This Tyrolean stock was made to be the perfect interface between the shooter and the rifle. When it fits well, it really is!
This report covers:
- The purpose
- Sporting arms of the late 1800s
- The problem with the Omnia
- Pistol grips on rifle stocks
- The prize winner
After yesterday’s report I had to address today’s subject — rifle stocks. The stock provides the way the shooter holds the rifle, yet some makers treat it as unimportant window dressing. I won’t ask why that is. I will only talk about the importance of the stock in hopes that those who do see this report consider what is being said.
What is the purpose of a rifle stock? It’s the interface between the part of the rifle that fires a projectile and the person who holds it. The firearm has evolved greatly over the 700-800 years it’s been around. In the beginning the “stock” was just a stick that was attached to the gun barrel.
Hand cannons were barely made to hold.
As decades and centuries passed rifle stocks evolved. By 1730 the famous “Kentucky” long rifle was being made in the United States. It had a stock that was graceful and easier to hold, but was still on the primitive side of convenient.
This is a long rifle from around 1770. It still has a straight pistol grip that doesn’t help the shooter as much as it could.
Sporting arms of the late 1800s
In the late 1800s the stock of the sporting/target rifle achieved a high degree of perfection. It had a pistol grip and a pull (distance from the trigger blade to the center of the buttstock) that made the rifle easy to hold steady on target.
This Ballard was made in 1886 as is representative of fine sporting rifle stocks of that time.
By that time world champion rifle shots were well past putting ten bullets into one-inch groups at 100 yards. Around the turn of the 20th century Harry Pope put ten .33-caliber bullets into 0.20-inches at 200 yards.
Yes, that is the trime next to what I believe is the smallest 200-yard 10-shot group ever shot from a conventional rifle. From the book, The Story of Pope’s Barrels by Ray M. Smith.
No record 10-shot group shot at 200 yards since that time has been smaller than that one. The current record was set on July 26, 1999 by Ed Watson, with 10 shots going into 0.245-inches at 200 yards. Since Pope’s group was never officially recorded, it doesn’t count.
Has the rifle stock been perfected? Well, I learned long ago to never say never. Always say sometimes. But it’s correct to say we have reached a high water mark as far as rifle stock designs go.
Why have I written all of this? Because for some reason, some people just don’t get it. They don’t understand. They seem to be saying — well, if that is what perfection looks like, how far from it can we get?
Yesterday’s test of the Norica Omnia ZRS rifle inspired this report. Oh, the rifle is accurate; make no mistake. But there is no way to know how much better it could be with a stock that has the characteristics that were learned 140+ years ago?
Norica Omnia ZRS. The rifle is recoilless and accurate but it has a buttstock that’s styled to be tacticool.
The Norica Omnia ZRS is a recoilless spring-piston air rifle. But does it need to be put into a stock that looks like someone wants to play soldier? Remember — the FWB 300S is also a recoilless spring-piston rifle, but Feinwerkbau put it into a stock that was optimized for shooting targets offhand. My gosh! What will they think of next?
The FWB 300S is also a recoilless spring-piston air rifle, but it’s stock is designed to help the target shooter.
The problem with the Omnia
I told you that I had to remove the Omnia’s cheekpiece to be able to see both open sights, because with it on the buttstock I was looking over the rear sight. No doubt the makers designed the rifle to be scoped but if so why did they even put sights on it? And why not put a Picatinny base on the spring tube since 70 percent of scope ring bases today are made for one?
But that’s not all. I also had to hold my head to the rear of the comb to see both the front and rear sight. I’m used to doing things like that because I shoot so many different air rifles, but an owner isn’t going to want to do that. They want to put their head forward on the comb where it’s comfortable.
Pistol grips on rifle stocks
If you like the look of the M16 family of military rifles then you no doubt like accentuated vertical pistol grips. I can’t fault them except they often place the trigger too close to my trigger finger.
