You and me and the LOP - Length of Pull

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

You and me and the LOP - Length of Pull

by Bill Hanus

With a world awash in acronyms, society allows us to speak in this kind of verbal shorthand, hence the title of this column. In the hunting biz LOP refers length of pull -- the measurement, in inches, between the curve of the trigger and the edge of the butt stock. The "standard" length of pull for most American-made shotguns was 14" for many years. But, times are a' changing and the foreign-made shotguns now on dealers' shelves often offer LOP's -- seemingly at the whim of the maker -- all the way up to 14-7/8". This suggests two questions for the birdhunter:

What should my LOP be?
The most common of the old wives’ tales concerning LOP is that it can be determined by measuring from the inside of the elbow to the curve of the trigger finger. Utter nonsense.

(Click for details)

The next most common error concerns arm length as the criteria for measuring LOP. Just because you may need a 36" sleeve length on your shirts or even if you knuckles drag on the pavement when you walk, do not automatically conclude you need a longer-than-standard LOP.

The critical dimension in judging the correct LOP for an individual is that there should be about one inch to an inch-and-a-quarter of space between the thumb and nose when the gun is mounted, cheeked and ready to fire. This is a measurement that you can't make on yourself, but is one easily made by someone else. This is the one constant -- in a sea of variables that will be the same if you are measuring your son, daughter, wife or shooting buddy. But circumstances alter cases.

The same guy suited up in a down hunting jacket for ptarmigan at North Pole, Alaska is going to have different LOP requirements than he is for shooting dove on the Mexican border in shirtsleeves. Tall guys with longer necks will probably need more than a 15" LOP. Guys who could play at tackle for the Chicago Bears, with no visible neck, might be perfectly happy with a 13-3/4" LOP. Reaching a decision with multi-variables to work with involves holding your Philosopher's Stone tightly and reaching the first of many compromises life will require of you.

Most hunters need an inch and sometimes a bit more between their thumb and nose.

How do I change it?
Changing the LOP almost always means adding a pad. Getting the appropriate LOP out of a pad is the primary benefit. Recoil absorption is a secondary benefit.

If you think you need a longer LOP, buy one of these slip-on pads. These are great measuring tools. It adds one-half inch to the LOP -- but you can shim it up with pieces of cardboard until you get to that magic inch-and-a-quarter inch measurement between your nose and thumb. Through trial and error you can find the LOP that works best for you. Then it's time to add a permanent pad.

If you are measuring someone who might need a shorter LOP -- a wife or child, for example -- work backwards. If the distance between nose and thumb measures two inches -- for example -- then probably a net three quarters of an inch needs to come off the butt.

Remember the rule -- Measure twice, cut once.
(Click for details)

Now comes the pitch.
This is the point at which you will want to turn the project over to a gunsmith. He will double-check your numbers. He can help you choose a suitable pad. You'll want one that slides easily into the "pocket" of your shoulder, and then stays there so you can score a double when opportunity offers. An experienced gunsmith will avoid the mistake many do-it-yourselfers make, when they try to install a pad themselves and end up inadvertently altering the pitch of their shotgun.

You can measure the pitch on your shotgun very easily. With the butt plate flat on the floor, move the gun so the breech touches a vertical surface -- a doorjamb works admirably. As you can see, the muzzle of barrel is normally about two to three inches from the vertical doorjamb. In practical terms this demonstrates that the butt plate is really an inclined plane meeting the round shape of your shoulder "pocket." A small change here can have large consequences downrange. If you were to mistakenly mount a pad at right angles to the line of sight -- a not uncommon mistake to make -- you'd have a shotgun that shot downhill, thus endangering your dog and giving real meaning to the phrase "shoot yourself in the foot."

In the world of arcane shotgun wisdom, knowing how to tweak LOP's ranks pretty high. Check one out today.

We want your input: