By: Teresa Mull

Earl Mclean has been teaching and coaching sporting clays for 22 years, and he’s encountered a recurring problem.

“One of the biggest obstacles I’ve run into is finding a gun that works well with the ladies,” McLean told Gunpowder Magazine. “I fought this battle for a long time. If you try to make it cross-over for a lady and a guy, it’s not going to work for either one. I said, ‘You need a specific stock for the ladies.’”

After trying to convince big gun manufacturers like Remington and Mossberg to create something catered to females, McLean took matters into his own hands, and thus, “Heads Up Shooting System” was born. “Taking the pain out and putting the fun in,” is the company’s motto.

‘There’s Got to Be a Better Way’
McLean says gun companies haven’t put much effort into accommodating female shooters.

“I don’t understand why the gun manufacturers are not catching on,” McLean said. “All they’ve done is put a shorter stock on their guns. They didn’t change the grip. They didn’t change anything. They just make it shorter. I just don’t think they did their homework, which is the reason why I’ve gone out and done all this. As an instructor and coach, it’s frustrating. No matter what happens, they come up with something that doesn’t work. They want you to teach them to shoot with something that doesn’t fit. It’s not the right shape. It doesn’t fit in the shoulder pocket. After about a box of shells, the ladies are saying, ‘I’ve had enough. My cheek hurts. My shoulder hurts.’ I thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’”

Bidding Bruised Cheeks Goodbye
McLean had three stock prototypes built by a stock maker (now based in Missouri), and had groups of ladies of different heights and builds test the stocks out over the course of three years until one was “as good as I could get it.”

“Ladies are built so much differently from men that [standard stocks] don’t work,” McLean said. “Women’s shoulders are narrower at the top, and they’re wider at the bottom, so their shoulder pocket is at a five or ten-degree angle, where a guy’s shoulder pocket is more straight up and down. When a lady mounts the gun and looks down the rib, the gun leans over a lot.”

McLean also made modifications to the stock’s cheek piece to try to make it more comfortable. No more bruised cheeks, McLean says.

“What you have to do to look down the rib is raise your head just a little bit, and that creates a gap between the cheekbone and the stock,” he said. “That’s what happens with the cheek piece. When you pull the trigger [with my stock], it doesn’t give you that little slap on the cheekbone.”

More Female-Specific Features
Ways in which Heads Up stocks are made with ladies in mind are evident in the stock’s comb, grip, and recoil pad. According to the company’s website:

“The comb is parallel below the rib, and it also has a roll over contour to fit nicely against your face which gives it that soft-fitted feel under your cheek.

“The grip has been closed in and turned downward to a fuller pistol grip to give the pinkie a good resting place for comfort and control. There is also a palm swell to make the wrist fit nicely in your hand.

“The checkering is laser cut deep, but not too sharp at the top. This gives you a good grip but doesn’t give it that rough sandpaper feel.

“The stock is topped off with a genuine Limbsaver pad. They reduce felt recoil better than any pad I have ever used. I designed the stock so that if you needed to replace the pad or wanted a different thickness, it could be done so without grinding and fitting. All you have to do is get one that fits the Remington Wingmaster wood butt stock, and it will fit right in the place of the existing pad.”

A Heads Up Shooting System stock.

‘It’s the Stock That Makes the Difference’
McLean has been producing Heads Up stocks for about a year. He says his business is growing gradually as more ladies try his product and tell their friends about it.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all,” McLean said. “My stock is not going to fit everybody, but there is a size that fits most that works better, and I think I’ve got that now.”

McLean says he’s confident more comfortable gun stocks will keep women shooting shotguns.

“If it hurts, it’s not fun,” he said. “What I saw, though, was that for women lucky enough to have a gun that fit well enough to shoot, they really enjoyed it and stayed with it. The ladies who try [my stock] say, ‘Wow. Where can I get a gun like this?’ I say, ‘Well, you can get a gun anywhere. But it’s not the gun, it’s the stock that makes the difference.’

“It’s like a pair of shoes,” McLean said. “You can go to the store and buy the prettiest pair of shoes there are, but if you put them on, and they hurt your toes, you’re not going to wear them. Well, the gun stock’s the same way.”

Heads Up stocks currently fit Remington models 870 Wingmaster and Sportsman, 870 Express, 1100, and 1187. McLean said he chose these models because they’re classic, popular, do-it-all guns found in many homes, and as his business grows, McLean says he plans to expand his line of stocks to include more and various gun types.
More information is available online at

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at [email protected].

Photo Credit: Shutterstock