Make your rifle fit you – It’s important
Whether you're a hunter, a plinker, or a long-distance competitor, making sure your rifle fits your body is one of the easiest ways to get more accuracy and comfort out of your setup.
Rifle fit is paramount for accuracy and a positive shooting experience. The less you force and think about during the shooting process, the better you focus on the fundamentals of marksmanship, executing the most accurate shot possible. Refining fit variables to make your firearm an extension of your body, not something you have to fight, will make you a better shooter.
So how do you know if your rifle fits? It’s pretty simple really. Are you comfortable and able to achieve natural point of aim - a state where you can get behind the gun, close your eyes for ten seconds, open them, and still be on target? If the answer is yes, you likely have a rifle that fits pretty damn good. If your muscles are tensed, you have trouble getting a full sight picture, are contorting your body and generally working hard to get a sight picture that should come easy, some tweaks to your setup may be in order.
Below are five things to consider or potentially customize every time you buy or set up your next rifle.
Length of pull:
Length of pull is critical when it comes to rifle fit. If it’s not right, nothing will feel right. Length of pull is measured from the center of the trigger to the center of the recoil pad/butt plate. You can check length of pull a few different ways.
- Method #1: With firearm confirmed unloaded/safe, extend your arm, and then bring the rifle back in with the but resting in the crease of your elbow between your forearm and the base-edge of your bicep. Next, see how easy or hard it is to access the trigger. If you really have to reach to get to it, the length of pull is long. If your finger awkwardly overshoots the trigger, too short.
- Method #2: Confirm Rifle is unloaded/safe. With the optic somewhat loose in the rings, and the magnification turned to its highest setting – shoulder the rifle in a standing, natural position. The shooter should observe a full FOV without having to move his or her head from their natural position. Move the optic fore-and-aft while repeating this, until the FOV is perfect for that individual at that natural hold-point. If this is unachievable, you may need to consider a rifle with a different length of pull, or a different mounting solution.
- Method #3: With the firearm confirmed unloaded/safe, measure the length of pull on a rifle that feels good and you shoot well. See how it compares to one you are looking at, or are not shooting well. If there is a discrepancy, note it and proceed accordingly.
Once you know your optimal length of pull, you can select an appropriate off-the-rack commercial option, transition to a nonadjustable custom stock, add a spacer, change the recoil pad to one with a different width or select a rifle/stock with adjustable features. A stock with adjustability can be extremely versatile for achieving optimal rifle fit, particularly when shooting from a variety of positions (prone, off-hand, supported, unsupported, etc.) If you are sharing a rifle or multiple people are using it, adjustability built into the stock, allows it fit just about everyone.
No, not investments – well, unless we’re talking investing in accuracy. An aftermarket cheek rest, riser or adjustable stock can make a world of difference. They will refine your cheek weld and head position. Effectively they micro-adjust the comb height and contour of the rifle stock to work with your setup, body and facial structure. These can be as simple as the easy-to-install, economical, and highly effective Bradley Cheek Rest to more elaborate and expensive versions bult into custom stocks or integrated into more expensive commercial rifles. Any way you go, these are stock options worth adding to your shooting portfolio.
Get a Grip:
The palm swell, overall shape, and angle of your grip affects how you hold and secure the rifle into your body. Like many things in shooting, the style of grip best for you is dictated by intended application. What works best for a precision rifle shooter, may not for a hunter anticipating quick shots in tight cover. Put some thought into your grip.
For more info on grip angle check out Vortex Nation Podcast #10 Minute Talk: Bolt Action Grip Styles.
Contrary to your grand pappy’s Rem 7600 pump in good ol’ 30-06, them fancy peek-under rings may not be the optimal choice. Ring height directly affects cheek weld (how your face contacts the stock). If too high, you will lift your cheek off the comb of the stock to get your sight picture – not ideal. If too low, you’ll unnecessarily mash your face into the comb. Nobody likes that. You’re looking for something that just feels right - ya know, like mid-90’s R&B.
Another scope-related mounting variable that makes a huge difference is achieving proper eye relief. This is critical for not only avoiding getting scoped (the act of recoil pushing the scope into your brow or forehead, resulting in a painful thump or blood-pouring cut). Getting scoped is painful, embarrassing, and best avoided. Just about any scope will give you a good sight picture on the low end in of its zoom range – regardless of its fore and aft position. Crank it up to it’s maximum magnification and check your sight picture, that’s the true test. You should achieve the entire field of view comfortably and effortlessly. If not, slide it in the rings forward or back until you do - then tighten appropriately.
For more info on riflescope mounting a check out Vortex Nation Podcast Episode 14: Scope Mounting – It’s Easy.
The next time you buy, modify, or set up a rifle, put a little scrutiny into how it fits. If a rifle fits, you will get hits.
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