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“10 Rules for Women on Getting the Right Gun Fit and Mount”

One of the things I struggled with most when learning how to hunt my dinner, was feeling comfortable with the gun I was shooting. The gun was often heavy, or too long, or too big or just generally awkward feeling. I was borrowing guns often in the beginning, trying them out and seeing what I liked. But the problem with borrowing is that it never gives you a chance to get comfortable. Plus it is not a gun meant to fit you.

I have a pretty small frame, pretty short arms and am about 5’5” or 5’6”, (I haven’t checked in a while). I was almost always hunting with men, who will often assume everyone wants to shoot a larger 12 gauge shotgun, it has a slightly higher success rate and well… men have a thing about size. This latter bit is my pet peeve… the next person who tries to force a 12 gauge shotgun on me better run. RUN.

But I digress.

What I always say to men who ask me how they can get their lady friends to hunt is: “The surest way to make a woman hate shooting is to give her a gun that doesn’t fit her. Find her a gun that absolutely fits her.”

The kick on a gun affects women more than men.

Our cheek bones are higher.

Our necks are proportionately longer.

We bruise more easily.

We’re delicate flowers!

Guns are not naturally made to fit a woman’s body. So you have to make it fit.

And here’s what I say to you women: Don’t be apologetic if something isn’t comfortable. Speak up! You’re different than the boys. Own it.

So here are my top 10 tips for you:

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1. Get a gun that fits you. If you’re having difficulty hitting the target this could be the difference between a very good and very bad success rate. A year ago I spent time with a gunsmith at a shooting range and he literally added moleskin to my gun until he felt that the stock height was correct for my neck and cheekbones. Then he made the adjustments back at the shop. He also cut the stock by about a third so that the length of pull was correct. It has taken me some time even now to get used to it, and it will probably still need some adjustments but it has been great to have a gun that I can really work with.

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2. Find your dominate eye. FUN FACT: 70 to 80 percent of women are left eye dominate, INCLUDING ME. This took me a little time to figure out, and it makes it tricky because I am right handed. To find out which you are, point your index figure at an object in the distance with both eyes open. Close one eye, then open it. Next close the other eye then open it. Which of these is closest to the position of your index finger when both eyes are open? That is your dominant eye.

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3. If you are left eye dominant and left handed, you’re in luck! Get a left handed gun.

If you’re right eye dominant and right handed, you’re in luck! Get a right handed gun.

If you’re left eye dominant and right handed, you have two options. You can try to learn to shoot left handed, or you can do what I do and make sure your left eye is closed when you shoot. That will force your brain to tell your right eye to take over.

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4. Balance is important. Make sure the gun is not heavy for you. Get one that is as heavy as you can handle to help limit the kick back, but won’t topple you over.

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5. Stand up straight. Do not compensate by sticking your hip out or arching your back. “Lean in” to the gun as I like to say. Push your weight onto it and onto your front foot.

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6. Check that your dominate eye is right over the rib and the pull length is correct. The pull length is the distance from your elbow to your trigger finger. That will tell you how long the stock should be so you can reach the trigger properly.

Trained bird dogs...

Trained bird dogs…

7. You don’t want your nose to be further then two inches from the comb, which is where the stock dips down.

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8. The right pitch is also important, this is the angle that the stock is relative to the barrel, and will ensure that the gun is sitting well on your shoulder. Feel for that fleshy pocket between your shoulder and your chest, that is where the butt of the gun should be tucked into and it will absorb the kick with the least amount of bruising. You may still get some bruising…

I call it a gun hickey ;)

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9. If you are seeing too much rib on the barrel the stock is too high.

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10. If you don’t see any rib on the barrel the stock is too low.

Just like trying on new clothes and getting just the right fit, you should do that with any gun you want to call your own. Don’t be shy about getting it juuuust right. Just ask… “What would Goldilocks do?”

If you have any tips of your own to add please do so in the comments! We should learn from each other and sharing is caring.

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Comments

  1. I absolutely LOVE this feature! I’ve shot since I was nine and I can’t count how many times I’ve been given incorrect advice by guys trying to force their ‘opinions’ on what gun I should use and how I should be shooting. Fortunately I came across an awesome shotgun coach, a wonderfully eccentric old English dude called Mike Aldis, in my 20s who offered the same guidance as you describe above. My shooting went from strength to strength with a well fitted gun, an eye dominance test and coaching on stance and positioning.

    I now live in Australia where the shooting culture is pretty different from that in the UK. To be honest, I’ve been disappointed with the advice offered here. Time and again I’ve been told ‘you should shoot with a 12 bore’. This is mainly because there is a difference in ammunition price – 20bore shells cost more. However I also think obsession with size comes into play too ;-) For me shooting with 12 bore makes no sense, like you I have a small frame and I find a 12 bore heavy and unwieldy. I am much more comfortable and get less fatigued with a 20 bore or a 28 bore (an awesome little gun to shoot) and I believe I have similar success to those using a 12 bore – after all it’s a well place pattern at the right range that equals success. While a 12 bore shot shell may hold more pellets it doesn’t always equal more success due to a whole range of complex factors… But that’s a different subject and I won’t get carried away with all sorts of ballistic geek speak! Anyway, before I ramble on any more I just wanted to thank you for promoting this advice and I shall pass on your feature to all my female friends in Australia who are contemplating the sport or have been scared away from it from stupid advice. Keep up the good work G, you rock!

  2. It’s so important to try out a few different guns or bows before buying one. You need to have perspective to know when one feels right. I had to switch from a compound bow to a crossbow this season and when I was testing them out I thought the first one was too small but when I tried a larger bow I realized the smaller one was actually much better suited for me. A lot of the same principles you mentioned apply to crossbows, which to me are more like a gun than a bow.

  3. William Kellermann says:

    Many men won’t take the time to become accomplished shooters with just the right size gun. Every sporting goods store’s sale sheet features 12 GA shotguns. For a poor shooter, spraying more shot means you are more likely to bring home the birds. If they weren’t outlawed, some men would still be shooting 10 or 8 GA shotguns.

    Real hunters shoot guns that provide the right challenge and still insure a humane harvest of the game. I love to shoot 20 GA or even 16 GA for quail and other smaller upland game. The key is have the right gun, fit it to your preference and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE to insure an ethical hunt.

  4. You offer a lot of helpful tips for women looking for their first shotgun, but one of the best is to go to an expert first. An trained instructor and/or stockfitter should be your first stop after deciding that you want to make the investment in a shotgun.