March 22, 2023
Choosing a rifle to take into the field is no small task. The rifle will likely be exposed to harsh conditions, need to perform on command regardless of the environment, and there is an enormous cost in both time and money should it fail. It’s no wonder why hunters pore over specs and reviews before deciding on a rifle.
However, most conversations about stocks and chassis' revolve around weight and weight alone. Weight of a stock is certainly important, but there are other features that are equally important and it’s vital they receive consideration. Those important factors are comb adjustability, forend shape and length, and bipod/tripod attachment options.
An adjustable comb is a huge advantage because it allows for robust contact between the shooter’s head and the rifle, a requirement if the shooter ever expects to see where the fired bullet hits. Being able to maintain a full field of view through the scope as the rifle recoils requires good body position and solid connection between shooter and the stock.
Rifles without adjustable combs reduce the amount of contact with the shooter because it causes a need to slightly lift their head off the stock to see through the scope. The reduction in friction between the rifle’s comb and the shooter’s cheek means the rifle will have increased independent movement under recoil. This eliminates the view through the scope and the weaker the connection between head and stock, the longer the interruption. Throw in a long-action cartridge and a light rifle—and the recoil that comes with it—and an adjustable comb almost becomes mandatory.
Another important feature is the forend length and shape. Long forends allow the shooter to use field supports more easily when it’s time to shoot. Whether it’s a tree limb, fence post, or rock pile, not having to sit or lay right on top of it increases shooter comfort and stability. Rifles with short forends work just fine with a bipod or a backpack, but can be a hinderance when a hunter needs to build a field position using natural objects to help steady a shot. I almost always favor stocks with long forends.
Forend shape also matters. Flat bottoms have more contact with backpacks and offer greater stability than stocks with rounded undersides. Flat sides on forends are also easier to stabilize by pushing them into the side of a tree trunk or fence post because they yield more surface-area contact than a rounded surface. These might seem like small details, but they have a significant influence on overall rifle stability and can absolutely make or break a shot, especially as distance to the animal increases.
Bipod and tripod attachment options are also critical. A single sling swivel stud on the forend is the bare minimum, but multiple locations for bipod placement and an option for shooting off a tripod are ideal. The more mounting options, the higher the likelihood of being able to quickly build a stable shooting position to get off an accurate shot. Few things are more frustrating than finally getting within range of an animal only to realize that the terrain and rifle won’t allow for a stable enough position from which to shoot confidently.