An essential element in all higher level shooting — confidence. The process of gunfitting plays a key role in building confidence in the shotgun and its performance. Gunfitting reaches out toward outcomes that drive your shooting forward. Trying the new and unfamiliar in gunfitting could well be part of the journey toward finding your own ‘fifth element’.
We’ve almost come full circle in attempting to pin answers to the “What?” The “How?” and The “Why?” we fit a shotgun. Before we tackle this final part, it might just pay to recap what good gunfitting achieves to this point.
- Through gunfitting we’ve got your gun to shoot straight, importantly, too, we’ve been through the testing and the checks that enable us to make a fundamentally important judgement — that the gun is first capable of shooting straight! (You’d be surprised how many don’t!).
- Through gunfitting we’ve managed to tame recoil effectively. Turning this inevitable, predictable and unavoidable force in shooting away from the negative and toward a positive. Certainly, if it were ever seen as an issue, recoil is now more comfortable and controlled.
- Through gunfitting we’ve also come to a point – by finding out more about you, your shotgun and the kind of shooting you do – to have adjusted for or built within your gun a clearly defined ‘gun advantage’. This boosts shooting in straightforward performance terms: a gain without the effort.
- Through gunfitting we’ve also looked at how your shooting process works and how parts of that process can be tapped into. We ask the question purposefully — “What triggers the taking of the shot?” “What enacted events ‘code’ and ‘cue’ that decisive action?” And in discovering and highlighting these things we can invest within your shotgun features that help focus and drive confidence.
Confidence – now there’s a thing? Just who wouldn’t want confidence in their shooting? Gunfitting as an exercise aims to provide just that. However, confidence is a tough thing to measure. And just how on earth do we go about investing confidence within the build or adjustment of your shotgun?
Even for the great Jim Evans, S.R. Jeffery’s Master Gunsmith, the issue of confidence and gunfitting was difficult to place. Essential of course to performance and consistency across all shotgun sports, and something the gunfitter might always hope to inspire, but even for Jim Evans it was a difficult thing to tag. He called this final gunfitting component a “fifth element.”
We might look to Gough Thomas for guidance: “Confidence’” Thomas states, “ is the key to good shooting.” But what is it exactly that drives confidence? “Testing,” according to the most pre-eminent of all shotgun experts, “is the key to confidence.” And that you see is pretty much exactly what gunfitting is — a real-time exercise in testing shotgun and shooter.
This is why when we look at gathering the essential information to guide the fit of a shotgun live firing is a necessary task. Certainly there are aspects of fitting that can be introduced in a gunroom or workshop by simply handling a gun ‘dry’. Those opportunities, however, are limited, and any conclusions or suggestions indicated within that context must be followed up in the shooting ground.
At its best, there’s even more: gunfitting is not just about observing and recording performance information. It is often necessary when we fit a shotgun to explore and advance different things on our journey toward shooting outcomes that are better at the end than when we first started out.
Gunfitting should never be seen as a passive, static process of doing something just to end up standing still. Top end gunfitting has to be more ambitious than that! Gunfitting is about actual progression in your shooting and how the hardware in the equation – the shotgun – can help secure that goal.
Gunfitting will often push you into trying things out: things that might be unfamiliar or even entirely new, in order to nail down improvement. Nothing is left uncovered or unexamined on the gunfitting road toward better shooting. We try different things. We try moving forward. We try advancing. Why, exactly, is the ‘try-gun’ so named do you think?
Ultimately, through gunfitting, your shooting moves forward. You feel more connected. Your gun moves better. Your gun shoots straighter. Your gun feels good. Vitally, too, competent gunfitting moves you toward a point where there is base-line reassurance on key performance factors — assurances you can now rely on: proven, tested, predicable and dependable. This is what drives confidence.
Confidence – now there’s a thing! No question marks this time, because by now you know what it is! You begin to invest that confidence increasingly within yourself and your shooting. This is the essential essence of a well-fitted shotgun.
And that is precisely what S.R. Jeffery’s Jim Evans meant when he called this aspect of gunfitting a “fifth element”. Confidence you see is not simply a nice-to-have ‘possible’, it is within the gift of skilled gunfitting for that to be a nailed-to-the-door ‘certainty’. It is of itself elemental to using your shotgun well, using your shotgun to advantage and forever being able to rely on that advantage as your shooting moves forward.
“You don’t know? Go find out!” Jim Evans, Master Gunsmith.