Seasoned hunters recognise the importance of technique, but may not realise the value of a properly-fitted shotgun. The stock, also called the shoulder stock or buttstock, should be supported firmly against the shoulder. Problems such as gun recoil can be caused by a stock that is too long. Length-of-pull, or LOP, is the distance from the point where the centre of the butt touches the shoulder to the point where the index finger touches the trigger. Factory-made guns are produced for the "average" shooter, with an average LOP between 14 and 14½ inches, but few of us are average. Learning to measure your personal LOP can help you get an individualised fit without the high cost of a custom-built buttstock.
Wear your customary hunting clothing. The padding of a thick jacket may alter your LOP. Check that the shotgun does not get caught on your clothes as you mount the gun.
Inspect the shotgun to make certain it is not loaded and keep the safety lock engaged. Bend your shooting arm 45 degrees so it is at a right angle to you elbow; keep your palm flat. Place the stock of the shotgun sideways in the crook of your elbow and allow the shotgun to rest along the forearm. Reach for the trigger with your index finger. The joint closest to the fingertip should line up with the trigger. Measure and note the distance you are short or long.
Mount the gun and measure the distance between the knuckle of your thumb and the tip of your nose. Ideally, it should measure about 1½ inches or the width of two fingers. Note the distance you are short or long. This is an alternative method.
Install a slip-on or screw-on recoil pad to the butt in the size corresponding to the distance your measurement fell short; this will lengthen the LOP. These pads are available in various thicknesses and you can retest the LOP until you achieve a good fit. Spacers can be used for larger adjustments but may need to be custom-ground by a gunsmith.
Shortening the stock must be done by a gunsmith or an individual experienced in this adjustment. The stock must be cut without altering the pitch or angle of the shotgun's butt.
Never point a gun at something or someone unless you are going to shoot it. Treat the gun as though it is loaded. Keep the safety lock engaged until you are ready to shoot.