Taking Stock in America
Article and Photographs
Russell E. Taylor
© Sniper's Paradise 1999
Enfield #4 Mk1
Savage 110FP Tactical
Custom-Built .416 Remington Magnum
McMillan A-2 Tactical
It's no secret that people enjoy expressing their individuality. How they choose to do so varies from person to person -- as one might expect when talking about the subject of "individuality." For those of us who shoot firearms, oft times this individuality manifests itself in some sort of cosmetic improvement. For those of us involved in cowboy action shooting, nearly the first thing all of us do when we buy our first single-action revolver is to swap the standard grips that came with the gun for something better. "Better," from shooter to shooter, is a matter of function, appearance, or both. In the case of a cowboy six-shooter, however, the dull and unattractive grips are usually replaced with those made of real or imitation ivory or pearl, stag horn, perhaps a deep and luxurious walnut, or a selection from the various other woods that particularly appeals to the aesthetic tastes of the gun's owner. And in choosing different grips, the owner may also be interested in larger or smaller grips that will more properly fit his hand. He may also be looking for grips that will alter the angle of the gun when he is holding it, thus improving it's point ability.
It should, therefore, come as no surprise to anyone that one of the first things a rifleman does is to change the stock on his rifle as a way of expressing his own individuality. However, unlike the cowboy shooter, a modern-day rifleman using a bolt-gun has many more reasons to change the stock on his rifle -- and accordingly, just as many options to choose from. Having replaced the stocks on some of my production rifles, and also having had custom rifles built for me, I thought I'd review a few of the stocks that are available today, and offer some of my thoughts about what to look for when buying one.
Five Reasons for Changing the Stock on Your Rifle
Simply stated, you can't shoot a rifle very well if it doesn't fit you. As someone who is taller than most of you, the things that fit you usually don't even come close to fitting me, which is certainly true in the case of riflestocks. Because my arms are longer than those of most men, I have a hard time feeling comfortable shouldering any rifle that wears a factory-standard stock. The length of pull just isn't right, the whole situation just feels wrong, and I know it affects my shooting. So most of the time, I either replace the entire stock with a longer one or add a one-inch spacer (maybe two) plus a recoil pad. And even if I do replace the stock, I usually end up adding the spacer and a recoil pad anyway. I've never had a stock that didn't fit me because it was too long.
Besides the length of pull, there's the matter of what style of grip you prefer. Personally, I like a stock that affords me a vertical "pistol" grip situation. Rifles like my AR-15, my customized Savage 110FP Tactical that wears a McMillan A-2 Tactical stock, or Bwana, my custom-built .416 Remington Magnum with a Richards thumbhole stock, all allow me to get the right "feel" when I'm shooting. These stocks allow me to better position my shooting hand in such a manner that I can more effectively engage the trigger while controlling the tension I apply to it when making the shot. An example of a rifle which, to me, puts my hand in a bad position to pull the trigger is a standard-issue Enfield battle rifle. With my exceptionally long fingers, the whole setup immediately feels wrong when I wrap my hand around the wrist of an Enfield's buttstock and reach for the trigger with my forefinger. Because I like Enfields, though, I have a couple that now wear synthetic stocks. Such stocks, while not only being affordable from companies like Ramline and Advanced Technology, are simple to install and can make the difference between a rifle that's nearly impossible to shoot and one that feels like it was made just for you.
The forearm on a riflestock is equally important in how it fits you. Each of us, with the length of our arms varying from man to man, will support the front half of the rifle by placing his hand in a different position underneath the forearm of the riflestock. Typically, unless this portion of the stock is abnormally short, there are usually few problems for most shooters. One notable exception, however, is when the stock maker has built a recess into the forearm of the stock, with the intention of purposely encouraging the shooter to use that spot for his support hand. Such a feature may be fine for one shooter out of twenty, but for the rest such a design "feature" quickly becomes a design "flaw" -- and one that is often hard, if not impossible, to work around. Generally speaking, for the stock of a tactical rifle, it's usually nice if the bottom of the forearm has a gentle but constant upward angle that progresses from just forward of the trigger guard to the end of the forearm itself. When sighting on a target, the angle underneath the forearm allows the shooter -- if resting his rifle on a support such as a backpack, sandbags, or a rolled-up field jacket -- to easily make slight adjustments in elevation by simply sliding the rifle forward or rearward, thus raising or lowering the muzzle of the rifle, respectively.
