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Selecting The Right Bolt Action Riflestock
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With the hundreds of choices available at Stocky's, how can you make sense of them all? Read on and you'll be amazed at just how easy it can be. This page will be updated frequently as we gather new material from specific vendors.
Grab that factory tupperware stocked rifle, hold the barrel and pull down on the forend. No kidding, no wonder it won't shoot! If it does shoot, think of how much better it could be with a quality stock! Soft stocks allow the receiver to move under the torque and force of recoil, vary point of impact with the type of surface it is rested upon, warp and deform under temperature extremes, etc., etc., etc.. You are literally betting the next shot on the stiffness of the stock, on whether or not your barreled receiver settled into the same position, to be supported the same way day in and day out, year after year. Temperature sensitive petroleum-based plastics become less or more supportive in hunting extremes and vary in brittleness as the gases escape from it over the years. That gorgeous walnut stock can shrink and expand with the relative humidity (do the doors in your home close better in the winter than the summer?)
Try this experiment: sight in precisely from the bags or a bipod. Now wrap the sling around your arm and shoot. Try it over a 4X4 or log, the side of a tree or a fence post. How about while sitting, the #1 most popular field shooting position? Bet you get a different point of impact from every surface you shoot from, even from different points of rest on your forend. The reason? That soft factory stock is applying different pressures to different points on your barrel, causing the barrel vibration to change with the rest used. Perhaps that's why you missed the last shot!?!
OK, so we're preaching to the choir. Question is, what now is the correct stock to pick?
The first consideration is your rifle. If you are searching for a stock for an existing gun, it will be very useful to first check out our discussion of Availability, as not all guns offer the same flexibility or choices as others. If you are considering a new gun, bear in mind that the majority if the aftermarket development is being done for the Remington 700, Savage 10/110 and Weatherby Vanguard / Howa 1500 receivers. Being a U.S. military weapon, plus the fact that they are the big dog on the block, the Rem 700 is by far the most flexible. Options are far more limited, and installation may be more complicated with others. This is discussed in detail on our Tech Support Page so we won't waste your time with it here.
Next step is to determine the attributes your rifle posses by reviewing the First 3 Things you need to know before you purchase a stock. These attributes, especially barrel weight, will be a huge influence on your choice. In fact, we can break all stocks into two categories - heavy barrel units and sporters. For the purposes of discussion, we'll draw a line at a.750" muzzle diameter, however this is also a useful number for your stock selection, above this and a sporter stock will likely not be the best choice. If you really want to get down to it, put a set of calipers at 9" ahead of the receiver / recoil lug, .9" is a good rule-of-thumb maximum diameter to use a sporter.
Note that all custom Palma barrel tapers belong in the heavy barrel category as well because they are very thick for about 1/2 of their length, versus the typical sporter which tapers relatively fast as it exits the receiver. These are custom barrels designed primarily to reduce weight and improve balance on target rifles. No factory rifles come with Palmas so you don't need to fret this on your regular production rifle, only if choosing a new barrel.
Manufacturing - How They Are Made
Laminated wood - the most beautiful of all! Let's face it, it's not only a shootin' match but also a fashion show! These stocks combine the stiffness and stability of a composite (in fact they are far stiffer than most composites), but also the warmth and beauty of wood. Since each thin layer of wood can be stained a different color, an entire universe of colorful variations opens up to us as well.
Stratabond (page opens in new window) is manufactured exclusively for the sporting arms industry by Rutland Corporation in Vermont, USA. Made purposely for guns, it comes in 35" x (up to) 3" blanks. The thin sheets are color-impregnated before being permanently laminated together under thousands of pounds of pressure, out of thousands of stocks we have shipped you can count the number of wood-related defects on your digits so it is very highly recommended. Customers have reported mishandling that ranges from running over with trucks to falling off a running horse, etc. with little if any structural damage.
The blank is then machined and optionally sanded, fitted and finished by a handful of American manufacturers. (Click here for a Quicktime movie of the CNC machining process.) This is when the colorful patterns emerge, and the designer/machinist must be somewhat of an artist to take full advantage. For example, S&K Gunstocks (recently purchased by Remington, now called Remington Lexington) obtains all of it's laminate material from Rutland Plywood Corporation (Rutland, VT) as mentioned which manufactures the highest quality birch laminate gunstock blanks in the world. The blanks arrive as untrimmed panels (picture) which are cut into multiple blanks. Once in blank form, Remington Lexington preps the blanks for inletting and carving on custom CNC machines. Remington Lexington uses a unique inletting process that produces the tightest tolerance, most consistent wooden gunstocks being produced today. The accuracy of the inletting is then checked with Coordinate Measuring Machines. This step ensures machining accuracy and sets Remington Lexington apart from other wooden stock makers. Also, it is during the carving stage that the outside contours of the stock takes shape and the unique pattern emerges from the colored laminate material.
