Recoil Pads

Installing one is similar to skinning a cat and this is one more way.

One of the most oft-requested tasks of gunsmiths is the installation of recoil pads. While there are as many ways to install recoil pads as there are gunsmiths, I am, nevertheless, going to throw in my 2¢ worth, thanks to an epiphany occurring whilst motoring down the highway, doing gunsmithing problems in my head. Unfortunately, fitting recoil pads is an equipment-rich enterprise and not something done easily out of your back pocket. The usual stuff first, all old hat to professional gunsmiths. As with most information in the world, you will find any of a number of perfectly good descriptions of this work on the Internet.

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Faithful Dayton disc grinder with both B&R fixtures deployed
with a pad. Messieurs B and R must be a clever lot.

Most typical applications require shortening the butt stock, which is the trickiest part of the operation. First, check the pitch of the stock, defined as the angle of butt to line-of-sight. Easiest way is to put the butt flat on the floor with the gun butted up to a wall. The distance of the muzzle to the wall usually describes pitch. Obviously, shorter butts and barrels will give a different number. Main thing is to maintain positive pitch, which, if extreme, would let the gun slip up and over your shoulder. Negative pitch would let it slip down. For most jobs, start with a cut parallel to the existing butt but 1/8″ or so short of the final cut. Check pitch and adjust accordingly with the final cut.

Actual cutting depends on your circumstances. Faster and finer the saw, the better, else you chip the wood. My saw, a Diston framing saw, left over from teenage summer jobs, is neither so I tape the butt on the cut line and cut only to within 1/8″ or 1/4″ of the final cut line and taking great care. Before doing the final grind, I like to drill out the old screw holes an inch deep or so and plug with a hardwood dowel retained by Elmer’s wood glue. Then, I grind it to length on a disc grinder. At this point, try to make a vertical line with a pencil or scribe along the centerline of the butt as close as you can manage by eyeball.

Once the butt is trued up, grind flat the back of the pad (where it mates to the wood), taking care to remove just enough material to get the pad flat all over. Then, poke the screws in from the groundside of the pad until you see a little dimple in the business side. With a sharp, greased, oiled X-Acto knife, or similar, make a slit about 3/8″ to 1/2″ long on the vertical line of the pad. Now, lay the pad against the buttstock centering side-to-side as best you can without cocking the pad off to one side or the other. Be sure to position the pad with enough material at the bottom to retain the lower line of the stock through the thickness of the pad. With the upper screw (oiled) run in from the back, tap it with a hammer. Check the location of the dimple on the butt—should be pretty close to the centerline. If so, measure the screw hole spacing on the pad and transfer it to the butt using the dimple as the starting. Carefully drill the screw holes with a drill sized to the minor diameter of your screws.

Once I have the pad bolted down tight, I retape the stock with masking tape and very carefully cut a line around the pad with the X-Acto knife and I do mean cut. I want this line deep enough to hold some white-colored compound, whether chalk, zinc oxide, typewriter whiteout or what have you. Even in the nuclear glow of my shop light, I want a crisp line to follow when grinding to size.

Everybody wants perfect work and rightly so but, what distinguishes the men from the boys, is not doing perfect work but doing perfect work very quickly. After trying every known recoil pad holding fixture ever made, we finally discovered the B&R fitting jig sold by Brownells. It solved almost all of the usual problems of smoothly manipulating the pad against the grinder. Even so, any time you are pushing the pad against the grinding disc rather than the grinding disc pulling on the pad, there is a risk of chatter to the cut in the form of little facets or flats on the smaller arcs of the pad. But, with one fixture and a 1-way disc, this would always be problem. Then the little light in the ole noodle glimmered a bit and a solution glowed. Why not use two fixtures and run the disc both ways? Laid in another B&R fixture and mounted it on the other size of the grinder table. Friend Michael Carver, local wizard electrician, rigged up a reversing switch. Now, by grinding one side and end of the pad on one fixture, I can reverse the motor, hang the pad from the other fixture to tackle the diametric opposite sides and arcs with the pad pulling against the wheel at all times on all points for the smoothest possible finish. I use a 120- or 150-grit disc and finish by hand with 220- and 400-grit paper. With a little experience, it won’t be hard to perfect the technique. For those of us who install just a few pads a year, this is a down and dirty way to get respectable results with minimal trial and terror.
By Hamilton S. Bowen

200 S. Front St., Montezuma, IA 50171
(800) 741-0015

gunsmithing 5

Weary old family heirloom Savage shotgun has been put back into
service with a new pad and a coat of varnish.

gunsmiting 2

Scribing a sharp line, once the pad is fitted and bolted in place,
marks the net line where material will be removed.

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Not a pretty line, but it will give you a fighting chance of seeing what you are doing.

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