Do I need that, or does it just look good?

I have a shotgun, it is a Beretta Black Onyx Over/Under in 12 guage and it is a little bit old. Although in this instance “a little bit old” is actually a good thing because it means I get all the quality of a top end gun but for a lot less cash and I am always happy with that sort of arrangement.

It looks a bit like this:

Beretta 686 Black Onyx

Beretta 686 Black Onyx

This isn’t mine but an image I found online, mine looks very much like this (although perhaps a little bit more used).

I like this gun a lot and have performed very well with it on occasion (48/50 sporting clays), but it has an annoying habit of bruising my cheek. I have never been able to determine if this is down to the way I hold it or how the gun fits me. A while ago I was speaking to an employee of a Cabelas store who suggested I could trade it in for something that would suit me better, but I reasoned that without knowing what was going wrong I would be perfectly capable of repeating the problem with a different gun.

As I said above I like this gun a lot, and since I am also capable of good scores with it I decided that I would seek advice on making it stop hurting me before I did anything drastic like trading it in. I can’t be wrong in thinking it is usually best to understand a problem before you try and fix it.

So I have had this in my mind for a while, but since I am a student there isn’t a lot of spare cash lying around my wallet most of the time. A couple of weeks ago however a rare thing occurred, I managed to sell a painting, and like the smart artist I am I decide to spend some of it on getting my shotgun fixed.

Since this has been in my mind for a while my mind has also been in the internet a lot, and I came to expect a few things from my upcoming meeting with the gunsmith.

In my head it went something like this:

Me: My gun keeps hitting me in the cheek and it hurts.

Gunsmith: Hold it like you”re going to shoot it……..mmmmm…….yes……interesting……

Me: Well?

Gunsmith: The fit is wrong but if I remove a small sliver of the stock here it will all be better!

Me: Great! Have at it!


Yesterday I met the gunsmith and it actually went like this:

Me: My gun keeps hitting me in the cheek and it hurts.

Gunsmith: Hold it like you”re going to shoot it……..mmmmm…….yes……interesting……

Me: Well?

Gunsmith: The fit looks fine (explanation), so adjusting the shape of the stock wont make a difference. I could install a recoil reducer.

Me: What’s that?

Gunsmith: (Explanation)

Me: Sounds reasonable.

Gunsmith: But I see your stock is hollow so that won’t work. Then the other option is porting the barrel.

Me: What’s that?

Gunsmith: (Explanation)

Ported Barrels

Ported Barrels

Me: Sounds reasonable, have at it!

*Two hours later in front of a computer and the results of an internet search on the subject of barrel porting*

Me: Hmmmm!


I have never really given much thought to the subject of barrel porting but after a brief search on the subject it seems like opinions are split on the matter. (very) roughly 1/3 – It works pretty well, I have seen the benefit. 1/6 – It may work but the effect will be slight. 1/2 – It can have only negative practical effects and is largely a silly fad/marketing gimmick.

Needless to say this left me feeling uncomfortable. “What am I doing to my gun?” I groaned to myself at a low moment. Later however after an opportunity to consider the complete picture I decide a few things. 1: I wanted to get work done because I didn’t really want to sell the gun. 2: It might work!  3: I shoot clays for fun not competition so what do I care if people think it is a fad. 4: I actually think it looks pretty cool.

Having considered my conversation with the gunsmith I have come up with a theory to explain my bruised cheek. My gun is a light sporter with short barrels, it is light so it can be carried around a field all day in the pursuit of game and the short barrels make it quicker to swing onto a fast bird. As a result of the lightness it recoils more heavily than a gun designed for clays that would usually have longer barrels and a heavier stock. In Scotland I had learned to use 3/4 oz loads (pretty light) and wasn’t getting the bruising (here I haven’t seen anything less than 1 1/8 oz loads), added to the gunsmith’s opinion that my stance and fit are fine I am inclined to believe him when he tells me he thinks recoil is the issue. Therefore, despite the on-line doom-sayers, I am inclined to believe that barrel porting may actually offer some sort of solution for my problem.

I took the gun into the gunsmith yesterday and I had a phone call today to say the work was done. I will probably be picking it up on Saturday. I may get a chance to shoot it next week.



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