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Taking Stock

By Clair Rees

Taking Stock
A synthetic Butler Creek stock improved the looks and handling of this 10/22.

Want to give your old rifle a facelift - or maybe a whole new personality? Nothing does more for a dinged-up rifle than replacing its battle-scarred stock with a brand-new handle.

Sprucing up your rifle’s appearance isn’t the only reason to install an aftermarket stock. I’ve swapped out the factory stocks on several centerfire and rimfire rifles I own, replacing the original plain-Jane woodwork with a variety of synthetic, laminated or rubber-surface handles.

While these stocks made my rifles a lot better-looking, some were chosen to solve accuracy problems.

Original stocks aren’t always properly bedded when the rifle leaves the factory. This can often be corrected with the help of a Dremel tool and a little glass-bedding compound. It’s not brain surgery, but you still have to know what you’re doing. Make one tiny mistake - like failing to apply a good release agent in all the right spots during the bedding process - and you’ll have a real mess on your hands.

Taking Stock
Ruger 10/22 owners can choose from a wide variety of aftermarket stocks.

Also, too many strokes with a rasp can create a barrel channel roomy enough to house stray cats. I learned these things from painful personal experience, which is one reason I’m such a fan of pre-inletted aftermarket stocks.

Some wooden stocks quietly absorb moisture over the years, changing a rifle’s point of impact as temperature or elevation varies. Other stocks bruise your cheek during recoil or simply feel awkward. Still others are just too doggone heavy or are attached to rifles that kick like a spavined mule. Two neat things about synthetic stocks, particularly those made of laid-up fiberglass, are that they’re typically much lighter than wood stocks, and they do a great job of reducing felt recoil.

I’m guessing fiberglass has enough flex to spread recoil forces through several milliseconds instead of transmitting them to your shoulder in a single Mike Tyson punch. While I can’t prove synthetic stocks significantly reduce recoil, I’ve used them to replace enough solid walnut or hardwood handles to know this is so. Synthetic stocks are also impervious to moisture and stand up to rough use better than checkered walnut does.

I had my first experience with aftermarket stocks as a teenager, when I attempted to modernize a vintage 1903-A3 Springfield I’d bought on the cheap. “Modernizing” meant replacing the rifle’s worn military-style stock with a new handle I’d ordered from Herter’s. According to the catalog, the new stock was “100 percent inletted.” This was a wild exaggeration. I spent countless frustrating hours trying to mate the barreled Springfield action to the new stock. I finally got the job done, but the results were far from pretty. I sold the rifle the following year.

A few years ago, I took another stab at building my own custom rifle. I ordered a Mauser 98 action from Legacy Sports International, and had E.R. Shaw install and headspace one of its sporter barrels. The handle I chose was a Boyd’s JRS Classic model in a handsome nutmeg laminate.

Laminates are far more stable than conventional walnut stocks, faithfully holding zero under even extreme weather conditions. Because of their greater density, laminated stocks are typically heavier than walnut stocks. I solved this concern by ordering Boyd’s “Lightweight Option.” Send an extra $25 when you order your stock, and the company will core out the butt section and the bottom of the barrel channel. This removes 6 to 8 ounces of non-essential material.

Today!I could have saved a few bucks by ordering a partially inletted stock, but I’d traveled that road before. When the new stock arrived, it fit my barreled action almost perfectly. The magazine well was a little tight, but loosened up after I moved the magazine box up and down a few times.

Other replacement stocks I’ve had excellent luck with include the Hogue OverMolded stock I ordered for my Remington Model 700 .25-06. The rifle wasn’t shooting as well as I thought it should, and the Hogue stock came complete with a full-length aluminum bedding block married to the rigid fiberglass stock. The stock fit the barreled action beautifully, and the groups I’d been shooting shrank from more than 2 inches across to less than an inch. As a bonus, the stock’s rubberized outer surface provided a sure, almost sticky grip.

Just a few weeks ago, I swapped the factory stock on another Model 700 Remington with a McMillan fiberglass stock. The new stock had a slimmer, trimmer fore-end, which improved handling, and, at 30 ounces, was notably lighter than the Remington’s original walnut handle. McMillan offers an even lighter version that weighs a half-pound less.

Variety? McMillan may top the list. In addition to a wide selection of different sporter, varmint and target models that fit a number of rifles, the company offers a choice of Arctic, Dark, Desert Forest, Marble, Urban, Woodland and Sand camouflage finishes, along with plain black, olive, gray or brown. The finish is impregnated into the stock, so it won’t chip, peel or become scratched like a painted stock can. In addition to being made of kick-taming fiberglass, each stock sports a 1Ú2-inch-thick Pachmayer Decelerator recoil pad.

Ruger’s popular 10/22 autoloader has created a huge market for replacement stocks. You can’t believe the variety of styles (some bordering on extremely weird), colors and materials 10/22 stocks come in. A couple of my 10/22 rimfires now wear synthetic Butler Creek stocks. These are available in both regular and bull-barrel sizes, and some offer interesting innovations. For instance, there’s a 10/22 Target Stock with integral Hot Legs Bipod. The bipod remains folded flush within the fore-end until you want to deploy it. The retractable legs can be individually adjusted to 7- to 11-inch heights. That’s not tall enough for a sitting position, but the bipod works great for shooting from prone or from the hood of a car or truck.

Butler Creek 10/22 stocks are also available with a quick-access PakPad storage compartment under the buttplate, or with a rubberized Soft-Grip pistol grip and forearm. Another variety is Butler Creek’s Packer stock. This takedown stock is truly unique. Installation takes only a few minutes and is easy enough for even a gun writer to handle. Once the Packer stock is in place, you can quickly shorten your 10/22’s length by simply pressing a release button in the fore-end tip, folding the forearm downward (which also unlocks the barrel from the receiver), then twisting the barrel 90 degrees. This allows you to pull the barrel forward and clear of the receiver. Taken down, the entire rifle is just 21 1/2 inches long. A nylon Packersack is offered for easy storage or carrying.

The handful of replacement stocks I’ve mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg. The aftermarket stocks I’ve used have worked so well, I’m looking for more new models, patterns and materials to try. Believe me, there’s no easier, cheaper way to improve a rifle’s appearance. The right drop-in stock can also boost accuracy and handling, or shave unwelcome ounces from your pet rifle’s weight.

Read More Stories From GunHunter MagazineManufacturers

Boyd’s Gunstock Industries
(605) 996-5011

Butler Creek Stocks
(800) 948-1356

Hogue Inc.
(800) 438-4747

McMillan Fiberglass Stocks, Inc
(623) 582-9635

Reprinted from the November 2004 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine

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