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MEASURING YOUR GUN STOCK

BY EDWARD C. CROSSMAN
F your rifle stock does not fit you, discomfort is about the only evil result. You'll have to crane up your shoulder and screw down your neck to get the sights aligned. Maybe you'll be kicked in the nose into the bargain, while steady holding is made difficult by your strained muscles. But as long as you get that ivory front in its proper position, both in the aperture of the rear and on the hide of the quarry, you'll land the meat. If your shotgun stock does not fit you, birds will escape that you'd swear by the beard of your grandfather were in the center of the pattern. The butt will catch in your clothes as you bring it to your shoulder, or maybe the comb will try to tear off your cheek-bone or possibly upper-cut you in the jaw. Also a hard, unyielding thumb may endeavor to level off your face, starting in with your nose as the most prominent obstruction. A rifleman is pretty certain of a hit when a front sight is there or thereabouts in its proper relation to target and rear sight. Also when he gets misses he usually knows the why and the wherefore. The shotgun shooter has no front or rear sight. Likewise when he misses, the reason thereof and the striking point of the charge usually remain a dark mystery. Of all shooting experiences, the most discouraging is the inability of the shotgun user to find out why he i s n ' h i t ting those ever-condemned flying objects rising before him. We are told that the average man can shoot well enough with the average gun. Maybe it is true, but the average man never existed, while even the standard guns of various makers are enough different to throw a shooter off his form should he change from one to another. There is no reason why you should not shoot better with a stock made for you than with one made for a party six inches taller and of Flatiron instead of Capitol building architecture. The difficulty that blocks the way between the purchaser and a proper fit is that while a tailor, with his little tape and his politic "B. L." for bowlegs, can call off the proper figures for a well fitting suit for you, the gun-maker has no such easy time of it. Even at his factory he cannot take one glance at you and scribble down the figure for the gun that can't miss 'em. English gun-makers use try guns, affairs with adjustable stocks for all dimensions; running artificial rabbits, clay pigeons thrown across steel plates, and other devices for getting a line on your capers. You can take it as a truth that if your style with the shotgun is fixed, the gun should be made to suit that style. Remaking the man himself is a rather difficult task. Therefore, watch yourself, learn your individual quirks and get that gun made accordingly. When a gun-maker describes a stock he calls the rear end the butt. The upper end of this butt, as the gun is held at the shoulder, is the heel, or the bump as our English friends sometimes have it. The other end of the butt is the toe. The thin raised part of the wood, just to the rear of the portion gripped by the right hand, is the comb. The grip or hand is that part running from the comb to the frame of the gun. In the distance these parts lie from one another and from the frame of the gun lies the difference between comfort and misery when using the weapon; between hitting 'em with pleasing regularity and regarding the gun with morose suspicion that stops just short of smoothing down a stump with it. In ordering, or selecting from stock, a gun for field shooting, a common error is in getting too long a stock, basing the
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You rarely put in enough under these circumstances. It is convenient to remember. Variations from this distance depend upon the build of the shooter. It is well to keep this in mind. of normal build and arm length can usually shoot a fourteen-inch stock. Yes. FAULTS——PISTOL GRIP TOO LONG TO SUPPORT THE HAND selection on the fact that the gun throws up pretty well at the store. run your left hand well out the barrels. Nor do you when selecting a gun. A heavy gun feels longer in the stock than does a light one. nor does the shooter have to wait that long to discover his error. pick up a gun. your left hand. Only hints as to the approximate stock for your build can be given. can shoot comfortably with the hand grasping the barrels so that the forward end of the fore-end just gets into the palm. If you are a beginner and your style is not fixed. A heavy gun in the hands of a tired man will come up clumsily and feel yards too long in the stock. while too long a stock can apparently be shortened by moving the hand the other way. almost to the full extent of the arm. The man about five feet nine inches high. don't try to select a stock until you make up your mind where you are going to hold your left hand. The average man. Some of them . NOTE LARGE DROP FROM COMB TO HEEL. when in the morning it leaped to the shoulder like a twenty gauge featherweight. The