After machining is compete, each stock goes through a number of sanding operations, culminating in a high grit hand sanding of the stock and an inspection to ensure all machining marks have been removed. The stock is then sent to the finish department. Remington Lexington's finishing process is a trade secret - all we can tell you is that it is a multi-day, highly intensive, carefully controlled process that produces a beautiful, durable finish that is widely known to be the best in the industry. When the finish process is complete, the stock goes through another inspection and any minor defects in the finished surface are repaired
It may interest you to know that some 'manufacturers' are simply sales organizations that use one of the other manufacturers to get their work done. We buy only from the sources that make them for the big gun factories so they sport best-quality 'new gun' finishes when you get one.
Here at Stocky's you have the additional benefit of our years of experience with most of them, doing business with exactly the right manufacturer of each particular stock based on their abilities, strengths and weaknesses in various areas to deliver to you the best-in-class value. You'll find other retailers simply use just one as they have unrelated product to worry about, inventory constraints, financial constraints, etc. and simply default to the one with the best salesman, the cheapest, the fastest, or they simply do not have access to many of our exclusives. We typically keep literally thousands of laminated stocks in up to 15 colors on hand at any given time because they may take us a year or longer to get!
Fiberglass composites - the workhorse of the shooting arena. Not to be confused with plastic, as with most items quality items in the arms industry there are relatively few manufacturers of these as well because they are messy and expensive to produce. Think of a boat hull. These are among the best drop-ins available, when it doesn't fit something is most likely 'wrong' with the gun, not the stock. They excel in the most extreme of conditions, when you have just one shot and that shot absolutely must count (or else) an aluminum bedded fiberglass composite would be unlikely to let you down.
They spend many thousands, even hundreds of thousands on the mold(s) depending on complexity, so you won't find many for brand-new, hard-to-find or obsolete guns, takes many thousands of stocks to make that back and generally a factory like Remington must order them regularly or the relatively small consumer market will never see it developed on a speculative basis.
So now that we have the mold(s), the stock is manufactured in "reverse". Gel coat or other top coat is painted in, then layers of fiberglass (aramid, Kevlar, etc.) cloth is "hand laid up" with hi-tech epoxy resin to create the resulting form. An (aluminum) insert of the desired inlet is placed in an insert mold and the raw product is fully formed. The entire unit is removed once cured, machined to remove unwanted material and the outer finishes, if any, are applied.
Most finishes are simply sprayed on. Bell & Carlson signature camos (i.e. Realtree Hardwoods) are actually dipped in a vat of floating topcoat. In the case of Snow Camo, for example, the stripes are airbrushed on and the entire unit sealed with Maxxguard (if desired) while the paint is still warm for best adhesion.
Injection molded synthetics - represented in the trade by such terms as "SPS", "VTR", "DuraMaxx", "Overmolded" and just about any factory rifle with the word synthetic in it. These are generally the least expensive tonnage in ay given category. Once a mold is engineered the 'plastic' material is injected in several steps to create the desired result and form. Although it is an expensive development process, the actual material used costs just a couple dollars therefore there are huge economies of scale. In other words, the mold(s) necessary can run into the five-to-six-figure range per item (although this is falling with the availability of Chinese molds), but once that is paid off the product itself costs just a couple bucks of material to make.
Put even another way, if you convince Remington to put it on their line, you can make money at it. Whatever you sell aftermarket is a bonus. You want to be sure of the market but if you are you can knock them out for a song. Your rifle most likely came with one made by Hogue of it was under $1000 and made in the new millennium.
They are generally reliable but otherwise unnoteworthy stocks. Notoriously sensitive to the way it is rested or held as noted in Rule #1. The (hundred-dollar) Duramaxx is the best of the bunch (if you own a Savage.) Pull down on the forend to see for yourself, bet you can easily pull it away from (or push it into) the barrel. Please don't rest your rifle on anything hard or tug at the sling when you are trying to make a shot, you zero will most likely change depending on which way you pull or rest it, even at what point along the forend you rest it. See for yourself.
