Gunfitting – a journey of enlightenment
I’m pleased to have Nick Truter of justchoking.co.uk joining the ShootClay team for this guest post about his experience getting his gun fitted.
Gun-fitting is probably one of the more talked about subjects on discussion on shooting forums, both in terms of the necessity, how best it should be carried out and perhaps most importantly who is best to undertake any work required to get your chosen gun to fit. Intrigued as to how I could get the best out of my trusty Beretta 682 Gold E, I set about my mission of researching the subject further and formulating a plan of action!
A significant amount of research and an equal portion of deliberation ensued, I booked a day off from the 9-5 at the end of October 2011 and journeyed down to visit Tim Greenwood of Greenwood Gunsmiths at his premises in Tunbridge Wells, Kent – approx 4 1/2 hours each way from Manchester! FYI Tim works on an appointment basis only, so if you’re planning on enlisting his help drop him a line in advance and agree a date to meet up face to face. As my shooting season for 2011 had come to an end, and I was due to move house and re-enter the world of paying a mortgage again, I coincided the visit with a time when I could afford to be without my gun for as long as it took – not always the easiest decision to make when you are keen to shoot as often as possible.
Tim works from an extension to his home on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells and his workshop is reminiscent of a gunsmiths Aladdin’s cave with every related tool conceivable available, many of which have clearly been put to good use for decades. Within 60 seconds of walking through the door, not only had I been offered a cuppa and given a hearty welcome but Tim had taken one look at me, and asked me to mount my Beretta 682 Gold E. He highlighted a significant area for improvement in my mount and stance and proceeded to explain exactly why correcting it was so important and the difference it could make to my shooting. We then discussed where I wanted to be with my shooting in terms of my aspirations and willingness to incorporate the changes discussed in order to achieve it and I happily conceded that if I could add even a single extra kill to my score card that was attributed to the change, then I would consider the change worthwhile.
I could have left a happy chappy there and then, but having whetted my appetite, I was eager to discuss my options further and begin the process of fitting my Beretta 682 Gold E to me. To overcome my eagerness to lower my head to the stock rather than raise the stock to my cheek Tim suggested fitting a Jones Adjuster system and Kick-Eez Recoil pad and simulated the position that it could be set in by removing my existing pad and taping it with masking tape to the end of my stock. He then asked me to ignore the “unusual” position of the pad and mount the gun, which to my surprise came up effortlessly and on the money. Repeating the mount 10-15 times I noticed the physical difference in the mount and recognised that this wasn’t going to be an overnight success story but a journey of enlightenment to get where I wanted, if of course, I decided that I wanted to go down that route.
Some further examination of the gun revealed that it had actually been cast for a left-hander; something that I had never noticed, nor been made aware of before, so Tim also suggested that he correct this at the same time by straightening the cast to 6mm bias towards the right hand side. After only an hour or so in Tim’s company I was certain that I had made the right decision as to whom should work on my Beretta and had decided to leave the gun with him for a full strip and service (having bought the gun second-hand it was in need of a little tlc), recast of the stock and to have the Jones Adjuster/Kick-Eez combination fitted.
In my naivety I had chosen to visit Tim at one of his busiest times of the year; the start of the game season. Fortunately this coincided well with goings on in my non-shooting life and approximately a month later a package turned up with my 682 Gold E in. This is what I was greeted by upon opening the package:
A view of the newly fitted Jones Adjuster/Kick-Eez combination from above:
A view of the newly fitted Jones Adjuster/Kick-Eez combination from the side:
With the gun back in my possession I was like a kid at Christmas and eager to try it out at the first available opportunity. Thankfully (for my family) that opportunity occurred the very next day at the Manchester Clay Shooting Club Members Competition where I shot an 86 winning my class in the process. Not too shabby for a first run out!
Subsequent shoots and practice sessions were all favourable and the “heads up” position that the Jones Adjuster offered me was definitely enhancing my consistency; both in terms of mounting the gun and convincingly breaking targets. Prior to leaving Tims back in October, he had advised that when I received the gun back from him I would need to go out and shoot it extensively and not to be afraid of tweaking the position of the Kick-Eez pad to my liking, so that I could begin to settle on what I felt was right for me. This made logical sense, especially when coupled with the sentiment that once I’d shot it for a while and got used to it I could revisit him and continue the journey.