resulting arm is not pretty the next day. But whatever point you select. Laying down fixed rules for stock [696] measurements is impossible. Any change should usually be on the short side if the gun is for field shooting. that's right. Regrip the gun. It is as deceiving as putting up a lunch for the trip. if you are compelled to use a strange gun or lose some good shooting. Again try pitching the gun to the shoulder and note the difference in the apparent stock-length. Trap-shooters use longer stocks than the ordinary field hunters. that non-existent individual who must be called upon in an article addressed to more than one shooter. You can shoot a six-pound twenty gauge with a stock a quarter of an inch longer than your standard. this time with the left hand gripping the fore-end to the hinge. that running the hand farther out the barrels partly neutralizes the evils of too short a stock. A stock too long has a pleasant habit of sliding out on the arm in such circumstances. To prove this.A FOREIGN MAUSER STOCK. Conversely an ultra heavy twelve seems to add large fractions of an inch to the stock along with its increased weight. then pitch the gun to the shoulder several times. out on the barrels. without feeling the difference. stick to it unless you have to shoot a strange gun. you cannot see ahead and realize how you'll feel five hours later. you cannot hope to get a stock length that is right. with your stomach satisfied with a hearty breakfast. Keep in mind the fact that the gun must leap to the shoulder without catching on the clothes and must strike its proper position the first instant it gets to the shoulder. when you are feeling fresh and not flustered by the sudden appearance of a winged bomb-shell from below your feet. As long as you keep shifting the hold of this left hand.

while shot drops hard for the clay bird business. better get a stock to suit you for the field A common error on the part of the beand stick to it. the effect is that of taking more attributing any luck on the part of the elevation on the rear sight of a rifle. You point the gun The gentlemen on the other side of much as you "point" your fist in deliverthe controversy aver firmly that the shot. higher than the top rib. passes slightly above it. and both sets starts from some distance above the rib marvel that the other fellows get enough and it and the barrels gradually conmeat on the wing to make a pan smell. FAULTS. THE NEW SPRINGFIELD.THE UNITED STATES SERVICE RIFLE. so held that the line of sight passes up the Until our birds are gone. the question of proper stock drop erable stock drop or considerable bending will remain unsettled. but the of the shotgun makes up for many errors muzzles really point above it. the muzzles rise to a point just One set of cranks swear by the shade under the target. ONLY I2½ INCHES. held. while the shot line of Hip Li. missed the flying clays. Askins point. There are two of the neck. until we rib. To get the eye down so pulverizing asphalt discs with leaden pel.through vertical errors. [697] . If the head is held so the line of sight Both sets get their birds. That the head and the stock fits you as regards drop. Properly at its butt. close to and parallel with it. less you contemplate going in unusually They are usually rising. STOCK TOO SHORT. The breech end that the shotgun stock should be crooked of the barrels should not intrude themenough to bring the rib before the eye selves into the field of vision. NEARLY TWO INCHES DROP BELOW LINE OF SIGHTS . GRIP TOO BIG AROUND tell you that guns for trap-shooting and at any trap shoot. as Mr. not those of elevation. Then they go out and blow A shotgun is not aimed. although the truth lies between the changing guns is equivalent to throwing battling forces. COMB TOO LOW. distinct schools of stock drop advocates. even over forty or fifty yards. as in find something more pleasurable than sighting a rifle. the head. who invented gunpowder. are undershot. Of the two schools for field shooting should not be the same the straight stock advocates have the best in stock measurement. away all the advantage of the practice at Three out of four birds. truthfully says. fort and your misses come from lateral You can find examples of the latter class errors. If you do this. it is pointed Bob-Whites into pan-fries to prove their with the two hands. verge.ing a left jab or as you "point" the brick gun of the sane man should have the with which you knock that thrice-blessed bend the wrong way—with the heel cat off the alley fence. The other school to the fact that the pattern bead may be put on an object. regardless of the targets ginner is to think that the eye should be on which it may later be trained.this can be done would require considlets. the thing without any movement on the part of to see is the bird. Others aver that of it. It is safe to say that un.the gun points right without further eflar button when the gun is held properly. not on either side. you had a little. should be about one inch below the col.