There is nothing the end-user can do to improve an injection molded stock. Due to the fact they are petroleum-based no bedding epoxy will adhere. You could get an aluminum bedded one, but you can get aluminum bedded fiberglass for the same money so why? Their best use is as a back-up stock should your new one get shredded on the flight by a baggage handler.
Almost every day we get calls from folks that are attempting to put square pegs into round holes so to speak. Most common of these is attempting to drop a sporter into a tactical or other heavy barrel stock or to a lesser extent, a featherweight into a standard sporter channel. Second is the exact opposite, trying to fit a varminter into a sporting rifle stock. While the receivers are identical no matter what barrel they attach and it is possible to do either, there are issues to address and a right way and wrong way to do it:
While rifles so mounted generally shoot very well (an extreme free floating situation is created) it is best to address these cosmetic issues. If you are bent on doing it or it's your only option (in the case of the featherweight) there are two fixes:
The best solution is to obviously get the right stock for your rifle to begin with, we address fixes as it may not always be possible. If you are looking at putting one of those bad-ass tacticals on your hunting rifle, we highly recommend either rebarreling or simply getting a sporter stock with the same attributes. (i.e. get the LRS instead of the LRV or get the Medalist aluminum-bedded sporter instead of the vertical grip tactical.) Unfortunately, if you own a Mountain Rifle, you have to bed an LRS onto it if you want a thumbhole, no other option is available.
In the second case, we find this generally occurs when building a custom rifle (i.e. customer desires a 'Sendaro' type barrel in a lightweight stock) or when there's simply no varmint/tactical stocks available for the chosen receiver (good example is the recent run of FN Patrol Bolt Rifles on the Winchester 70 platform [see below].) Every month we get a couple of calls from fellows that just received their new barreled action but have no good options to stock them. Think before you leap: When considering any new build we strongly recommend selecting the stock before you plunk down your cash!
(Frankly, losing the flats is not the end of the world, simply acknowledge that fact before you take the plunge. In the old-days, all the factories did it but with the variety of heavy barrel stocks out there that is no longer a common practice.)
We get calls from local gunsmiths and other well-intentioned individuals that complain that there's simply nothing out there for their preferred combinations. These are generally for heavy barreled rifles intended for sporter stocks. They are correct, if you are looking to save weight the best place to do it is by using less steel first, less stock second. The barrel is the heaviest item on your rifle after all. We've seen many, many sporters that would shoot with some of the best varminters out there, so accuracy is really not a reason to tote those added pounds around. A well made barrel is a well made barrel, no matter how much steel surrounds it. Conversely, a badly fouled bore, worn throat, a non-concentric or sloppy chambering job shoots poorly no matter how many pounds it weighs. Opt for precision as opposed to poundage on your hunters and you'll never go wrong!
That said, lets look at how to do it the right way ....
This category gets a lot of play these days, and there's dozens of stocks available if you own one of the above mentioned rifles. You are more limited but stocks are also to be had for large ring Mauser 98 Medalist Varmint / Tacticals and Varmint Thumbholes but few others. Be sure to bear this in mind if starting from scratch! We always get calls for restocking old Rugers and there's simply no reasonably priced, quality drop-ins for them. The Win 70 (a.k.a. Patrol Bolt Rifle) has a couple stocks (Model 70 Medalist Tactical Short Action, Varmint Thumbholes) but the bottom metal that came with your rifle may need fitting. Savage is better, but you have to pay attention to the issues located here.
Now that that's out of the way, the main determination you'll make at this point is to go with laminated wood or aluminum bedded composite. From an accuracy standpoint there's really not much to choose from especially if you choose our Revolution-ary precision laminates with Bob Hart engineered aluminum bedding blocks. (or take an afternoon to bed the laminated wood stock with Acraglas®), the decision is most importantly one of looks, shooting style and comfort. Take a look, you'll probably either love it or leave it and look to another.
Laminated Varminters- betcha' can't own just one! These are real show-stoppers and the stocks we sell are best-in-class. Many experts feel that a glass-bedded laminate is the best stock money can buy, although in our experience they shoot great right out of the box, nothing has to be done to get that one-holer from them if your rifle is capable.
Bell & Carlson vs. H-S Precision - I have personally tried several rifles in both brands and no difference in accuracy I can see. In other words one rifle wouldn't shoot in anything until I fully bedded the barrel, others shoot outstanding groups in either, a significant improvement from factory. Make your decision on price, design and features, some will like the H-S palm swells, other's prefer the more universal vertical pistol grip of the B&C tactical stocks. H-S has a thumb screw on the adjustables, like that better or matters not? H-S has a couple bull thumbholes and a wider selection of paint. B&C saves you a hundred or two if that matters, but I guarantee it won't matter when that one shot really counts. Best base your selections on design.
