There is good news about sights for shotguns: you can save money by not
Considering that a riflescope can cost upwards of $2,000, this is refreshing
news indeed. But too many shooters don't believe it.
Hunters have been swatting birds from the air with loads of small pellets
for some 200 years, yet we perennially wonder about various sights for those
guns. You are born with a shotgun sight. Just as a tennis player doesn't need
sights on a racket, a quarterback doesn't need sights on a football and a
bowler doesn't need sights on his ball -- shotgunners
don't need sights on their guns! Here's how it works:
When you raise a shotgun to your cheek, the shape and position of the butt
and comb should put your shooting eye (dominant eye) in direct line with the
barrel. When it does, there's no need to aim, no need to think about lining up
sights. Like throwing a ball, you just hard focus on the target and throw, er, shoot.
Focus is the trick, which is why Olympic skeet
coaches harp on it all the time. They want shooters to see not just the little
clay target, but the leading edge of that target, focusing on it so intently
that everything else is blocked out. Both eyes are open for depth perception, hard
focus, gun stock pressed against your cheek, swing your hips, bust the bird. Works every time.
As long as you don't try to aim.
Precision aiming is for rifles, not shotguns. You're throwing 200- to 400
little pellets out there, and as they fly, they spread out into a dense pattern
roughly 30-inches across at target distance, depending on type of shell and
choke. That gives you a lot of leeway.
Keep Missing? Check Gun Fit
But what if you miss more than hit? Perhaps your gun
doesn't fit. This is easy enough to figure out. Just close your eyes, mount the
EMPTY gun as if you were targeting a bird. Then open your eye and, without
altering your head position, look where you're pointing. Do you see either side
of the barrel? Too much of the top of it? Or just the back of the receiver? If you see just receiver,
your head is too low, which means the stock comb must be built up to lift it.
If you're a right-handed shooter and you see the right side of the barrel,
you're positioned too far over the comb, meaning the stock has too much "cast
off." It needs to be bent back to the left or the cheek piece built up to force
your face farther left. If you see the left side of the barrels, the stock need
to shift right.
With today's newest pumps, autoloaders and even some over-unders, you can insert shims between the stock and receiver
to alter the butt stock position. Alternatively, you can build up combs with
tape and pads. Removing stock material is more problematic. It involves rasping
or sanding away wood, probably not something you want to do. A better option is
to have a stock builder steam and bend the wood.
Before doing any of this stock fitting, be sure you're lining up with your
dominant eye. If you shoot right-handed, you need to be right-eye dominant. To
check this, leave both eyes open, hold your index finger at arm's length and
align it under a distant light switch or door knob. Keep it aligned and quickly
close your right eye. If the "target" jumps to the left -- or your sighting
finger seems to jump to the right, you are right-eye dominant. If the target
jumps to the right or your finger jumps to the left, you're left-eye dominant.
Your dominant eye automatically tries to line up the barrel with your target,
so you'll need to partially cover that eye with a patch or a blurry eyeglass
lens while shooting. This forces your sub-dominant eye to take over and align
the "sights" properly. Most shooters find it's easier to learn to shoot "other
handed" than continually mess with their vision over a lifetime of shooting.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a great selection of Shotgun Ammunition!
Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.