and drop at heel keeps making inexplicable misses. THE ROSS STOCK. NOTE LONG CURVE OF THE GRIP. try them by actually firing them. Before deciding. drop at comb. while two and three-quarter inches is common enough. In actual shooting you don't see the rib. The effect is precisely as though you moved a rifle sight to one side or the other. When it comes to the drop at the heel —the butt—of the gun. whether high up on the cheek or low down on the jaw or between. down to the bead and then to the target. but this is where your line of sight passes nevertheless. Not enough drop here puts the comb high up on your face and at times pounds the cheekbone in extreme cases. SPRINGFIELD 37/8" Drop is measured at the comb and at the heel. even on easy straightaways. In the first case you would miss the bird to the left. It not infrequently happens that the man with a stock that fits properly as regards length. If there is any error in the comb drop. An inch and a half is an ordinary drop at this point. it will show in a few shots. Too much drop at the comb drops the wood too far down on the face and you sometimes "jaw" instead of cheek the gun. Sooner or later the trouble will be explained when he sees his shot charge rip through a tree or bush to one side of the quarry. ROSS GRIP 4½" FROM TRIGGER TO POINT OF GRIP. English and American sportsmen do not agree. in the second the shot would go to the right of him. If you throw your gun to your shoulder and barely touch the stock with your cheek. CIRCUMFERENCE OF ROSS 5½". RUNNING STRAIGHT BACK FOR SOME DISTANCE FROM TRIGGER GUARD. not merely throwing them to the shoulder. The shotgun rear sight is A GENUINE PISTOL GRIP STOCK OF AN ENGLISH TARGET AIR RIFLE [698] . Now if you press the face tightly against the wood you can easily aim from the right side of the rib. Probably the stock to suit the great number of men would measure one and one-half inches at the comb and two and five-eighths inches at the heel. The drop at the comb determines the place the stock will touch your face. you will find that you are aiming from the left edge of the rib. try all the guns you can get hold of. The effect is as though you stopped a series of snappy uppercuts with that portion of your face. AS MADE BY WUNDHAMMER.NOT MADE RIGHT. OF SPRINGFIELD 4¾". A drop of half an inch more than this is still considered straight in the United States. better have it on the straight side. over to the center and then to the target. The standard English stock has but two inches drop at the heel. If an error is to creep in.

the gun must be changed until the line of sight does go right. and the cast-off. lifesize. If you shoot persistently to one side or the other. in your favorite shooting position. stick it up at forty yards and fire a dozen shots at it with white paper to show the pellet strike. the line of sight does not pass down the center of the rib. The remedy here is a cast-on—the stock bent over to the left— or a fuller comb to keep the face from getting so far over. using your quick. To try your own style of shooting.THE STOCK OF STEWART EDWARD WHITE'S RIFLE. the drop. if you held it there and somebody bent the whole stock outward—away from your face—when you again cheeked the wood. paint a picture of your favorite bird. If. snappy field style. a change is indicated. A PERFECT RIFLE STOCK. the eye is opposite the center of the barrels. CHEEK PIECE A MATTER OF PERSONAL CHOICE. the eye would have been moved slightly to the right— and in line with the center of the rib. even though he scores a fair proportion of hits. It may result in a little thinner stock. if he hits them at all. but is important nevertheless. In England. They are the length. His heavy cheeks and broad shoulders keep his eye from the center of the barrels and he kills his birds with the right edge of his pattern. NOTE FULL PISTOL GRIP RUNNING IN SHORT CURVE the pressure of the cheek against the wood. The third one of the measurements is rarely used in America. gets his eye to the right of the rib. A broad-shouldered and full-faced man almost invariably shoots to one side of his birds. now. in a thicker STOCK OF A HIGH-PRICED FOREIGN HAMMERLESS EXPRESS RIFLE [699] . The standard English measurement for castoff is one-quarter inch at the toe and one-eighth inch at the heel—always away from the shooter except in special cases. so that when the face is brought against the wood. and not a pose. Rarely it happens that a very thinfaced man who presses his face hard against the stock. the gun-makers have three distinct and important stock measurements. Regardless of their build. Supposing you put your cheek against the wood of the stock and find the line of sight passing to the left of the rib center. most men need a cast-off— a bending of the stock away from the face.

