What is the Correct Way to Shoulder a Shotgun
An accurate shot begins with a proper mount and shoulder of the shotgun. As you progress as a hunter, from beginner to a more experienced shooter, certain patterns will begin to take form. One of the most important of these patterns is finding the best way to shoulder a shotgun.
How to Shoulder a Shotgun
Experienced shooters have their shouldering skills down to a science. It takes almost no effort to get the butt of the gun into the pocket and stance ready to go. I’ve been using the same shouldering stance since I started shooting, and I’m going to walk you through I there today. Let’s get started.
1. It starts with the feet
Just like in football, good footwork is incredibly important in shooting. The shoes that you wear should be well broken in field boots, or other active wear that are comfortable and flexible. Start by placing the feet about shoulder width apart. A little more than half of your body weight should be on the front foot, with knees bent and ready for action.
I usually draw a reference to bowling when describing the foot placement to people. I know this sounds weird, but hear me out – when bowling, it is important to position your body in a way that drives the ball toward to the pins you are aiming at. The same thing is true in shooting. Aim your back foot towards the target (as best you can).
- Make sure your feet are loose and agile, should you need to shift. We’ll talk about this more in the next section.
- Stand up straight at first, and then loosen yourself down into position with knees bent. This will keep you from standing to firm, standing to far forward, or not being ready to react and shift.
- Don’t tense up. Part of accurate shooting and the correct way to shoulder a shotgun is to be loose and ready.
- Here is a great quick video on shouldering a shotgun.
2. Body movement and flexibility
In shooting, it is important to keep all body movement symmetrical to the gun and to the rest of the body. The gun hits the pocket at a 45-degree angle. Your eyes peer over the top of the shotgun at the same angle. The back of the head is perpendicular to the spine.
Once in position, all movement should come from the hips. Twisting and turning from there will allow you to keep the gun level and your aim on point. Be careful that you aren’t shifting your back around while in position. I always like to keep my knees bent slightly, for that extra bit of added pop. If I need to do any height adjustment, it comes from the knees. I never lift my toes or ankles up off the ground – it is important to keep the feet level, flat, and comfortable. Toes should be able to jiggle but the feet shouldn’t actually move.
Any shift required to hone in on a target should be initiated by a twist of the hips. I encourage you to do a bit of stretching before heading to the range or out in the field. This will ensure that you are loose and won’t pull any muscles should you need to move slightly to zero in on a target.
3. Find the pocket
Let’s start here by lifting the right arm. If you aren’t already familiar with the pocket between your shoulder blade and neck, feel around until you find it. Before ever trying to fit your gun to the pocket, take a block of wood, a book, or some other firm object in your opposite hand and try to fit it into the pocket.
Once it’s in there, move around a bit. Find the positioning with the least pushback. Try to move your shoulder around in circles and ensure that the object doesn’t just slide right out or cause any discomfort.
When the gun is in there, it should have no problem staying there with the small bit of applied pressure from the other hand. The National Shooting Sports Foundation does a great job of showcasing fitting the gun to the shoulder, and realizing that you don’t have a gun fit problem, in the below video.
Face should connect with the same spot on the gun each time. You want your eye to be right over the center of the rib, providing a clean line of vision. This shouldn’t impact either the comfort level of the gun in the pocket or the accuracy of the shot. In order to have consistency, you’ve got to have comfort.
This is a repeating theme that you’ll find in each of the tips I’ve provided here. The best way to shoulder a shotgun is also the most comfortable way to shoulder a shotgun. There shouldn’t be much pressure on the shoulder before the shot. During the shooting process, the movement of the gun should trigger a similar reaction from the body. It should be a slithering snake-like process.
The gun fires, the body reacts and moves with the shot, and then the posture is reset post-shot.
After the shot, you shouldn’t have pain the shoulder, wrist, or elsewhere. It should be as though not much has happened – the main thing going through your body should be excitement at making a great shot from the pocket.
When asking yourself, ‘What is the best way to shoulder a shotgun,’ the correct answer is to find the pocket and then get yourself comfortable. These steps should help you to establish a solid, actionable stance that will increase both your accuracy and your comfort. Whether at the range or in the field, shouldering the shotgun correctly is as important as using the right ammo. Do some practice in your garage, and if necessary, have your gun personally fitted to you. Any gun shop can make this happen easily.
If you enjoyed this article, please share on your social channels. Education is key to top performance when shooting. Go ahead and post a picture of you in your shooting stance down below in the comments. I can’t wait to see what you’re shooting!