Have you ever given any thought to exactly how you hold your gun and the four points of contact you have with your gun when you are shooting?  Do you know that there is a right and wrong way to position your hand on the grip?  Do you know where the gun should sit in your shoulder?  Do you know that the position of your hand on the forend can affect your gun mount and your barrel control?  Do you know how the stock should sit in to your cheek and the importance of doing this correctly and consistently?

If the Gun Fits

Having the correct contact with all four relevant parts of your gun is essential for good shooting.  It goes hand in hand with gun fit as you may struggle to hold and mount your gun correctly if it doesn’t fit you.  If you’re not sure about your gun fit, I recommend you see an experienced gun fitter and if necessary get your gun altered; it will be of huge benefit to your shooting.  I’ll discuss gun fit in another blog later in this series.

Get a Grip!

The first point of contact with your gun is with the grip; this needs to be the right size for your hand and the trigger, the right distance for your finger.  An adjustable trigger is helpful if you have one.  If the grip is too small or too large it will need altering or you need to change your gun for one with a more appropriate size of grip. Assuming the grip is correct, don’t just put your hand on the gun any old how, or “shake hands” with it, as some recommend; your hand needs to placed correctly, as follows:

Start by placing your hand face up underneath the bottom of the grip and then move it slowly up the side of the gun and stop when:

1 – The section of thumb between the first and second joints is horizontal on the top of the grip

2 – The back of the thumb is supported by the front of the comb.

3 – The front of the comb lies centrally between the first and second thumb joints.

4 – The third, forth and little finger draw upwards at 45 degrees.

5 – The third finger and the thumb should touch/over lap

6 – Given the correct trigger position, you should be able to squeeze the trigger using the pad of the index finger, about ¾ of the way along the pad.  The pad is the most sensitive part of the finger so is the best bit to use.  Using the crease of the joint will not result in a smooth, refined or well-timed trigger pull.

This hand position allows the arm to be relaxed, and the wrist to be at such an angle that it can articulate easily to allow the gun to be brought up to the cheek naturally, smoothly and comfortably.  Remember, only use the lower arms to lift the gun to the face, not the whole arm and your shoulders.

If the thumb is too far over the top it will cause the elbow to lift and therefore the shoulder to lift when the gun is mounted creating too much tension and an awkward position.  If the thumb is not far enough over, the wrist is not at the optimum angle for articulation and it will be awkward to mount the gun and put pressure on the wrist.

If the fingers are not drawn up to the thumb with the third finger overlapping, it results in a weaker grip and the wrist is not at the optimum angle for mounting the gun.  If the third finger and thumb don’t touch it maybe the grip is too big for you.

Many people leave their thumb on the safety catch whilst shooting which is a bad habit.  Firstly, you will not have a firm grip of the gun and secondly it could potentially cause injury to the thumb.

A Chip on Shoulder 

When it comes to putting the gun in the shoulder, the middle of the butt plate should be placed in the middle of the shoulder, so the recoil is spread through the whole length of the pad.  The middle of the shoulder is in the soft pocket that you find when you bring your arm forwards.  If the butt plate sits proud of the top of the shoulder the recoil will only go through the part in contact with the shoulder which is not good for the shooter.  It also implies that there may be a gun fit issue.  If the gun is placed too low in the shoulder, it will cause the shoulder to hunch and give rise to tension and you may struggle to get your head on the stock comfortably as it is too low.

The length of the stock will have a significant impact on the ease of mounting the gun and having the proper contact in the shoulder.  The wrong stock length, pitch or cast can prevent the correct contact of the butt pad in the shoulder.

The Cheek of it!

The third point of contact with the gun is the cheek; this needs to be in the correct position so the top of the comb sits just above the eye tooth with the nose tucked in to the gun.  This is extremely important and again another area that requires good gun fit; the height, width and angle of the comb plus the cast need to be right.  Mounting the gun firmly and consistently in the same place in the cheek, with the head straight and the eyes level, allows your master eye to be in line with the rib; this is your point of reference so you can shoot where you are looking.  

Forend is Forwarned!

The hand controlling the barrels is placed on the forend.  The general rule is hold the forend as you hold an egg, gently but firm enough not to drop it!  Avoid white knuckles!

There are several ways of to hold the forend; it is a matter of personal preference and what gives you the best control of the gun.  You can either point your index finger forwards underneath the forend or point it forwards down the side of the forend; this can give the feeling of more control and accuracy.  Alternatively the forend can rest across the palm.  What I don’t subscribe to is gripping the forend between the thumb and index finger whilst resting it on the closed middle finger as this does not appear particularly secure.

How far you place your hand along the forend matters.  For most people, if the hand is in the middle of the forend, the gun feels well balanced and you will have good control and be able to mount the gun comfortably.  If your hand is too far back next to the action, then you may be able to move the barrels faster in a whippy motion, but you will lack control.  Having the hand too far forward makes mounting the gun more difficult if the arm is outstretched and has no “give”; it will also slow down the movement of the barrels and can hinder control.

The way the hand is placed on the forend should encourage a relaxed arm. If the elbows are sticking out in an awkward fashion, the movement of the gun will not be fluid.  Equally if the elbows are too tightly tucked in, this will restrict the barrel movement.

Ready, Steady, Go!

All the above should be done once you are set up in the correct Ready Position, in order to achieve the best contact with gun at all four of the above points.  You are therefore able to execute the best mount, and consequently your best shooting.  If your gun fits you well, and you do this, then you are “good to go”!

Written By Nicki Wakeford