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?
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.
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.
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