Shotgun Stock And Measurements

Shotgun Diagram

Illustrations by James Daley, offered courtesy of Rizzoli Publishing. Text and diagrams excerpted from The Orvis Guide to Upland Hunting by Reid Bryant.

What are the parts of a shotgun stock?

by Reid Bryant

The stock of a shotgun is composed of two parts: the butt-stock and the fore-end or forearm. The butt-stock is the piece of the shotgun that marries to your shoulder and cheek, and allows the trigger-hand a grip. The fore-end serves differing functions depending on action type, but in loose terms it provides a home for the forward hand that supports and guides the barrels. Shotgun stocks are historically constructed of walnut, which is both strong to absorb the abuse of recoil, and light for ease of carrying. Modern guns can and often do have stocks made of various synthetics, which, to my eye, look out of place in the uplands.

What are the parts of a shotgun's butt-stock?

The butt-stock of the shotgun has several identifiable parts, namely the wrist, comb, heel, butt, toe, and grip defined thus:

Wrist: the region grasped by the trigger hand, very similar to the grip.

Grip: somewhat synonymous with wrist, but used to designate the shape of the grip itself. The three primary shapes are: pistol grip, prince-of-wales/round knob grip, or straight grip.

Comb: top line of the butt-stock; contacts the cheek of the shooter.

Butt: the face of the rear of the butt-stock; contacts the shoulder of the shooter. Often covered in a plastic butt-plate or rubber/leather recoil pad.

Heel and Toe: top and bottom of the butt, respectively.

What are the measurements of a shotgun's stock?

After some period, the new shotgunner will encounter a discussion of gun fit. Gun fit describes the dimensions of the butt-stock, and the implication that, as in clothing, not all guns fit all shooters. Gun fit is another conversation entirely, but the measurements of a stock are worth understanding. The pertinent stock measurements are: Length of Pull, Cast, and Drop. They are defined thus:

Length of Pull: the distance from the front trigger to the center of the butt.

Drop at Comb: extent of vertical offset between the top of the barrels (rib) and the comb of the butt-stock.

Drop at Heel: extent of vertical offset between the top of the barrels (rib) and the heel of the butt-stock.

Cast: extent of offset left (cast on) or right (cast off) between the midline of the barrels and the center of the butt.

The fore-end is a far easier bit of the shotgun stock to describe. It is simply a piece of wood affixed to the barrels and/or action, providing a place for the forward hand to grasp. In side-by-side shotguns, a slim, insubstantial fore-end is known as a splinter fore-end, and a chunkier, wider-than-the-barrels fore-end is called a beavertail.