Ways a Gunstock Affects a Gun’s Performance

Gun enthusiasts know the importance of fit, i.e. of their firearm feeling comfortable and easy to handle, almost like an extension of the shooter. Whether hunting or target shooting, a rifleman fatigues sooner with an awkward or ill-suited weapon. Often, the problem lies with the gunstock, the component where gun and shooter connect. Also known as buttstock or shoulder stock, this segment of rifle or shotgun is crucial to the comfort of its handler. It actually impedes or enhances the effectiveness of the gun. In fact, there are five aspects in which the stock impacts shooting performance, for good and for ill.

#1: Cheek Weld

Action movies notwithstanding, a steady and grounded position undergirds all successful shooting. This provides for the least amount of distortion when evaluating the target. Whether standing, seated or semi-prostrate, positioning – from handgrip to elbow orientation – is a foundational factor impacting whether bullet or shot meets the target. How does the stock play a role in this vital element of firing performance? A crucial point of contact between gun and shooter is the cheek weld, where cheek meets the comb of the stock. Arguably, not all combs are created equal and some are less hospitable to consistent cheek weld position than others. In these cases, hitting the mark will likewise be inconsistent because sight picture will keep changing.

#2: Butt Position

The stock butt of the rifle or shotgun can be considered the primary point of contact with the body. As such, the butt position will determine how recoil gets absorbed by the shooter. Secured in the shoulder pocket, the butt plate was curved in design because it was thought to correspond to its shoulder placement. Yet this became painful for shooters as the ballistic power of guns intensified. Longer and wider butt plates offer larger surface over which recoil force can disseminate. Rubber padding also buffers recoil brunt. Needless to say, the diminishing of rearward thrust makes for more accurate shooting.

#3: Action Interaction

The junction of stock and shooter are important. So too is the contact between the stock and the action. When locations on the stock apply too much force against the action, it creates instability in the barrel thereby undermining precision. Many inadequate stocks affect the action such that it will never return to the same location after recoil. This is why resin bedding is frequently inserted into the stock – to foster uniform pressure from stock to action. Again, this adversely influences consistency and accuracy. Bedding is a corrective against this problem. To be fair, some experienced shooters dispute the benefits of bedding.

#4: Braving the Elements

One thing — among many — that can seriously impede a rifle’s performance is weather. By and large, wooden stocks, though beautiful to behold, are notorious for allowing moisture to creep into the works. One option is to replace wooden gunstocks with synthetic ones or those composed of composite materials. Fiber re-enforced plastics, also called fiberglass, are well-known to resist fluctuations in temperature and humidity. For those addicted to the handsome wooden stocks, laminating them should be a priority.

Getting a Grip

A rifle or shotgun is of little use to a shooter with no control. The grip of the gunstock must be comfortable for steady and dependable accuracy. Opinions vary on whether a more angled pistol (-shaped) grip is superior to a vertical grip. Most of the arguments come from gun use purposes and shooting environment. There is no disagreement, though, about how comfort impacts performance, especially in terms of recoil control.