Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by Bull72, May 9, 2021.
A backpack hunt into a wilderness area in 1977 set the wheels in motion for me. By the time I got back my wood stock looked like it had been attacked by a rabid beaver from the steel buckles of 1970's era packs. And I was looking for something lighter. Within a few years I started looking at the aftermarket fiberglass options that were just coming on the market. There were no options for factory synthetics.
Any synthetic stock, even the cheap factory stocks are tougher than wood. They are also going to be more stable over changing environmental conditions. Wood can be just as accurate, but as temperature, humidity, and altitude change the moisture naturally inside a wood stock expands and contracts causing the point of impact to change. The rifle may still shoot the same size groups, but those groups will be somewhere else on the target. Sometimes the difference is minimal, other times it can be 6".
If I leave my home here in GA at 1000' elevation, 85 degrees, and 80% humidity and travel to CO and hunt at 11,000' elevation, 20 degrees and 20% humidity chances are good my wood stocked rifle is no longer hitting where I'm aiming. Chances are very good my synthetic stocked rifle is.
For years shooters and gunsmiths used fiberglass to bed rifles in wood stocks to help prevent this. Someone finally decided it would be better to just build the entire stock from fiberglass.
Synthetic can be lighter, but don't assume they are. In fact most synthetics, factory and aftermarket are going to weigh the same if not more than wood. With aftermarket stocks the cheaper or mid grade stocks costing around $300 or less typically are heavier than wood. Most factory synthetics will be about the same weight or slightly less. You don't see significant weight reduction until you get to the aftermarket stocks made from Kevlar.
It's not that I don't appreciate good looking wood, I do. But there is nothing special about 95% of the wood put on most guns anymore. I burn a few truck loads of wood in my heater every winter, much of it looks as good or better than what is on most rifles anymore.
Hunting and precision work I prefer synthetic or even a chassis (for target). IMHO it's just one less thing to worry about. I don't loose sweat over scratching a synthetic and they maintain POI in all kinds of weather. I do have one laminated stock that I hunt with and it's free-floated and bedded, it also adds bout 10 ounces to the rifle. Because it's a .350 Rem Mag, that 10 ounces is actually appreciated.
To me beauty in a hunting rifle is all about function.
Wood hitting wood sounds they are used to hearing.
On a historical military arm, the stock is whatever it was and that's how I want it to stay.
On a classic hunting rifle, I might consider buying and fitting a spare synthetic stock as a field beater to preserve the original wood.
Any modern hunting or target rifle that comes with a synthetic or laminated stock usually stays that way with me. I don't have many of those -- my Kimber 83M Hunter and AMT Lightning are the two that come to mind. One exception to this general rule was a CZ527 that I upgraded to an aluminum chassis because the factory synthetic wasn't to my liking.
On my 10/22 parts-up builds I chose synthetic stocks for lightness and stability. My Mauser Scout project gun went through several synthetics before I settled on a Fajen plastic stock.
My Martini rebuilds both received wood stocks because the alternative would just be wrong. The forends were one-offs anyway, and walnut was the easiest material for me to make them from.
While I have a few McMillian stocks on target rifles, primarily because I like the Anschutz stock for a prone rifle
Occasionally you will come across factory rifles with nice natural wood, but this is getting rarer, and more expensive, as the old growth woods are almost gone everywhere.
for a cheap, beater factory rifle, why not plain beech.
As fellow shooter Quinn Moore used to say "are you going to shoot your rifle or make love to it?"
My target rifles get lots of scratches and dents. I don't know how the guys with musuem grade wood keep from getting scratches on theirs, but I do see match rifles with stocks that are just amazing.
this was Joe Farmer's rifle stock
this is Joe
Joe told me he purchased the stock blank for $30.00 at Camp Perry in the mid 1960's and had been offered $1000 for it. Well, Joe kept it, I think he did all the wood work, and he could do all his metal work. Joe was 86 (if I remember right) when these pictures were taken, and he was the US Senior Small Bore National Champion. Another amazing fact about Joe was that he was right handed, but had macular issues in the right eye. He said he had a hole in his vision. So he shot, left handed!
when I buy stocks, I tend to buy laminated, the price is right, they drill easy for bedding pillars.
and I leave certain sections rough: on this rifle, the pistol grip and the fore end I did not sand smooth. I want a grippy surface, which is easy to leave on a unfinished laminated stock
Something else, I am going for 14" pulls. After shooting adjustable stocks for decades I started measuring trigger pull. I am around 14" to 14.25". I measured a number of old stocks. The WW1 M1903 had a 12.5 inch trigger pull length, and hurt like heck to shoot.