Other considerations that involve a riflestock's ergonomics are the thickness of the wrist of the buttstock, the height of the comb, and whether the recoil pad allows the shooter to sink the stock into his shoulder. If the wrist of the buttstock is too thin, or too thick, you'll probably not be engaging the trigger in the best possible manner. If the top of the comb is so low that it is impossible for you to see through your scope when you have a proper cheek-to-stock "weld," you will compensate for it by raising your cheekbone off the stock -- and when you do this, you're introducing a variable (inconsistencies in positioning your head against the stock of your rifle, shot after shot after shot) that you don't want. And finally, if the butt of the stock doesn't fit into your shoulder properly, it can make it hard to get proper eye relief, assume a good cheek weld, or to align the crosshairs on the target without canting the rifle -- or all three of these things.
I don't know of anyone, after having humped an M-60 machine gun in the field for several hours (without a sling, by the way), who ever complained about having to give it to someone else to carry for a while. Weight is also a consideration when choosing a new riflestock. First, there are certain advantages to having a heavy riflestock, primarily being that a heavier rifle allows you to be steadier when making your shot, especially if there's a bit of a breeze and you have to take your shot while standing or kneeling. Second, however, the disadvantages of having a heavy riflestock all have to do with accelerating your level of fatigue when carrying the rifle in the field for prolonged periods of time, even if you are carrying the rifle over your shoulder by using its sling. For a military sniper in a tactical situation, having to carry additional weight is generally about as welcome as having a venereal disease. However, just as when carrying any type of load, there are some things you can do to make life easier for yourself, and I'll discuss them later.
Shooters usually believe heavy stocks are strong ones, but such reasoning is flawed. While this notion was perhaps true at one time, many years ago, constantly-evolving technology has given us materials and processes that have made strong and light riflestocks a reality. What do I mean when I talk about a "strong" riflestock? I'm talking about how much the stock swells with heat and humidity, how much is shrinks when cold, how resistant it is to cracking when it's dry, and whether or not it soaks up water and swells to a new dimension -- changes such as these directly affect the way a rifle shoots. I'm also talking about a stock's ability to withstand relatively minor damage such as occurs from everyday use. In other words, if the stock is mistreated a bit, is it capable of being repaired or does it have to be replaced?
Utility? Besides holding the barreled action and giving the shooter something to hold on to?
Yes, by all means, utility.
Does the rifle have swivel studs for mounting a sling or a bipod? By what method is the barreled action installed into the stock -- via a clamping system, an aluminum bedding block, or pillars? Is there an accessory rail built into the forearm? Is the underside of the forearm tapered in an upward angle as described earlier, or is it flat and parallel to the barrel? Is the bottom of the forearm flat or rounded? Does the stock have an adjustable cheekpiece? Does it have a buttplate that's adjustable for length of pull and cant of the rifle? Is the surface of the stock textured to provide a better gripping surface in wet conditions? Is the buttstock hollowed out to give the shooter a place to store cleaning supplies or other items, or to add weight if he needs to change the balance of the rifle? Will paint adhere to the stock? If so, what kind of paint? In fact, is the riflestock's material even capable of being painted without destroying the stock itself? If you're going to do a lot of crawling with the rifle, are the studs for the sling on the side of the rifle so you can tuck the latter in close to your body? If you're using a magnum-length action for a magnum-length cartridge, will the bolt clear the comb of the stock when you're removing a live round? Is the stock modular (can parts be replaced without having to replace the entire stock)? Does the stock facilitate mounting accessory lights and various sighting devices? Does it have a collapsible buttstock? Will is accommodate a left-handed shooter (which isn't very important, of course, unless you're a left-handed shooter)?
Like I said, "utility." If you think you want a new riflestock, what are you going to expect from it?
Oh heck, let's be blunt and to the point about it. The most important thing about choosing a riflestock is -- how cool it looks! Right? Oh, come on now, you can tell me. Hey, it's alright, really. We like having the best looking cars, the prettiest women, the fanciest stereo equipment -- and we like our rifles to look "cool" too! Even guys who camouflage their stocks with cans of spray paint try to give their work "that special touch." (When it comes to painting a rifle, if you think "camouflage is camouflage," you haven't seen the camo jobs I've seen!) Personally, however, I think the most beautiful stocks in the world are laminated wood stocks! If you ask me, the swirling lines from the layers of epoxy that combine with the grain in the wood, along with the varying shades and colors, give laminated stocks a rich appearance unequaled by any other stock-making material. And besides being beautiful, laminated stocks are strong! They resist changes in climate very well, especially if covered with a coat of weatherproofing sealant, and they're usually much more affordable than synthetic riflestocks of similar design, strength, and features. Laminated stocks can be made from woods of any color -- light brown and dark brown, brown and black, black and green, and any combination thereof. Additionally, you can further alter the appearance of a laminated stock by staining it, as lightly or as heavily as you want, with whatever color stain you would like.
Then, there's your boring, everyday, run-of-the-mill walnut. Enough said on that.