Here's a seemingly endless list of possibilities so a bit of planning is definitely in order. Do you shoot on the fly or deliberately, as from a stand or over the hood of a truck, from a four-wheeler or swamp buggy? Will you carry it down the canyon or do you sit and wait? How much do you plan on using it at the range?
Laminated Thumbholes - if not the most popular class of aftermarket stocks today, certainly one of them. Telescopic sight necessary, hard to use with iron sights due to the height of the roll-over cheek rest. Virtually indestructible, these stocks are among the best choices for deliberate shooting from stands, vehicles, bipods and benches. Accuracy is among the best, surpassed only by additional glass bedding (though far from necessary to do so) The vertical position of the trigger hand and the straight-back recoil they absorb make them the most comfortable riflestock to shoot for most users. Showstoppers due to style and color selection, they are sure to turn heads in the field, at the lodge or at the range. Upon installation of the first one, many repeat customers with some collecting one in every color. 2.5-3 lb average. Choose the Classic Thumbhole for the lowest price, the Long Range Sporter and other Revolution-series laminates for the finest machining and finish quality, upgraded colors, Pachmayr® Decelerator pads with a choice of satin or gloss finishes.
Laminated Classics - fastest handling / easiest carried among the laminates. Ergonomic cheek piece excellent for scoped or iron sighted rifles; 20 l.p.i. checkering where available. This style is an all-around favorite, the choice of professionals worldwide. Glass-bedded easily but not necessarily. Excellent choice for those desiring the absolute best accuracy and unerring reliability when traveling hard or enduring the most extreme climates. Available in the Revolution Heritage model for variety of inlets and the new Classic Deluxe for a really nice stock on your 700.
Rem 700 CDL's - same as above except solid claro walnut available in several configurations at unbeatable pricing! Light weight at under 2 lbs average but not as stable as a laminate. Standard to fancy wood grain.
H-S Precision Sporters - (below/right) simply outstanding stocks for Ruger 77 MkII, Rem 700, 600/660, Model Seven and Sendaros. Left hand models available. Some come with cheek rests, some without so if you have a preference (and all left-handed shooters) should check them out since all B&C Medalists come with. Here's an ADL stock we try to keep around also, the only one on the market with aluminum bedding: H-S Precision Pro-Series 2000 Sporter Stocks - Remington 700 ADL/BDL (also Winchester 70) Right and Left Hand
UPDATE: I am currently field testing the HS Precision thumbhole (below/left) and what an outstanding unit it is! I have never been a big fan of the Bell & Carlson Premier thumbhole because it is too small for my hands plus I don't like checkering on a thumbhole (but it is light weight and would be good for smaller hands) so I decided to give this one a go. I have not found a better shooting, more comfortable aluminum bedded fiberglass stock! Comes in an adjustable tactical version also.
Bell & Carlson Carbelites - this stock has been made for over 30 years! Reliably no-nonsense, fiberglass bedded with checkering, this is the model to get when nothing else is available since there's the widest selection of inlets. Also available for autoloaders and Ruger #1's. Stocky suggests moving up to a Medalist or Alaskan where possible, the Rem 700 mold they use for these has a slightly off-center barrel channel due to the 30+ year age.
Bell & Carlson Medalists - (below/right) by far the best value in aluminum on the market. Very reliable drop-in fit due to the precise CNC aircraft aluminum block, also the most potentially accurate out-of-the-box. I couldn't envision a situation I would be in that one of these stocks wouldn't be one of my top choices. Holds a zero pretty much forever, my .300 Weatherby (#6963) has been dead-nuts 300 yards MOA with 180 Core-Loc's for 5+ years and innumerable hunts. More limited inlet availability than the Carbelite but most popular bolts are available (Remington 700, all Weatherby's, large and small ring Mausers, Browning A-Bolt and Win 70's). Original equipment on the vast majority of high-end factory guns, including all of Weatherby's better rifles, Remington's Custom Shop (replaced McMillan) and U.S. Repeating Arms (Winchester and Browning) including the WSM's and WSSM's. Remington stocks are a bit too tight with magnum contour barrels so plan on opening it up a tad, or get an Alaskan (below) for a drop-in fit.
