1. What type of gun is best for women, 12 or 20g?
This is a question that I get asked a lot. For me, it really comes down to application. If the shooter is looking to shoot mainly clays then I would usually recommend a 12 gauge with light load cartridges such as 21gram. This is because this considerably reduces the running costs of clay shooting overusing a twenty. An important consideration here is the weight of the gun. Although it is possible to purchase a lightweight 12 gauge that weighs around the same as most 20 gauges, the recoil on the lightweight 12 will be greatly increased with heavier game-style cartridges. So in short I would suggest a 12 for mainly clays and a 20 gauge where game is the primary quarry.
2. Which comes first, adjustments to gun fit or getting a consistent mount?
Gunfit is absolutely paramount for me. Yes, I agree that a consistent mount is important but I don’t believe this can be achieved without a shotgun that is something like correct. Without a correctly fitted shotgun, the shooter will only pick up bad habits from the get-go. Bad habits that I see commonly in lady shooters are mounting the gun too high in the shoulder, not applying positive pressure on the cheekbone (many mount the gun in the fleshy part of the cheek. This will mean that when the shooter progresses to a gun that is correctly fitted that they will effectively have to start all over again. Get the gun fitted first and a consistent mount will come.
3. Is there a standard type of gun that is better suited to women? Game, sport, trap etc?
This is a really good question and in short, I would say a field gun (we are talking 12 gauge) because of the more manageable weight. However with trap guns having less drop on the comb (around 10mm versus 20mm plus on game/sporting guns) then the stocks, in particular, have a place where ladies’ guns are considered. When comparing a Beretta Silver Pigeon Vittoria for example I would always recommend the lighter weight field model and most often with an adjustable comb.
4. Does having a gun fit/gun fitted really make a difference?
It absolutely 100% makes a difference. The majority of shotguns are built with the male shooter in mind. As a female shooter, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to shoot one of these ‘off the peg’ models without some alteration. The comparison of male/female clothes is very relevant here, the fit/cut can be polar opposites and shotguns are no different.I see a number of ladies that due to lack of knowledge and education (in this area) are shooting guns that are completely unsuitable for them. By understanding what is required and why they may be suffering sore shoulders, cheeks etc then it makes all the difference. I have already carried out FREE gun fits for a number of CGUK members and I will continue to do so. Please contact me at [email protected] to arrange a fitting session.
5. Does weight loss effect gun fit?
In the same way that how many sausage rolls and slices of lemon drizzle cake that you scoff on a sim day can contribute to you doing the buttons on your breeks up, your shotgun is no different. If you overdo it at Christmas (who doesn’t?!) or go crazy and sign up to Zumba both of these decisions will affect your gun fit. Quite often we lose or gain weight in the face which will ultimately pose problems when it comes to those lazy summer sim days or crisp December mornings. The most sensible solution is to have your gun fitted with an adjustable comb. As well as being the most common alteration that we carry out to ladies guns, indeed all guns. The adjustable comb allows for any physical changes in the shooter and can be altered accordingly.
6.What about weight changes that affect boob size. Does that change the fit?
I was convinced that I would not get through this blog without talking about boobs…
So in a word yes. Changes in boob size can affect fit in terms of both cast and pitch of the stock. Again this can usually be overcome with some simple alterations. We can change the pitch of the stock which will usually mean ‘hacking’ the stock. An adjustable pad plate fitted to the rear of the stock can often be the answer. Not only do these offer the facility of sliding up and down to cater for long necks and high cheekbones but they can also be twisted in or out of the shoulder pocket accordingly. If you have a gun that is fitted with both an adjustable comb and an adjustable pad plate it will usually cover you for most eventualities.
6. Does height affect gun choice.
This is probably a question I should get asked more often than I do but it absolutely does. Again the application of the shotgun is paramount when choosing one. You only need to look on social media to find an image of lady shooter with her hand too far back on the forend or her head too far back on the stock. Both of these are closely linked and are incorrect. It stands to reason that taller people require longer stocks and shorter people require shorter ones. There is however a lot more to it than that. It is highly likely that a tall person will have a long neck so will not only need a longer stock but also a higher stock. The problem is that when you increase the length of the stock on a shotgun you also increase the natural drop of the stock. It is extremely rare that I come across a female shooter that needs a low comb, it is usually the opposite. Looking at the opposite side of the coin a shorter female shooter can benefit massively from a shorter stock. This is because by reducing the LOP (length of pull) they are naturally pushing their head higher up the stock where it is higher and will aid the sight picture and possibly avoid the need for further adjustments. Typically a ladies’ stock tends to be about 14″ LOP. It is rare that we would shorten below 12.5″. In addition by shortening a stock a considerable amount the balance can be compromised and this should be addressed. As a rule of thumb, the shooter should have a gap of 2/3 fingers between their nose and thumb when the shotgun is mounted. The story with barrels is similar. A taller shooter that is looking for an all round shotgun can easily handle a 32″ barrelled gun whereas a much shorter shooter (say 5ft) would require a 28″ gun as an allrounder. My recommendation for most female shooters that want to shoot game and clays would be 30″. This is due to the pointability and steadiness a 30″ gun offers. A good bit of advice is that although the longer barrels may initially feel a bit heavy, you will soon build up the required muscle memory for you to handle it effectively. Ultimately though it will depend on the individual shooter and their stature/required application.
7. Would you recommend a left handed gun for someone who is left eye dominant or are there better ways round it?
Personally, I would not unless the circumstances are extreme. Most female shooters have some kind of eye dominance issue. My advice has always been to close the dominant eye in order to get the correct sight picture. However whilst many shooters (not all) can close an eye they struggle to retain full vision through the open one, often squinting. For this reason, I would recommend covering the dominant eye rather than closing it. This fools the brain into thinking that the eye is closed and that squinting (which affects peripheral vision) does not occur. This can be achieved by using a patch, some sticky tape or just a bit of vaseline on the lense of your shooting glasses. The results are astounding in many cases. It is also useful to know that a poorly fitted gun can create the illusion of an eye dominance issue with the most common problem being head rolling. If you are lucky enough to be ambidextrous and perhaps have centre vision then I may suggest shooting off your left shoulder.
8. Is it tricky to get into gunsmithing and where should I start?
In all honesty, I am not sure about this. I have been in the industry for 25 years and the majority of gunsmiths I have met have been aging males with a particular skill set. That said I do know of a couple of female smiths. My suggestion would be to perhaps contacting some of the major UK suppliers/distributors as many have in-house gunsmiths. Offer your services for free to see if you can help out in any way. I am sure that one of them will be grateful. Aside from this, there are a number of independent gunsmiths across the UK and they would also be worth a phone call or email. In addition, there are several gunsmith skills that you might be able to look at a college course for. Feel free to contact me and I will help with some contacts.