Skip to main content

Make Sure Your Hunting Rifle Fits You Well for Next Season

A rifle that fits and interfaces well with the shooter is one of the most critical components in creating repeatable accuracy.

Make Sure Your Hunting Rifle Fits You Well for Next Season
Many rifle stocks now have a more vertical grip that’s ideal for shooting from the prone position. However, the style is not as suitable for quick, unsupported shots. (Photo by Richard Mann)

Some folks assume the hardest part of rifle manufacturing is building a rifle that shoots well. Many also believe the most important consideration when selecting a rifle is choosing the cartridge in which it will be chambered. Truthfully, the hardest thing for a manufacturer to do is build a rifle that will interface well with the most shooters. Similarly, your most important consideration should be finding a rifle that interfaces well with you.

The second you grab a rifle, you start interacting with it, and the quality of that interaction determines how well you and the rifle work together. There are many points of interface on a rifle, such as size and weight, the trigger and the sights, but as important as all these are, it’s the stock that your hands, head and body must interact with most. If that’s off, little else matters, and a stock that works well with one shooter may not mesh with another because we all come in different sizes.

rifle
An adjustable comb helps to maximize the shooter’s interface with the sights while maintaining a good cheek weld. (Photo by Richard Mann)

LENGTH OF PULL

The most referenced measurement of a rifle stock is length of pull (LOP). It’s the distance from the rifle’s butt to the trigger. Standard LOP is between 13 and 13 3/4 inches, and it’s a bit long for most shooters because they have to stretch to reach the trigger and cycle the action.

An optimum LOP will allow your trigger finger to interact with the trigger at a 90-degree angle when the rifle is mounted on your shoulder. Your trigger finger, meanwhile, should be bent at a 90-degree angle at the first joint. This keeps you from putting too much or too little of your finger on the trigger and pulling or pushing the shot left or right. An optimum LOP also lets you reliably cycle the action as fast as possible without removing the stock from your shoulder. Fortunately, manufacturers are finally effectively addressing this concern, which is why so many rifles now come with an adjustable LOP.

fitwellsub

THE BUTT

The rifle’s butt goes against your shoulder, and it’s where recoil force is transferred to your body. The more of the butt that’s in contact with your shoulder, the less painful recoil will be. Soft recoil pads help lessen recoil sensation, too. Regardless of how macho you think you might be, the more intense the recoil impulse, the worse you will shoot. Recoil tolerance is an individual thing, and you’ll have to determine what you can and cannot handle.

Some rifles have a Monte Carlo-style stock or a stock with an adjustable comb that allows more of the butt to contact your shoulder. But the lower the heel of the stock in relation to the centerline of the bore, the more muzzle flip or rise you’ll experience. Muzzle rise is what drives the comb of the stock into your cheek, and a stock with the heel at or near bore line better keeps the thrust of the rifle straight back toward you.

THE COMB

A rifle stock’s comb is where you rest your cheek, and—ideally—it positions your head and eye in line with the sights. This is critical and helps you align the sights faster when you shoulder the rifle. It also helps with accuracy because your head is positioned correctly, and the same way, every time.

The problem is that most combs on rifle stocks are too low for a good cheek weld and proper eye alignment with a riflescope. This is either because they’re made to work with open sights or because the scope is mounted too high. As with LOP, this is why we’re now seeing so many adjustable combs on rifle stocks.

The drop from the nose of the comb to the heel of the comb or stock matters, too. If the nose of the comb is higher than the heel, there’s positive drop, and when the rifle recoils, it will push the comb into your cheekbone. If the nose of the comb is lower than the heel, there’s negative drop, and during recoil, the comb will just sort of painlessly slide by your cheek.

man shooting rifle
Some rifles now include different butt and comb inserts, as well as versatile sight options and M-Lok forends, to suit more hunters. (Photo by Richard Mann)

THE WRIST AND FOREND

Many modern hunting rifles have a wrist that’s almost vertical to the bore line of the rifle. This is a carry-over from precision long-range-style rifles and is very comfortable when shooting from the prone position. However, on hard-kicking rifles, these vertical grips can allow the trigger guard to pound into your middle finger, and they often complicate easy access to the safety. This makes them not quite as easy to use when attempting a snap-shot.

A more open grip is usually more forgiving when shooting offhand and from field positions, and generally positions your hand to allow easier safety deactivation and activation. If you like to stalk or still-hunt, an open grip will likely interface better with your hunting and shooting style. Many who hunt from a shoot house or blind and then shoot from a solid rest will likely find a vertical grip more comfortable.

Of all the points of interface on a rifle stock, the forend is most often overlooked, but that doesn’t mean it does not matter. Mostly, how the forend feels in your support hand is a matter of personal preference; some like them fat, while others like them trim. What’s important is that it’s comfortable and will work with the shooting support(s) you use the most. For example, if you shoot from a bag, a flat-bottom forend is better. If you only shoot offhand, a radiused forend is generally preferred.

Recommended


Another consideration is bipods and tripods. Many rifles only have a single sling swivel stud for mounting. Others have two. The positioning of these studs is important so they will allow for bipod and tripod attachment, and so they will not interfere with your support hand when shooting or during recoil.

FIT TO HIT

Cartridge choice is often the most considered feature of a rifle, but outside the extremes—you’ll never hunt elephants with a .223 or prairie dogs with a .375—it’s not all that important. As the great gun writer Dave Petzal once observed, “If you can’t shoot, it doesn’t matter what you use. If you can shoot, it doesn’t matter what you use.” A rifle that fits you, and that feels as comfortable on the shoulder as your favorite pair of socks feel on your feet, is very important and will help you place your shots more accurately. And accurate shooting is the most reliable way to end a hunt successfully.





GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Fishing

Fly a Kite

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Fishing

Bumping Along

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Offshore Cranking

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Gear

Trika Rods

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Gear

New Shimano Baitcasters

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Hunting

Incredible Turkey Audio: Tommy Allen Punches his Minnesota Tag IN THE SNOW

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Destinations

First Turkey Ever: Perfect Conditions Make for a Short Hunt

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Froggin' Game Plan

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Videos

What to Know Before Going Off-Road

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Learn

Off-Road Safety Tips and Techniques

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Gear

The Right Tires for Off-Roading

Spinnerbaits vs. bladed jigs: They are similar lures, but when is the right time to throw them?
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use