And of course, as I mentioned, there is a wide variety of synthetic stocks to choose from, both in terms of material composition and general design. Synthetic stocks are typically somewhat stronger than laminated stocks and generally are more resistant to changes in weather. The most common riflestocks are made from Kevlar, fiberglass, plastic, Rynite, rubber, or graphite -- and sometimes two or more of these materials are used in combination to improve strength and rigidity while keeping weight manageable.
"The Stock Market"
Having been around guns for over 33 years, I've certainly seen my share of riflestocks, both good ones and bad ones. I'm at the point, then, where I feel fairly comfortable answering most of the questions I receive about the types of stocks that are on the market and where they can be found.
Just like building race cars, the same saying applies: "Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go?" Riflestocks, especially the ones most people call "tactical" models, can range in price from affordable to expensive, depending on what those terms mean to you -- and for those of you who might be inclined to order a stock from one of the "names" in the industry, be advised that the more features you want included with your stock will affect how long you wait to take delivery. With these things in mind, let me tell you about some of the stocks that are currently available.
|Either cursed or praised, there seems to be no middle ground when it comes to an opinion about Choate Tool's Ultimate Sniper Stock. Truly, if a shooter could be intimidated by a riflestock, this would be the one to do it. |
"The Ultimate Sniper" Synthetic Stock
Designed by John Plaster and manufactured by Choate Tool, this stock was obviously intended to meet the demands of both military and law enforcement snipers. I've had this stock for quite some time and have really had a chance to formulate my own thoughts on it as well as taking in the comments of others who have handled it. Weighing about six pounds, the stock is made from a DuPont product called Rynite and is very sturdy. In fact, some shooters have said it would make a better club than a riflestock. Harsh words, I know, but you must understand something. There is one word that best describes the Ultimate Sniper stock.
It's immediately noticeable by everyone who handles it, and I'd be completely accurate by saying that its immense size tops the list of things that shooters have commented about in correspondence to me or during personal conversations. Truly, it is a large-dimensioned creation, which I find most curious -- considering Plaster stands at 5'10" tall. On the other hand, at 6'5" in height, the stock fits me just fine! Well, up to a point. I don't really like the recessed area underneath the forearm. Obviously, it was put there to allow shooters to carry the rifle -- in wet weather or while wearing gloves in cold weather -- without the rifle slipping forward or rearward in their hand, or out of their hand altogether. The left and right sides of the stock, along this recessed area, are heavily stippled for the best possible grip during the worst possible field conditions. If you've got any kind of a respectable grip on the rifle while carrying it with your hand in this recessed area, it is not going to slip away from you. Period. You could probably replicate the same thing on your own rifle by affixing some 30-grit sandpaper to the stock on your own rifle. And actually, as I think of it, this is probably a pretty good idea for a rifle that will be used in various types of extreme weather.
| ||The rear third of this stock is an open framework affair, reminding many shooters of the stocks on Dragonov rifles. In fact, if you have not yet been afforded an opportunity to see this stock for yourself, the "Dragonov" description probably gives you a pretty good |
|Below, the Choate/Plaster stock. Above, the #8-contour, 10-pound, 30-inch, .338-caliber rifle barrel that was eventually chambered for the mighty .338/378 Weatherby Magnum. Even though Plaster expressed some reservations about using his stock as the foundation for such a monster gun -- indeed, Choate Tool wouldn't even comment on the idea -- the rather "industrial" riflestock held up superbly and suffered no damage whatsoever. Shooters can use coarse sandpaper to thin the pistol grip and smooth the stippling. ||idea of what the stock looks like. In placing his shooting hand around the vertical grip of the stock, |
the shooter will again notice the same heavy stippling I mentioned a moment ago. There is no way this stock will let you lose your grip on it.
Inside the rear portion of the buttstock, the shooter is meant to place his non-firing hand to push the butt securely into his shoulder. The stock comes with two cheek pieces, one higher than the other, and it's up to the individual shooter as to which one provides the best alignment between his eye and the scope on his rifle. Swapping the cheek pieces is very easy, but requires that you have a Phillips screwdriver handy. In fact, besides the large size and heavy weight of the stock, that's another of the features I've heard many shooters complain about -- the screws. Besides the screw holding the cheek piece onto the stock, there are two screws holding the grip cap in place, also requiring a Phillips screwdriver. As claimed, you are supposed to be able to store some extra rounds of ammunition inside the grip. Truly, there is room for doing so but, the downside is, how many of us could guarantee having a Phillips screwdriver with us at all times, especially when we might need those extra rounds quickly? If ammo is to be stored in the grip, I think a better solution would be to secure the grip cap in place by means of some type of a knurled nut like that found on Uncle Mike's sling swivels which is "disengaged" until you pull on it -- and "engage" it -- to remove the screw. Another alternative would be to use a single-slotted, large-head screw which, when seated, would be flush with the grip cap and require only a dime or a knife blade to remove. And of course, this screw would be impossible to remove from the grip cap itself.
