17 May About Our Rifle Cheek Pads (Advantages, How to Tell If You Might Need One, And More)
There are a million and one other rifle parts and accessories that can positively improve your marksmanship, handling, and enhance the overall shooting experience.
Consider recoil-fighting muzzle brakes, advanced telescopic scopes with low-light capabilities, folding bipods, slings, zero-creep triggers, and so on and so forth.
With all these glamorous rifle parts and accessories cluttering most lists out there, you’d never even come across something as seemingly innocuous as a rifle cheek pad without a deliberate effort.
But for those who can benefit from them, this is a mistake, because guess what:
If your comb height is not adjusted properly, it doesn’t matter what sights you’re using or how good your breath control is. You will probably still shoot wide.
So let’s talk a bit about comb height, eye relief, and accuracy, all of which a rifle cheek pad can adjust and improve.
Rifle Cheek Pads, Comb Height, and Accuracy
Comb height, like length of pull, is one of the most important dimensions of any rifle. It is how high the comb of the rifle stock rises to meet the shooter’s cheek, and it’s different for each stock.
For most shooters, this is not something you’ll need to measure, though. You can simply shoulder the rifle and if you can see the sights are aligned, you are good to go.
But, if your comb height is too low, it can complicate eye relief, make it difficult to align the rifle’s sights, and make shooting uncomfortable, all three of which can ruin accuracy and form bad habits, like raising the head off the comb before shooting.
If your comb height is too low, adding a rifle cheek pad is a very simple and practical modification you can make – but how do you know when to do it?
Do You Need a Rifle Cheek Pad?
If you’re thinking the comb height on your rifle is too low but aren’t sure, here are some telltale signs and downright dead giveaways.
- Accuracy is inexplicably off
One of the main indicators that your comb height is not set properly (which means it could be too low) is that your accuracy is off, but all of your discipline is right.
That is, if you are sure the sights or scope are properly adjusted, and are in control of breathing, holding your aim, and follow through, it could be length of pull or comb height.
- Eye relief is wrong but you’re not exactly sure why
If you’re shooting through a scope, and comb height is too low, one of the first things you’ll notice is that eye relief is wrong.
Strictly speaking, eye relief is how far your eye is from the scope – but, scopes are prone to parallax distortion, and if your eye is too low on the comb, the reticle will be covering some point of the target that does not correspond to the true point of aim.
Which means this: if, as you lower your head to the comb, you see the reticle move inexplicably downward, it means that your eye is low enough that it’s causing a parallax distortion.
If the comb height is way too low, you will see a bit of darkness creep up from the bottom of the sight picture in the scope tube.
Both are dead giveaways that your comb height is too low.
- If shooting over iron sights, it’s hard for you to see the front sight when your cheek is on the comb
If your head is too low on the comb when you’re shooting over iron sights, it may feel as though you can’t line up the sights easily because the front sight is too obscured.
If the front sight is partially hidden or impossible to see, your comb height is too low. Unsurprisingly, this will affect accuracy. An easy fix is to add a rifle cheek pad to your comb.
- The rifle feels like it doesn’t “fit,” or you feel like you need to hunch forward
Another indication that your rifle’s comb height may be too low is if it feels “off” and you’re not sure why – but take this with a grain of salt because it can also indicate that your stock is too long or length of pull is off, too.
However, if you feel like you’re hunching over when you put your cheek on the comb, this almost always indicates one of two things: length of pull is too short or comb height is too low (or both).
If it’s just comb height, a rifle cheek pad can redress the issue.
Other Helpful Rifle Shooting Pointers: The Five Essentials
It’s important to remember that although adding a rifle cheek pad to your rifle can raise comb height and help you improve the fit of the rifle, as well as, potentially, your accuracy, the fundamentals are much more important than measurements.
If you are still trying to shrink your groups, go back to the five essentials of rifle shooting.
- Aim: Acquire the target, then center the reticle on the target or align the sights with it. Keep both eyes open to help prevent eye strain. Don’t aim for too long, as it’s hard to hold aim for more than a few seconds at a time.
- Control Breathing: The rhythm and cadence of your breathing can throw off your point of aim slightly, impacting your accuracy, especially at long ranges.
Best practice is to draw a deep breath once you have acquired the target, then exhale about half and hold your breath. Try to stay calm, and don’t hold your breath for too long, as holding your breath will dim your sight picture after a few seconds, and can increase your heart rate, which can also jostle your sight picture.
- Hold Aim: Hold the rifle as steady as possible and try to limit all movement before you pull the trigger.
- Squeeze the Trigger: Don’t jerk the trigger or tighten your entire grip, which will exert forces on the rifle that can cause you to miss your intended target. Your goal should be to pull the trigger in a straight line, rearward, cleanly. Practicing the “pencil drill” can help with this.
- Follow Through: Don’t jerk the gun while firing. Keep watching the target over your sights or through your scope, until you are conscious of the impact point.
Mastering these five fundamentals of rifle shooting will help you shrink your groups, even if you need to raise the comb height slightly with a rifle cheek pad, too.