To Build a Rifle, Part II


This rifle started with an inexpensive Mauser action, a  Douglas barrel, a nice piece of eastern black walnut.  The money the  client saved on components allowed him to buy Talley mounts and a good  Zeiss scope.  It is a .30-06.

The Stock

The cheapest way to go, generally, is to use an aftermarket synthetic stock for you project and glass-bed your barreled action into it.

Prices range from as low as $100 for the discount-house stuff to several times that for a stock from the “name” makers. You can paint the stock to your preference or use it “as is”.

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Gunsmithing CD with Patrick Sweeney: Pistols, Revolvers, Shotguns and Rifles. Order Now

For wood you can spend as much as you like; to many folks the stock “makes” the gun and I have to confess I am one of those people, I prefer wood, even though I do have a couple of synthetic stocked rifles.

You don’t need an exhibition piece of wood to make a beautiful stock and if you buy a turned, semi-finished stock you can fit and finish it yourself and save a lot of cash, not only on the work but also it might make a higher grade of wood available to you money-wise than buying a finished product.

Finishing kits are available from several makers like Birchwood Casey and with a “take your time” attitude you can get a wonderful end-product. Eye-candy wood is nice but layout is more important, making sure the stock is laid out to take advantage of the natural grain flow for strength.

Fancy wood usually has some type of flaw somewhere; crotch and feather figure, burl and fiddleback all come from stresses inflicted on the tree while it grows.

If you have chosen a hard-recoiling caliber get dry, dense, tight-grained wood that will withstand the pounding. An ultra-fancy stock isn’t much good if it’s cracked.

Purists notwithstanding, I recommend glass bedding wood gunstocks. Accessories like sling swivel studs, grip caps, forend tips and recoil pads can add a good bit to the bottom line but if you’re prudent and acquire the parts over time your custom gun project can be a rewarding and fun enterprise.

Having a rifle that is a product of your imagination and fits you is truly a wonderful thing.

Walt Hampton is a professional gunsmith and writer from Virginia. He and his son Wade operate Buck Mountain Rifle Works, manufacturing semi-finished gun stocks and building custom rifles on order. Visit his website at or write him at

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