Brian Samson

Brian Samson looking a bit smug

Background

After shooting in FT competitions for sometime, I noticed that quite a few of my fellow competitiors used a ‘Butt Hook’. When you’re new to a sport you’re looking for shortcuts to improve your score and when you notice a trend among the other competitors who are regularly hitting more targets than you are, it’s a natural and possibly a sensible strategy to copy that trend. Quite often you copy a trend without a real understanding of how or why you’re expecting it to increase your score.

That was true of me, I bought a second hand Anschutz butt hook because it seemed like a popular choice at the time. I fitted it to my rifle without knowing how to set one up or what function I was actually expecting it to perform and went out to try it in the next competition.
It probably won’t come as a surprise to you that my scores didn’t improve in that next competition.

Later on while talking to one of the leading shooting coaches in the country at that time, I learned that butt hooks were commonly used in 10m target shooting, but that their real purpose was to maintain a consistent shoulder position, not to provide stability (as I’d incorrectly assumed). A consistent shoulder position isn’t a bad thing to have in any shooting sport but if the problem you’re trying to solve is that your position isn’t stable, the chances of the problem being entirely down to an inconsistent shoulder position are slim. So fixing that problem alone by using a butt hook probably isn’t going to solve the real problem you’re having with stability.

In fact if truth be known, I found that the Anschutz hook felt uncomfortable in my shoulder and the hook part of it either dug into my sides or got in the way of my arm and felt unnatural. The net result was that instead of my scores going up, they went down. I was using the hook to perform a task that it wasn’t designed for.

In more recent times I’ve noticed that there seems to be a trend to fit a hook with much more pronounced support on top of the shoulder. I don’t believe this is a trend without merit. After having tried a hook with more top of shoulder support I found that all of my shooting positions gained in stability.

The most popular hook for providing this extra support is the System Gemini hook because it allows extra links to be added to provide this top of shoulder support. It also has the most flexibility in terms of adjustment of any hook I’ve seen on the market.

The System Gemini hook isn’t without it’s problems however. This is evidenced by the number of shooters who have modified the standard hook with 3rd party add-ons. That’s not a fault in the design of the Gemini (which is excellent by the way) it’s more to do with the fact that Field Target shooters are trying to use a product that wasn’t designed for the peculiar requirements of their sport.

The new hook

The design task I set myself was to design a butt hook specifically for Field Target that would give all of the advantages of the most successful hooks on the market, with enough adjustment to meet the requirements of the vast majority of shooters and with a price that was within reach of newcomers to the sport.

The finished design not only takes it’s inspiration from a number of hooks on the market, it extends the best features and adds features that would be against the rules in 10m target shooting. Field Target isn’t bound by those rules, so why compromise by using a hook that is?

The new hook has all the adjustments you’re ever likely to need, it’s extendible for minimum cost and has a new type of anatomically designed hook that conforms to the shape of your body and adds support at the same time.

What’s so different about this design?

All of the hooks on the market today are designed to be set up for a target at a set height. In Field Target isn’t not uncommon to have targets set out at all sorts of crazy elevations. If you had the time you could sit at the lane and change the profile of an adjustable hook specifically for the shot you’re about to take, but that’s not practical in Field Target where you’re shooting against a ticking clock.

I was shooting in a Winter League shoot with Trev Ryan and he made a comment when we came to a lane with a standing shot way up in a tree that got me thinking. He said, that at that angle his hook dug right into his side and that it would be a good idea if he had a hook made of rubber so that it would adapt to elevated shots without being uncomfortable. That got me thinking – why are we using rigid hooks designed for a sport that doesn’t have elevated targets? Rubber wasn’t going to give the shoulder consistency, so I set to designing a hook that could be rotated around your shoulder for elevated shots without feeling uncomfortable and in addition giving extra lateral stability when the weight of your arm was applied to the flat ‘beaver tail’ end of the hook.

The other problem I had was that all of the current butt hooks are quite heavy, and that upsets the balance of your rifle. To counterbalance that extra weight at the back of your rifle you’ll need to add weight to the front of the rifle which takes the overall weight of the gun up quite noticeably. I needed a hook that was strong enough to take the stresses placed on it, but was also light weight.

3D printing to the rescue

The first shooting item I made using 3D printing was a replacement top turret for my Bushnell Elite scope about a year ago now. I was so amazed by the technology and the strength, quality and accuracy of the end result that I started experimenting with ever more ambitious designs and accessories. To the point where designing and manufacturing a complete custom designed butt hook seemed like the next logical progression.

And here we are today. The Competition Shooter butt hook has been specifically designed to be 3D printed. In fact the design I’ve come up with couldn’t be produced by other more traditional methods of manufacturing including injection moulding and even state of the art 5 axis CNC machines! and even if it could be the price would be prohibitive.

The process of 3D printing I use in the manufacture of my hook is known as Selective Laser Sintering. It’s not a cheap process, but I’ve managed to find a 3D printing company where the price for a complete hook is still less than any other hook on the market and significantly cheaper than some of the more adjustable hooks such as the System Gemini.

If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, here’s a short YouTube video showing the process on the same model of 3D printer used to manufacture the Competition Shooter butt hook.