Last fall we were hunting in the south central part of BC. A couple, I’ll call them Sarah and Paul, were traveling through and were staying at the same motel as I was. Paul hunted and Sarah was interested in getting into the sport. She planned on using his rifle later in the year. Sarah was approximately a foot shorter than Paul.
I advised her to do three things: get a PAL (Possession and Acquisition License) so she could legally carry a firearm, complete a CORE course (through the BCWF) so she could legally hunt and purchase a shotgun or rifle that fits her.
While talking with them I went and got my wife’s shot gun and rifle as well as mine. My wife had ordered a 20ga Italian shotgun to her dimensions (not really as expensive as you might think) and her compact rifle in 7mm-08Rem.
Although the shotgun was a bit short for Sarah, because my wife’s Length of Pull (LOP) is 12 ½”, the rifle, at 13” LOP, fit Sarah well. Mine are both 13 ½”. My rifle was a compact as well. Most factory rifles have a LOP between 13 ¾” and 14” and that is too long for me. When Sarah shouldered my firearms she immediately understood what I was talking about. Sarah later contacted me to say she had completed her PAL and CORE.
To have a rifle or shotgun that fits properly is imperative to enjoying the sport to its fullest. While practice is always a necessity, a proper fit just makes it easier to shoot well. I’m an averaged sized male and so most stock rifles and shotguns fit me, although some much better than others. When my wife started shooting some 30 years ago, there wasn’t much choice on the market. It was normal at that time to simply cut the stock a little bit shorter.
Unfortunately, with a cut stock, what you end up with is a very poorly fit, muzzle-heavy firearm that is difficult to shoot. I’ve ruined several shotguns, one a presentation grade 28ga, trying to create something that fit her. Every attempt was a failure.
Over the last decade women have been expanding the shooting/hunting sports and the firearms companies have listened to their customers. As little as five years ago there were a few choices but usually the visual appeal was pretty dismal. My wife wanted her well-fitting firearms to be nice looking hunting arms as well.
I am pleasantly surprised at the number of compact rifles and shotguns recently released by all of the big manufactures. Most are good looking, stocked in either wood or synthetic, easy to carry and chambered in calibres or gauges that will easily handle anything in North America. Unfortunately the very large framed male is still having difficulty finding a well-fit firearm without going the more expensive custom built route, but even that is changing.
Measuring your trigger-finger forearm will give you a pretty good idea of your “Length of Pull” (LOP). Hold your arm straight and parallel to the floor, then bring your forearm up so that its 90° to the floor. With your index finger extended, turn your hand to face you. Get someone to measure the inside of your forearm from the crook of your elbow to the top joint of your index finger. Mine is 13 ½” and my wife’s is 12 ½”. That 1” makes it very uncomfortable for me to use her firearms and obviously equally so vice versa. Remember if you do a lot of late season or winter hunting you will be wearing heavy clothing so reduce LOP a little. If you can get properly “measured” by someone trained to do so you will get a firearm that feels like wearing tailor made clothing. You look and feel good, and you shoot much better.
When my wife got her “fitted” shotgun she was able to immediately and dramatically increase her “hit” rate on clay pigeons. The same with the “compact” rifle she just got. The one she had before was also a “compact” but another manufacturer released a “compact”, also in 7mm-08Rem, that was ½” shorter again. It is much easier for her to handle, load, carry and shoot.
In clothing, rifles and shotguns – a good fit matters. With the added benefit of a well fit rifle, you’ll shoot more because you’ll enjoy it more, and all that extra shooting will in turn make you a better, more successful shooter.
Always shoot straight!