Monday, July 5, 2010

Sweet new toys for a shotgun girl

UPDATE: While the stock I write about below really improved my shooting, it drove me nuts. The exterior looks like a Beretta 390 stock, but the design of the interior does not, and without going into the complicated reason why, I can tell you the result was that the stock came loose every 50 shots or so (email me if you want details). After three years, the comb hardware has also begun to fail, so I am DONE with it - it's not worth the grief. The factory Beretta stock never fit me right, so I just bought a Beretta A400 Xtreme, which is a better fit, and has great recoil dampening.

-Holly, Aug. 17, 2013


Some people like watching fireworks. Me, I celebrated the Fourth of July with the most comfortable day of shotgun shooting I've ever had - and that's saying a lot for a girl with a giraffe neck shooting skeet on a really hot and windy day.

What gives? A couple things.

One: I finally got my new adjustable-comb stock from Fitaski. An adjustable comb allows you to adjust the part of the stock where your cheek sits - left or right, up or down - without moving the whole stock.

The goal of shotgunning is for your cheek to land in the same spot on the stock every time so you can shoot more accurately. But when you have a long neck, it's hard to push the stock out far enough for your cheek to hit it comfortably without pushing the butt way out on your shoulder, where it's not supposed to be.

My shooting instructor, Harv Holcomb, listened to me bitching about this one day and recommended getting an adjustable-comb stock.

So I did. For $250 plus shipping, I got a black synthetic adjustable stock that fits Sarah Connor, the 12 gauge Beretta 3901 that I won earlier this year at a California Waterfowl dinner. I took it to the shooting range on Thursday and Harv helped me set it up.

Right off the bat he was pleased with the hardware that Fitaski used (Graco). He said it was better than what X, Y and Z companies used, but I'm going to have to trust him on that, because honestly, I don't know squat about it.

He got the stock on the gun, then he'd adjust it, test the fit, adjust some more, and test again. Finally I fired off a few rounds and was really pleased with how comfortably my cheek rested in the right spot.

I hit pretty well too, but Harv admonished me to go home and practice mounting to get comfortable with it. When you're used to cramming your face up against the stock, it takes practice to adopt a more relaxed mount.

I practiced mounting at home every day, and on Sunday afternoon, I begged Boyfriend to go shooting with me so I could get some real trigger time at the Cordova Shooting Center.

I will say honestly that the new stock did not transform me into a perfect clay-killing machine. Fortunately, I wasn't expecting it to - I know that takes time.

The key at this point is that the stock feels good. Before I bought it, I spoke directly with Fitaski owner Deone Horinek in Kansas, and I asked him if I'd be able to return the stock if it didn't feel right for any reason. He said yes, but I didn't need to take him up on the offer.

And I was shooting better yesterday - I had some really nice rounds in which I rarely missed, interrupted by a couple of those bad shooting streaks that just happen, usually on stations where I'm not getting the lead right. It was a tough day, too, because a strong wind was jerking the clays around like you wouldn't believe - they were bobbing up and down like cheesy B-movie spaceships.

It'll be interesting seeing how this works out in the duck blind - the adjustable comb adds one more place where my gun can get tangled up in tules, one more place water and mud can infiltrate. But I decided it'd be worth it to shoot more comfortably, and ultimately better.

If you're considering getting an adjustable-comb stock, Deone makes them for Beretta 391s and 390/3901s in 12 gauge, and for Remington 1100s, 1187s and 870s in 12 and 20 gauge, with junior versions available for all Remingtons. You can also get your stock and fore-end "dipped" in a variety of colors and camo patterns, though that costs extra.

Now, I said a couple things contributed to my comfort yesterday, so on to the next one.

Two: The Fitaski stock comes with a Kick-Eez pad, which my friend Walter loves so much that you'd swear he's the chief stockholder. (It's also the standard that Dale Tate, my favorite gunmaker on earth, uses).

I'd mention to Walter off-hand that I'd be sore after a day of shooting three or four boxes of shells at the range - particularly if I was out of practice - and Walter would tell me I should never be sore.

Never? Ha! I had always accepted soreness was part of the deal. Even with my 20-gauge, I'd come away from big shooting days not necessarily bruised, but sore, as though I'd been lifting weights with my shoulder (which is, I guess, kinda what's going on when you resist the gun's recoil).

