A proper stock is the foundation for precision shooting. That stock is the interface between you
This Steyr SSG's forward-set trigger can be "set" to fire with a pull of 2 to 8 ounces.
and the rifle's action and barrel. For absolute peak performance, it should conform to—and be an extension of—your body.
Unless you have a stock custom-built to reflect your body's size and shape—which is unlikely—the next best thing is a stock that's adjustable at the strategic points of body contact, which means the butt and cheekrest.
A butt should be adjustable for overall length and for height of the cheekpiece, both of which are critical for correct eye relief, proper eye alignment with the scope, developing a consistent spotweld, and shouldering the rifle for consistent aiming and recoil absorption.
Butt length can be adjusted in three ways: first, by employing spacers, such as those used by the Steyr SSG or the stock I designed for Choate Machine & Tool; second, by installing a
Frequently seen, this sniper has added duct tape, padding, and commercially available Moleskin to custom-fit his cheekrest.
neck to get a sight picture. Not only does this When it comes to stocks, I grew up admiring make for more comfortable and accurate oil-rubbed wood, which was how the shooting, it also improves your reaction time for Winchester 70 and original Remington 700
a sudden life-or-death shot. sniper versions were stocked in Vietnam. The problem with wood is that it can swell with moisture and eventually warp, twisting and binding and causing a zero shift.
Until quality synthetic materials hit the market in the 1980s, they always seemed too light, cheap, and flimsy for serious fieldwork. That's no longer the case. McMillan, for example, produces quite strong stocks using multiple layers of 8-ounce, woven fiberglass cloth laminated under pressure with epoxy resin. While some stock manufacturers leave their stocks hollow or fill them with foam, McMillan fills its excellent stocks with solid fiberglass in the receiver area and epoxy and glass beads in the forearm. The result is a rigid, hefty stock that stands up to the roughest weather and field conditions. My Choate stock is molded of DuPont Rynite SST-35 polymer, which has more strength by weight than stainless steel. Although McMillan doesn't employ Kevlar, several other stock makers use both it and graphite for added stiffness, especially in the fore-end.
The tendency for early synthetic stocks to audibly "ping" when tapped—which could betray your position—has been solved by some stock makers, such as McMillan, by rubberizing the stock's exterior and adding layers of resin-impregnated flannel camouflage cloth.
Even fiberglass stocks must be bedded so
This Choate stock's inclined forearm allows shooters to raise or lower elevation by sliding it forward or backward on support.
that the action fits snuggly to the stock. Using a liquid epoxy that contains atomized stainless steel, quality bedding material is extremely dense and rigid. When properly installed by an expert—and only an expert should epoxy bed a sniper-grade weapon—the result is a stock that's perfectly mated to the action. Areas of particular concern are the fit of the recoil lug's back surface, proper alignment of the tang to preclude twisting during recoil, and replacement of the action screw fittings with aluminum pillars to secure the action independently of the stock. A quality bedding job includes installing Allen-head receiver screws for an accurate tension setting that varies somewhat, but usually about 60 inch-pounds. If the torque is not properly set, accuracy will decline. This is why a shooter should not disassemble a quality bedded rifle unless he has a torque wrench.
Never attempt to rasp or carve a fiberglass stock's exterior to "improve" its free-float, as if it was made of wood. You will weaken it considerably by degrading the material's structural integrity—and, I've been advised, patching it with epoxy will not restore it.
A newer bedding technique, used on the Choate stock, incorporates an aluminum bedding block machined precisely to fit Remington, Winchester, and Savage actions; this forms an extended aluminum skeleton over which the rest of the stock is molded. Installing your rifle in such a stock requires no training, just ordinary tools, yet it offers solid, quality bedding on a par with epoxy. Given how susceptible epoxy is to rifle cleaning solvents, I think ultimately aluminum block bedding will prevail.
An interesting variation on this aluminum block system is the rail gun arrangement on Accuracy International AW rifles. This involves an aluminum frame the length of the stock that's part and parcel of the receiver; the synthetic clamshell-style stock, then, screws over the full-length rail like two flaps. Thus there's no bedding to grow gummy or aluminum pillars to work loose.
The final stock feature is rough checkering or nubs on the pistol grip and forearm for positive control. When it comes to forearms, a wide, flat, semi-beavertail design reduces lateral wobble and improves stability for supported firing. The forearm bottom should be tapered so the shooter can raise or lower elevation merely by sliding the rifle forward or back on a supporting surface.
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