Shotguns are versatile and popular firearms for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense. Holding a shotgun correctly is essential for accurate shooting and controlling the recoil. In this article, we will provide detailed instructions on how to shoulder a shotgun, including the proper stance, grip, and alignment of the bead sights.
If you aren’t holding the shotgun in a correct shooting position, there are usually two possible outcomes: your shot is off, or you hurt yourself, and often it’s the case that both happen simultaneously.
Shotguns are known for having a lot of recoil, so controlling the weapon is even more essential to your success than for other long guns.
How to Shoulder a Shotgun
To shoulder a shotgun correctly, stand with your dominant foot back, lean forward into the shotgun, anchor the gun in your shoulder, rest your cheek on the stock, use your left hand on the forward grip to pull, and keep everything tight, but not too tight.
When the shotgun recoils, if the butt is not tight into your shoulder, it will slam backward and hurt. If you haven’t given yourself a decent cheek weld, you won’t be pointing where you think you’re pointing, and you’ll miss your shot.
If you don’t have a good stance with the rest of your body, you won’t be able to hold the shotgun steady enough to get a predictable shot. And this is the same for single-shot shotguns, pump action shotguns, and multi-shot shotguns.
The Correct Way to Shoulder a Shotgun for Better Accuracy
Stand With Dominant Foot Back
The first step to properly shoulder a shotgun is to stand with your dominant foot back. If you are right-handed, your left foot should be forward along with your shoulder forward, and your right foot should be forward if you are left-handed. This stance provides a stable platform for shooting and allows you to move and pivot easily.
Generally speaking, right-handed people squeeze the trigger with their right hand, so in this case, you want to move your right foot back. There’s no set amount on how far back your foot should go, this is a question of what’s comfortable for you.
The reason you want a wide stance is so the recoil doesn’t knock you off balance, so spread your feet out however far you want for that.
Lean Forward Into the Shotgun
The next step is to lean forward into the shotgun. This helps to absorb the recoil and allows you to control the shotgun more effectively. Your weight should be distributed evenly over both feet, with your upper body leaning slightly forward.
If you’ve never looked up videos of people getting knocked backward by their shotgun, you should do it, and you’ll immediately see why you need to lean forward into the shotgun. Think of the recoil like someone shoving you – it doesn’t necessarily hurt (assuming you’ve got the rifle stock tight in your shoulder), but it can still make you stumble if you’re unprepared.
Anchor the Gun in Your Shoulder
To anchor the gun in your shoulder, place the butt of the shotgun against your shoulder pocket. The shoulder pocket is just below your collarbone, where your chest muscles start to taper, and your shoulder muscles begin.
The shotgun should be placed firmly against your shoulder pocket but not so tight that it causes discomfort or bruises. If the gun is not anchored correctly, it can cause inaccurate shooting and a painful recoil. I know all this talk about recoil and pain might be intimidating, but it really doesn’t hurt as long as you follow these instructions.
Rest Your Cheek On the Stock
This is called getting a good cheek weld. You want your cheek resting on top of the shotgun in a position where, with your head naturally erect, you can clearly see down the barrel with your dominant eye and get the sights lined up with your cheek still touching the stock for a proper cheek weld.
If that doesn’t seem physically possible, you may need to get a cheek riser or shims.
Resting your cheek on the stock is an important aspect of properly holding a shotgun. This provides a reference point for aiming and helps to maintain a consistent shooting position. Your cheek should be firmly pressed against the stock but not so tight that it causes discomfort or affects your vision.
Use Left Hand on Forward Grip to Pull
To pull the shotgun into your shoulder, use your left hand on the forward grip of the shotgun. Your left hand should be placed as far forward on the gun as is comfortable. If your shotgun has a forward grip, then use that.
Use your left hand to pull the shotgun into your shoulder pocket, which helps to control the recoil and reduces the chances of bruising.
Your left hand is the main thing keeping the shotgun tight in your shoulder. It doesn’t require much pressure, just enough to ensure the shotgun doesn’t move as you acquire your target and pull the trigger.
Again, your goal is to make sure there’s no gap between the butt of the stock and you.
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Keep Everything Tight, But Not Too Tight
Finally, it is important to keep everything tight, but not too tight. The grip on the shotgun should be firm grip but not so tight that it causes discomfort or affects your aim. Your stance should be stable but not so rigid that it prevents you from moving and pivoting but you will start shooting moving targets on different shooting range.
Keeping everything tight and controlled allows you to absorb the recoil and maintain accurate shooting, especially when shooting slugs.
There is a tendency among newer shooters to pull the shotgun into their shoulder as hard as they can because they’re afraid of getting hurt by the recoil. Here’s the thing: when the gun fires, it will not need your help to launch backward. And it gets hard for them if they are shooting a moving target.
Any pressure you’re pulling on it will just add to the recoil. Therefore, pull hard enough to keep the stock up against your shoulder, but no harder.
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This law only applies when hunting migratory waterfowl. You are only allowed three shots due to the Migratory Bird Treaty. Hunting other game, or shooting trap or skeet, you’ll be subject to other laws and rules, but not the Migratory Bird Treaty. As far as I’m aware, this law is still in place in the United States and is important to know before your first hunting trip.
It’s important to shoulder a shotgun in a best way for accurate shooting and controlling the recoil. An inaccurately anchored shotgun can cause inaccurate shooting and a painful recoil, which can be dangerous and affect your aim. By shouldering a shotgun in a better position, you can become proficient in shooting and enjoy its benefits for hunting and shooting sports.
This is a tricky question to answer, because “aiming” is a strong word that doesn’t apply in the traditional sense to pointing a shotgun at a target and shooting it. The beads on a shotgun are really only there to verify that the gun is properly locked into place and aligned. Once that’s been confirmed, you should ignore the beads and just look down the barrel at your target.
If the barrel seems like it’s pointed at the target, then it probably is. Since shotguns really aren’t used beyond about 50 yards or so, it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
Let’s recap: To shoulder a shotgun correctly, stand with your dominant foot back, lean forward into the shotgun, anchor the gun in your shoulder, rest your cheek on the stock, use your left hand on the forward grip to pull, and keep everything tight, but not too tight. A good stance allows you to do three things: hit what you’re aiming at, make faster follow-up shots, and not get hurt while you’re doing it.
By following these steps, you can become proficient in shooting a shotgun and enjoy the benefits it offers for hunting and shooting sports.
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