Body of Shooting Knowledge, Part II
The last time we talked about body mechanics and shooting, we concentrated on the eyes and which one, the right or the left, dominates our vision. Now we can take another body part that may seem far more mundane but is just as vital to proper shooting technique.
Built into the structure of the skull is the zygomatic bone, or “cheekbone,” which makes a natural stop for the comb of our gun, particularly our shotgun, whenever we mount it. For correct shooting our eyes must remain level; and from a certain point of view, that was why our zygomatic bone was placed were it was, though it could be that the profile of the stock has evolved into the shape it is to take advantage of our physiognomy. Either way, the right “cheek weld,” where the top of the comb firmly contacts the cheek, one of the four points of contact–cheek, shoulder pocket, and two hands–between the shooter’s body and a long gun, is what makes a gun shoot where you point it.
Before working on cheek weld, you want to make certain that the butt of your gun is set in the “shoulder pocket.” When you lift the elbow of your shooting arm (the one that ends in your trigger finger), a fleshy pocket forms under your collarbone and inside the lateral border of the scapula. If you don’t have your copy of Gray’s Anatomy handy to identify these, you can feel the long horizontal collarbone by running your fingers along the front of your shoulder; and if you push deep enough (do not injure yourself) into the area just beside your armpit, you can locate the scapula lying behind. The simplest method is to rest the heel (the top) of the gun butt below your collarbone and do not let any of the remainder of it rest against bone.
With the gun mounted in the shoulder pocket, the comb should be stuck (“welded”) to the side of the face; and the head should not need to be bent over or scrunched around (a technical term) to see down the barrel. Properly mounted, the comb should meet the cheek naturally, the eyes should be level, and the shooting eye (on the side on which the gun is mounted) should be looking straight out along the rib of the gun.
If the butt is mounted correctly, cheek weld will come out of having the right “drop at comb,” the height of the comb where it meets the cheek. Most factory shotguns are built to a certain mean average of the human face and will “fit” the majority of shooters pretty adequately. But some shooters may need or want finer tuning.
Short of a “bespoke” gun built to your specific dimensions, or having a standard stock refitted, a solution would be one of Browning’s new Cynergy CX over-and-unders with an adjustable comb. Other considerations might be “cast on” or “cast off”–the bend in the stock–to align your shooting eye with the rib if you have a particularly wide or narrow face or wide- or narrow-set eyes; but those are usually less critical than the right drop at comb.
With a gun that fits and is mounted properly, the prime benefit is that it will be on target. An added benefit, though, even when shooting with Browning BPT Target Loads, will also be less felt recoil, which means making more shooting, and more practice, more pleasant.
When your gun gives you a perfect cheek weld when it is mounted properly in your shoulder pocket, then it is time to begin practicing how to repeat the proper mount every time you bring your gun up. And that is what we will talk about, next time when we discuss more of the body mechanics of shooting.