In a world where the average recruit is 5' 7", 12.5 inches must have been OK.
Military rifles are interesting. The Mauser M98's have a 13.5 inch trigger pull, except for the Swedish M1896, which is 14 inch. I have a Swedish sword from that era, and I think the Swedes were big for the time.
And today, people have gotten bigger and yet when I measure commercial trigger pull lengths, the stocks are still around 13.5 inch trigger pulls. Shooters should re evaluate their trigger pull length, and if you are over six feet, the 13.5 in trigger pull will put your nose too close to the scope and bolt. You do not need to stock crawl with a scope, like you do with irons.
Back then, you had to get your eye close to the rear aperature. You don't need that, you can move the scope back, with proper mounts.
That would be my answer also.....
Except I don't own any wood as nice as @Offfhand does, and quite frankly plain or just okay wood doesn't do it for me anymore.
So only two or three of my guns are still wood stocked... Not including laminates.
For now I'll stick with (sometimes garishly colored)
Synthetics and laminates.
My end game rifle though, That one will have the finest piece of wood I can afford, nice checkering, high polish bluing and all the other fun stuff that makes a rifle, a RIFLE!
It also won't be a rifle I built if that's saying anything lol
I bought an M1a some years ago, it came in USGI fiberglass, which I didn't really like. I bought a surplus M14 stock and dropped it in... it shot horrible, I thought it was the rifle. On a fluke, I swapped it back into the 'glass stock, and everything tightened back up. So... it looks pretty in wood when I'm not shooting it for accuracy, and when I want to put the holes closer together, it jumps into the phone booth and steps out with a fiberglass 'S' on it's chest.
My Savage 10TAC came with an Accustock... I don't know if it's truly fiberglass or just some poly, but it sure shoots well. I wouldn't even think of swapping it into wood.
To the contrary, most everything else I have is in wood (except my AR's, of course.) Wood has a beauty and function all it's own, it doesn't have to have a pretty grain to it or anything, in fact, I prefer the simpler woods... but, as I said, that's the kind of guy I am. I don't even like checkering.
Unrelated, but I'm gonna have to make it out to Ben Avery here soon before it gets too hot. I got three rifle that need sighted in.
For looks and fair weather hunting: wood.
The rifle began as a 222 Remington with a Remington 725 action. The action was and remains blued. I trued the action and added a 223 Remington stainless fluted heavy barrel and bedded into the synthetic stock. While not as pretty as original it shoots great with bullets below 55 grain in the 1:12 twist barrel. The rifle can easily go back to original since the original wood is pictured below.
Here is another example.
Remington 700 Action trued and bolt face lapped true. Chambered for .308 Winchester with a nice Timney trigger. The original wood is seen below the rifle.
So while I like the original lumber the synthetics really opened better bedding options and both rifles deliver great accuracy.. There was a trade off.
Again, they can always revert to how they were before.
I like the looks of wood.
I like the reliability of synthetic.
I adjust the balance of all my rifles. So natural balance doesn't factor in.
In reality I like all three types but for different reasons. The one thing I do not like with some synthetic stocks is a hollow butt stock. They sound unnatural. I got rid of a Hogue over molded shotgun stock because I didn’t like the way it felt or that it sounded way too loud when bumped. It had a thump sound to it with the slightest impact.
I have gotten grief from purists on my laminate M1 Garand stock. I really don’t care. Let ‘em whine. It’s mine and I love that rifle.
Same reasons behind composite hammer handles, wheels that use aluminum vs wood for “spokes” boats made from metal or composite materials vs wood etc. Durability, ability to not change in ever changing environmental conditions and less important aesthetically than a gorgeous wood stock is also a huge bonus in utility for me.
It would give me great pains to field some I own and use them the same as the ones I use as tools they are.
Nice, but why didn't you buy American Walnut?
My daughter and her husband own and live on a farm in Missouri, this custom stock was made from a walnut tree harvested on their farm. How's that for American walnut?
Harvested about 150 miles from my home. Those are gorgeous stocks.
The only person you need to please is yourself and the rifle looks really nice in the laminate.
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