The prize winner
Of all the silly rifle stocks to come along in the past 20 years, the poster child is found on the Benjamin Variable Pump air rifle. Remember that I purchased one in January, 2021, and had to contract for a whole new stock to be built before I could test it with the open sights.
Benjamin Variable Pump air rifle. The comb is too high for the shooter to see both open sights.
When I first evaluated it I wrote something I rarely do. Here is what I said.
“Now here’s something I have never before experienced. When I hold this new 397 to my shoulder normally I can see the last 10 inches of the barrel and the front sight in the rear sight notch. No amount of adjusting brings it any lower. The raised cheekpiece is way too high for my fat face. Yes, I need to loose weight, but I don’t think that will fix this. There is not enough drop in the buttstock of this air rifle. The high comb should be eliminated or the line of the butt should drop more. Or both. Crosman, you should have let a rifleman try out the stock before committing to those expensive molds!
“I can compensate for the too-high comb by holding my face behind the comb to see the sights, but what an unnatural hold that is! That’s how I will have to test the rifle, but I wouldn’t buy a 397 as it is now configured.”
I really wanted to test that new Benjamin rifle but it just wasn’t shootable. So I did something I seldom ever do. I commissioned a new wooden stock to be made and Canadian reader Hank made it for me.
The Benjamin 397 with the new stock made by reader Hank, turns the rifle into one that can be used with the open sights that come from the factory.
I’m not even close to saying all I have to say about rifle stocks, but that’s all I’ll say for today. I want to listen to what you readers have to say. And remember, you are entitled to have opinions that differ from mine. Everyone is entitled to be wrong at times!
length of pull
verticality of the pistol grip
width of the forearm
Wundhammer palm swell
52 thoughts on “Rifle stocks: Part One”
“The Benjamin 397 with the new stock made by reader Hank, turns the rifle into one that can be used with the open sights that come from the factory.”
That is one gorgeous, as well as functional, stock that Hank made for you!
Perhaps the manufacturer should hire him to re-design the stocks for the rest of their rifles! 😉
I’m with you, man!
You CAN work around a bad stock, but you should NOT have to!
(manufacturers, please do take note =>)
Blessings to you,
Not much to say except they have let the marketers loose without consideration of the end user. Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it will functional or accepted by the market. What kind of market was Norica thinking of/looking at when they designed the Omnia ZRS?
Airguns too, are like a box of chocolates: you never know how they’re gonna fit. 🙂
I know how wonderful a well fitting long arm is, because, upon shouldering, it’s sights are lined up, ie I can take aim immediately without any adjustments on my part. Of course, this depends almost entirely on the stock and how well it suits me. 🙂
Like clothing, if only I could tell, before trying for size! 🙂
I thought I would briefly express my enjoyment of seeing Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)’s Walther LG55 T with double set triggers. I suppose the tyrolean dish is a bit Marmite, and I like it! 🙂
PS For those new to the expression: something is said to be Marmite when people will either love or loathe that something, ie no in between reaction. 🙁 🙂
Marmite is actually the trade name of one type of concentrated yeast extract, with a unique and strong flavour. It is commonly used as a spread on toast (remember to spread thinly), but happily also works well in flavouring anything else, from a piece of chicken to be barbecued, to simply a glass of hot water! 🙂
Please add adjustable length of pull and comb height to your list of future topics. Heck, adjustability in any respect.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, and some of us prefer benchrest shooting and others offhand. Some like to add a scope and others prefer open iron sights. Some don’t even aim per se, but shoot instinctively. What is a manufacturer to do? Make compromises, of course. Not everyone needs so much “cast off”! Ha!
The HW50 stock fits Hihihi while the HW30S does not. He showed us a while back what his sight picture is for each gun. Go figure.
Comb height I addressed today. If you mean adjustable comb height I will add that. Pull length was first on my list.
Many are not aware that “cast” was an important aspect of custom gun stocks, years ago. It makes sense as it allows a more “upright” posture when sighting.
