When evaluating a rifle for the field, the stock is one of the main features to consider. It doesn’t matter how powerful or the inherently accurate the gun, if the stock is not right the full potential of the gun cannot be realized. I’ll shoulder the rifle and look at it while getting the feel, place my cheek against the comb to get an idea of the sight alignment when I have a scope mounted, I’ll grip the pistol grip to see if it fits comfortably and cradle it in my arms to see how it will carry. There are a few differences between firearm and airgun stocks that reflect the neet to house cocking levers, air reservoirs etc, but overall there exist commonality; their shapes are similar, their compositions are almost the same and they serve the same purpose which is to provide a platform for the action to function on. The basic elements of stock design relate to what material(s) the stock is fabricated from and how the individual components are formed. Traditionally most airgun stocks were made from wood, but over recent years there has been an explosion in the use of synthetic polymer materials, though some designs do incorporate portions of the action metal work or reservoir tank into the stock. Unless a stock is custom built for an individual shooter, the primary objective is to use a basic design with enough flexibility that it can be shaped or modified to fit a range of shooters. It can be argued that today’s synthetics are a more versatile option, as the design possibilities with it are unlimited, the stocks are very strong, and the materials are often much lighter than wood. Wood remains a great option however; it is relatively simple for a skilled craftsman or a machine to shape or reshape, it is very durable, the grain and patterns are often works of art unto themselves, it¹s warm and easy to grip, and the expense can range from minimal to very expensive depending on the shooters requirements.
Many air rifle stocks today are made from beech. It is a common, inexpensive hardwood that is straight-grained and stands up well to heavy field use. It is light in color and can be stained in a multitude of finishes. Though many different varieties of hardwoods are used, walnut is probably the nicest all around wood for production stocks. There are different grades and qualities to choose from, however make sure that the wood selected to build your stock from has a dense grain and uniform dark coloring. I personally like highly figured stocks, and these are fine so long as the blank is free of knots or other defects.
I’ll give some examples of guns that have stocks which stand out in my opinion;
Daystate Wolverine: the walnut I’ve seen on Daystate rifles is always very nice to truly beautiful. When I look at any of my rifles from this manufacturer it’s hard to believe they were originally thought to be producers of very mundane and plain guns. The Wolverine is a big gun and the sporter stock does fill the hand, but what I really like about this Gary Cane designed furniture are the recessed scallops beneath the breech that form a thumb shelf and facilitates a “thumbs up hold”. For some reason I feel like I’m holding a English double rifle when shooting this gun. There are other nice touches, like the forearm stipling and the well formed cheekpiece, but it’s a little thing like those scallops that grab me!
The Daystate Huntsman Classic is in my view, the prettiest hunting PCP ever built, both the styling and the wood used. The traditional sporting design is crafted from a beautifully figured Italian walnut; with finely cut checkering that fits my hand perfectly. The forstock has a Schnabel tip and has only the minimum amount of wood to securely house the low profile action, and combined with a well shaped pistol grip gives the gun more of the look of a conventional centerfire than any other production PCP I can think of. This is a rifle that I really enjoy carrying while hunting; it has the look, the feel and the performance of the ultimate field gun.
FX Verminator Extreme: Now this gun represents some real challenges for designers, the air bottle forming the basis of the butt stock, which along with the barrel can be disassembled for storage. I’ve shot a few guns with an air-bottle buttstock, and even the guns I like a lot take some adjustment in hold and shooting posture, but the Vermonator stock is comfortable and I can get a good sight alignment and consistent hold with the well thought-out stock cover that houses the removable bottle. The forestock swells out to fill the hand providing an ergonomic grip; it’s a best in breed representation of this style of stock.
The FX Royale is available as with a very nicely figured walnut stock or as a synthetic stocked gun, which has a similar design challenge to the Verminator, only shifted 180 degree shift in perspective. The 500 has a 500 cc air bottle incorporated into the forestock. A shelf extends about a third of the length under the bottle to provide a solid and comfortable grip of the shooters forward hand, and the thumbhole stock has a bilateral shelf that cradles the thumb and trigger finger, the trigger guard is incorporated into the stock design.
The Brocock Specialist is a no-frills compact carbine, with a painted (black) wood stock that really stands out because the minimalist approach has material only where it’s needed and contributes to the lightest and most compact design I’ve used. The stock is has a high profile cheekpiece and is ambidextrous, and the pistol grip completes a design that I shoot better offhand than almost any rifle in my extensive collection.
So while I have many other guns I like a lot, these examples represent my idea of best in breed for the various categories. I have stocks made by craftsman such as Michael Chavka that have turned my plane Jane Marauder into a work of art, and the no-nonsense walnut sporter that Dennis Quackenbush built on my little .451 carbine is the perfect big bore brush gun in my opinion. However, I’ve met very few shooters that haven’t appreciated the furniture on the five fine guns mentioned above.
Been doing lots of shooting this summer, and am lining up a couple more hunts. Heading out to South Dakota next week, going to wreck havoc on the prairie dogs. I’ve been out scanning my new home base in Minnesota scouting for area to hunt when small game season starts up, been seeing lots of rabbit and squirrel. Wish I could hunt turkey with an airgun here; I’m just about tripping over them when I hike the woods.
Talking about hiking the woods, I’ve never run into the populations of ticks I’ve found here, every time I go out I have to spend several minutes inspecting and de-ticking…. Watch out!