On Shotgun Stock Length
Although there has always been a peculiar fascination with barrel length, shotgun stock length has been comparatively overlooked. Many factory shotgun stocks are, in general, too long for field use, particularly those on Italian shotguns.
Certainly, gun fit is important whether handgun or long gun. Yet, if you take a look at the plurality of shoulder-fired firearms, meaning rifles, you'll quickly find that a 13-5/8 inch length of pull is as popular as anything, yet length of pull means the same thing regardless of long gun.
If there is one shotgun stock design that fits more people than anything else, it is likely the Remington 1100 / Remington 870 buttstock. Although with anything that is supposed to fit an individual, one size never fits all, but that is the stock that has won the approval of more hunters and shooters than anything else. Those two shotguns are the best-selling shotguns in history in their respective action types.
Although we like to talk about height and weight, that doesn't have much to do with stock fit. It is your shoulders, arms, and head where gun mounting takes place, not at our feet or kneecaps. I'm 5 ft. 10, with long arms. My Dad was 6 ft. tall, yet we both came close to being able to shoot the identical guns well, although Dad always seemed to want a bit more drop.
If it is just shooting clays, with the gun premounted, longer stocks work well. For me, 14-1/2 inch length of pull or even a bit longer is just fine. For field use, though, that is invariably far too long. No one hunts “premounted,” of course, and the notions of “low gun” aren't just below a tape line, the guns aren't close to being mounted at all, nor do you call for a bird when hunting. Of course, there may well be a lot of extra clothing bulk involved in cold weather as well. A shotgun that has the propensity to snag when you shoulder it is nobody's bargain. I'd much rather have a 13-3/4 inch length of pull gun in the field than a 14-1/2 inch stocked gun (that otherwise fits) any day of the week.
If you look at many hunting guns, the butt-stocks are a bit shorter than you might think. The recently reviewed Mossberg 930 Duck Commander Waterfowl (stated as a 14 inch LOP by Mossberg) has about a 14-1/8 inch length of pull. Of course, there is a lot more to it than just a trigger to butt measurement, for the style of the pistol grip and the relationship of the pistol grip to the safety and trigger has a lot to do with how a shotgun feels as well.
Combs tend to be far too wide on some shotguns as well. An overly wide comb may means you have to really mash your cheek into the stock to get your eye where it belongs, center-line of the rib, or you may be canting your head unnaturally. Twenty gauges often shoulder noticeably better than their 12 gauge counterparts, not because a of a smaller hole in the barrel, but because they often have slightly shorter stocks (14 inch vs. 14-1/4 inch) and stocks with slightly thinner combs as well.
The “too long stock syndrome” is understandable, though, for it is far easier to shorten a walnut stock slightly than to try to sand wood back on. There is the old “stack of spacers” approach used on some guns like the synthetic (okay, plastic) Beretta A300 Outlander but the result is a manufacturing crime of ugly. The stack of spacers approach tends to look crude and cobbled together more often than not, but of course aesthetic value is up to you.
Stock shims are popular today, more than ever. Some companies brag that their shims “allow a perfect fit for everyone.” Of course, this is ridiculous, for shims may help a bit, but they don't change the shape, size, or placement of the pistol grip, the trigger angle or width, the relationship of the pistol grip to the safety or trigger, much less the comb width, barrel rib style and height, or stock length. An interchangeable stock shim may help you, but it doesn't change anything at all about the actual stock . . . all it can do is change the angle that it protrudes off from the back of the receiver a bit.
We are all better off with shotguns that fit us perfectly, or as close to perfectly, right out of the box with just as few modifications as possible, regardless of brand.
Copyright 2016 by Randy Wakeman. All Rights Reserved.