Sawing off one-quarter inch from your stock makes more difference than you would believe a full inch would do. It should be proportioned to your own hand as a glove is fitted. If you have a ham for a hand. which are in turn in line with and close to the barrel. If you have to take this finish. Don't forget. and then apply linseed oil with constant rubbing after the filler dries. You cannot put any muscles on a strain and hold well. It should be oval in shape and checked with sharp diamond checking. if you can help it. and should have a grip rarely larger than four and one-eighth inches in circumference. also. to help the grip while the trigger finger is left free. A heavy set. Better one of them every ten years than a poor one every year or so. a Democrat of thirty years standing.700 THE OUTING MAGAZINE usually a shorter stock is indicated. In the grip particularly many makers are prone to err. That isn't what he wants to know. is the most satisfactory for the field. found on some highgrade guns. In general keep in mind the fact that a straight stock is more racy looking than the crooked variety and is safer in case you are not sure. Never take a rifle butt plate. burnt sienna. not the flat-topped variety that does not assist in holding. The grip should be a trifle larger around as you have but one trigger to pull. and oil. Avoid the rubber or vulcanite plates that go to pieces if you have to use the rifle as an alpenstock to head off an incipient slide. Get the gun to suit you if you can possibly afford it. full-chested man can use a butt plate more hollowed out between the heel and the toe than the flat-shouldered brother shoots. lighter in weight. while . a Methodist. when all is said and done. A slip in the presence of game might cost you a shot for which you had come a thousand miles. don't merely enclose the price and the information that you are thirty years old. It is to support the hand. of steel and checked to prevent its slipping. improbably. The grip and fore-stock should be checked. that you may use that rifle where it is cold and you are wearing several shirts and a sweater. The rifle stock is not governed by the rules of the proper scattergun affair. The butt should be of the shotgun shape. make them very slight. you must be comfortable and poised easily. which make a long stock almost unusable. The pistol grip. that more guns are padded up to rectify errors in too great a drop than are bent more crooked . fill the wood. or a handsome skeleton steel affair. it is an abortion and a relic of the days of the Kentucky rifle with its slight recoil. Don't. get some varnish remover from a paint store and remove the factory finish. and a total abstainer. The oil finish does not show every scratch like varnish and improves with age in its dull lustre and richness of grain. you don't want a four and oneeighth inch grip. A long toe keeps the gun from sliding up too high on your shoulder when the gun is hurriedly pitched to place. see that it is not more than four inches from grip point to center of trigger. There should be a full pistol grip—a real one. It is a cheap and eminently unsatisfactory way to finish a stock. in a cast-on. For a lady the gun should have at least one-quarter inch cast off at the toe. of good habits. you'll be wise to pass up the five-inch variety. The details of the stock make much difference in the pleasure with which it is used. Therefore more drop is called for. a brunette. of horn. aiding as it does the grip and control of the gun. The eye must be down to the line of sights. in a cast-off or. take a gun with stock smeared over with varnish. But when you write the maker of the gun of your choice. Get them to make up a little filler for you of putty. one. The butt plate may be of vulcanite composition. Therefore. should be shorter stocked. If your hand is the envy of the ladies of your family. and that if you have changes made in your stock. and besides the rifle must take more grief at times. not that wart of wood that sometimes masquerades under the name.