Article 4 – 2017
Question: I recently had a custom stock made for a sporting shotgun that cost me a considerable amount of money. To be honest I am far from happy with the results I am achieving with it although it seems to pattern test OK. My complaint to the stock maker seems to be falling on deaf ears as he is suggesting that I received exactly what I asked for. The problem is I am a little unsure if what I asked for is correct or not. Shouldn’t a reputable stock maker not know what I need?
Answer: I guess the answer needs to start with what you consider the definition of a reputable stock maker is? I have no clue as to who actually made your stock, but in general what I would consider as “reputable” stock makers in this country do know basic gun fit. In saying that I have certainly seen some terrible custom stocks made. By terrible I mean not in the way the stock was cut, made and finished, but in the actual dimensions of the stock. Sadly if the customer demands the stock to be made in a certain way then the stock maker has little control over the finished product and in no way should be held accountable.
Stock fitting is a skill, but it is hardly a high-tech scientific art. Personally if I am asked to fit a stock then I have no problems saying to the client that I want to make the stock with enough height and cast to correctly position the comb of the stock under the cheekbone once the butt of the shotgun is located into the correct part of the shoulder. This has to be correct to make a decent stock. The length, pitch, drop and balance of a shotgun are important factors in the design of the stock, but not as critical as the previous two dimensions. A bad gun mount may impede a shooter from correctly aligning the comb of the stock in the right position, but I would NEVER measure up a stock for someone simply to cater for his or her bad gun mounting habits. Unfortunately I see many stocks in this country produced that way, but this may be the result of customers that “know best” and are very forceful in getting the stock built to a set of pre-determined dimensions. The hardest people to coach, advise or to have a new shotgun stock measured up for are those shooters that have learnt fundamentally bad techniques. I cannot stress enough the importance of learning the basics before embarking into the world of expensive shotguns and custom made equipment. I am not sure if your stock was built this way, but I would be keen to know in order to answer your question correctly.
You mention that the new stock “patterns OK” so I am assuming you have taken it down to the local range and used their pattern board to see if first of all the stock throws the shot pattern straight and then high enough above the aiming point. Patterning the shotgun is an important test to determine how well the stock has been made, but it will not find all the answers in correcting a bad technique. It is easy to make a stock shoot straight even if the shotgun has been poorly mounted. Sadly if the problem in your shooting is technical then when you correct these issues the new stock will more than likely be incorrect and no longer fit you.
In Australia we have quite a few stock makers that have been pretty decent competition shooters themselves. I would think that this would help them have the skills to pick up a bad-shooting technique and rectify this or at least offer some advice before a blank piece of walnut is carved up.