Cheek weld is important — far more important than many people know. Like grip on a handgun, cheek weld is frequently misunderstood. That’s why so many people who really know what they’re doing work to establish the same cheek weld each and every time (including using guides or marks on their rifle and in some cases painstakingly determining an exact individual length of pull). It’s also why the rifle cheek riser, adjustable cheek rest, and rifle cheek pad are such popular additions to certain weapon systems — not to mention such accessories as the SOPMOD stock (B5 SOPMOD that is), various Magpul stock options (such as the Magpul MOE stock), and other manufacturers.
Consistency equals accuracy.
We have – well, should have – been hearing this for years. There is no single element that guarantees someone will be a good shooter. Rather there is a collection of several seemingly small things (i.e. fundamental skills and actions) that must be reliably and consistently executed with each and every shot.
Fundamentals of Marksmanship
If you think about it, the fundamentals of marksmanship make for a pretty short list of very basic things. Most people quote four fundamentals, some aver there are seven (the particular number is typically based upon whether we’re talking about how the Army defines things, or the Marine Corps).
Regardless, we’re talking about stance, grip, breathing, trigger control, sight picture, etc. All are small, simple pieces of the puzzle. Nothing terribly complex about any of them.
The tricky thing is doing all of them exactly the same way, 100% of the time.
Spend some time on the range with some novice shooters and you’ll find a surprising lack of basic shooting knowledge…which is fine. We all gotta start somewhere. Even a squared-away Modern American Jedi can stand to improve. Only a very few people are master blasters!
That’s why it’s important to always be a student of the gun.
In fact, some might argue there is no such thing as an expert, only those that possess more skill, knowledge, and experience than others. Becoming a good shot isn’t a destination to work towards. It is (or should be) a lifelong journey.
So, let’s talk cheek weld.
What is cheek weld?
Guns have names, and parts or “areas” of the gun also have names (or, more accurately, it has nomenclature). On the back end of a long gun, you will find the stock. This is most commonly referred to as the “buttstock”. The top line of the buttstock, where you place your ugly mug, is called the “comb” or “coomb” of the stock.
It is atop this area that we place our cheek when shouldering the gun and acquiring our sights. Not your chin, not your neckbeard, not your nasty lips. Your cheek, and your cheek alone mate against the stock. This creates cheek weld.
The exact place on the stock you place your face is going to be determined by the type of stock on the long gun, your individual body size, your choice of sights, and a few other factors (wearing armor verse not wearing armor, warming layers, etc.). What is important, is that you firmly smoosh (yes, smoosh) your face to the stock in a consistent place, in a consistent manner, that allows you a good, comfortable view of your sights or optic. This is essential to achieve accurate fire, and cannot be stressed enough.
“Placing the cheek in exactly the same place on the rifle comb with the same amount of pressure helps eliminate errors due to scope parallax, sight picture, sight wobble and minor involuntary body movements.” Shooters Den
If you do not have a proper cheek weld, it will show with your first shot. You will get “kissed” by the scope, if you are too forward and not aware of your setup, feel your face slide off the stock, (requiring readjustment), or feel the stock slam against your face (we’ve seen people bruise their own face with shotguns because of this). Understanding cheek weld, and executing it consistently is a critical skill, especially if you plan on using magnified optics.
Your cheek weld is what determines the proper set up of the optic so that you achieve proper eye relief from the rear lens. Overall, you will end up with different cheek welds on different firearms. It’s up to you to determine which is best for your shooting style, based on that individual weapon. Remember, it should be comfortable. Comfortable enough that you could fall asleep while on the gun. If you feel uncomfortable, you need to slide your face around until you find the sweet spot that works. It’s not rocket science, it’s a fairly intuitive thing to figure out.
The more you shoot, the easier it will be to acquire proper cheek weld. It’s just a small, but important aspect of shooting.
Eye Relief, Accuracy, and other Sorcery
If you’re not familiar with this stuff, let us know. Leave us a question, we’ll do our best to answer. If you’d like to weigh in the topic in the comments, we’d love to hear it – constructively, if you don’t mind. We’re trying to educate people here, not be assholes.
There are a lot of salty folks reading this blog, lots of savvy shooters of both genders. Let’s get some good material out there for them what needs it — preferably before they go buy some fancy AR15 stock, adjustable cheek rest, or Gucciflage rifle cheek pad they might have to replace or trade out of later. Good as we think the SOPMOD stock is, for example, it’s not going to provide maximum benefit if the shooter doesn’t understand what needs to happen.
Robyn from Modern-hunters.com explains the concept of cheek weld thusly:
“Cheek weld refers to the firm contact that your cheek should make with the top of your stock. When adjusted properly, good cheek weld should allow your dominant eye to comfortably look straight into your scope or sights. It also has the benefit of serving as an additional ‘anchor point’, a term I borrow from archery. In archery, an anchor point refers to a place on the body that the hand or string will touch with the bow is fully drawn and ready to shoot. This point serves as a cue to the shooter that they are set in a proper position and allows them to reproduce that position with every shot…Anchor points are critical for accuracy and consistency.
[T]he place where the cheek rests on the stock is an anchor point for rifle shooters. If you have ever struggled and had to move your head around to try to get a full, clear image through your scope, you likely have a cheek weld problem. And if you’re anything like me, correcting this problem will result in an immediate improvement in shooting…”
We’ve heard several suggestions, including:
• Put a pin (not a sharp one) in the optimum position on your stock and use it as a reference point.
• Use a paint pen to mark the spot.
• Cut a notch in the stock.
• Use a tight ranger band as a raised reference point that can be felt. (Another cool thing about the ranger band on the stock solution is that you can also use it to stow the sling or to hold a tourniquet to the rifle).
• One of our past readers says, “Find the sweet spot for your cheek then move the optics to get a proper eye clearance. If you don’t, long hours behind the gun will become very arduous. If your head does not automatically index to the same spot, you are gonna have parallax problems to contend with.”
Whatever you do, just make sure that it stays in the same spot and doesn’t move forward or backward!
Length of Pull
Length of pull, which is frequently abbreviated as LOP, is the distance of the trigger to the exact place where a long gun rests against the shooter’s shoulder. This is usually the back center of the butt plate or recoil pad. This is significant for a variety of weapon systems, most particularly a precision rifle or shotgun. LOP impacts the ability to acquire a sight or scope, comfort, and the ability to effectively manipulate a weapon.⚠️ Note: you’ve seen a lot of “SOPMOD stock” and “Magpul stock” references in these paragraphs. That’s because that’s mostly what our guys use. There are others out there (FAB Defense, Mission First Tactical, Ergo, etc.)— pick the one that suits you best, and remember —it’s the cheek weld that matters most, not the particular surface you’re welding against!
There are several Magpul stock options to help with cheek weld issues, and not just AR 15 buttstock options either. The Magpul MOE stock, Magpul CTR stock, Magpul PRS stock, Magpul Zhukov stock, and…you get the point. There are several versions and they’ve all proven popular.
Now, for those of you who have a hard time with learning from the written word, here’s a video from Kirsten Joy Weiss (who as you can see here is using an adjustable cheek rest).
Note: proper butt-stock length is an important part of shooting too — and it can affect your cheek weld. Just ask this crusty old fucker.
B5 SOPMOD Stock
Magpul MOE Stock
…and others, in action.
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