The surface along the underside and length of the buttstock is serrated, presumably to offer some traction upon whatever the rear of the stock was resting and probably best suited for a field situation. At the rearmost location on the bottom of the buttstock is the "adjusting elevator knob" which is used to lower, and alternatively raise, the muzzle of the rifle. The knob can be removed by unscrewing it all the way but, short of removing it and at its fullest extension, it will provide about two inches of height underneath the rear of the stock. The comment was once made to me, by one of my colleagues, that this feature would probably be best utilized in an urban environment. In the field, however, where an environment of steep slopes and rugged terrain can be challenging enough just to walk across let alone to shoot from, this adjusting knob would be rendered almost useless, and employing a bipod could certainly exacerbate the problem. Still, as mentioned, the knob could be of great value for law enforcement snipers who must often operate in urban surroundings.
L - R: Savage laminated riflestock, Choate Tool's Ultimate Sniper.
For aesthetics, it's hard to beat the fine lines and artistic grace of laminated wood. For function and utility, however, the Choate has many slick features that would drive the cost of other manufacturers' stocks sky-high. The suggested retail price for the Choate is a paltry $160 -- dollar for pound, Plaster's creation has a lot going for it. Because the Choate is made of Rynite, it is extremely heavy. (If fighting "mano a mano" with pungy sticks ever comes back into vogue among snipers, I predict the Choate will become very popular!)
|To the right, a top view of the same two stocks. Both stocks are for the Savage 112-series rifle. Besides the aluminum bedding block in the synthetic stock on the right, notice how wide the barrel channel is compared to that of the Savage stock. Even accommodating the thickest of barrels proved to be no problem for the Choate.he receiver area of the stock has an aluminum V-type bedding block molded into it. The "V" design generally ensures that the four "corners" of an action will have solid contact when the metal is installed into the stock, |
and this feature worked as expected. My riflestock was made to fit a Savage 110- or 112-series rifle. As an aside, I happened to be building a .338/378 Weatherby Magnum on a Savage 112 action. The barrel is a Douglas Double-X with a #8 contour and weighed 10 pounds before installing it onto the action. Needing a test platform from which to break in the barrel while I continued to work on the Richards MicroFit stock which will eventually go on the completed rifle, I called Choate Tool on two different occasions and left messages with the person who answered the phone to have a technician return my call. I explained that I wanted to know if the Ultimate Sniper could withstand the recoil from a .338/378 Weatherby Magnum. No one returned my call. This, in spite of the fact that I had identified myself, that John Plaster himself had been the one to have Choate Tool send me the stock for an evaluation of the product. I can only take it, when people don't return my calls, that they're not interested in talking to me and that, in this particular instance, they don't mind whether I blow up one of their stocks or not. Lacking the trepidation I probably should have possessed, I bolted the metal into the stock and headed for the range. I was merely interested in breaking in the barrel and not in testing my handloads for accuracy, so there was no need to attach a scope to the rifle.
| ||With 117-grains of Hodgdon H50BMG powder underneath 300-grain Sierra Match King bullets, capped off by Federal 215M primers, I set up a bench at my gun range. Twenty exhilarating rounds later and after the usual shoot-clean-shoot ritual that is involved with such activity, I made two observations. First, the Ultimate Sniper stock was still intact. Second, so was I. Between the weight of the stock and the efficiency of the recoil pad, the stock absorbs recoil very well and I can honestly say the rifle was more comfortable to shoot than I had anticipated, so I think it's safe to say that shooters using any of the smaller magnums shouldn't have any problems. |
Removing the barreled action from the stock, the marks on the bedding block indicated that the action had maintained four solid contacts in the right places, and a careful inspection revealed neither stress cracks nor abnormalities of any kind. This was proof enough for me that the bedding block was still structurally sound within its Rynite foundation and that the riflestock wasn't just made for mouse calibers.
The forearm of the stock has two very large ventilation slots on each side. Even with my monster .338/378 installed, the barrel -- about an inch thick -- was completely free-floated. Combining the free-floating feature with the ventilation slots ensures an adequate airflow to and
around the barrel during shooting. Studs for attaching sling swivels are located on each side of the forearm at midpoints between the two ventilation slots. Similar studs extend from the left and right sides of the buttstock as well, so a shooter can attach a sling to either side of the stock if he wants to keep his rifle tucked in close during a prolonged crawl.
