Try this exercise with your favorite shotgun. First, ensure the shotgun is unloaded, and then close your eyes and shoulder the shotgun. Now open your eyes. Are you looking down the barrel? Of course, you are. Now let’s try the same thing with your deer rifle. No cheating. Close your eyes and throw it to your shoulder in one fluid motion. As soon as it hits your shoulder, open your eyes. Do you find yourself raising your head to see through the scope? Don’t feel bad, so do a lot of rifle shooters.
Shotgunners know that to be consistent on the trap, skeet or sporting clays range their stock must fit correctly. Rifle shooters should pay heed.
A properly fitting stock should come to your shoulder effortlessly like putting your toothbrush to your mouth.
Who’s to blame?
Maybe we can blame the scope makers. We ask for more light-gathering capability especially in low light situations when that big buck is more likely to show himself. Their answer is larger objectives on the scope which in turn means higher rings to facilitate mounting to your rifle, placing your eye well above the center of the bore.
Perhaps the style of rifles we shoot should be blamed. The bolt action rifle for the most part provides the shooter with a means to hold the barreled action and provide a good stock weld when sighting the rifle, until we start messing with the scope, rings and such. The stock weld is the place where your cheek and the stock meet. Shotgunners go through great lengths to duplicate placing their cheek in this exact spot shot after shot; basic rifle marksmanship teaches this, but somewhere rifle shooters have forgotten this.
AR shooters are especially prone to lifting their heads to see through the scope, the basic design of the rifle being the culprit. At a recent shooting event, I witnessed shooter after shooter with their cheek off their rifles to simply be able to peer through the scope. AR shooters can remedy this problem a lot easier than a bolt gun shooter. Once your scope is mounted, a bolt-on cheekpiece can be attached to the stock putting your eye on the same level as the scope. Not only does this make the rifle more enjoyable to shoot, but provides you with more consistency from shot to shot.
Shooting a poorly designed stock can create a multitude of maladies perhaps the worse being flinching due to a heavy recoiling rifle or becoming a member of the dreaded half moon club. Initiation into this club is being hit in the eye with the scope creating a crescent-shaped cut above the shooter’s eye coincidently matching the scope’s ocular eyepiece while shooting. Neither of which are desirable.
How can it be that stock fit can be so important to one group of shooters yet almost ignored by others?
Perhaps the evolution of the rifle itself is the key to this mystery. Early percussion rifles had plenty of drop in the comb to facilitate iron sights. Early cartridge rifles followed suit, the ever popular Winchester 94 is a great example, designed as an open-sighted rifle closely copying the stock design of some of the earlier rifles in history like the Winchester 1886 and Springfield Trapdoor. However, the ‘94 is still a popular deer rifle, but if you have ever tried to shoot a scope mounted ‘94 you know it is not conducive for scope use; the only part of your face making contact with the stock being your chin.
Take a look at stocks by today’s makers. The classic style stock by far is the most popular, yet most of these fall short of fitting modern shooters with today’s ultra scopes.
Synthetic tactical type stocks are often adjustable for the cheekpiece height as well as length of pull and some even allow for cast on or cast off and pitch. “Cast” is the term used to describe bending the buttstock or in the case of these synthetic rifle stocks, adjusting the stock a little to the left (cast on) or right (cast off) to bring the shooter’s eye directly in line. “Pitch” is the angle of the butt in relation to the top of the barrel or in the case of a rifle, the center of the bore.
Stock dimensions on a rifle are measured from the center of the bore of the rifle whereas a shotgun is measured from the top of the barrel or rib.
Another group that has been left behind is turkey and slug gun enthusiasts. The majority of these specialty shotguns stocks are nothing more than shotgun stocks with too much drop for mounted scopes. Only recently have manufacturers begun designing stocks to facilitate scopes mounted atop of these shotguns.
Luckily, there is good news on the horizon. Aftermarket stocks are available for many of the most popular rifles and firearm companies are beginning to take notice and are adjusting the cheekpiece to fit shooters.
The next time you are at your local gunshop or even in deer camp, try other rifles; the more you try the better the chances you will find a rifle that fits you perfectly.
Do you want to become a better rifle shot? It all begins with a proper fitting stock.