Shooting (whether it’s game or clay-pigeon) has traditionally been seen as man’s territory. While more women are getting into the sport than ever before, helped by all-female shoots (such as Femmes Fatales and the Shotgun & Chelsea Bun Club), statistics released by the Home Office show that at 31 March 2018, 94% (533,275) of shotgun certificates and 97% (152,031) of firearm certificates were held by men.

Not surprisingly, off-the-peg guns have tended to be designed for ‘Mr Average’. Compared with men, females tend to have higher cheekbones, longer necks, shorter arms, bigger breasts, smaller hands, weaker muscle groups and compact skeletons.

I wouldn’t borrow my husband’s car and set off driving without moving the seat forward so that I can reach the pedals, or re-angling the rear-view mirror (not, I hasten to add, just for lipstick application!). So, why would I borrow his 12-gauge shotgun and expect to hit the clays perfectly, without receiving excessive bruising from the recoil?

Ultimately, gun fit is important. So what innovations are being made to cater for us girls? A flurry of recent patent filings reveal some exciting developments...

The anatomy of a gun

All guns have the same basic components:

The perfect fit

A shotgun meets your body at five points:

  • butt against the shoulder
  • cheek against the stock
  • trigger hand on the grip
  • trigger finger on the trigger blade
  • left hand (for the right-handed shooter) on the fore-end

If all of these points are in proper alignment, the gun should feel comfortable, be easy to swing and allow your eye to form a straight line down the rib.

It’s possible to buy an off-the-peg gun and have a gunsmith make alterations to improve the fit. But gun makers are starting to design guns that take into account the physical differences between the sexes.

Beretta by TSK has been designed with an adjustable stock. Beretta’s vision is to offer a stock that feels like a natural extension of the body. Every part of the stock can be adapted and customised.

Similarly, the stock dimensions of the Z-Bella by Zoli Antonio have been adapted to cater specifically for the structural needs of the female form. The embellishment with Swarovski crystals may not help your aim, but might just help you locate it in the gun rack…

Here’s a look at some recent inventions that allow the adjustment of two key stock dimensions.

‘Length of pull’

This is the length of the stock as measured from the middle of the trigger finger to the butt.

Length of pull depends on a few factors: length of arms, length of neck, shoulder width and stance.

EP3343165 recently granted to Futurmac S.R.L describes a stock for a shotgun in which the distance between the butt and the grip can be adjusted precisely according to the arm length of the user.

US7386952 was granted for a modular gun stock having a buttstock assembly that’s removable, secured to the forestock by a threaded fastener. This enables the gun to be readily customised for use by several different shooters, or for use by a single shooter in different shooting situations, by simply detaching one buttstock assembly and replacing it with another in a different length and/or shape or contour.

‘Drop at the comb’

This is the distance of the angle formed between the barrel rib and the comb and heel of the stock.

For women, the comb on a conventional gun is often too low, due to having a longer neck and higher cheekbones. If the comb isn’t raised, the female shooter will be looking into the barrel of the gun instead of along the rib — making accurate shooting difficult.

Women often shoot with a Monte Carlo stock that has an elevated comb to lift the cheek higher while keeping the heel of the stock low.

An adjustable comb may be created by cutting the comb from the buttstock and mounting the comb onto adjustable hardware. The comb and the adjustable hardware are then mounted in the buttstock in the recess created by cutting the comb. The adjustable comb enables the user to manually move the comb up and down, and sometimes even left and right, to correctly position the shooter’s eye straight along the barrel of the firearm. Conventional adjustable combs may be adjusted by inserting or removing spacers to alter the elevation of the comb. Typically, a user will need to use a tool such as a hex key to modify the adjustable comb.

Other conventional adjustable combs use long-set screws to raise or lower the height of the comb, and tools are required to tighten or loosen them. Adjustments on the fly are just not practical when shooting targets of differing elevations in rapid succession. The user must therefore compensate for the single height of the comb while shooting targets of differing heights.

Adjustable comb inventions

Outlined below are a couple of inventions relating to improvements in the adjustability of combs.

EP3420295, a recently published European patent application filed by Kalix Teknik AB, describes an adjustable cheek rest or comb rest for a rifle stock. This enables the cheek (and therefore the head and eyes) to be arranged in a desired relationship with the telescopic sight of the rifle. Adjusting mechanisms have conventionally comprised a separate adjusting handle, button or knob for locking the cheek rest in relation to the rifle stock. Drawbacks of the protruding adjusting knob include exposure to the elements and susceptibility to wear and physical damage. The adjustable cheek rest is designed to overcome these drawbacks.

US8863427 granted to Grip Plus Inc. describes an automatically adjustable comb for a firearm. The comb adjusts ‘on the fly’, automatically extending to an elevated position when the firearm moves from a first angular orientation (e.g. a horizontal orientation) to a second angular orientation (e.g. 15o inclined above the horizontal orientation). The comb includes a sensor that detects the angular orientation of the comb. The comb can then be retracted to the initial position based on the sensor detecting that the angular orientation of the comb has moved from the second angular orientation to the first angular orientation.

So… to be on target… it seems that size really does matter!