Gunstock Protest
by Jim Matthews
Hunters and shooters, I want your attention for a minute. I need to know if you are happy with the stock on your factory long gun.

After spending a recent evening using camouflage duct tape and foam insulation to build up the cheek piece on a short, single-shot rifle so it would "fit" my youngest son, I was again reminded of one of my pet peeves: Manufacturers who design — and I use that term loosely — gunstocks that don't fit the shooter.

The idea of the gunstock is to have your cheek supported while you look right through the sights. I don't think this is such a difficult concept, but apparently the gun makers are a little fuzzy on this.

Virtually every major maker of rifles today has stocks that are too low. They are just about perfect for use with iron sights. Throw that gun up and you are looking right down the barrel. Put a scope on that same gun, especially one of those monsters that have 40 to 50mm objective lenses that are so vogue today, and you have to raise your face up off the stock to see through the scope. This is not conductive to good shooting and it increases the likelihood that you're going to get bashed on the cheekbone when the gun recoils.

The flaws in rifle stock-making are four-fold. First, they don't make any stocks to fit a kids' length of pull. Second, they don't make stocks to fit women and smaller-framed men. And third, they don't make stocks for big guys with long arms. The one stock they do make has the biggest flaw of all: the comb (that part of the stock where the cheek rests) is way too low for use with scopes.

Yet, these same rifle makers will give us 14 different versions of the same gun. Look at a Winchester, Ruger or Remington catalog and you will find at least one or two synthetic-stocked versions of their popular bolt-action hunting rifles, a laminated-stocked version, walnut-stocked versions, versions with short barrels, and versions with long, heavy varmint barrels. Look at the Browning catalog and you will find versions that have thumbhole stocks. But they all have the same length of pull and combs that are too low for use with scopes. Brainy, eh? Especially since no one hunts or shoots with iron sights and hasn't for about 40 years.

Why don't they bring out stocks with higher combs and different lengths of pull instead of all these other cosmetically different stocks that don't fit shooters? Small, medium, large, and extra large — wouldn't those designations make more sense? So why don't they do it?

I don't have an answer for you.

My nearly-12-year-old son can now shoot a 12-inch pull (the distance from the trigger to the butt of the stock), so this past weekend I took one of my Contender single-shot rifles and added just over an inch of padding to raise the comb up enough so he was looking through the low-mounted scope on this gun when his cheek was resting on the stock — er — resting on the taped-down padding. I like the look of the gun with all the padding and tape, but I am "the duct tape pro," according to some clever friends I have who bought me a tee-shirt and cap with that motto. But why couldn't I get him a stock that fit without doing all the classy custom work? Because they don't exist.

The problem isn't just with rifles either.

Earlier this year, I hacked 1 1/2-inches off a so-called "youth" shotgun buttstock for him to use for birds. For years, I hunted with a guy who had added two inches from a 2x4 to his Model 870 stock. No small and extra-large stocks are available for shotguns either — at least not on affordable field guns.

Now a lot of shotgun stocks fit average-sized guys pretty well, but even those of us who can live with factory shotguns continually curse rifle stocks. The only people these rifle stocks fit are guys who are between 5'10" and six-feet tall who use iron sights. Since I quite frankly don't know anyone who uses iron sights, these stocks don't fit anyone. I've said that before, haven't I?

I have complained about these problems to the gun makers for several years without results. Now, I want to enlist your help. If you feel, as I do, that most of the gunstocks made for rifles or shotguns are out of whack, drop me a letter or e-mail, with your complaints, and I'll collect them all together and forward them to the right people at the major companies. (Heck, if you think I'm full of it, I'll forward those notes, too.)

Before you write, however, go check your gun safe, and note how many of your rifles require that you lift your head up off the comb to see through the scope. Tell me if you have a modified gun you've sawed on or added to so they fit you, your wife, or kid? Tell me the problems. Then send the note to me.

That Contender was a pretty nice looking gun before I started wrapping it up with duct tape and foam, but now it fits my son and he'll shoot better for it.

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in Western Outdoor News and is used with permission from the author. You can contact Jim Matthews the following ways: by writing to Jim Matthews, Outdoor News Service, P.O. Box 9007, San Bernardino, CA 92427-0007; by e-mail at; or via fax at (909) 887-8180. His office number is (909) 887-3444.

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