It was used more often for shotguns, but there were many custom stocked rifles that had a certain amount of cast.
Siraniko asks above, “What kind of market was Norica thinking of/looking at when they designed the Omnia ZRS?”
I think they were trying to make it look like the most popular buttstock of all time, the piece of plumbing pipe on the AR15.
I think this was designed by several committees. Taking turns each week without talking to each other. The front part starts out normal. The pistol grip looks like it was patterned after the HK PSG1. The adjustable cheekrest from an AR platform fan. The rear stock from piece of pipe connected to a buttplate designed by Reinhart Fajen on a very bad day.
Maybe you should ask Hank to make you another stock for the ZRS?
Certainly, with how accurate that guns is NEEDS a custom stock!
Now we are talking about something that is a real big deal to me. This is one reason I like wood. It is easily reshaped by a person to fit where plastic is not. The grip on my Izzy fits my hand like the proverbial glove, but it did not fit my son-in-law’s hand well. I had reshaped it to my hand. I have reshaped rifle stocks in the past to fit me and my way of shooting. The balance, the cheek weld, the length of pull, etcetera are important and individual.
Many know I do not care for the Mattelomatic. The main reason is that it is a compromise. It does not fit anyone well. The rear stock is where it is because of the buffer tube. The sights are raised so high because when you shoulder the rifle, you would not be able to use them otherwise. The newer ones have adjustable stocks because shooters have different lengths of pull and often soldiers are wearing various thicknesses of coverings. The pistol grip is there because they had to have something to hold on to.
So many shooters these days have only experienced shooting with the Mattelomatic. They do not know or understand what a proper fitting stock is. Those in the military who do usually end up as snipers.
R. R. and everyone
Just because I will enjoy to tease most of you a little, please type search in PA for air rifles, sorting from highest price.
I believe most of the answers to stocks will pop right up in your eyes.
Now I’m heading for cover.
Yes, that is the way that it is, but not the way it has to be. That’s what the Air Venturi Bronco was about. And if that rifle was made today it might have to retail for $230, but I believe it would still sell at that price. And it would be cheaper than many lesser airguns that arise in the east!
In fact, Bill, you just inspired Friday’s report!
That’s a second one for me enabling Tom. Now I’m taking cover again since R.R. has not responded yet.
Besides my taste of humor as much as I love the looks and feel of a beautiful wooden stock I have also a great esteem for a fully metal and soft synthetics stock made according to the function over form rule. That’s why I don’t hate the stocks of Mattelomatics; they must be quite easily/effectively be in use by far different types of human stature. On the other hand those function over form stocks of the multi thousands of dollars airguns try to do just the same for those different types of statures but with perfection. So we have a small difference of 3 to 4 thousands of dollars… Somewhere in the middle of this is where a user of Mattelomatics who has potential gets upgraded with a multi thousands dollars gun with adjustable features and ends up being a sniper.
It’s all about cost finally.
OK, here is my response. I have several form follows function air rifles. This is what I prefer. Many of the Mattelomatic clones you see these days are not.
I do not expect others to see things the way I do as I do not see things as others do. That is why there is such a humongous variety of styles, fit, form and function out there.
You do not need to take shelter. I like you anyway. Even if you are wrong. 😉
Now HERE is something to raise the hair on some backs. Thanks to CA’s regulations for rifle furniture, western style grips are back! (I dislike pistol grips on air rifles.) It doesn’t look like a western grip, but check out the grip angle — it’s there.
Ouch! It’s enough to make a man — you fill in the blank.
Bill, I just tried that…most interesting…now I’m looking forward to B.B.’s Friday report. 🙂
Me too! 🙂
Ridgerunner, regarding your comment, “It is easily reshaped by a person to fit,” the “easily” is my problem. A stock is rounded and shaped. Now I can use a table saw or a miter saw, and I have a motley selection of hand tools, but how does one go about shortening a stock in a way that can be extended again as a kid grows, for example. I have seen two home-made hack jobs so far on vintage airguns…. I don’t want to be responsible for a third. And what if the stock has a rubber or plastic butt-plate? It won’t fit the cut down stock.