Mountain Rifles & Alaskans - (photo on left) for the guys and gals that huff the canyons, these are the top of the heap. Kevlar (Aramid) fiber reinforcement for an extremely stiff, lightweight stock that will support your tackdriver come hell or high water. Choose a model that weighs under 1.5 lbs or carry just a few ounces more and get an aluminum block in yours. I've used them all and cannot see any difference in accuracy on the range with magnum hunting loads, which, by the way, means your RUM or SAUM will drop right in. The Mountain version is the only ultra-lite ADL stock (or Mountain Rifle stock for that matter) remaining on the market and will fit all 700's with some barrel channel fitting, it's also the lightest of the bunch for you hardcore hunters that want to loose every ounce possible. Choice of many custom gunsmiths.
We get a ton of questions from customers trying to decide between the H-S Precision Pro-Series Sporter, the 2960/2963 series Bell & Carlson Medalist and the (Medalist) Mountain Rifles & Alaskans. I've used all 3 extensively and here's Stocky's take:
The major difference is weight, and of course the style, since they all are available with virtually identical aluminum bedding blocks. Frankly, there is something to be said for weight as it reduces felt recoil (especially if shooting a lot, shooting a heavy bullet / magnum cartridge and/or you are more sensitive to it in general) and helps a guy settle in for the shot (or a follow-up shot) more quickly especially when exerted. This last reason is the most important one to many professional hunters, and I should mention here that I am still battling the flinch an ultra-lite .338 Win Mag custom I built gave me 20 years ago! Generally speaking the H-S is the heaviest (2.7 lbs. average), the Medalists are next (2 to 2.25 lbs.) and the (1.5-1.9 lb.) Alaskans are the lightest.
Therefore, when I am deer hunting from a stand or blind, spot & stalk antelope hunting from the truck or even still hunting I'll generally use the H-S-Precision PSS 059 or PSS 001/009, B&C 2960 or 2963 or a laminate. FYI the 2963 is the stock the Weatherby factory uses on all of its premium and custom shop Mark V's and Vanguards (i.e. the Sub M.O.A.).
Conversely, my favorite elk hunting area (Douglas Pass, Colorado) starts at 9500 feet and drops to 7000 in the canyons. The critters, knowing the roads are at the top, typically hang at about 8500 or below. Since we can only see the far side of the canyon, our typical plan of action consists of glassing from the top, then strapping on 2 or 3 days of supplies and going after the ones we spot on the other side. It takes a half-day of extreme exertion to get to the bottom, where we drop-packs and hunt up. I'd much rather carry a nice sleeping pad than an extra pound of riflestock when every ounce counts. This calls for the 2265/67 Alaskan Ti as I want to save all the weight I can and frankly I have not been able to prove any advantage of the Alaskan II's full block over the Ti's half-block in sporting class rifles. However the Alaskan II is an outstanding combination of light-weight and accuracy potential with the full aluminum block and it is therefore the most popular. It is the lightest full-block stock on the market today.
I'd also use the Weatherby Style Medalist if I planned on a lot of range time with it (has a thicker grip for larger hands also). If I own a magnum 700 and didn't want to fit the barrel channel on the 2963 I'd get the Alaskan, they are as close to a drop-in as it gets with the Short Mags and Ultras. The Classic Checkered Medalist is the one I'd get if I wanted a thinner grip and checkering but I'd be carrying an Alaskan in all other situations, if in doubt it's the one I'll default to 99% of the time.
By far the best solution is to plan your entire shooting collection, and this may be done from two equally logical perspectives:
Here's a radical idea - do both! Simply mount a thumbhole on a few and an aluminum-bedded fiberglass stock on others. If you have several Remingtons for example don't be afraid to swap stocks as conditions warrant! Especially if you have a torque wrench, standardize on a setting for all your stocks (40-50 in/lbs for example) and, when swapping an LRS for a Classic Deluxe or a 2963 for a 2265, you'll rarely see much shift in zero especially with a free floated aluminum, aluminum pillar and/or Acraglas bedded unit (but it's always best to check.) With my rifles, I confess, I'm a major stock-swapper! If you are a DIY kind-o-guy it may help you to know that any Rem 700 LA, when bedded, will fit nicely into any other Rem 700 LA stock. When swapping between magnums and standard sporters, be sure to free-float your barrel, and you'll find the zero-to-zero consistancy among laminates the best when using these 9/16" Aluminum Pillar Bedding Sleeves. It's rarely an issue with Medalists and Pro-Series Sporters.
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