Ok! This is where things can get complicated. Apart from the usual cracks, dents, chips etc.there is also re‐finishing, re-chequering and, of course, fitting, and it is here I will start.
A shotgun must “fit” the person who shoots it. As you are shooting at a moving target, and as the gun has only very rudimentary sights, the shotgun, when mounted, must point where you are looking. This is accomplished by adjusting the stock.
Most people go to a shooting school who, with the use of a try gun, present them with a set of measurements, length, drop and cast.
First the length. When the gun is mounted and your cheek is put on the stock, the front of the cheekbone should rest approximately two thirds up the stock towards the top leaver.
The length can be adjusted with a recoil pad, ebonite plates or timber, fitted to match the original stock. I have seen some truly horrendous stock work in my time as a gunsmith, by both supposed professionals and amateurs. Although timber extensions can be dear to have done properly, a badly fitted one knocks value off of your gun and looks awful! You should only have to have the work done once, so please, take my advice and have the work carried out by a competent professional.
Having a pad or plate fitted is not expensive, yet I am still presented with guns where the owner has had a go then bought it to me to re‐finish the wood as he has scuffed the stock, costing five times as much than if he had bought it to me in the first place.
The drop of a shotgun is measured by placing a straight edge on the rib, extending back over the stock. The distance between this straight edge and the stock is then measured at the front of the comb, nearest the action and the back of the comb, nearest the pad.
The cast is how much the stock is bent to the right or left (cast off or cast on), and is also measured at the front and back of the comb.
Both the cast and drop can be altered by a variety of methods, some of which work and some don’t. Each gunsmith closely guards his secret method, and I am no exception. The one thing I will tell you is that bending wood takes time, and if you don’t want your stock broken, it must be done gently.
There is a commonly held belief that a stock that has been bent moves back over time to its original set. It can happen, but not if it is done correctly. I cannot remember the last one I did that moved back.
The last stock measurement to take into account is the twist and pitch of the butt of the gun. Hold your gun out in front of you at arms length with the barrels pointing away from you.
Look at the butt. The bottom or toe should be twisted out to the right or left more than the heel or top of the butt. This, then, is the twist.
The pitch is measured by standing the gun butt down on the ground; ensuring the heel and toe are touching the ground. The gun will lean at an angle from the perpendicular. That angle is the pitch.
As previously stated, most people go to shooting schools to obtain the measurements they need.
May I point out, however, that the measurements can change, depending on how you stand? You therefore end up with a bit of a “chicken and egg “situation. To learn how to shoot properly, you need to have a gun that fits, but it’s very hard to fit a gun to someone who is a novice and who’s style is still developing. My advice is, to make sure the gun is approximately right when you buy it which most good retailers and gunsmiths can advise you on, then have a proper fit after a few lessons and some experience, once your style has settled. It is also worth getting the fit checked if your weight has changed substantially, or your eyesight, or if you are experiencing pain or fatigue when shooting.
Apart from fitting, most shooters, at some time, will damage their stocks. Re stocking a gun, unless there are stocks available from the manufacturer is very expensive, so I always repair wherever possible and it is quite surprising, with modern adhesives how badly a stock can be broken and yet safely repaired.
The above pictures show a sidelock stock which was snapped through the grip/hand. It has been bored from the head, through the grip, to bridge the break.
A hardwood pin, inserted into the stock, then inlet to accept the action.
The finished job, re chequered over the break and locally re finished. A new stock for this gun would have cost between £1500 to £2000, depending on the quality of the wood. This repair was considerably less. Approx 90% less!!!!!!
This is the stock and action of a Beretta SO6, recently arrived for repair. I don’t know if it was dropped, or stood on, or even the result of repeatedly slamming the gun shut, as it came to me via Chris Potters.
Thats better! Once again, a replacement stock would have cost well over £1000. It goes to show, however bad the break, I can usually put it back together again.