Get a wood rasp. Makes shaping wood very easy. You can add spacers to the butt end of a stock to make it longer. Easy peasy.
If your table wobbles do you just “live with it” or do you put a piece of cardboard under the short leg?
For kids, you should get something that fits. You can then add spacers as they grow. After a bit they will take yours.
Personally, I would not hack a stock down except for me.
As Yogi said a wood rasp is a great hand tool for shaping wood. The rubber or plastic butt plates and spacers can be fitted perfectly to the stock with a FINE power or hand rasp or some cuts of hand files using aluminum/metal tape to protect the wood adjoining unless it is going to be refinished anyway.
The tape also has the added benefit of indicting you close to removing too much of the spacer or butt plate material. Wood putty is used to build up areas that are undersized or even to create something like an Ersatz Ludwig Wundhammer palm swell.
Whilst we await B.B.’s Friday report, here’s a toast to good rifle stock designs.
On top is a .177 Haenel model 1 from 1938.
Below it is a recent .22LR Henry model H001, but with a stock designed back in 1892.
What they have in common are stocks that are well-designed to fit a wide variety of people…
…provided they are shooting with open sights.
When you snap them to your shoulder, you are looking through the sights…very cool.
The Haenel has no provision for a scope, which is fine, it’s a wonderful little plinker.
The Henry could be scoped, but I won’t do it, as I love the classic lines.
(I use it mostly at air-rifle-power with .22 Quiet rounds)
Both are a ton of fun to shoot, thanks to their well-thought-out stocks. 🙂
Blessings to all, and thanks to B.B. for all his hard work on these reports,
Ooops, forgot the pic. 😉
Non-wood “Mattelomatic” stocks are a turn-off for FM; a look thru Norica’s website shows the company makes some good-looking wood stock models. Maybe someone there is listening and might design a traditional style wood-stocked Omnia ZRS. Methinks there are enough of us old grumpy traditionalists left for it to sell well enough. The HWs residing at Casa FM check off all the boxes in terms of fit and aesthetics. Que? Bueno!
While not directly transferrable to a rifle, the design and use of a “try gun” in shotgun fitting is illuminating. Probably no airgun shooter will steam their stock to achieve the desired cast-off, but the principles still apply. The stock/gun should fit naturally to the shooter’s physiology.
You’re right. I’ve never seen a try gun used to make a rifle. But I do know that the Bavarian rifle makers who made Zimmerstutzens (parlor rifles), did fit the rifle to the person for whom it was made.
We (sometimes) bend our barrels…I don’t see why some of us wouldn’t steam a stock. My priority is on teaching young shooters. For example, my then-8 year old son really could not hold a Umarex Embark with a 12 inch length of pull (it comes with a spacer that extends it to 13 inches), and get a proper cheek weld, so of course he got frustrated with it. He’s 10 now and hopefully, I can coax him to give shooting another go. But my point is we should have a youth trainer that is adjustable enough to fit and grow with the kids and provide decent enough accuracy so they can quickly hit what they are aiming at. Initial success will help them endure any future challenges. If they fail right from the start, we may lose them for good. I don’t know why the manufacturers lost sight of this. I managed to find a vintage Daisy 230 (a Milbro 23, which is a Diana 23) with a stock cut down to 10 inches or so. It is accurate to about an inch at 10 yards (meters). I added a Williams peep sight. Hopefully that will do the trick.
I’ll ignore the Mattelomatic silliness of today’s comments and ask an actual functional question- is the Omnia stock one piece or is the buttstock detachable? I ask because of the pin(?) hole beneath the rear of the receiver. If the buttstock is detachable and could be replaced by a rear facing pic rail, that opens a whole world of stock options ala Sig’s MPX, etc.
