Although gun fit is not as big a factor in rifles as it is in shotguns, it still matters. As an outdoor writer, I’m accustomed to showing up at an event and having to shoot whatever off-the-rack rifle they hand me. Because I’m considerably shorter than the “average shooter,” I frequently have to contort myself somewhat uncomfortably to shoot a new rifle well—scrunching up on the stock to get a good sight picture because my eye is farther away from the scope than I’d like, rolling my face over the top of the comb because I need more cast off, or holding the buttstock a little outside the shoulder pocket because I just can’t get the gun to fit my face and body the way it should. I often end up with little bruises on my cheek or shoulder because of this improper fit. This is part of the career I’ve chosen, but it’s not an ideal situation—and you should not be shooting your regular rifle this way. The trouble is, rifles from the factory are just not made to fit most women’s bodies.
This leaves you a few options: Buy an off-the-shelf gun and have it fitted to you, buy an off-the-shelf gun that is more likely to work for your needs, or buy a gun specifically made with a woman in mind. We’ll look at a few options here, focusing on fit as a determining factor. The key aspects of fit most women need are a shorter length of pull, a higher comb and sometimes a different pitch. Many articles will tell you that a woman’s rifle should be lighter in overall weight, too, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, lighter rifles are easier and less fatiguing to carry if you’re spot-and-stalk hunting. On the other hand, heavier rifles reduce felt recoil, and the older I get, the more I care about that. Overall weight of your rifle is a decision you should make based on what works best for you.
1. Weatherby Camilla
Weatherby actually makes several models in a “Camilla” version, which is the company’s way of designating that the guns are made and marketed specifically for women—they’re one of only two companies making rifles for women, as far as I’m aware. The version shown here is the Vanguard Camilla, and it’s based on Weatherby’s venerable Vanguard rifle, with several female-specific features. The length of pull is 13" even, and the forearm and pistol grip are slimmed down to better fit smaller hands. The stock is angled away from the body, which better accommodates a woman’s shoulder and chest shape without digging into sensitive breast tissue. A higher comb helps better align your eye with optics. This is a key factor for most women, as we tend to have proportionately longer necks than men, making many off-the-shelf rifles too low at the comb for us.
Like all Vanguards, this one has a sub-MOA guarantee, an adjustable match-quality two-stage trigger, a three-position safety, a cold-hammer-forged barrel and an integral recoil lug. This model also features a hinged floorplate and a fluted bolt body, and it weighs about 6.25 lbs. without a scope.
The Camilla is a pretty gun, with a satin finish, Turkish A-grade walnut with rosewood accents, and a fleur de lis checking pattern. The Vanguard Camilla comes in your choice of five calibers and will run you between $750 and $850 MSRP depending on the caliber. Weatherby also offers a Vanguard Camilla Wilderness, a Mark V Camilla Deluxe and a Mark V Camilla Ultra Lightweight.
2. Savage 11 Lady Hunter
This is the other rifle currently being made and marketed specifically to women, and it’s the gun I bought years ago as my daughter’s first deer rifle. With a length of pull of 12.5" and a Monte Carlo comb, it fit her well when she was 10 and will fit her well for the rest of her life. At 5’4”, I can shoot it very comfortably, too. The Lady Hunter is built on Savage’s model 11 action and features the company’s excellent AccuTrigger, a detachable box magazine, a three-position safety and an oil-finished walnut stock. Like Weatherby, Savage has chosen to slim down the forend and grip. They’ve also wisely chosen to carefully balance the 20" barrel so the gun doesn’t feel front-heavy with the shorter stock. In all, without an optic, the gun weighs about 6 lbs.
The Savage Lady Hunter comes in four calibers—.243 Win, 7 mm 08 Rem (my deer gun of choice), 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win—and the MSRP is $979.
3. A Compact or Micro Version of a Proven Gun, Like Browning’s X-Bolt Micro Composite
Any compact, micro or youth-sized gun has a good chance of fitting a woman better than a normal-stocked model, and although these guns are not made specifically for women, most of them would be a solid choice. Most manufacturers make some version, so if there’s a gun or a brand you’re already partial to, you stand a good chance of finding a shortened version of it that might fit you well.
Browning’s X-Bolt Micro Composite is a good example of a gun in this category. It does not have a raised comb, but it does have a shortened length of pull—13", like the Camilla and slightly longer than the Lady Hunter. Barrel length is 20", like both other guns we’ve already looked at.
I also own an X-Bolt, although not a Micro version, and can attest to its quality and accuracy. Features include a free-floating barrel, adjustable trigger, composite stock with textured gripping surfaces, Pachmayr recoil pad, a bolt unlock button that allows you to open the bolt with the safety in the “safe” position, and a detachable rotary magazine.
The Browning X-Bolt Micro Composite comes in five calibers and will run you between $999 and $1,069 MSRP.
4. A Rifle with an Adjustable Stock, Like Mossberg’s MVP Precision
Any gun that comes with an adjustable stock, whether it’s built on a chassis, the AR platform or something else, will be very easy to adjust to the length of pull that’s just right for you—and that’s half the battle in fit. Mossberg’s MVP Precision fills the bill nicely, with a length of pull as short as 12.5". Although it’s not built strictly as a hunting gun, I’ve used it to excellent effect on prairie dogs and would not hesitate to hunt big game with it under the right conditions—that is, somewhere I wasn’t doing a lot of stalking, because the MVP Precision is heavy. It comes in .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor, both of which are capable big-game calibers.
What puts the MVP Precision toward the top of this adjustable-stocked-gun list for me is the cheekpiece. While all adjustable stocks let you fit length of pull, most of the ones that come on factory guns do not have a raised comb—but this one does. That makes it very comfortable for me to line up behind and shoot accurately. The .308 is 4" shorter (39.25" overall length) and nearly a pound lighter (9.2 lbs.) than the 6.5 Creedmoor, so .308 is the way to go if this is going to be a hunting gun.
Features include Mossberg’s LBA trigger, matte hard anodized chassis, M-Lok fore-end, Luth adjustable stock, medium bull barrel and detachable 10-round magazine. You have the two aforementioned caliber options, and MSRP is $1,450. This gun is made for long-range target shooting, so it will easily pull double duty as a hunting gun and a competition firearm.
As mentioned, guns built on the AR platform that include adjustable stocks also fall into this category, and there are many excellent options here. If you go this route and you find the comb height a bit low for you, most adjustable stocks are simple to swap out with aftermarket options that give you more adjustability in more areas.