A neat feature is found on the underside of the forearm -- a detachable bipod adaptor. In simple terms, this consists of an accessory rail that runs the length of the forearm and a metal slide which has a sling stud at one end and a plastic wingnut at the other. The metal slide is secured or removed by tightening or loosening the plastic wingnut. "Neat," as I say, because by having a bipod attached to the stud and with the legs extended, you have the ability to raise or lower the muzzle of your rifle within approximately an inch to an inch and a half of vertical travel. And if you don't want to leave the bipod on your rifle all the time, it only takes about one second to just loosen the wingnut and slide off the bar -- with the bipod still attached. When you want the bipod again, just slide it on, tighten down the wingnut, and you're back in business.
The overall appearance of the stock is not one of great beauty -- but then this product was designed to be useful not pretty. Certainly, there are a lot of nice features built into the Ultimate Sniper that would cost a lot more money anywhere else. Still, I should point out a couple of things that at least bear mentioning. First, the safety tang of my Savage does not mate well with the stock. Not a big deal, I suppose, but it is noticeable and I suppose it could cause a shooter some problems in certain circumstances. The other curiosity which stands out is, for as much as Plaster preaches taping the "dope" for your rifle onto the buttstock, he designed a stock which makes doing this virtually impossible.
| ||The impressions this stock makes on shooters are extreme -- they either love it or hate it. I've probably talked to about twenty shooters concerning this stock, and it seems that close to two-thirds of them had complaints about it, mostly related to either its weight, its size, or both. The remaining third seemed to agree that it was a very nice stock and particularly praised its affordability and the many nice features that are built into it. Interestingly, among those who have liked it or disliked it, there was no significant statistic in their height. Some tall people liked it, some hated it. Some short people liked it, some hated it. In other words, of the shooters who complained about its size or weight, there were no clean lines of division. It wasn't a matter of "all the tall guys love how big it is" and "all the small dudes gripe about how darn big the thing is." || |
Personally, I think it's a good stock for what it was intended to be, which is a standard tactical stock with a lot of nonstandard features. It comes in olive drab green or a camouflage pattern, and the stock will withstand a paint job without melting. It's very affordable as tactical stocks go, retailing in the neighborhood of $160 or so. For shooters on a tight budget who are looking for an "entry level" piece of equipment that will serve them well, the Choate is probably the way to go. They're currently available for Remingtons and Savages and have been out for a while now, so you shouldn't have any problem ordering one or even finding one at a gun show. The Ultimate Sniper Stock is, without a doubt, both sturdy and fully capable of taking some punishment in a field environment.
Reinhart Fajen -- Laminated Wood Stocks
I suppose it is questionable for some people whether wood riflestocks, in these modern times, are truly "tactical" anymore. Sure, for many years, "wood" was the only game in town. However, it has always been more vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity than synthetic stocks, a big reason why the latter are so popular these days. Yet, somewhere along the way, shooters discovered a way to have stronger wood stocks. By gluing layers of wood together into stock blanks, the result was not only a composition that was strong but also, when cut into a riflestock, a final product with an appearance that many consider a work of art. Laminated wood stocks are typically heavier than their "plain Jane" counterparts, owing primarily to the glue used in the process. However, besides having slightly more weight, they are also more impervious to temperature and humidity changes. Further, with a proper sealant applied, as is often the case, moisture is less likely to be absorbed into the wood.
Depending on who you buy yours from, you can have an expensive one or a more affordable model. Fajen, long recognized as "a name" in the business of making riflestocks, produces some of the finest specimens available to shooters today. Often, these stocks are original equipment for factory rifles such as Savage, Ruger, and others. Shooters prefer them for their strength and their aesthetic qualities, and because they are essentially nothing more than wood and glue, gunsmiths are able to work with them using the same tools they normally use when preparing a stock for bedding a barreled action. Also, if you can bring yourself to do it, you can strip and paint the surface of a laminated riflestock, using colors and patterns that match the terrain you will be operating in.
The two laminated Fajen stocks I have came as original equipment on a couple of my Savage rifles. One, which came on a 112BVSS-S in .300 Winchester Magnum, will soon replace the stock on my 112FV in .223 Remington, making it into a 112BV. ("F" and "B" denoting "plastic" and "laminated wood," respectively, in Savage Arms' naming convention, and "V" identifying the rifle as a "varmint" model. "SS" stands for "stainless steel," and the "-S" identifies Savage's single-shot rifles.) The other is remaining on the rifle it came on, a 112BVSS which originally was chambered for .22-250 Remington but has since been rechambered for .22-250 Ackley Improved. The latter rifle, due largely to the steadiness of the heavier stock, makes it a dream to shoot prairie dogs with. The stock has a straight-drop pistol grip with a wundhammer palmswell which allows a shooter to assume a more natural wrist angle for better trigger control -- a nice feature which makes it easier for shooters like me (with large hands and long fingers) to get the shooting hand into a position that feels "right."
