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There are lots of ways you can improve our shooting through drills and practice. You can improve accuracy at long range and short range and improve speed and recoil management skills. You can even become proficient at shooting running or moving targets with enough quality practice and repetition. However, one of the most overlooked aspects of rifle accuracy speed, and recoil management is how well the rifle fits you.
Many rifles on the market are limited in their stock size availability and you’re lucky to get more than one or two options. Some rifles have modular chassis that are great for fitting perfectly to your body size and proportions, but most hunting rifles don’t. We are all built differently, and it’s common to adapt ourselves to our rifle rather than have a rifle fitted to us perfectly.
Poorly fitting rifles can rob speed and accuracy in several ways, and the dimensions that are most-influential are comb height and length of pull—think trigger to end of buttstock. If the comb height is off, it requires the shooter to either lift their head up or scrunch it down rather than keep a comfortable cheek weld and relaxed head position.
You want the comb of your stock to be high enough that you can have a comfortable and relaxed cheek weld. When you shoulder the rifle, and set your cheek on the comb, you should have a full field-of-view through your scope. If you see black or image distortion in the bottom of the scope, your comb is too high, if you see it on the top, your comb is too low. If you have an adjustable comb, set it so that you can set your cheek weld comfortably and don’t have to strain in any direction for a clear sight picture.
Length of pull is also critical for attaining a natural and relaxed sight picture. If a stock is too long for you, it can be difficult to shoulder the gun quickly, and cause the shooter to strain forward for a good sight picture. Conversely, if the stock is too short, the shooter must hunch up to keep their head far enough back. If your rifle doesn’t fit you, you won’t be able to achieve a natural and relaxed sight picture. If you feel like you’re having to reach your head forward for a full field-of-view through your scope, your stock might be too long, and the same goes for feeling scrunched up or hunched with the rifle shouldered. If you can adjust your stock, find the most relaxed position that is repeatable.
Not only will improper comb and length-of-pull dimensions create unnecessary strain that will rob accuracy, they will make acquiring a good sight picture slower—ultimately slowing down your first shot. They’ll also make it more difficult to manage recoil, cycle the rifle, and get back on target for follow-up shots. A rifle that fits you properly will help you shoot faster, more accurately, and more comfortably.