Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Teaching a giraffe to shoot a shotgun

Yeah, I know, ridiculous isn't it?

But that's how it feels sometimes when I'm trying to improve my shotgun shooting. Just think about how the shotgun works - how your face has to fall comfortably onto the exact same spot on the stock every time. Then think about how hard it is do to that when you've got a stupid giraffe neck like I do.

Watching Boyfriend mount his shotgun with the greatest of ease once last year, I declared, "I bet my neck is an inch longer than yours!" I actually measured our necks. Mine is two inches longer - 6 inches to his 4. Giraffe neck.

I've been grumbling about this to my shooting instructor, Harv Holcomb, who invites me out to his Sunday morning skeet shoots with the guys. "You might want to try an adjustable-comb stock," he said a few weeks ago. Read more...
An adjustable comb allows you to actually move just the part of the stock where your face rests when you're shooting - you can move it up or down, left or right, until it's absolutely perfect. Competition shooters use them a lot.

Honestly, a good gun fitting can do the same thing. Mostly. With an adjustable comb, you can move the comb without moving the butt even farther to the left (in my case) or right (for normal people).

Harv called me last week and asked if I was going to be shooting on Sunday. He had a gun with an adjustable comb that he wanted me to try - a 20 gauge Remington 1100.

Quite honestly, I just wanted to get out there and practice with Sarah Connor (that would be my new 12 gauge Beretta 3901 - black synthetic stock, hence being named for the bad-ass heroine of Terminator and Terminator II). But I decided to humor Harv.

He adjusted the comb for left-handed shooting and had me shoulder it. Meh. I wasn't moved. My gun felt better. I spent the rest of the morning shooting Sarah.

Then, before we wrapped up for the day, Harv asked one of his buddies for an Allen wrench and he tinkered with the comb some more, got it cranked as low and as far to the left as he could get it. "Try this," he said.

Hmmmmm. It felt better. Not natural - I still had to think about it, as I seem to have to do with all my guns - but better.

"Let's try it," he said.

So we went out, and all coaching stopped, he just let me shoot, and I'll be damned if I didn't just kick some butt. I nailed two sets of doubles, where one clay flies from the left, followed immediately by another from the right. And one of them was at what Harv says is the toughest station for doubles. No thinking at all. Didn't think about where my face was on the stock. Just raised it and shot. I was in heaven.

"That's the best I've ever seen you shoot," Harv said.

'Nuf said.

The next day I ordered an adjustable-comb stock for Sarah. It's not that I had $260 lying around, but I would do almost anything to make my shooting routinely feel like that last round did on Sunday.

And hey, the gun was free - I won it at a duck dinner - so $260 was a small price to pay... Oh yeah, I can rationalize anything.

Anyway, I'm trying not to get too excited about it. The stock is from a different company than Harv's stock. My gun is a different gun. But the guy I ordered from said I could return the stock if it didn't work well for me, so what have I got to lose?

I'll let y'all know how it goes when I get it all put together next week - it won't be in time for the cottontail opener, but there's a long season on cottontails.

And, hey, Walter B! Yes, it will have a Kick-Eez pad on it.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Walter Bruning said...

Ah, a teachable journalist. A rare bird indeed. Holly, you have just graduated from the ranks of "participating shooter" to "committed shooter!" You will be surprised at how things are going to work now. The Kick Eez pad will help greatly but so will that stock. It also is going to help you with "felt" recoil to the face and even the shoulder because the gun is going to be placed naturally in the best spot. Get Mr. Holcomb to help you set it up and once there, don't mess with it! Those ducks and geese are in big, big trouble come Autumn. Congratulations!

NorCal Cazadora said...

LOL! I'm highly teachable!

I'm pretty excited. The stock is going to add about 8 oz. to total gun weight, which I'm not thrilled about - it's already heavier than I'm used to. BUT, I know that will absorb recoil, and the guy at the company said it makes it swing easier too, and Harv said that made sense.

clayinstructor said...

Holly you not only shot the best I ever saw you shoot. You also hit a high 2 that 99.5 % of all competition would have missed in the wind. When we get your new stock adjusted to you and you spend some time getting to know it you will be deadly. Harv

NorCal Cazadora said...