That hole is for a Phillips screw. There is one on either side of the receiver and both angle up. They might actually release the buttstock, but I’ll not try to do that because there ain’t nothin’ on the planet that’s designed to fit in that place. If Norica wanted to do that they bloody well should have put it in the manual and told us about it.
That’s a good observation. MAYBE Tom might be persuaded to remove the action from the stock and let us peek inside.
“I’ll ignore the Mattelomatic silliness of today’s comments”
Isn’t that phrase meant to be insulting for some who made comments today?
I really wish I could understand the English language better.
No insult, just the voice of someone with well over a half century of experience with Mattelomatics. And AKs (47s, AKMs and 74s, some of the 100 series) and FALs and G3s and FNCs. Oh, and AUGs and Bren guns and MG53s……..
I’m sorry that a protruding grip seems to trigger some to have to repeat worn out internet ‘wisdom’.
As kids growing like weeds, I frequently modified stocks for my friends. We had learned early on that you couldn’t shoot fast and accurate with a poor fitting stock – they didn’t “point” well.
I didn’t like the look and balance of the Star-Wars stock on my Hammerli AR20 so I made a custom fitted one out of some scraps of yew and strips of maple.
When I heard of a guy looking to trade a TX200 for a AR20 I contacted him and we arranged a meeting. We were about the same size and build so the rifle fit him well and during his try out, he made a 1 inch, 10-shot group at 30 feet, offhand, WITHOUT any sights. Yeah, after that he was real keen on the rifle.
The TX200 is a beautiful rifle but I found it to be a bit heavy and I didn’t need another .177 springer so I was lukewarm to the trade.
The guy wanted the AR20 so in addition to the TX200 with the original beechwood stock he added a custom rosewood Ginb stock, several spring kits and a bunch of accessories to the deal.
We both went home happy.
For both of us, it was the stocks that made the deal.
B.B. and Readership,
How dare you think that an off the rack suit of clothes is going to fit you like a tailor made suit!
You are barking up the wrong tree with your Stock wishes.
Hank has made a stock for Tom Gaylord using a system similar to the Hong Kong Suit & Shirt makers of old. Hank could have done an even better job if B.B. had flown in for at least a Final Fitting; even better if he had two or three additional adjustment fittings.
But as was pointed out he would have needed to wear the undergarments he would be wearing with the suit as well as knowing if he (anyone know what this next item is: dresses right or left in the World of Custom Tailoring?) Lol.
So the Mattelomatics of the World are built to fit most everyone in clothing suitable for hot and humid, way hot, warm, mild, cold, and cold beyond normal comprehension conditions.
Ever look at an actual being used sniper rifle? They have really ugly customizations everywhere!
So in shootski’s opinion you need to buy a barreled action you want and then figure out what you can afford for the (der Stock can be translated as: Staff, Stick, or Pole in German) kind of goes with the early image of the Hand Cannon.
Reading your comments I understood that we reach to the same conclusion regarding military rifles. I wish more people here could understand the difference between a gun made for use by millions of soldiers and one made to please oneself.
shootski, I experienced, only once in my life, the process of having a bespoke three piece suit taylored to my body.
At times a rather personal procedure, I suppose they needn’t ask to which side I dressed, as I stood before them in my briefs… 🙂
I remember being somewhat disappointed with the result, in not being able to feel the perfect fit. But fit it did, perfectly, ie it clothed me without the slightest crease showing anywhere, well, not until I moved. 🙂
Next time you see someone who should know better, have a look at their trouser length… creases seem disturbingly fashionable! 🙁
That lovely blue suit lasted a little longer than my marriage.
