjustment. It is amazing how many shooters fail this simple gun fit test.