As promised, here's a brief commentary on gun fit from the bench of Rich Cole - a followup to our previous post: Rich Cole Weighs in on the "All Purpose Shotgun"
Let's start off by clarifying that as a stock maker, my approach to the "art" of gun fitting may be outside the realm of what you have read or experienced elsewhere. My method and approach has served me well for many years, but as they say, there is, I suppose more than one way to skin a cat. What a horrible saying!
Why is gun fit important? The most successful shooters are so comfortable handling their gun that it is as if it is an extension of their body. All shooters should strive for this! This level of comfort is achieved through a combination of good instruction, practice, experience, consistency and of course, gun fit. A consistent gun mount is critical for a gun fitter to achieve accurate dimensions. This is one challenge when trying to work with new shooters-- it is difficult to fit someone beyond the basics- LH/ RH, LOP and basic drop if each time the gun comes to the shoulder it is landing in a different spot. With newer shooters there is often a great deal of head and neck maneuvering to get the correct sight picture; it takes time to develop a comfortable mount and stance.
Mounting and moving the gun should be intuitive and as natural as possible. This is developed with practice, over time, establishing muscle memory and proper stance. Not unlike a baseball player's batting stance, shooters have different stances-- a gun fitter must take into consideration the type of stance / mount the shooter uses and for a new shooter, this may change over time in the beginning year(s) of shooting. When I meet a new shooter I try to keep modifications to a minimum, getting as close as possible with things like stock length and basic drop. I leave room for further tweaking as mount and stance / shooting style become more established. I encourage all new shooters to practice their gun mount daily, in front of a mirror. Developing a fluid, comfortable gun mount that is consistent will help a shooter advance in their sport and will help their gunfitter establish the proper dimensions.
Once a shooter's style / stance and mount are more well-established, true "fitting" can become more complex. A gun fitter / stockmaker must consider handling characteristics, overall dynamics as well as type of gun and sport in which the shooter will engage. Balance is very important and must be considered when building or modifying a stock, the weight and length of the stock must be correct relative to the barrel length and weight. Other important considerations are grip angle, grip length, palm swell size and location, grip circumference, cast at several points, pitch, drop at several points, LOP.
In my experience, a shooter with a gun that fits properly is going to perceive less recoil, hit more targets and have more fun!