(Continued, from page 42) .300 or .375 heavy magnum.
I doubt very much if a shooter could ever get a custom gun made that will exceed the dollar value that is in a Winchester, Remington, Savage, or Marlin factory made gun; but I do believe that, in most cases, factory stocks can be vastly improved to the individual's fit and comfort. These stocks are necessarily a compromise to try to fit, as closely as possible, all shooters, using all types of sights. However, if a shooter buys a factory gun and then has it re-stocked, his total cost may equal or exceed that of the custom gun. Recently to get their share of the lucrative "rifle-crank" fringe market, both Savage and Remington have begun to sell barrelled actions without stocks, at low prices. Others may, too.
It is interesting to observe a group of our sportsmen as they arrive here for their hunts. Sometimes an entire group is using the wonderful old .30-06 caliber in a variety of guns. They always head immediately for the shooting house to sight-in and check the guns. Some complain a great deal of recoil, and some never seem to notice it. On investigation, we always find that the shooters who do not mention recoil have very well shaped and fitted stocks.
I have a Winchester .348 that kicks like a mule; but I've shot one belonging to one of my hunters that was a pleasure to shoot. It was especially stocked and fitted and had very little recoil.
For caliber, the old .30-30 Winchester is probably as hard a "kicking" gun as we have. Yet, properly stocked, a 12-year-old girl can shoot it comfortably. Kick is a matter of delivery of foot pounds of recoil. And all calibers have recoil in varying degrees, from a few pounds to 65 or more foot pounds. Prone or bench rest shooting transfers more of this recoil to the body in the form of Kick, than positions such as kneeling, sitting, or off-hand shooting.
The forearm, size of butt plate, pitch of stock butt, and gun sling, all contribute to this problem of recoil. One spot that affects most shooters the worst is the shape of the stock at the cheek piece. Recently stockers have been paying more attention to this detail. On recoil, a gun naturally comes back, transferring the recoil to the shooter's hand and arm and, if wearing a gunsling, to the shooter's arm and shoulder through the sling. But, also, this rearward travel of the stock will sock the shooter's cheek if the stock is not built right. Some stocks are so poorly fitted to the shooter's stance that the trigger hand and thumb have a tendency to hit him in the nose or face. This adds very little to the comfort of a shooter, and naturally causes him to flinch.
While I have said a great deal about the fit of the stock to a shooter I have also found that a shooter must fit himself to a stock. In my experiments with this, I have found that, even though I am much longer in the arms and considerably heavier than Lenard Browne!!, we both shoot an average length of pull (13%) equally well. And in picking up guns with some difference in stock measurements, we throw them up to a natural shooting position about as well.
A good shooting position for accuracy means the gun must be solid at all body contact points: fore hand, cheek and shoulder. As most western shooting is now done with scope sighted rifles, it's easily apparent that stocks designed for use with iron sights just won't allow good, solid, cheek contact.
I have had some English-made guns with beautiful stocks, but I have never had one I really liked to shoot. They have too much drop, and they have a too low and badly shaped cheek piece. Some have forearms too narrow for a good grip. While I hated to throw away such beautiful wood and the wonderful workmanship of fitting wood to metal, I have had all these guns restocked.
After the war lots of 8 mm. rifles (Mauser '98s) were brought home and converted for hunting. I have never seen a gun that kicks as hard for what it accomplishes as do most of these 8 mms. However, I have shot them from well fitted stocks and they were fine to shoot. Nine to eighteen pounds of recoil transferred to your body at one narrow point is one thing, but a percentage transferred through the forearm hand and arm, some through the trigger hand and arm, and the balance through the good large recoil pad on the butt plate, makes very little pressure at any one point.
A lot of drop in a stock tends to throw the muzzle up on discharge. That, coupled with a poorly designed cheek piece, will hit you an uncomfortable blow in the face. Even on straighter stocked guns the form, both horizontal and vertical, of the cheek piece is important. A great percentage of the now existing stocks have been made strictly with an eye to looks and not recoil absorb-tion, and actually taper the wrong way for relieving or minimizing recoil.
A properly shaped and fitted stock for any particular shooter should come up so easily and naturally that if the hunter throws up his gun with his eyes closed, then opens them, he'll have the target reasonably well in his sight. This type stock on a good gun, combined with the necessary amount of practice, means the difference between coming home with the meat, or a big trophy, or just being able to tell about the "one that got away."
Taper of cheek piece in both horizontal and cheek contact is required. The width of a cheek piece for full-faced people must be less than for thin-faced people. This is the custom stocker's job. The grip diameter for the trigger hand is also important. The stock should be fitted so that the thumb has no tendency to hit the nose at the gun's discharge. I believe a good job of checkering on the forearm makes for a steadier hold and absorbs some of the recoil through that hand and arm.
To notice the strides in slock design and shape made in the last few years, it is only necessary to look through the gun and stock illustrations in the gun magazines. While it would be impossible to name them all here, a few of the stockmakers who recognize the importance of stocks in eliminating recoil feel, and who have done something about it, are Reinhart Fajen of Warsaw, Missouri; Anthony Guymon of Bremerton, Washington; and Peterson Wood Carving of Sun Valley, California. Companies making the complete rifles such as Weatherby's, Inc., of South Gate, California; Gartman Arms of Wrent-ham, Mass.; and P. O. Ackley of Murray, Utah, show this stock change in all they offer. And stockers like Lenard Brownell of Sheridan, Wyoming; A1 Biesen of Spokane, Washington; Keith Steigell of Gunnison, Colorado, and many others, are all paying close attention to shape as well as fit and finish.
When you are next in the market for a rifle or rifle stock, looking for these details will readily show you the difference between some of the older hard kicking stocks, and the modern kick reducing design now on the market. If you own a rifle that kicks, don't blame the caliber for all of it. Spend a reasonable amount and have it stocked by a good stock man. He'll ask for your general build and arm length; then let him go from there. Besides having a good looking, well bedded stock, you'll have one that reduces the apparent kick. If you are like most shooters, you will find such a new or a custom stock goes a long way to helping you shoot more accurately, and enjoy your shooting and hunting more. Ufll
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Deer hunting is an interesting thing that reminds you of those golden old ages of 19th centuries, where a handsome hunk well equipped with all hunting material rides on horse searching for his target animal either for the purpose of displaying his masculine powers or for enticing and wooing his lady love.