Six months further on and I had a window of opportunity to visit Tim again, thanks largely to the fact that I was working an hour or so away from him for a long weekend in mid March 2012. A quick email to Tim secured the necessary appointment and I was all set to return, 682 in hand. After the customary brew and chat, in which I discussed my observations from having used the Jones Adjuster/Kick-Eez combination for some time, I commented on how the gun felt and we began to discuss what the next phase of the process would be. My comments were met with a wry smile from Tim, affirming his belief that it is the shooter who decides when the next change is necessary, not the gunsmith! My main critique was that it felt as though my trigger hand was slipping off the bottom of the grip, due to the raised position of the stock and consequently grip. Tim once again discussed the options and having explained the work required and the reasons that it was necessary, asked whether I would be able to leave the gun with him or if I would be taking it away with me that day. With a couple of registered shoots planned at the end of that week and the Cheshire Shield looming the following week I was keen to leave with the gun in hand, so to speak, so Tim agreed to carry out as much of the work required then and there so long as I sent the gun back down to him when I had a couple of weeks without shooting so that he could fit the 15mm Ebony extension and finish that stage of the process.
What happened next is not for the feint-hearted, especially if you are a fan of good-looking woodwork on your shotgun, but I went into this eyes fully open and 20 minutes of grinding, filing, mounting, shaping and evaluating later this was the result:
The right hand side of the stock after grinding:
The left hand side of the stock after grinding:
The theory behind the work was that the position of my right hand, whilst gripping the grip, was not conducive to a relaxed shooting set-up and potentially limited my ability to shoot comfortably. Tim re-profiled the grip area, enhancing the palm-swell area of the grip and receded the front of the comb so that my thumb had the room that it required and my hand position was more natural and less strained.
Whilst it didn’t look the prettiest, it felt 100 times better that the original set up, especially with the reduced palm swell and the ability to correctly grip and hold the gun whilst shooting. I simply couldn’t wait for Sunday to roll round so snuck off to MCSC on Wednesday to shoot 100 practice clays with the then new ground manager Phil Moss. I shot well enough to know that I was going to enter the registered competitions at both Grange Farm and Kegworth on the following Sunday. An 84 and 81 proved that my suspicions were correct as both scores exceeded my CPSA average and I could not have been more pleased with how my journey was progressing.
The next opportunity to shoot the new set up was at the Cheshire Shield held at Hodnet (West Midlands Shooting Ground) on Thursday 29th March 2012. 92 ex. 100 saw me take my first ever Guest High Gun as well as being a part of the Winning Guest Team; The Clay Crunchers (thanks to Mr Potter for putting that together!) and I knew that investment both in time and money had already paid off. I even called Tim to thank him and let him know the result!
With number two bambino looming I knew that April was going to be a “quiet” month for shooting, so took advantage of the lull in throwing lead downrange and decided to post the 682 Gold E back to Tim to have the Ebony grip extension fitted. Thankfully James Henry Truter arrived on the 17th April, happy and healthy and I eagerly began to await the arrival of my Beretta back.
By now you are probably thinking, all of this work is all well and good but what about the cost implications? Price wise Tim isn’t the cheapest, but he’s also far from what I would consider expensive. In my opinion the work that Tim has done for me is amongst the best value for money I have spent on my shooting (aside from coaching sessions with the likes of Ed Solomons, Brian Clegg, Carl Bloxham and Steve Nutbeam) and I thoroughly enjoy the fact that Tim still maintains the old school system of “send me a cheque when you’ve got it back and are happy with it!”. Below is a summary of the costs thus far:
- Full strip down, clean, re-grease and service : £130
- Stock re-casting : £60
- Jones Adjuster and Kick-Eez System fitted and set up: £200
- Running total : £390
After what felt like a year of waiting (which was actually 7 weeks) a Special Delivery package arrived from Tim. The 15mm Ebony grip extension had been fitted and the re-profiled palm swell and grip had now been custom chequered and lightly oil finished, so that I can continue to use it until I’m ready, from a financial point of view, to send it back to Tim to have it completely finished and the forend re-chequered to match the stock.
Here is a view of the left hand side of the stock:
Here is a view of the right hand side of the stock:
The chequering is top-notch and I’m particularly impressed with the attention to detail displayed in the palm swell area on the right hand side – absolutely breathtaking! The costs for this stage of the work were as follows:
- Grip profiling and Ebony Extension : £60
- Re-chequering and oil finishing : £100
- Running total : £550
Since the grip was chequered and lightly oil finished, I have been shooting the gun “as-is” on a pretty constant basis. At the Pigeon Watch Charity shoot I was fortunate enough to be squadded with Ed Solomons and Rob Gray, both of whom made a very similar comment about the amount of muzzle flip I was experiencing whilst shooting – this was only after the first stand!