With the Fitaski, I knew recoil would be dampened somewhat because it's a solid stock, maybe 8 ounces heavier than the Beretta stock. Heavier guns absorb more recoil.

But with the Kick-Eez on top of that, I was barely feeling a thing, which is saying a lot, because Sarah Connor kicks noticeably harder than my 20 gauge.

So: Yes, Walter, you were right. Happy?

OK, so one last thing...

Three: I just got a new Competitor Short Sleeve Shooter's Shirt from Prois (PRO-iss) and it is GREAT for hot-weather shooting.

Like many other Prois items, this one is made of a technical fabric that wicks sweat from your body. Yesterday - a day in the high 90s - I wore it with blue jeans, and the difference in comfort levels under shirt versus under the pants was striking.

I kinda take the fabric for granted with Prois, though, so the first thing I noticed about the shirt when I got it was actually its patches.

For starters, it has shooting patches on both sides, so those of us who shoot left-handed aren't left out. Many of the women's shooting shirts I've seen have patches only on the right side, which irritates me.

The second thing is that these aren't just decorative patches. I love my Filson shooting shirt, but its patches (yes, on both sides) are more decorative than functional - there's no padding on them whatsoever. The Prois shirt, on the other hand, has thick quilted patches. I can't say how much they dampened recoil when I was out shooting yesterday because there were other factors at work (gun weight, Kick-Eez pad). But I can guarantee you they're more protection than un-padded patches.

Ladies, if you're interested, the shirt retails for $70 (though I confess I got it for free because I'm on the Prois Field Staff). It comes in three color combinations, and there's a long-sleeved version too.

Man, I love new toys. The only thing better than getting them is playing with them, and you can bet I'll be playing with these all summer.

© Holly A. Heyser 2010


Shewee woman said...

Damn Girl, you are on top of things. I will definitely check out the Prois shirt. How does one get to be on their field staff? I hunt, I shoot (alot) and I could definitely spread the word on their clothes. I am 5'8" about 165 lbs, and I usually purchase men's clothing because the women's apparel that I have found is never cut properly to be practical. If I want to look cute, I will stay home. Do you have any of their other clothing? I have yet to find women's clothing that works, and I do look.
As far as the shotgun goes, I am glad you got it set up right, it will make all the difference in the world. Keep practicing. I mount my gun in the house a couple times a day and line it up with the edge of the ceiling. What you do when you do this is build muscle memory so when you are out in the blind you don't even have to think..... your gun is right there. Way to go, can't wait till duck season.

Walter Bruning said...

You are welcome. Now keep your big ole' bloodshot eye on that bird, head on the comb, keep swinging and smash it! Glad it made a difference. We old guys aren't completely useless. In fact, I have the aches, pains and scars of experience in shooting to back up my shaky advice. Hahahahaha.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Due to a really weird Blogger glitch today, there are comments that have been posted but are not appearing on the blog. I'm going to respond to one here in hopes that 1) it works and 2) the original comment shows up:

Shewee woman: Check out the Prois catalog. It's high quality, made in USA (the other two big women's hunting/shooting clothing companies are made abroad).

I own three other shirts in technical fabrics (think running-shirt fabric), and one pair of pants. The pants sit a bit low on the hip for me, but I'm very long-waisted, so most pants do. The cut is still very comfy, and my favorite thing about the pants is pleated knees, which makes kneeling super easy. Long-sleeve shirts all have thumb-holes to pull sleeves taught if you're into archery.

I also have a Prois fleece jacket, which I love, but honestly, I bought it because it's cute. The only cold-weather hunting I do in Cali is duck-hunting, which requires waterproof clothing, and if it's chilly when I'm deer or pig hunting, a fleece jacket would do nothing but attract burrs. In greener habitats, though, I suspect it would work great.

Walter, I would never accuse you of being useless!

Josh said...

A great post.

A question: Has anybody invented a stock-sock for the problem you describe about dirt and hang-ups?

NorCal Cazadora said...

Methinks pantyhose would work. Until I decide to put a sling on it. (Hey, that could be a new Beyonce song - "Put a sling on it!")

Anonymous said...

As an avid trapshooter, I have an adjustable comb on my trap gun(s). It does change the POI, but also can make the comfort level of your gun fit better. I've taken my trap gun (which shoots 70/30 pattern) out to the field for upland birds, and shot over alot of them. So definately take that into consideration. All my "shooting" friends shoot field guns (40/60 patterned) at birds.