Adding Flair To Your Rifle Isn’t Too Costly And
Can Be Both Functional and Beautiful.
By Dave Anderson
Back in the 1950’s when I was a kid, one of the big annual events was the arrival of Christmas catalogs. Page after page of toy guns, games, skates, sleds, wagons, dump trucks, thousands of fascinating items. Many a cold winter evening on the farm was spent by the warmth of the wood stove, leafing through catalogs, imagining I had an unlimited budget, maybe as much as $20.
Today we have unlimited “catalogs” in the form of websites. It’s still fun to browse, plus I don’t have to fight with my sisters to get access. One of my current favorite sites is Boyd’s Gunstocks of Mitchell, SD. Boyd’s is a family owned American company, the world’s leading producer of hardwood gunstocks.
In this age of synthetics, why would you want to order a wooden stock? Lots of reasons. An obvious one would be to replace a broken or badly damaged stock on a favorite firearm. Maybe Grandpop’s treasured old Winchester Model 12 or Remington 721 got accidentally driven over by an ATV or snowmobile. A Boyd’s replacement stock will get the old timer back in the field.
No one needs to convince me of the virtues of synthetic stocks. I have dozens of them, from value-priced, injection-molded factory stocks to high-grade, rigid, precision made examples such as McMillan. I appreciate their stability and strength.
Wood still has advantages. I’ve hunted with wooden-stocked rifles at 90+ degrees in Africa and at -40 degrees in Canada. Wood doesn’t get as hot or cold to the touch as synthetic, nor does it get brittle in extreme cold.
Undeniably, wooden stocks from even the best grade of walnut are less stable than synthetics, and generally not as strong. An excellent compromise is laminated wood. A properly made laminate is virtually as stable and strong as a good synthetic, while maintaining the nice feel of wood. Moreover laminates are relatively inexpensive.
The disadvantage of laminates is weight. I wouldn’t choose a laminate stock to build a light rifle, but not every rifle has to be a lightweight. Weight makes the rifle easier to hold steadily, and reduces recoil with powerful cartridges or extended shooting sessions.
We don’t always have to be practical. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to personalize a favorite rifle, make it stand out a bit. Traditionally one of the features of custom stocks was fancy figured wood. Highly figured blanks of American black and claro walnut, and of European (English, French, Circassian) walnut are much in demand and valuable.
Boyd’s offers claro and Circassian walnut in higher grades with figured wood in the buttstock. The term “X” is between 25 and 50 percent figure, while “XX” is 50 to 75 percent figure. For a lot of us conservative, understated old timers, some handsome figure in the stock and (maybe) a bit of tasteful engraving is as fancy as we want in a rifle.
Dave’s Tikka T3 Lite Stainless .223 now resides in a Boyd’s Featherweight
Thumbhole stock in Applejack laminate with high gloss finish. Flamboyant
appearance is a bit out of character for an old fud like Dave, yet functionally
it is stable, comfortable, and practical. Scope is Weaver Super Slam 4-20×50,
Weaver tactical rings, Warne 20-MOA base all on a bipod by Harris.
Boyd’s calls this the Applejack laminate, with alternating red and black layers.
Available with either a non-reflective satin finish, or as here with a high-gloss finish.
Laminated wood opens the door to some striking options. The thin layers can be colored various colors, then glued together in alternating two or three color arrangements. Some of Boyd’s patterns are relatively low key. What they call “Nutmeg” has brown/black laminations, while “Coyote” is natural/brown.
“Forest Camo” (olive/brown/black) is both attractive and practical. Some of the options such as Sky, Black Jack, Zombie, and Blaze really stand out. It came as a shock to me to find I like these wild patterns. Maybe I’m not as self-aware as I thought, or maybe it’s a midlife crisis, rifle version. What the hey, it’s cheaper than a Corvette.
The reason I enjoy the website—very well done, incidentally—is there are so many options. Stocks are available for literally hundreds of makes and models. They are available in several designs: classic straight stock, Monte Carlo stock, options of flat or rounded forearms, thumbhole and varmint/target models. Then there are all the options in materials, wood and laminated, and custom options in length of pull, recoil pads, finishes, checkering or stippling patterns.
Take the stock shown here as an example. The website lets you select make, model, and action type. In this case, it’s a Tikka T3 Lite with factory barrel. From the list of stock patterns I selected Featherweight Thumbhole, then the “Finished” option for a stock ready to install.
Base price for the most popular laminates is $129 with satin finish and a 1/2-inch recoil pad. From the “customize your own stock” link I selected several upgrades: Applejack Laminate ($15), glossy finish ($25), and Limbsaver recoil pad, $17.40 for a total of $186.40.
Some other options available include several styles of forearm tip, custom length of pull, available in increments of 1/4-inch ranging from 12-3/4 to 14-3/4, with a standard length of 13-3/4 inches. You can add laser engraving of initials or of several game species, laser cutting of checkering, stippling or scale texture in several patterns.
The T3 is a bit unusual in having the recoil lug in the stock, rather than an integral part of the receiver. The Boyd’s stock comes with a steel lug already inletted tightly into the stock. Installation was simply a matter of removing the factory stock, installing the Boyd’s stock and tightening the action screws to 35 in-lbs. The barrel is free-floated all the way to the receiver.
The Boyd’s stock fits Dave’s Tikka T3 very well and has nice touches
such as this relief cut under the bolt release.
If there was any change in accuracy I couldn’t detect it. The rifle shoots sub-MOA in either stock. The laminated stock weighs 44 ounces compared to 29 ounces for the factory synthetic. For shooting from a rest or with bipod, I very much like the steadiness from the additional weight.
The stock is well made and finished, and fit to the rifle is very good. What I find remarkable is the very reasonable prices for the quality delivered. The replacement buttstock for the Winchester Model 12 mentioned earlier? In walnut-finished hardwood, inletted, finished, with plastic buttplate, the price is $60. Adding a matching forearm, again ready to install, is $46.
The moderate cost and the seemingly endless array of choices is what keeps me poking around the website like a kid in a candy shop. How about a laminated thumbhole stock on a Mini-14? Or a classic style stock for your military surplus Mosin-Nagant? Maybe dress up your AR-style rifle with stock, handgrip, and ventilated handguard, all in matching Zombie Hunter green laminate. We’re barely scratching the surface.
Boyd’s Gunstocks Industries, Inc.,
25376 403rd Ave., Mitchell, SD 57301, (605) 996-5011