Can a shotgun be made to give more? The subject of gun advantage is a productive one, and worth understanding if your aim is to improve. Get it right and the gain to your shooting can be significant. Mike Smith delves into this fascinating subject.
As a Shot you may be OK with your lot, reasonably happy with your shooting, and as confident as any when you pull on a shooting vest. At some point a slow-burning thought will nonetheless drift to the head and begin to smoulder there – an irresistible question takes hold: “Could a new shotgun give even more?”
That, of course, is the more confident end of the ‘gun advantage’ conundrum. Others, and probably a majority, will confront essentially the same question with varying degrees of urgency from a lower rung of the shooting confidence ladder: “If only I could stretch to that new 'X-Y-Z', performance is sure to improve!"
So what is the 'X-Y-Z'?
Don’t worry 'X-Y-Z' isn’t the latest Spanish wonder-gun that you may have missed. It could be any gun, by any maker, and it’s all a matter of individual perspective. When it comes to shotguns, expectations vary as widely as budgets, and can encompass anything from the fifth-hand 30 year-old Italian ‘Once-Great’, to that brand new, multi-£K example of precision engineered German excellence.
Offering a toe to the water of performance aspiration doesn’t stop there, far from it. You can go - and might well feel you really have to go – all the way to a bespoke gun. That means a shotgun put together precisely for you. Granted the custom route amounts to some kind of wondrous daydream for many - but in real terms this high-end option is more accessible today than ever before.
Defining gun advantage
What is meant by gun advantage? How do you set about achieving it? How do you know when you’ve got it? And, importantly - this may in fact be something of a revelation - the advantage you seek may not mean changing much at all.
The best way to look at the subject of gun advantage is through a question: “What is it that a shotgun can contribute to the shooting process that will yield a positive performance boost?”
A gun advantage is something that you can know, feel, access and rely upon shot after shot, time and time again.
We may advance understanding of gun advantage by grouping out two sets of factors: the first linked to the shotgun itself (gun factors), the second associated with elements concerning the user combining with the gun to shoot (utility factors).
Gun factors are perhaps the easiest to comprehend as these are commonly reduced to numbers. For example, barrel length or gun weight: also, the relative distribution of weight throughout the gun.
Weight distribution influences balance, and balance is an interesting one – often mentioned by shooters, but rarely completely understood in terms of gun advantage.
A perfectly balanced gun sometimes isn’t the objective; some will shoot better with a shotgun deliberately unbalanced: a heavier-barrel bias, for example, is regularly proven to aid those with an accelerating ‘signature’ to their gun movement. (We’ll look at this in more detail in a future post).
Other shotgun factors include internals: chokes, forcing cones, boring, trigger-pulls, lock-times, etc. All are factors having a direct bearing on a gun’s performance, and all can be evidenced, assessed and potentially optimised.
We turn now to utility factors as shotgun and user are brought together. These factors are more dynamic in nature, and involve experiences and values perceived pro-actively when engaged in shooting.
To an extent here we encroach on gun fitting, but gun advantage goes wider. Indeed, more innovative approaches to fitting are beginning to embrace the gun advantage concept – and particularly in fitting for ‘Cue’. (This is a developing area of fitting that attempts to improve how an individual accesses a ‘cue-to-shoot’.)
Consistent performance with a shotgun comes down to feedback, and particularly the quality of feedback as a target is picked up, and the process builds toward a shot.
The utility factors of gun advantage all help tune in to feedback information and are concerned primarily with connection – the user’s connection with the shotgun, and visual connection between gun and target. Get the flow of feedback right, and the results can be astonishing.
Is gun advantage important?
Is it worth understanding? Is it worth having? Well, look at it as a form of gun-orientated Holy Grail - only for the average sporting shot with any kind of ambition it’s even more important still!
Enjoyed this article and want to know more?
Why not contact us at Glenzier Sporting. Mike Smith has run the Whithorn shooting ground for 20 years and offers teaching lessons and gun fitting.