Finding the right gun - Clay Shooting
Georgina Roberts describes her search for perfection, in the face of conflicting advice.
When you’re getting started in shooting, one of the most important things to get right is your equipment. That’s especially important at a competitive level.
Factors like gun fit and barrel weight are all crucial to performance – and preferences and shape will vary from person to person. As someone starting out in shooting, or even just looking for a new gun, it can seem very daunting – but it needn’t be.
When I chose my first gun, I did plenty of research and comparison to make sure I found the right one for me. The sheer volume of guidance I was given was overwhelming to say the least. What I’ve realised is that everyone has an opinion.
It is almost always intended to be a help rather than hindrance, but it can still be confusing and conflicting. Over time I’ve come to realise it’s best to listen without necessarily always acting on the advice I’m given. It’s easier to deliver the best results when I have a single source of input to focus on.
When choosing my first gun, much of the advice I received revolved around a lightweight gun. That may be lighter to carry around, but you feel the recoil more when shooting. The heavier the gun is, the slower it’s pushed back by recoil – so the impact to your shoulder is reduced.
Guns are expensive, so when you invest in one you want to make sure it’s the right gun for you. I find it helpful to decide on exactly what you want it for and what qualities you need – and then remind yourself of these points when shopping around so that you don’t get distracted.
My first Trap gun was stunning. My parents spent hours with me at Mid Wales Shooting Centre whilst I tried every Trap gun there. The last gun I tried was a beautifully engraved Beretta DT10 L – and I fell in love. She was, and still is, my baby.
My parents like to remind me of a time where a family friend asked me if I had a boyfriend and my response was “I don’t need a boyfriend, I have a Beretta!”
I am very lucky that one of the first major influences in my Olympic Trap journey was the legendary Martin Barker of Nuthampstead Shooting Ground.
We had many battles over that gun – the original walnut stock had a striking grain through it, but as a fixed stock it didn’t fit me at all. Martin was determined to get me to cut it into an adjustable, but I thought the wood was too nice to chop up!
After digging my feet in for a few months, like stubborn teenagers do, I compromised and went back to Mid Wales Shooting Centre to pick up a second-hand adjustable stock.
As expected, my performance improved because I could see down the rib – and Martin had the decency to not say “I told you so.” The moral of the story is that you need to get on and make the changes necessary to improve.
Even though the adjustable stock was a much better fit, it was much smaller and lighter than the original. That made the gun extremely nose-heavy, with the barrels weighing 1.580kg. I struggled with this weight distribution as I didn’t have the upper body strength to control the gun and speed to the target.
As someone with a slim frame, I have always struggled with control and recoil and subsequently keeping my head on the stock, so when Perazzi brought out the High Tech, I wanted to have a go. The action of this model is wider, with the weight being distributed between the hands and close to the hinge point in order to lessen recoil.
Not only did it lessen recoil, the evenly distributed weight meant that my gun control was so much better. After seeing how much difference this made, my parents very generously gifted me with a flat rib High Tech.
This gun suited me better, with barrel weight being a lot lighter – originally at 1.560kg before I had them ported, which also made a dramatic difference on my gun control.
This is the Perazzi I still use today – it’s still pretty, but I see this more as a work tool. Whilst the recoil reducing system makes a big difference, I’ve also put other measures in place to further reduce the impact – such as having my barrels ported.
The porting redirects the thrust of the gas upwards and slightly back, cutting down the upwards recoil or ‘muzzle flip’ of the gun. Reducing the impact of muzzle flip makes it much easier to stay on the line of the target and makes a second shot more accurate and controlled.
I’m now on my fourth stock for this gun. My stance and mount have changed a lot over time, reflected in the stocks I’ve had made. It’s very important to check gun fit regularly, whether this is because your mount has changed or your body shape, as this will impact where your gun sits in your shoulder and face.
Even a slight change can mean your eye doesn’t sit in the same place looking down the rib, which in turn affects how you see and pick up the clay.
A wise man once told me: “You need to make the gun fit you, not make yourself fit the gun.” When I started shooting, I used to cant the gun in my shoulder, and my head on the stock, to get my eye in the right place.
When I’m making changes to the gun or stock, or changing cartridge manufacturer, I always like to pattern my gun. This gives me confidence when I know that the gun is shooting where I want it to shoot. Trap guns ideally shoot high, so seeing a consistent pattern cements that I’ve made the right change.
Different cartridges throw different patterns through different guns; some can also feel punchier and therefore it’s important to make sure that you find the right cartridges for you. As I shoot Olympic Trap I always use 24g 7½s, but if you still want to lessen recoil you could opt for 21g.
There are so many factors involved in finding the right gun and then making it your own. It’s essential that you seek good advice, produce a clear set of criteria and keep sight of your objectives. I’m the first to admit that I have lost sight of my objectives numerous times along my journey but thankfully I have brilliant support around me who will remind me to stop and re-evaluate.
*This article was written for Clay Shooting and is available here: https://www.clay-shooting.com/features/finding-the-right-gun/