Cheek Weld – why is it important?
Proper cheek weld is critical in long gun shooting accuracy. Why? Repeatability. If you are constantly changing where your head, and your eyes sit in relation to your scope – because you are lifting your head up and down, or back and forth – then the sight picture, and therefore, where you are aiming, is constantly shifting. This isn’t so much of an issue out to 50 meters, but the further out you get, repeatability is necessary in order to put that round in the same place.
What are we looking for when we talk about proper cheek weld? For the moment, we are going to ignore horizontal adjustments and assume you already have eye relief set up correctly. So, vertically, we want the rifle stock to fit you so that when you rest your cheek on the top of the comb, relax the neck and head, you will be looking straight down the middle of the optical system.
If you have to lift your head up off the comb, or push it down, you are introducing muscle tension – which in turn is creating deviation from your natural point of aim – and that is not likely to be repeatable, shot after shot.
Comb Height – why are they never right?
It is highly unlikely that any of your rifles will fit you perfectly right out of the box. Why? Because manufacturers have to follow the bell curve when it comes to the design of their stocks. The stock will fit most people, fairly well. It will also then, need adjustment for most people, to fit perfectly. Unless you are talking about a stock that has been custom-made for your shooting style and physical characteristics, it’s not likely to fit perfectly.
Combine that with variable options in scope height – both the scope itself and the ring size, and you have a nearly unlimited amount of options on any one rifle. So it’s no surprise that it likely won’t fit correctly right out of the box.
Some of the higher end stocks are available with adjustable cheek combs built-in – these allow you to set the stock up to suit your scope and position and can enable a perfect weld.
There are also several third-party adjustable combs on the market – generally they require you to drill through your stock to install the required hardware – once done though, you have an adjustable set-up.
If you don’t really want to drill through your stock – you still have options.
Some people go to town utilising fibreglass – creating a whole new stock profile – duct tape seems to work for some. However, I was looking for something a little tidier and ultimately easily reversible for my set-up.
Lifting the comb on the X-Bolt
On my new 7mm-08 X-Bolt, I put a Z3 with a 30mm objective, and the lowest rings I could get – but was having issues with my ‘natural’ cheek weld still being too low. In prone, I would rest my check on the stock, close my eyes, relax, open my eyes, and be looking into the bottom of the scope. Same standing.
So, while I could ‘make do’ – I started pondering an easy method of lifting up the comb. I already had purchased a stock ‘sock’ for the new X-Bolt, and realised a really simple way of supporting my head a little higher would be to pack some high-density foam under the neoprene sock. It would hold it in place, keep it looking tidy, and I could just add more foam until I got to the right height.
As it turned out, once I had found some foam (I just cut up a foam roll sleeping mat in the end) – I only needed one layer to get my eye to the right height. I simply put the foam over the butt, sketched out a shape and cut it down to suit. A little trimming on the edges, really just for aesthetics, and it was installed and ready to go.
A really simple solution, to a really complex problem for people.
I will spend a little more time shooting with it on and report back.
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