The Savage/Fajen stocks come with two quarter-inch spacers and a modest recoil pad on the buttstock, and a black endcap that appears to be plastic. The stock also has a single pillar for securing the metal into the stock. The stock that came with my 112BVSS was a nylon affair which was subject to crushing (and therefore unlikely to maintain a consistent bedding torque), so I had my gunsmith replace it with a brass one. He also put in a pillar for the rear mounting position, a feature that neither he nor I can understand why Savage doesn't do this on their own -- after watching how he does it, such a thing would be a snap with the tooling available to Savage Arms. Somewhere along the way, however, Savage must have learned about the crushing problem with the plastic pillar because the later sample I have (which will go on the 112BV) has a metal pillar which I will probably not replace. However, once again, I'll have a rear pillar installed into the stock. As a final touch, the rifle has a couple of stainless steel sling swivel studs to help shooters carry the rifle more comfortably by attaching and using a sling.
Recently, aid much controversy and confusion, Fajen was acquired by The Potterfield Group. Many of you do business with Midway USA, the prime money-producer for Larry Potterfield. Rumors were rampant that Fajen had gone out of business entirely. In the October/November '98 timeframe, to address some of shooters' concerns about his acquisition of the well-known stockmaking operation, Potterfield posted a letter on the Internet to explain his acquisition of the Fajen company. Briefly, the letter details the status of "drop-in" and "semi-inletted" stocks, going on to further state that -- at the time he wrote the letter -- Fajen's custom shop "has temporarily suspended operation." Many gun builders and shooters rushed to buy out the last of Fajen's stocks, in a frenzy that could only be compared to... well... try to imagine Exxon stock being sold for two dollars per share in the last three minutes of Friday trading on Wall Street, and you'll get the idea.
One rifle, three configurations. As purchased, this rifle was a Savage 112FV chambered for .223 Remington.
|#1. In its original-equipment stock. |
|#2. Same rifle in the Ultimate Sniper Stock from Choate Tool. |
|#3. Savage 112FV in one of Savage's own laminated stocks (which, actually, makes this a 112BV). |
I've seen other examples of Fajen riflestocks and have always been well pleased with the craftsmanship and attention to detail. Though it sells many of its production stocks through Midway, a popular supplier of handloading tools and components, you can also order a custom stock directly from the Fajen company.
Richard's Micro-Fit Stocks -- Laminated Wood Stocks
For shooters who might prefer the looks and characteristics of a laminated wood riflestock but who want a little more freedom of creativity without paying the prices that Fajen charges, there is a relatively little-known company called Richard's Micro-Fit Stocks. In four words, let me sum up the products made by Richard's. Practical. Utilitarian. Affordable. Cool. Yes, "cool." Their "tactical" offering, available either in brown & brown or green & black, just looks downright "cool." In an odd twist of fate, I ordered their tactical model for the .338/378 Weatherby Magnum I'm building but, because they are so close in appearance, I didn't discover until after a couple of months of working with it that I had been sent one of Richard's Culbertson target/prone model instead. In looking at the advertisement in my Varmint Masters magazine, it's easy to see how it happened. The tactical stock simply a "more processed" version of the Culbertson target/prone model. My guess is, Richard's just forgot to complete their work on my particular stock. Upon reflection, however, I realized that I'd probably been fortunate to have this particular mix-up occur because, with a 30-inch, #8 contour barrel that has a two-inch long muzzle brake, I think it's better to have the extra length and weight (though we're not talking very much of either). If you're building a "monster gun" for industrial-duty field work, you might want the Culbertson stock. However, if you're building a contemporarily-styled bolt gun in .308 Winchester, I would heartily recommend the Richard's tactical stock. As a true tactical piece, the latter offers all the qualities of a laminated riflestock, plus ventilation holes along the barrel channel.
|The Wrath of God, a .338/378 Weatherby Magnum built on a Savage 112-series action, rests in a Richard's MicroFit stock. Every stock in the Richard's line-up is a true work of art and incredibly affordable. |
Because Richard's leaves the final finishing steps up to the individual buyer, be prepared to do a little work with some sandpaper. I like using 60-grit, or rougher if I can find it, for the major work, and using finer grits for the final work. Opening up the barrel channel to accommodate my .338/378 was easily accomplished by using a spray can of Break Free that I wrapped with 60-grit sandpaper, then stroking back and forth along the length of the barrel channel until I had the width and depth I wanted. Using a burning candle, I smoked the barreled action and -- by inserting and removing the metal -- I could see from the resulting smudges on the wood where I needed to remove more material from the stock, prior to any bedding operations. Using a simple woodworking chisel, I removed an appropriate amount of material for the barrel lug, and used a smaller chisel to remove just a slight amount of wood so the standard Savage trigger guard would fit precisely. I then used a file to relieve a recess in the side of the stock for the bolt handle. I added a one-inch spacer and a one-inch recoil pad before starting any of the initial sanding work; once I began working, it was a simple matter to just blend (shape) the spacer and recoil pad into the contours of the wood as I sanded the buttstock.
