Length Of Pull: If It Fits, Shoot It

We all know the common dimensions of a gun. How long it is, how wide it is, how much it weighs and the length of the barrel. These are important things to know. They can determine how effective your firearm is for any given task. One dimension we often overlook, however, is the length of pull for a rifle or a shotgun. 

Simply put, the length of pull of a shotgun or a rifle is the distance from the trigger to the back of the buttplate at the end of the stock. This is how much space your arm has to wrap around the gun and place your hand in a firing position on your gun. That distance, the length of pull, affects a lot more than how far you need to reach in order to pull the trigger. 

Why Does Length Of Pull Matter?

Stock Length can differ on shotguns, impacting their length of pull

Two shotguns, two different uses, two different stocks

First of all, the length of pull affects your stance. A longer length of pull means you’re going to need to move your shoulder farther back and angle your body more in order to hold the gun properly on your shoulder. This in turn means your body is angled more. That impacts where you place your feet. A shorter length of pull results in a more squared-up stance where your upper body faces the target. 

The length of pull of your gun also influences your sight alignment and sight picture. A longer length of pull moves your head further back on the stock of your gun. This changes the position where your head rests against the stock, which changes where your eyes line up with the sights. The stock of your gun should be long and high enough so that your head rests in the same place every time you bring your gun to your shoulder. 

Changing the length of pull depends on what type of stock you have on your gun. Changing the length of pull on a gun with an adjustable stock is simply a matter of twisting a dial or unlocking a latch. Other guns allow you to change the stock length by adding or subtracting spacers at the end of the buttstock. In addition to this, custom gunsmiths can tailor a stock that is ideally suited to your body size and shape, making your gun fit you like a well-tailored suit. 

You’re Unique. Maybe Your Gun Should Be Unique, Too.

adjustable stocks can help you adjust the length of pull of a rifle

A customizable stock is a “must have” for any precision rifle

So what is the optimal length of pull for your gun? That is going to vary with what gun you’re using and why you’re using it. A rifle that is dedicated to long range precision shooting is going to have a length of pull that is best suited for acquiring a good sight picture through a high-power telescopic optic. A tactical rifle, on the other hand, is best set up so the user can make fast, accurate shots in a short amount of time. 

Length of pull is especially important in shotguns. Tactical and defensive shotguns should have a shorter length of pull than a shotgun used for hunting or  clay sports. This allows you to square yourself up with the target and fast, repeatable hits when they matter the most. You should set up a hunting or sporting shotgun so you can stand at an angle to where to expect to make the shot. This allows you to quickly swing it along the flight path of your target and make the shot as it flies through the air. 

Body shape and size drastically change the ideal length of pull for any given gun. There is a big difference in arm length between a 6’2” basketball player and a 5’4” jockey. So, the ideal length of pull for any given rifle for shotgun will be wildly different for each of them. 

Work Out What’s Best For You

All these variables mean that the process of determining the correct length of pull for any given rifle requires some testing and some trips to the range. For example, I struggled with getting good hits from the seated shooting position during my time at an Appleseed Project. I wasn’t resting my head in a consistent position on the stock. As a result, I struggled seeing the target through the low power variable optic I had mounted on top of my rifle. 

My experience that day showed me that the standard stock on a Ruger 10/22 doesn’t work with my body size and shape. I found out that the issues I was having seeing through the scope were based on two things: The first was that the stock was not tall enough for me to get a consistent cheek position for each shot. The second was that the length of pull of the rifle was too short. I wasn’t getting the proper eye relief on my optic. 

modified stock

A simple adjustment can make a big difference

I solved these problems by adding an inexpensive stock extension to the end of my rifle, and it works just fine now. Another option would have been to change out the stock for something with more adjustments to work with different body types. Either way, it was abundantly clear to me that day that guns are rarely a “one size fits all” proposition. The more your gun works with you, the less you have to work behind your gun. 

Consistency Is The Goal

Changing the length of pull might not be the most common adjustment we make to a rifle or shotgun, but it can make a big difference in how comfortable you are behind your gun and easy it is to bring your gun on-target. Talk with your local gunsmith if you’re not certain you’ve set up your gun the right way for you. In addition to this, look and see if a collapsible or adjustable stock might work, and do what you need to do in order to make the shot when it matters the most.