Andy McLachlan believes in getting fit, not necessarily at the gym, but definitely in regard to the contact points between you and your gun
I keep going on about proper gun fit, but it is so important for those wishing to seek maximum accuracy from their combination. But what do we mean by the term “proper” gun fit? Well, the ability to bring the gun into aim swiftly and without effort or strain on any of your muscle groups is crucial to ensure that when we let the shot off, we are as relaxed as it is possible to be.
This includes the prone, standing and kneeling positions, which require more effort to maintain than if shooting in a rested position such as off the bench.
Even if we shoot mostly from the bench, it is still important to ensure that everything lines up properly and we aren’t straining anything. It is amazing the improvement in results and enjoyment when we find that the slight adjustment we made has had a significant impact upon our ability to release the shot accurately and comfortably.
So, what do we have to do to maximise comfort when letting off the shot? The first port of call should be the stock. If you have an adjustable stock then this is a straightforward process involving the loosening of the adjuster screws and moving the cheekpiece and butt pad to allow for the correct positioning.
Presuming that we have the scope fitted on a set of medium height mounts for example, what we do is gradually lift the cheekpiece up via the riser bolts until we are able to see a perfectly level image within the scope.
You will know when you have achieved this as you won’t have to worry about the image having any strange black edges where the scope isn’t perfectly central to your aiming eye. What you want to see is a perfect image with no distortion on the outer edges.
Talking of which, I have seen many shooters using scopes which are clearly badly positioned and do not allow the shooter to achieve maximum comfort or practicality. Usually, the scope has been fitted too far forward, which entails the shooter extending their neck over the stock, which eventually results in muscle strain and discomfort following long periods on the range.
All that is required to alleviate this is to loosen the scope mount clamps and move the scope forward or back when your head is in its most comfortable position. The quick way to discover if your scope and cheekpiece are positioned correctly is to mount the gun, close your eyes and then drop your head onto the cheekpiece.
When you open your eyes, you should be looking at the perfect sight picture with no muscle strain.
Then the butt pad, which should be positioned so that it fits into the shoulder properly and provides maximum support. Consider the position from which you will be taking the majority of your shots. If you are an HFT shooter, this will mean from the prone position. Unfortunately, this means that the optimum position isn’t available for standers, but most shooters will find a decent compromise position.
Point to point
On many serious target rifles such as Steyr Sport, the shooter also can adjust other contact points such as the pistol grip for maximum efficiency. This allows the rear hand to be positioned in a way that allows minimum muscle movement to influence the actual trigger release which is so crucial for ultimate accuracy.
What we don’t want or need is any twitching when that crucial millisecond of actual shot release is occurring. This is all achieved via adjustment of the pistol grip that allows the trigger finger and the rest of the hand to have a totally comfortable and natural position when supporting the rifle.
With a Steyr, this is achieved via a spacer between the pistol grip and the action of the gun. The spacer does not have a uniform thickness and if rotated, allows the grip to be positioned in such a way to achieve maximum comfort for the individual.
Speaking of grips, my son James recently purchased a Rink grip for his Steyr target rifle. Never one to be frightened of spending to achieve maximum performance, about £250 bought James a beautifully manufactured walnut grip that allows the thumb-up position to be maintained.
To say that this is a mega-high quality and comfortable grip which greatly aids comfortable gun mounting would be an understatement. It really does have to be handled to fully appreciate the difference it makes to shooter comfort.
As we are both right-handed people who shoot as lefties due to our master eye being that side, I recently shot James’s latest Steyr with this pistol grip in position. It honestly made the whole shooting process far easier to maintain maximum stability and provided a brilliant position for the thumb.
My latest Steyr, a Challenge model that I bought second hand from James, has now been fitted with my old Warren Edwards walnut grip set.
This is a fine design and allows much more comfort than the out-of-the-box Steyr grip, but isn’t in the same league as that of the Rink product.
Not surprising considering the cost difference I suppose, but if you want the ultimate in pistol grips I know where my money would go. I am talking myself into buying one, damn…
Blades of glory
At a recent HFT shoot I was discussing trigger blade assemblies for improving shot release with Tony, one of our latest recruits into competitive HFT shooting within our Rivington club.
Following the usual journey of gun purchases before ending up with a Steyr, Tony was not happy with the standard trigger blade assembly, which occasionally displays the unwanted characteristic of loosening itself during a competition.
This is probably due to improper adjustment by a previous owner, but having shown Tony the new curved Anschutz blade I fitted to my own Steyr, he has ordered the same unit via Intershoot (intershoot.co.uk).
What you want is for your trigger finger to be positioned at 90 degrees to the blade, and if the assembly allows for it, the actual blade contact surface should be angled to provide as perfect a contact as possible.
With match trigger units as contained on all the German and Austrian brands, the blade is fitted to a rail assembly that allows the whole thing to be moved forward or back depending upon such considerations as the thickness of pistol grip or how long your fingers are. Once you have the perfect setup you will never look back.
Gun fit is important if you wish to achieve your maximum potential, and that is why so many serious target shooters spend lots of cash on handmade stock solutions. It’s not just for looks, it’s so the gun fits them far better than it does when in standard format.
If you currently don’t have a gun with the level of adjustment of a full-blown target stock, you could fit an adjustable butt pad and make sure your scope mount height allows good gun mounting and scope sight pictures to be formed.
Or take my approach and spend loads of money on a target rifle!