Reducing the recoil
Like all good advice, it sticks in your head, but sometimes it takes a while before you actually do anything about it. Well, September was when something finally clicked and my mission to conquer those comments began. After a detailed chat with Ed to delve a little deeper into why he and Rob had made the comment and further understand the issue that I was faced with (primarily the Jones Adjuster acting like a huge pivot) I decided that it was time to remove the Jones Adjuster/Kick-Eez combination and get on the phone to David Izzard from Recoil Systems to pick his brains about his Green Pads and Isis Recoil Reducing Systems.
After a few days of deliberation and a multitude of emails to and from David, I bit the proverbial bullet and ordered a full Isis 2 System with an 11mm Green Pad and upon David’s recommendation sent to the stock off to Malcolm Jenkins for everything to be fitted and returned to me. I have no doubt that if I had contacted Tim he would have been very willing to assist me further and offer his own take on potential solutions to the muzzle-flip issue, but having tried the Isis2 I was confident that it would suit my requirements and when advised by the manufacturer who should fit it, it is hard to ignore that advice.
Malcolm turned the gun around within a working week and when I received the gun back from him this is what the work to the stock looked like:
Malcolm and David were both top notch to deal with and their service and attention to detail cannot be faulted in any way. David could not go far enough to ensure that I was happy with the product and several follow up emails ensued to assure him that I had everything set up properly and that the Isis2 was set up to offer the maximum recoil reduction for my set up. As standard the Isis2 comes with Medium, Light and Extra Light springs. David’s’ advice was to start with the Medium Springs until I was comfortable mounting the Isis2. When I had put a few thousand shells through it he advised that I experiment with spring tension with the remit that you should use the lightest spring that you can get away with as this will afford the best recoil reduction.
The costs for the Isis2, Green Pad and the fitting work by Malcolm are as follows:
- Isis2 Recoil Reduction System including 11mm Green Pad : £225
- Fitting by Malcolm Jenkins : £90
- Running total : £865 (minus the proceeds from the sale of the Jones and Kick-Eez)
The initial outing with the gun after getting it back from Malcolm was a disaster, as firing the gun inadvertently activated the safety catch meaning an intermittent ability with which to fire the second barrel! The distraction of whether or not the second barrel would fire was enough to ruin a potentially good days shooting and taking the stock off the action (and a significant amount of search engine usage) meant that the culprit was identified as a snapped safety spring!
Before finding out the issue I had emailed both David and Malcolm to ascertain whether or not any of the recent work done could have caused it. Whilst both agreed that it was highly unlikely, David took the extra measure of speaking to Gordon Swotton, a Beretta expert having working in the gun trade (and at GMK) for many years to see if he had heard of anything similar happening before. David passed on his number and a call to Gordon confirmed that a snapped safety spring would exhibit the issues that I was facing and fortunately he had some spares in stock. “Two please Gordon” was the reply and they came before the weekend! Fitting the new spring was relatively simple, and ensured that the journey continued and remained far from boring!
The new spring rectified the issue and normal service was resumed!
Another work trip down South in mid October meant that I could coincide it with another visit to Tim’s and with a little trepidation I took the Isis2 equipped 682 Gold E into him to discuss the prospect of finishing the woodwork. If Tim was surprised at the lack of Jones Adjuster/Kick-Eez he hid it remarkably well and commented on the quality of the work that Malcolm had done. It was very pleasing to hear this not just for my own peace of mind, but also refreshing to see that even in such competitive tough financial times one craftsman can still admire the work of another. Current shooting commitments meant that once again I could not leave the gun with Tim to finish, so we discussed the finishing work that was required and the time that it would take; not inconsiderably partially due to the processes involved but also taking into account Tim’s current work load.
With the New Year looming and little over twelve months elapsed since I began this journey the Beretta will be out of my hands in January 2013 having its stock finished once and for all. Although things haven’t panned out as initially intended, I’m much happier with the result and the gun is increasingly more comfortable to shoot and feels more familiar at every outing. I realise that this journey isn’t for everyone, but it definitely has enhanced the enjoyment of my shooting and owning my Beretta.
Websites for Reference
Tim Greenwood / Greenwood Gunsmiths : http://www.greenwoodgunsmiths.co.uk/
Recoil Systems for the ISIS System : http://www.recoilsystems.com/