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Article 2 – 2023 (March)

Australian Shooter Magazine

Question and Answers

Article 2 – 2023 (March)

Question:  I am very interested to hear your opinion on how much difference changing some of the dimensions of an adjustable stock can make? I was at the range recently when one of my shooting buddies changed the height of his comb after he claimed he was constantly shooting way underneath his targets. I swear he only added no more than a one millimetre spacer to the comb, but sure enough the next time he shot he went from nearly missing half to a near perfect score in a round of Trap. I have fallen into the mistake of constantly changing the comb of my stock, but it really doesn’t seem to do much. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Al McDermott, Virginia SA

Answer:   Let me start by saying that I am certainly an advocate of the adjustable comb on any shotgun. The positives far outweigh the negatives, but only if you are brave enough to not blame the shotgun when you miss. It sounds easy, but virtually impossible for some shooters to do. I will get back to this issue.

If your friend was indeed constantly shooting underneath his targets, he may certainly need a higher comb on his stock and lifting it up by any amount will certainly help. Raising it by one millimetre will alter his point of impact by just under four percent so if he was shooting a pattern that impacted sixty percent of its shot above its point of aim the extra millimetre will raise this to just on sixty four percent. If you like to measure this in terms of actual measurements then if the point of impact initially was ten centimetres high at thirty metres then the extra millimetre raised its impact point to just on 10.4 centimetres at the same distance. Either way four per cent of 40 millimetres is not much.

Do I believe a small change like this would change your friend’s shotgun from shooting half to nearly perfect rounds? No chance. Not physically, but mentally it must have made a significant difference.  This is the real trap of the adjustable comb or the real benefit depending on how you look at it.

I urge everyone to use a pattern board when making any stock changes. Even identifying a four per cent variation in the patterns point of impact is very hard to do. Personally I try to make changes of no less than two millimetres, and preferably three, at a time when lowering or raising shotgun combs for this very reason mainly to try and distinguish between physical improvements or mental ones. But here lies the problem.

If raising your friends comb by only one millimetre turns his score from say 13/25 to 24/25 then there is an argument that one millimetre is all that the stock needed to be adjusted. If all it is really doing is helping his mental state of mind and helped his confidence and therefore improved his mental approach which in turn made him swing the gun smoother to the targets and thus helped his scores then how can you argue this small adjustment is incorrect?

You will eventually hear the term “new gun syndrome” being used around the range. This phenomena happens when someone shoots a new shotgun for the first time and shoots near perfect scores with it. The gun may not fit the shooter, but they never seem to be able to miss with it. This happens because for a brief period the shooter just sees the target and shoots it, but sooner or later doubt creeps in and they second guess themselves and the syndrome wears out. Before long they get an adjustable comb cut into the stock, they are changing ammunition, recoil pads, front sights and every other possible thing until the gun is placed on the market so they can start the cycle once again. What your friend is probably experiencing is a mild form of this syndrome. Give him time and they will probably be adding a few more millimetres to the comb.

The problem you mention that is hurting your game is that every time you shoot a bad round you feel the need to make these minor changes to the stock which are really not physically making much of a difference to where your shotgun is actually shooting and because of this you are not helping your confidence and ultimately not improving.

My advice for you is to start keeping a shooting diary, record your changes and determine what works for you and what doesn’t otherwise you may very well be chasing your tail for years to come.

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