I have known of Richard's since having a custom-built .416 Remington Magnum made for me. For that stock, I chose a thumbhole version (I love thumbhole stocks). Basically, it was prepared as I described doing for my other Richard's stock. As a testimonial to the strength of these stocks, I can tell you that my .416 Remington Magnum load consists of moly-coated 400-grain Hornady RN bullets, 80.1 grains of IMR-4064 powder, Winchester Large Rifle/Magnum primers, and Remington cases -- producing a muzzle velocity of 2480 feet per second and a muzzle energy of 5462 foot pounds (in simpler terms, over two and a half tons). I've run hundreds of such rounds through this gun without the stock showing any signs whatsoever of recoil-related stress or damage.
|Savage 110FP Tactical in a McMillan A-2 Tactical stock. The saddle-type cheek piece is a nice option that is quite popular. |
A-2 Tactical -- McMillan
Without a doubt, the rifle I hold most dear to my heart is my highly-customized Savage 110FP Tactical in .308 Winchester. Out of the box, it was a tackdriver. Over the years, as money permitted, I've "enhanced" the rifle with various improvements, one of which being the replacement of the original plastic stock with a McMillan A-2 Tactical. When my gunsmith bought one for the rifle he was building, and I saw how well-designed it was and how comfortably and ergonomically functional it was, I knew right away I had to have one. McMillan Fiberglass Stocks is, unfortunately, known for long delays in delivery times -- but at the time I got mine and my gunsmith got his (and this was a few years ago) the deliveries arrived in eight weeks and 10 weeks, respectively. Some reports from shooters with whom I've talked indicate that deliveries are into several months now. I know McMillan is trying to address the problem, but if you're building a rifle for a special match that's happening in a month or so, you may want to consider a different company. On the other hand, if you can plan accordingly, I'm sure you'll be happy with anything you order from McMillan. For tactical applications, their two most popular offerings seem to be the A-2 and the A-3. The latter has a shallower forend with the idea being to offer the shooter a "more stable platform while shooting off sand bags or pedestal." Either stock is well-built and rugged, although the A-3 is a bit lighter.
|The McMillan A-2 Tactical has long been a favorite among shooters. McMillan Image |
|The McMillan A-3 is lighter than the A-2, but every bit as strong. McMillan Image |
These two stocks can also be purchased with a number of options that afford more utility to the shooter, such as a choice of integral or saddle-type cheek pieces, a three-way adjustable butt assembly, and adjustable spacers to These two stocks can also be purchased with a number of options that afford more utility to the shooter, such as a choice of integral or saddle-type cheek pieces, a three-way adjustable butt assembly, and adjustable spacers to help establish a correct length of pull.
| ||Switching from the plastic stock that originally came on my 110FP Tactical to the A-2 stock from McMillan made quite a difference in my comfort level with the rifle. Let me make it clear that I had never experienced a problem with the rifle's accuracy, but the ergonomics of typical sporter stocks just don't agree with me. Instead, I much prefer thumbhole stocks or those with an open-top pistol grip, such as the A-2 Tactical. Such riflestocks allow me to take up a better shooting position and let me position my shooting hand so I get a better, straighter pull on the trigger. |
When I first purchased my A-2, I did not select an adjustable cheek piece. A few years later, however, I decided I wanted one and sent it to McMillan to have a saddle-type version installed. Having the ability to raise and lower the cheek piece on your rifle ensures proper alignment between your eye and the center axis of your scope without having to try to guess, or remember, how to hold your head. With your rifle adjusted to suit you, it is a simple matter to make a proper cheek weld between your face and the stock. Once this is done, it's easy to acquire a good sight picture and take your shot. Frankly, I'm spoiled now, and wish I had this feature on all my rifles. While it is true that the McMillan A-2 Tactical stock is heavier than it's H-S Precision counterpart (also a fine stock, by the way), I have to tell you that I actually prefer the extra weight of the McMillan. Some shooters like a lighter rifles tock, and that's okay... but I'm not one of them. Weight isn't the primary concern I have when considering a rifle's configuration. Strength, resistance to weather-induced warping, and especially ergonomics are what I'm most concerned with. For me, choosing the A-2 for my 110FP is a decision I've never regretted. By the way, Winchester's Custom Shop, makers of the M70 Custom Sharpshooter, originally stocked many of those rifles with the A-2 Tactical.
