Article 4 – 2012
Question:I have never had a shotgun fitted to me, but I recently went to a field shoot and shot very badly. Everyone told me that my “length of pull” was too long and I should get my stock cut to a normal length of 360mm. Can you explain what this term means and what length I should get it cut to?
Alan Foster, Lismore NSW
Answer:“Length of Pull” (LOP) is the term used to determine the length of your shotgun stock. There are three main measurements used, the most common is the distance from the middle of your trigger to the middle of the butt (back) of your stock. Virtually measured horizontally parallel to the barrels. It should be noted different manufacturers have triggers fitted in different parts of the mechanism and these days many models have adjustable triggers. Altering the trigger position will alter the stock measurements, but wont actually change the stock fit. It will only alter the grip and trigger finger position. Other LOP measurements are to the very top of the pad (heel) and then to the bottom of the stock (toe). The top and bottom measurements are critical when determining the correct “pitch” of the shotgun. The pitch is the angle the pad needs to sit correctly on your shoulder, but this is another topic altogether. A typical length of pull measurement to the middle of the stock butt on many factory produced shotguns is around 375 mm.
LOP is probably the most crucial element of correct stock fitting whether the shotgun is used in the field or for competition. Arguably the height of the comb, angle of cast and pitch are second, third and fourth in importance. It is purely a personal measurement and can only be determined by the feel of the gun once the shotgun is mounted on the shoulder. It is largely determined by a shooters physical build, arm length and of course technique. There is certainly not a perfect length for everyone. From my experience I would always advise that a stock should feel slightly too short rather than too long. It is far easier to keep your head aligned down the centre of the barrel on a short stock as opposed to a long one particularly on a hard angled target that requires a lot of gun movement. A short stock is also easier to control after the recoil of the first shot takes effect. Unfortunately long stocks often feel great when the gun is “dry mounted” in a gun shop or in your garage, but these are much harder to control on the range or in a duck swamp when often the stock is made to feel artificially longer aided by layers of thick warm clothes.
It is for these reasons your hunting buddies may be giving you the right advice. Unfortunately without seeing you mount the gun I cannot advise the right length. It is an “old wives tale” to place the stock on your arm and bend your elbow at ninety degrees to see where your finger reaches the trigger for the correct LOP. Also it is a fallacy to suggest that your nose should be approximately 25 mm behind your thumb when the gun is mounted. Both these techniques are an rough guide only. The correct way is by experimenting with different lengths and going to the range and shooting the gun until you get a length that you feel you can comfortably and consistently mount the gun and stay controlled on the stock time and time again after both shots are fired.
I remember a few years ago a young shooter came to me for some gun fitting advice with this same problem. We adjusted his gun and shortened his stock 10 mm so it measured 370mm. He proceeded to shoot the next fifty targets perfectly. A week later he called me up saying he had felt a gun that was 375mm in length and it felt great so he wanted to change his to that measurement despite how well he was now shooting. I asked him to bring it over to my home so he could show me. I got him to measure the stock while I was watching and then I asked him to come back in a couple of hours after I fitted a slightly longer recoil pad. While he was gone it took me less than thirty seconds to simply move his adjustable trigger forward 5mm so now the LOP was 375mm. I never touched the stock or pad. When he came back I got him to measure it again. It was 375mm on the dot. He then mounted the gun and proceeded to tell me how much better it felt. He then went on to win the next event he competed in. Of course I then told him I had not changed his actual stock length at all and I showed him what I had done. The moral of the story is there is no correct stock length. The length that feels the best and produces the highest results is correct.