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The Gazette
no butts about it!

     One of the fellows I was shooting with recently had just purchased a very nice English Side by Side made by a best-quality, lesser-known maker. It was a sleek, fast-handling gun with stock dimensions nearly ideal for its new owner. This gentleman is an unusually good shot, with a deliberate gun mount, hard concentration, and a lot of style. He usually manages a score of 45 out of 50 with ease.
      As we progressed through the round, he started to blatantly miss targets that he would normally hit.

He became a bit frustrated, and the other shooters' good-humored jeering gave him no quarter. So I began to pay attention to his usually-flawless shooting technique.
       At first I saw nothing wrong, but then I noticed that his new gun had a plain wooden butt and often, as he mounted the gun, it slipped slightly just after he brought it to his shoulder. I didn't say anything to him then, as he was already getting plenty of harassment.
      After the round, with a sullen look on his face, he said,

"That little gun feels like it fits me like a glove but I just can't seem to shoot with it".At that opening I said, "Why don't you stop by my shop tomorrow and let me put a nice, thin recoil pad on it for you."
      He replied, "I'm kind of partial to the wooden butt, but I haven't had a gun with one before." I said "Trust me on this one." And he actually did.
       The next time he went to the range the gun wore a nice little .6 Old English recoil pad, and he broke a slightly better than usual 46 out of 50.

      I find the lowly recoil pad is one of the most commonly over-looked aspects of good shooting. A good recoil pad serves three main purposes: 1) Facilitates a smooth, drag- free gun mount. 2) Keeps the butt in place, once mounted, and absorbs recoil. 3) Protects the wood at the butt from damage. Recoil pads can also add an aesthetically pleasing touch to a fine gun, as do leather-covered recoil pads.
      The first thing to consider when having a pad installed on your gun is your ideal length of pull -the distance from the first trigger to the center of the butt, and the proper pitch -- the angle of the butt in relation to sighting plane or top rib.
      These can be found by trial and error, but a more efficient and cost-effective way is to get a proper gun fit from an experienced gun fitter. Remember that the measurements will be slightly different for O/U's and SxS's. A good fitter can give you both measurements without too much trouble.
      Various kinds of pads facilitate a clean gun mount and absorb an acceptable amount of recoil in a variety of different ways. One of the most common designs is a hard rubber horseshoe-shaped insert at the top of the pad, rounded and polished smooth so the pad is snag-free during the mount. The main body of the pad is usually made of a soft recoil-absorbent material.

Butt recoil pad

      Another pad design is made of soft material with the heel of the pad clipped off at an angle to keep it from catching on the mount. Other pads are made of a somewhat harder rubber and are less sticky than the above-mentioned pads. These pads do well on a hunting gun where recoil is not as big a concern.

Butt recoil pad

      One other type of pad that deserves mention is the leather-covered recoil pad whereby a recoil-absorbing pad has a thin layer of leather stretched over the pad and glued on. This pad is the best of both worlds - good recoil absorption and a totally snagfree surface. Also, if well done, they are very handsome. Leather-covered pads do cost more than a regular pad, but many shooters feel the extra cost is worth it.

Butt recoil pad

      Regarding the fit and finish - a welldone pad should maintain the heel and toe lines of the stock (These are referred to as the "Corporal lines").

The pad should be very slightly proud of the wood, about .005in. or about the thickness of two sheets of paper. This prevents the end grain of the wood from snagging or chipping The pad should be polished smooth with no visible grinding marks and should look like an extension of the stock.
      There are other ways to end the butt of a shotgun, such as heel and toe clips and steel or horn butt plates. While these have their place on certain guns, but most shooters will be best-served with a good recoil pad.
      There are many makes and models of pads out there to choose from. An appropriate pad can be found for virtually any gun, and any good gunsmith will be able to you some samples for you touch and feel to decide which is best for you and your gun.

Butt recoil pad

      There can be "No butts about it" a good recoil pad set at the proper length of pull and pitch will make you a better shooter.

Del Whitman is the Master Gunsmith of D. C. Whitman Custom Gunsmithing.
8455 Maple City Hwy.,
Lake Ann, MI 49650
231-632-0845 or 231-275-0140 or
dwhitman@centurytel.net.    page10

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