The Magic of
The concept of a butt
stock with cast-off (for right-handed shooters) and cast-on
(for left-handed shooters) is a European import. The subject
gets little exposure or discussion from American shotgun
manufacturers or those who write about hunting.
Indeed, the early part of the 20th century was the "Golden
Age" of shotgun development in America. Nearly all of the
great names in American shotgunning offered their version of
the unique phenomenon of the "repeater" shotgun. American
ingenuity had evolved a whole new shooting system for
reaping the wildlife riches of our croplands, weed patches,
forests and waterways. The repeating shotgun -- often
chambered to hold five, six or seven shells in 12, 16 and 20
gauge -- was aimed at filling the bottomless game bag. There
probably wasn't a cast-off butt stock in a carload. Probably
every one of those thousands of guns was cast-neutral -- so
if you missed a bird, what the heck, jack in another shell
and let fly at it again... and again... and again. Why not?
Ducks, pigeons, doves and pheasants all offer wide-open
windows of opportunity. With lots of time to tilt one's head
to a 25 or 30 degree angle to cheek the stock, locate the
sight plane and line it up with the target. To aim just like
As Don Zutz observes in
Shotgunning Trends in Transition: "If one carefully
breaks down the self-taught style of most American
bird hunters, including that of many today, he will
note that it is a slow, jerky, two-part move with
1) the gun first being brought solidly to the
shoulder and the head wiggled into place before 2)
the swing is started after the flying mark."
When the "slow, jerky, two-part move" is made on
targets offering small windows of opportunity
(grouse, woodcock, piney woods quail and sporting
clays for example), the target is gone. Worse, many
right-handed shooters with dominant right eyes will
shoot a cast-neutral, straight-stocked gun high and
to the left. That's because when the head is tilted
to find the plane of sight, the cheek pushes the
stock to the right and down. Movement away from the
target is increased by chubby-cheeked shooters and
thick-combed shotguns. Consistently missing birds
that flush to the right confirms this difficulty.
Left-handed shooters tend to push the butt of the
stock in the opposite direction, so they miss birds
flushing to the left.
A small amount of cast-off or "advantage right" at the butt
usually solves the high and to the left problem right-handed
shooters experience. Cast-on or "advantage left" does the
same for left-handed shooters. The most important practical
benefit of cast-off for a right-handed shooter with a
dominant right eye (and for a left-handed shooter with a
dominant left eye) is that it allows him to keep his focus
on the target without having to look at his gun.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Focusing on the target is the basis of all intuitive
shooting techniques -- the kind of shooting most hunters
have to practice to become successful. They keep both eyes
on the target, bring the gun up and touch off the shot.
Nobody ever remembers taking the safety off, or what the
front sight looks like. The brain and the body already know
what to do without being told. Cast just makes it easier by
eliminating the head fake -- the "slow, jerky, two-part
move" associated with cast neutral guns.
Focus on the target, not the tool. Football receivers focus
on the football, not their hands. In baseball, batters focus
on the ball, not the bat. In his shooting instruction column
"Lesson #3: Focus on the Target" in the June 2001 issue of
The Clay Pigeon, John Woolley says "To consistently hit the
target, you must focus on it entirely... you should feel
where the gun is, not actually see where it is when you pull
So much for theory. In practice, bird hunters who have the
cast advantage say:
"With the first nine shots from my gun, I had hit nine
birds. I do miss with this gun, but I have to work at it. I
don't remember having missed a bird off point so far this
year. You can believe me when I say I've NEVER shot this
well in my life."
"The first time I shot sporting clays with my 28 gauge, I
beat my 12 gauge Remington 1187 score by one bird."
"I used to be just another bum shot out in the field wasting
shells at such a rate that I got thank you cards from
Winchester and Remington at the end of each season. I also
got cards from the Pennsylvania Game Commission thanking me
for giving other hunters a chance to get their limits.
That's all changed since I got that "un-holy" shotgun. I
almost never miss a shot anymore. Two trips to Vermont for
grouse and woodcock with my Sons have branded me as a game
hog. The game warden up there isn't sure if this lucky
streak is even legal. My buddies won't hunt with me. My dog
has suffered several bouts of exhaustion from hunting and
retrieving so much that my vet bill looks more like a new
Cast-on or cast-off really isn't magic, I suppose, but I
haven't got the heart to tell these guys. They probably
wouldn't believe me if I did.