Brownells 75th Anniversary - A Shooting Heritage

Shooting's a lot more fun with a shotgun that fits

Here's what you need to know to convert an old 20 Ga. to fit the women and young people who want to get started in the sport.
By Dave Bennetts

Whether you own a shop or work on the side, just about everyone’s had someone come in to say that their first experience with their son, daughter or wife/girlfriend ended badly because they had a poor experience. Having owned a shop myself for many years, I put together some of the things I told my customers when they came to me. So, picture yourself walking into my shop ...

“So your son or daughter wants to start shooting clay targets or go hunting!” What should you do for a shotgun for them? Well, granddad left that old shotgun he had, so why not let them shoot it?

To start with, the shotgun probably is way too big and heavy for them to shoot comfortably, unless of course, it was fit for you when you were young. Probably not, because gun fit was not addressed much in our generation, they just handed us a shotgun and let us shoot away.

In order to fit a youngster, you are usually looking at cutting the gunstock to proper length. But, before you do, you may want to see if there is a replacement stock available so you will be able to lengthen it at a later date after they grow and need a longer stock. Due to the demise of some of the older replacement stock companies, the availability of replacement stocks is not as good as it once was, especially for some of the older firearms, so check before you cut down the stock on the shotgun.

If you decide to purchase a new shotgun, you will be faced with a choice of wood or synthetic stocks. Synthetic stocks are next to impossible to do any modifications to, including simply changing a recoil pad. The design of the stocks does not allow you to cut them down like you can with a wood stock. So our recommendation is for a wood stock. There are several manufacturers making stocks you can buy later to bring back to original length, plus there are some making youth size shotgun stocks to mount the gun on now and are a good choice. Just be sure to figure out how to cover the eventual growing issue.

So now we have a shotgun, how do we make it fit? The first thing we need to address is the length of pull. This can be determined using the Brownells drop and pull gauge. Once this is determined, the stock must be cut to length.

At this point you may want to consider the single, most important factor in reducing felt recoil, a good recoil pad! The proper recoil pad can reduce the shock of recoil as much as 25%. Look at the offerings by Pachmayr, Kick-EEZ, and others, but make sure it can be ground small enough to fit the junior size stock! You will also be limited as to the length of pull reduction on most semi-auto shotguns because the action tube is contained in the stock.

Okay, the stock is cut and fitting them well, but they cannot handle all that barrel hanging out in front. Now what? The best solution here is to cut back the barrel to a reasonable length and install screw in chokes. Usually a barrel length of 21 of 22 inches is about right.

With the barrel now cut down, and the balance improved, we now need to look at other things we can do to reduce the recoil and make their shooting experience enjoyable. Barrel porting is a good option. This will really reduce muzzle jump, which reduces the amount of felt recoil to the cheek. This is a common complaint of young shooters. You also might consider a recoil reducer in the stock which can make a substantial difference in recoil at the shoulder.

Another item to look at is ammunition. Have them shoot the lightest load available. This one factor alone will have more impact on recoil than any other single item you can do to their shotgun.

Which ever method or combination of methods you choose, be sure to make their shooting experience as fun and comfortable as possible for them. After all it is your son or daughter or grandkids that are the future in the shooting sports. After seeing the quality young shooters at the ATA Grand American last August, our future looks very bright! We just need to have lots more kids learn just how much fun the shooting sports really are!