Stock Synthesis

Possibly the most spectacular piece of English walnut Wieland’s ever seen, although he prefers the French walnut on the E.M. Reilly, also shown. Some chocolate sundaes are just too rich. Still, a beautiful piece, and no one would ever call it boring.

This is the latest synthetic being used for rifle and shotgun stocks, and none of the rifles I’ve seen have been cheap.  If memory serves, these include J.P. Sauer, Christensen Arms, and one or two others, all costing north of two grand.  As a long-time non-fan of synthetic stocks, I was prepared to dislike carbon fibre purely on principle, but I don’t.

Almost against my will, I found myself looking at a J.P. Sauer a couple of years ago, one with a green and black carbon fibre stock, and thinking “Now that is really…really…what?  Seductive?  Yeah.”

A piece of English walnut from France, found on an E.M. Reilly shotgun made in the 1890s. This is the finest piece of walnut Wieland has ever seen, much less owned. Not to everyone’s taste, perhaps, but it certainly is to his.

Carbon fibre has a shimmering appearance that changes, like a kaleidoscope, as it is viewed from different angles.  Oddly enough, this is exactly—exactly!—what happens with a piece of the finest walnut with its different depths of grain and conflicting color patterns.  This is not to say carbon fibre looks like wood, because it does not.  Anything but.  This kaleidoscopic quality cannot be captured in a photograph, because photos are two-dimensional.  You can sort of do it with a series of photos from different angles, and maybe it could be captured by video, but I’ve never seen it done.

This makes carbon fibre interesting, just as the kaleidoscopic quality of English walnut makes it interesting.  And all this is completely aside from carbon fibre’s modest weight and utter stability, both of which are used to advantage in making a rifle that is light weight, super accurate, or both.

Christensen Arms combines carbon fibre with steel in a stock that is futuristic, to say the least, but interesting to look at as well as shoot. Can’t ask for much more than that.

I wouldn’t say that carbon fibre is the future of top-grade gunstocks, because who knows what might come along next year or the year after?  But it seems that synthetic stocks are finally on the right track.  For certain qualities, they can’t compete with wood, but in other qualities, they leave wood in the dust.  And we now have proof they can do this, and look good besides.

Gray’s shooting editor, Terry Wieland, is old enough to remember the first major venture into synthetics—the Remington Nylon 66.  From there, it was a long and winding road for synthetics.  Is he trading everything in for carbon fibre?  No.  But now he views the arrival of a synthetic-stocked rifle with eager anticipation instead of dread.