Just how important is the fit of your shotgun to your enjoyment and success in shooting it? Well, how important is it to you that the waist size of your pants is correct? Many of us have experienced the shrinkage that can occur in a pair of pants after they've hung in the closet over the summer. They weren't very comfortable when we put them on in the fall, were they?
Like many of you, I've also decided at times to lose some weight and been delighted to see the numbers on the scale go down. However, it's a little aggravating when those favorite pants now hang loose around your waist and it looks like a family moved out of the seat!
Why then would we expect an off the shelf shotgun to fit us perfectly? Even if we're luck and it does, what happens to that fit when we gain or lose weight and what happens when our wife, who is 6” shorter and 50 pounds lighter, wants to shoot our gun?
I learned a lot about fitting a shotgun when in 2006, after watching me shoot for about 3 decades, my wife Doris decided that she wanted to join in the fun. I was delighted but that delight soon turned into frustration when I handed her my gun and watched as she struggled to get it to fit her. It just did not work. I could tell that she was getting pounded with every shot she fired and at that rate, her enthusiasm would be short lived.
So, off to my friend John Mann, to buy Doris her own gun. John is a very knowledgeable and patient man. He's been at the gun business all of his life, growing up in a home that was about 100 yards from the gun shop that his Dad started just after the war in 1946. Doris picked up a 20 gauge Remington 870 with a 26” barrel and a full sized stock. John had her shoulder it a few times and then began the process of trimming down the stock and carefully fitting to her frame. That took a while but with John's skill and patience, we finally had a stock that fit her very well.
There was a problem with that process however. As the stock got shorter the butt got smaller and the recoil would be concentrated into a much smaller area than on the full sized stock. With some modification (duct tape) I was able to add some size to the circumference and add a Shooter's Friend recoil pad. It looked a little funny but it worked.
Doris used that gun to set a Women's World Record in 2006, her first year of shooting and went on to use it in 2007 when she won her first World Championship. I never liked the way that gun looked but it did fit her and I did not want to tamper with something that worked for her.
A couple of years later I heard about an adjustable stock that had been developed by Advanced Technology International (ATI) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Adjustable stocks weren't new but one that looked like a traditional hunting stock but was fully adjustable sure was. The good news was that it was made to fit a number of guns made by Winchester, Mossberg and Remington, including Doris' 870. I sent for one.
When it arrived I was very pleased with its appearance and the fact that not only could the length of pull be adjusted but the height at the comb was also adjustable. That adjustable comb was a really great feature since we'd installed a scope on her gun and had to pad the stock to get her eye in the correct position. It was also very pleasing to learn that in its shortest position, it was the exact same length as the stock that John Mann had cut down to fit her.
ATI has made several improvements and added some options to that first stock. It's now the Akita Adjustable Hunting Stock. They developed the Scorpion recoil pad that dampens the recoil generated by even the heaviest 20 gauge and 12 gauge shotshells. It's also now offered in several color combinations as well as the original black.
As I am writing this piece, we have Akita stocks on several 12 gauge and 20 gauge shotguns and Doris has used hers to win 2 more World Championships back to back and numerous regional and state shoots.
Just how important is the fit of your shotgun to your enjoyment and success in shooting it?
My recommendation is that you ask Doris.