"Speed Costs Money -- How Fast Do You Want To Go?"
Besides those I've already told you about, several other stocks are available to the modern rifleman, from a number of companies all trying very hard to get your business. They range in price from under a hundred bucks to two or three hundred dollars. Let me just mention a few of higher-priced ones.
| ||At the 1998 Tactical Marksman Match, organized by Dave Lauck of D&L Sports, I was privileged to closely examine some of the rifles he has built. Dave has one concept in mind when he builds a rifle, such as those immediately to the left, and that concept is "function." Weighing in the vicinity of 25 pounds, these rifles are built not only to endure harsh field environments but to deliver precision accuracy. One of the most interesting features of these rifles are the stocks that Dave builds. Truly unconventional to say the least, they are more accurately described as "metal frames" than "riflestocks." Each "stock" is built to hold a barreled action by clamping it in, rather than by the traditional method of bolting it in from the bottom. |
Autauga Arms, Inc.
With respect to it's competitors, the Ultra-Accurate Rifle System (UARS) is fairly new to the world of tactically-oriented riflestocks. It is marketed by Autauga Arms, which claims the stock will "cut shot group sizes in a standard Remington Model 700 by up to 50% after being installed in the UARS stock. This was compared to how the action shot, out of the box, in a standard factory wooden stock." Truly, any stock that can deliver on such a promise is worth consideration. The stock is actually built by Innovation Design Engineering Associates, Inc. (IDEA) in Paulden, AZ. The latter offers a "fact sheet" for those interested in learning more about their stock.
Though the stocks are actually made by McMillan (as it reads, right on the stock), the design itself is unique. Advertised as a "proprietary, fully adjustable, vertical thumbhole stock with stainless steel pillars," the stock has made a name for itself in the tactical shooter arena amidst heavy competition from "the big boys." I got to examine one of these stocks at the 1998 Tactical Marksman Match in Wyoming. It was being evaluated by the Nebraska Army National Guard sniper team. There were some complaints about the action screws not holding a torque setting in the L.O.D. stock. To address this, some shooters had scratched an index mark across the pillars and screws after torquing the latter. In so doing, it was easy to monitor the position of the screws once they had been properly tightened. Members of this team who were using the stock planned to glass bed the action to see if this would stop the action screws from loosening. Frankly, for a stock with an aluminum bedding block (sort of a "bolt it in and shoot it" concept), glass bedding shouldn't be necessary. As of my writing this, I don't know if their "fix" worked or not.
Makers of Custom Stocks -- for the Discriminating Shooter
|Six Enterprises |
320 Turtle Creek Court #D
San Jose, CA 95125
Phone: (408) 999-0201
FAX: (408) 999-0216
| L.O.D. Training Associates, Inc. |
3545 Omeara Drive
Houston, TX 77025
Phone: (713) 668-1428
FAX: (713) 661-3104
|H-S Precision, Inc. |
1301 Turbine Drive
Rushmore Industrial Park
Rapid City, SD 57703
Phone: (605) 341-3006
FAX: (605) 342-8964
| Choate Machine & Tool, Inc. |
116 Lovers Lane
P.O. Box 218
Bald Knob, AR 72010
Phone: (501) 724-6193
Toll Free: 800-972-6390
FAX: (501) 724-5873
| McMillan Fiberglass Stocks |
21421 N 14th Ave, Ste B
Phoenix, AZ 85027
Phone: (602) 582-9635
FAX: (602) 581-3825
P.O. Box 39
Route #2, N5549
County Trunk "Z"
Onalaska, WI 54650
Phone: (916) 533-5191
|Great American Gunstock Company |
3420 Industrial Drive
Yuba City, CA 95993
Phone: (916) 671-4570
FAX: (916) 671-3906
|Richard's Micro-Fit Stocks |
PO Box 1066
8831 San Fernando Road
Sunny Valley, CA 91352
Phone: (818) 767-6097
| Tanyard Springs Gunshop |
Rural Route 1 Box 51
Honey Grove, Texas 75446
There are certainly enough stockmakers to keep any rifleman happy for years, but choosing one stock from among so many isn't easy. The same old cliche' holds just as true when purchasing a new riflestock as it does when buying anything else -- you get what you pay for. Purchasing a Ram-Line or an ATI/FiberForce stock will not buy you McMillan's or H-S Precision's quality. Certainly, most of us wouldn't spend two hundred dollars on an aftermarket stock for an SKS, but it's still nice to know there are affordable synthetic stocks that can improve the handling of almost any rifle without having to empty a wallet. Every shooter has specific needs and not every stock can address all of them. So like anything else, you have to go shopping... but that's part of the fun.