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GUNS Magazine October 2011 Digital Edition - Page 18
• d A v E A N d E R S O N • RIFLE STOCk FIT what’s it all about? ifle fit is less critical than shotgun fit. with a rifle there r is either a rear sight or an optical sight. Generally, there is time to move the head around if necessary so the eye can align the sights or reticle on the target. With shotguns, the shooter’s eye is the rear sight. The target is usually moving quickly, so the shooter must rapidly position the gun, index it on target and deliver the shot. A proper fit is essential for the eye to be consistently and quickly positioned. Mostly, we can get by with even a badly fitting rifle stock. Nonetheless, it’s better to have one that fits. We don’t always have time to carefully position the head to align the eye with the sights. In still-hunting for example, opportunities can be sudden and fleeting. Following up wounded game, shots can also be close and fast, making stock fit important. And, if the game being followed up is potentially dangerous, it can be really important. Previously, I’ve talked about factors such as weight, balance and length of pull. Briefly, for cartridges of the .270 or .30-06 class, I like a rifle weighing around 7 or 8 pounds, balancing around 4-3/4" or 5" ahead of the trigger and with length of pull from 13" to 13-1/2". The drop This time I want to talk about drop at comb, heel and (if present) Monte Carlo. Early rifles measured by current standards have tremendous drop at heel, obviously meant to fire with the head upright not touching the stock. The idea may have been to keep the eyes away from flame and sparks, or maybe no one considered the concept of steadying the head against the stock. Early cartridge rifles continued to have considerable drop, even as the practice of bracing the stock against the face became standard shooting technique. The path to straighter stocks has been a slow and painful one. My postwar Savage 99s, rifles I love dearly, have considerable drop. In fact, their drop is more than I like even for use with the standard iron sights. Likewise, I fit receiver sights on my Winchester 94 and Marlin 336 rifles. You can accommodate a scope on such a rifle with a lace-on leather cheekpiece, or by holding the head up, but I find both to be dreary solutions. Early bolt-action rifles such as the Remington 30 and Winchester 54 and 70, likewise, had stocks with considerable drop at comb and heel. Such stocks do a couple of things: they support the face so the shooter’s eye aligns approximately with the iron sights; and during recoil, they rotate the rifle around the point of support (the buttplate) so recoil is directed both back and up. Monte Carlo After WWII, factories slowly and reluctantly began adapting stocks as riflescopes became commonplace. One solution was to adapt the Monte Carlo design (which had been used on shotguns by trapshooters) to rifle This 1946 Savage 99R .250 has 1" drop-at-comb, 2" drop-at-heel. Not at all adapted to scope use, in fact, it is barely adequate for use with iron sights. Nice piece of wood, though. A custom pre-’64 Winchester 70 stocked by Keesey Kimball in classic style; 3/8" drop-atcomb, 5/8" drop-at-heel. For many years, the only way to get a straight stock designed for scope use was from custom stockmakers. This stock shape follows the original Weatherby Mark V design, in synthetic. Comb is high and straight (actually higher at Monte Carlo than at comb), but retains considerable drop at heel. The Winchester 94 stock was designed for iron sights, long before optics became widely accepted. For iron sights it works fine, though the considerable drop at heel does increase muzzle jump, making even the mild .30-30 cartridge kick more than it should. 18 In the 1960s, custom stockmaker Len Brownell designed this relatively straight stock for the Ruger 77. The acceptance of the Ruger 77 by shooters forced other gunmakers to redesign their stocks. Unappreciated at the time, the Remington 600 introduced in 1964 had a very straight stock (drop-at-comb 1/2", drop-at-heel 3/4"), minimizing muzzle jump and directing recoil straight back instead of into the face. Just had to include the ugly Monte Carlo notch, though. WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • OCTOBER 2011