Since then I have grown horizontally, and prefer stretch jeans for the colder half of year, shorts the rest. 🙂
If airguns were offered like I wish they were, ie like clothing, then, I imagine, it should be easier to find a fairly well fitting stock, affordably off the peg. 🙂
Hi x 3
If you keep in mind that we are buying both clothing and air rifles “off the rack”, it is pretty easy to see why gun makers ( who prefer to work with volume) try to find a “one size fits all” stock. In clothing, we can select the same style in various sizes,, not so with air rifles. If you want a smaller size, you have to go with a different gun.
UNLESS, you make everything adjustable. And that is much easier using plastic than wood.
The trouser break at the top of the shoe or boot is debatable, coming and going out of fashion at different times and in different regions of the World. But if the crease is created by an improper Hem trying to create the proper drop at the rear to the top of the Heel Stack (or Spurs) with poor tailoring methods it is never acceptable.
I was very lucky and had an Uncle who was a Bespoke Tailor in Vienna who made my first Four Piece Suit (two pair trousers) for my Confirmation. It caused me to learn much about quality tailoring and how a little more cost brings higher satisfaction. All of my dress uniforms were tailored and it was Night & Day standing next to an off the rack uniform; good tailoring was extremely important (if you saw the movie Top Gun) with our “Choker” Whites Dress Summer Uniform.
Just to be clear, I am not a fan of the Mattelomatic, and have no interest in them. That said, I think that the design was revolutionary from an engineering standpoint and considering its intended purpose. Although plagued by initial problems, mostly caused by a change in propellant, with relative minor changes is still active. I doubt anything, except the AK family, comes close.
On the other hand, I find the traditional shape and materials – steel and wood – of sporting rifles so much more appealing to my eye. Not just that, the classical shape works better for the intended use of an air rifle. Or a sniper rifle. I find a parallel there, in both cases each individual shot counts. In our case paper or game. A proper fitting wood stock, well balanced, and with adjustable comb would be my ideal. However . . .
It is possible that marketing types in manufacturers offices think that a visual similarity to a well known military model will sell. After all a rifle is a rifle, right? I think that most of us agree that it is not the case, but I wonder if their most important ‘truth’ – sales figures – show otherwise. I hope not.
“Not just that, the classical shape works better for the intended use of an air rifle.”
Actually, if you take a look at the best performing precision powder burner and precision air rifles,, you find just the opposite. Those that are the farthest from traditional are the ones winning the awards.
These are the choices that we, as the consumers, have in the marketplace. We can choose the most accurate, or we can choose what pleases us, aesthetically. The problem is that they are often not the same. Free choice,, what a concept.
I agree ED. I was just trying to paint a broad distinction between designs fit for different purposes.
One more thing regarding the concept of “traditional wood and steel”.
When that combination was invented it was cutting edge. Synthetics came just recently from history standpoint. So can anyone please tell me, in a polite way, when can we expect synthetic, stocks for this conversation, to become traditional?
My point is, once again, that we like what we like but we just shouldn’t disregard either the reality or others’ way of looking at things.
Perhaps they might like some of these from a VERY Traditional company from a country that takes traditional hunting and sport shooting rifles seriously.
They have some other good information too such a this really brilliant history:
They must have had the formula all along not to have lost it during the hard times in the GDR!
Bill, I expect that the current plastic stocks will go the way of bakelite, ie they’ll be classics when newer and better mass produced materials are introduced.
I was hoping that 3D printing might become a future means of producing better fitting stocks, but maybe it’s still too early to tell… 🙂
That’s a wonderful thought. You pick out your rifle, choose a style of stock, and get then measured for a printed stock made to order.
Followed one of the links and some more and got to a good past report—part 1 of https://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2010/03/the-bronco-from-air-venturi-part-7/
Sure would like to try it and some of the other stocks mentioned today.
I like the strait grip of the Beeman C1 better than any other grip style. I wish more guns were made with that style of stock. I would love to have C1 styled stocks on some of my other rifles but that would be an expensive proposition.
The Bronco stock was a direct copy of the C1 stock. That was the purpose.