Heh heh heh .... I like the sound of that.

Anonymous said...

Take something like the stock from the lefthanded version of one of these: http://host17.ssl-net.net/steyr-sportwaffen_at/media/Luftgewehre/LG110_Match/LG110_match_g.jpg

and fit a shotgun action into it.

Then see how you get on...

Shewee woman said...

Holly, now you are talking my lingo! As an avid sporting clays shooter, you will love your shotgun once it is set up for you. And really, 8 more ounces, that will only build more muscles as you trek to different blinds. Yes, I agree, the ducks ARE in trouble now. Keep us posted, I will be anxious to see how your scores go up and the ducks fall down. Keep Shooting!

NorCal Cazadora said...

Dr. Dan - wow!

Shewee - I don't keep score on skeet, which is unusual for me, because I'm obsessed with scores and tracking. But I do keep track of how much ammo I use to bring home how many ducks - that's the test that matters most to me.

Jules said...

Holly, my husband and father-in-law are dedicated trapshooters. They've encouraged me to play with it for a few years, but I wasn't terribly enthusiastic until we went shooting sporting clays. Once they stopped coaching me so hard, I started hitting doubles, and on a gun that didn't really fit me well.

So after that, they had me pick up and try out every gun they could find, to see what did fit. Our 1100 wasn't great, but better than most. Then Dad lent me his baby, his Beretta 390. And presto, I'd found the gun that fit me. He happened to have another one, so they gave that to me to try for a while. After they moved some shims around, that gun fit me like it was made for me. My scores went up accordingly.

They're such pushers that they ganged up and gave me that gun for my birthday. They hope I'll join the league when I'm ready, and I may someday be. But the light didn't go on until I had a gun that fit!

Hey, maybe now I can try duck hunting too...

SimplyOutdoors said...

Fortunately, I don't have a "giraffe" neck.

I do hope the stock works out for you, though. It always feels good to shoot well, while shooting comfortably too.

Thankfully, I have a gun that has felt natural ever since I brought it home. Now, bows on the other hand - I dropped almost a grand to get one I feel comfortable with a couple of years ago.

I guess I can rationalize anything too.:):)

Lindsay said...

I am right handed and left eye dominant. I shoot right handed, and close my left eye. Is this you too?? (i know you shoot left handed)
My scores at trapshooting are okay...my best is 19/25.
It feels so weird to shoot left handed...but am wondering if it may improve my score.
any insight?
I have remington 1100.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Jules: Sometimes my shooting awesome, but sometimes not so much. Perfect fit should eliminate that inconsistency. Theoretically. But yes, if you're shooting well, you should hunt ducks - tougher than clays, but much more delightful.

Simply: Kindred spirit! Viva Visa!

Lindsay: I'm right-handed, left-eye dominant and I shoot left-handed. BUT, my right eye kicks in once in a while and messes up my sight picture, so I still shut my right eye when I shoot. It's not perfect, but it's what I can do with the body I was given.

I have no experience, though, with switching shooting hands - I shot leftie from the start because I knew I was left-eye dominant. Now I don't think I could shoot right-handed - it's that ingrained. You can train your right eye to take over, or you can switch - either one would probably improve your shooting - but Harv might want to chime in here.

As for scores - like I said, I don't keep score - but if you're feeling good about your scores, do you need to mess with a good thing? If you want to shoot perfectly, yes. If not...?

Barbara Baird said...

Do you know how many women would LOVE to have your neck, Lady? And, hey, glad to hear you've learned to compensate for it!

NorCal Cazadora said...

They can have it! Since I'm neither an actress nor a supermodel, it doesn't do me much good, and I have a LOT of problems with it, like major headaches, all the time. I'd happily trade for a normal one any day :-(.

clayinstructor said...

Lindsay your shooting will be much improved if you convert to the dark side I mean the left side. If you are local to the nor cal I can help you. It should not be more then a couple of lesson and some home work to do the job. Then a lot of practice to become good. Harv

NorCal Cazadora said...

Dark side? Humph!