By Shane Adair
A good rifle stock is a very crucial piece to the hunting and shooting puzzle, as with bullet selection, cartridge, optic etc. Where do you begin, who’s the best and where can you go wrong? It’s a topic and opinion with no definite answer or a one stock fits all situation. Everyone has one that’s better, lighter, stiffer, etc. So in this article, I’ll go over a few points that I hope will help you determine the best stock for your application and what I feel are some key aspects in a good stock.
First of all, your stock must fit you. Most stocks come with a 13.5 inch trigger pull, measured from the trigger to the end of the butt pad. I’m 6 feet tall, but I have short arms and neck, so this ends up being a little long for me, but I have found I shoot great with a 12.5 inch pull. I find myself stretched out and not shooting great with a full length pull. Also, 13.5” will almost always be to long for women, kids and smaller framed men. Any gunsmith can help you with this and most recoil pads are fairly adaptable. It will greatly help you, especially while shooting in the prone position (laying down).
Next, a stock must be stiff, but a stiff stock doesn’t mean it’s overly heavy. If the front end twists around on you or if you can flex it with your hands, you will struggle to shoot well. Your scope will always have a little bounce in it as you look at your target, especially on a bipod and as the gun fires, the recoil of the rifle will amplify the vibration that is already there and cause your groups to stretch. I’ve seen it so many times where a flimsy stock is a deal breaker and really frustrates shooters. With the wave of synthetic stocks having all but taken over the market, remember, they are not all good for you in this respect. Some are molded great and stiff, while others are pretty flimsy and loose. All synthetics stocks are great for wet conditions where they will not swell and cause bullet rise but remember, some are way better than others.
Consider your primary purpose hunting or bench rest. If it’s a bench only, then stick with a big stiff, heavy stock. If you’re a heavy backpacker, then it needs to be lean, slim and light. As for general bench shooting and normal hunting conditions, you need to find one right in the middle. I love the way that the light slim stocks feel, but I shoot way better in all conditions with a medium weight stock. I like a little bit of width in the front end to lay across a backpack or rocks and logs while hunting and they also hold a bipod better as well. One with a sharp taper on the front end will be harder to shoot well from the bench or a backpack, while thin ones are quick and easy to shoot while moving fast or standing up.
Wood verses synthetic. Most wood stocks are stiff and will allow you to shoot well and they will hold glass bedding in the recoil lug area very well. They are more subject to moister and take a lot more care to keep them pretty. If wood is what you must have and you’re upgrading, the newer laminated ones are rock hard and are infused with epoxy’s while being built and aren’t nearly as finicky with climate changes as the old wood ones were. They are very stiff and some even come built with aluminum bedding blocks inside them. The laminated wood stocks are my choice. Most factory synthetic stocks are molded nice, but don’t hold an epoxy bedding job around the recoil lug very well. It’s hard to get an epoxy to get a good bite on plastic. On the magnums, a bedding job can eventually break away from the stock. If upgrading to a new synthetic stock, almost all good stocks will hold a bedding job well. They are my favorite choice for all shooting and hunting conditions.
If upgrading your stock is in order, you will need to spend a minimum of $200 for a good stock and up to around the $800 mark for a lightweight stiff stock. They are well worth the money if your budget will allow. You can usually find and need to expect to pay in the $300-$600 range for a stock that will really do you a great job in most all shooting and hunting conditions. Considering both wood and synthetic along with weight and shape, there are a ton of options.
When considering the weight of your stock, unless you are spending a little more money, it will be hard to find a good stock that weighs less than 2.5 pounds. Most bench rest stocks will weigh more than 3.5 pounds. Most good all-purpose stocks will be a few ounces either way of three pounds. Most factory stocks will average close to two pounds so if you are upgrading stocks, plan on adding a half pound or so to your rifle. Believe me, it will be worth it. You will greatly improve your accuracy and ability to shoot and it will take a little recoil out of your rifle as well. If your budget allows and you want the weight peeled off your rifle even more, carbon fiber stocks are awesome and you can find one that works with most shooting and hunting applications. Again, it can be well worth the price.
Now, glass bedding the entire barrel channel or free floating the entire barrel – that is the question. Since the introduction of synthetic stocks, the bedding of the entire barrel channel has all but disappeared. Without a doubt, you will want your barrel channel free floated and free of anything that will cause you a problem with inconsistent vibrations on the barrel. You want a nice bedding job around the action and recoil lug and maybe a little bit under the first inch of the barrel in front of the recoil lug, but the rest can be free floated.
I’ve seen some very good shooters spend a lot of time and money on great barrels and optics and then skimp on the stock and end up very frustrated to say the least. When they finally upgrade to a good stock, it completes the package and they shoot well.
In summary, a good stock is as much of a crucial part of good shooting as any other part of the equation. Hold a number of them and do some research. Determine your application. The choices are endless and overwhelming, but don’t hesitate to make it happen. You won’t regret it.
We are happy to help you out with your own personal setup as well as give advice, so don’t hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We can help you out and steer you in the right direction.