So you've got the right rifle - but what about the right stock?

When you’re buying a new or a second-hand rifle, what would be your best choice of material for rifle stocks? Should you go down the natural route – wood – or opt for something synthetic?

Here are the pros and cons.

rifle stocks wood

A wooden rifle stock certainly looks good

Wood rifle stocks

Wood is a natural material designed by nature to conduct sap up a tree. So even when a wooden rifle stock is well varnished or oiled it can draw moisture from the atmosphere, expand, and then shed the water in dry conditions, resulting in shrinkage.

Wooden stocks can warp too.

In a well-seasoned, good quality wooden rifle stock these movements are extremely tiny. But they can affect absolute pinpoint accuracy.

So whilst good walnut certainly looks nice, it does have its disadvantages on a very accurate rifle, particularly if you plan to use it in all weathers.

However walnut is quite hard and dense and if properly seasoned is relatively resistant to warping and splitting.

The Russians are reported to have made potentially millions of military rifle stocks out of birch – and there’s plenty of that in Siberia.

rifle stocks synthetic

Synthetic rifle stocks don’t shrink

Synthetic rifle stocks

Synthetic stocks, which are plastics of various types, do not draw in moisture, expand or shrink. They don’t warp either.

Their stability in all conditions of heat, cold and humidity ensures constant accuracy once the rifle has been properly zeroed to your chosen load.

rifle stocks laminate

Laminate rifle stocks are more elegant

But if you really don’t like the idea of a synthetic rifle stock consider a laminated wooden stock. It’s just about as stable as a synthetic stock but a lot more elegant.

Being a natural material, even the best wood absorbs water in damp conditions, then sheds it when the weather is warm and dry.

Rigby Highland rifle

Rigby Highland rifle

So which is better?

We asked Diggory Hadoke, Shooting Times contributor and managing director of Vintage Guns for his thoughts. He said:

“For some sportsmen, the pleasure of ownership, and of participation in their sport, is enhanced by their appreciation of traditional rifle-building aesthetics. A well built traditional rife is a very practical and beautiful object but there is no doubt that for those who demand ultimate performance, weather-resistance and inherent strength, the modern synthetic rifle is the best tool for the job.

Traditionalists, like Rigby customers buying the new Highland Stalker, have no interest in ‘modern’ rifles and new developments but for those who view their rifle purely in practical terms and expect them to soak up abuse in rough terrain, the stainless steel and modern composites used today provide a level of dependability and confidence that cannot be matched by traditional wooden-stocked rifles of comparable price.”

A word on warranties

When you buy a new gun the law requires that it is fit for purpose. So if you, for example, notice that the stock has split you are entitled to have it replaced or have a replacement gun. Go back to the shop you bought it from and ask for a repair or replacement. Any warranty given by the manufacturer/importer is over and above your ordinary rights under consumer law and does not replace them.

However, if the split is your fault and the result of careless use then you will have no redress. So, if for example, you allow the wooden stock to become damp and don’t dry it off after a day’s stalking in the rain, resulting in warping and splitting, then the warranty almost certainly won’t cover you.