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Article 6 – 2017

person aiming shotgun at target range

Question: I own a Beretta S56 shotgun that has been handed down from my grandfather through my father and finally to myself. It is pretty much in its original condition as it really never got much use. On the few times I have used the shotgun I always thought that it sort of kicks upwards when I shot it. Recently I went to a range near Sydney and shot a few clays with a later model Beretta shotgun and was surprised how comfortable it was to shoot, but more importantly the fact that it didn’t kick upwards when I pulled the trigger. Is there a reason my gun would have this characteristic?

Rahul Singh, Canberra ACT


Answer: The Beretta model S56 was the shotgun that paved the way for the famous 680 series of sporting and competition firearms. The major difference between your shotgun and the later models was the weight of the gun. The S56 was really was more of a field shotgun which was deliberately made as a lightweight so it could be carried easily around the countryside all day. If your firearm is in its original condition then it will have another feature that thankfully Beretta have also moved on from, a solid plastic recoil pad. “Recoil pad” maybe a bit too in its description as it certainly never absorbed any of the energy generated by a shot shell.

In saying that the weight and lack of a rubber recoil pad may not actually be the culprits with your problem of muzzle flip. What may be causing the barrel to buck upwards could simply be the lack of “pitch” in the shotgun’s stock. In layman’s terms pitch is simply the angle of the butt of the shotgun in relation to the stock.

If you lay the shotgun on a table and look down on it you should see that the bottom of the pad is angled more towards the trigger of the firearm than the top is. A perfectly pitched shotgun should see the butt of the shotgun matching the angle of your shoulder when the gun is mounted ready to fire. If the butt and the shoulder pocket match in angle then the recoil of the shotgun will be evenly distributed and the barrel will remain pretty much at the target after the recoil of the shot shell has been absorbed. If your gun has too little pitch (not enough angle) then the bottom of your stock will be applying more pressure than the top and when the shot is fired the barrels will naturally flick upwards because there is not enough “meat” between the top of the butt and the top of your shoulder.

Alternatively if your shotgun has too much pitch (more pressure on the top than the bottom) then the shotgun will flip the barrels downwards. It is a simple modification than can be altered initially by adding washers to the top or bottom of the stock, but only if you have a rubber recoil pad because these spaces will go between the stock and the pad.

There is a pretty simple test to determine the correct amount of pitch if you do have a rubber recoil pad. Load your shotgun and take aim at a very distance object on the horizon. Pull the trigger and watch the end of the barrel. If your pitch measurement is correct then the barrels should end up pointing at the same object you started aiming at. If the barrels flick up then add some measurement (a couple of 3mm washers or even some one dollar coins) to the top of stock under the recoil pad. If the barrels flick down then add the length to the bottom thus adding more pressure to the bottom of your shoulder. Once you have played around with the stock and have it recoiling straight you can either have the stock’s wood cut at the correct angle or get a shimmed stock spacer added to your firearm.

As a general rule very big barrel chested guys (or girls) will need more pitch the skinny lean shooters. Sadly the older you get the more pitch you tend to need.

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