Shooting sports enthusiasts can list several good reasons for trading out a long gun's factory-installed shoulder stock for a different model. The original stock may be cracked or damaged. The gripping surfaces may not be a good fit for the shooter's hands or the length of pull (LOP) may be too long for their reach. The stock may not have the features they need or it may be just plain ugly to look at.
One company that makes it easy to change the look and feel of your favorite long gun without breaking the bank is Boyds Hardwood Stocks. Although the company offers some solid walnut options, the majority of its selection includes laminated stocks in both conservative and more eye-catching color schemes.
So what exactly is a laminated hardwood stock and what are its advantages? Thin sheets of hardwood are layered together with resins to form a block called a blank. The blank is then subjected to heat and pressure which infuses the wood fibers with the resins at a microscopic level. The resin binds the wood together while making it stiffer and acting as a waterproofing agent. Once the blank is fully cured, it can be cut, drilled and sanded just like a block of wood. The result is a material that neatly splits the difference between natural woods and polymers. You get the warmth, grain and feel of wood with a level of stiffness and weather resistance more like that of a polymer stock.
Another benefit of a laminate is a bit more room for cosmetic creativity. The layers of wood can all be the same color for a uniform appearance or they can be stained different colors for a greater contrast in appearance. Boyds offers stocks in one, two or three different color layers with pleasing results.
Boyds uses a made-to-order business model. They keep plenty of high-quality blanks on hand waiting for folks to place an order via the company's easy-to-use website. The stocks I've requested from Boyds for evaluation have showed up at my door just a few days after placing the order. That's pretty speedy considering the fact that other custom stocks can take weeks or even months to ship. I contacted the representative I was working with one time to thank him and the team for expediting my orders. He let me know that I didn't get any kind of special treatment. The rifle stocks usually leave the factory within a week or so of the order being received.
To place an order on the Boyds website, customers start by entering the make (Remington), model (700) and action type (Short Action, Hinged Floor Plate) of the rifle to be outfitted with the new stock. In some cases you'll also need to know the gun's barrel diameter as well. With this information entered, the site generates a list of compatible stock shapes. Usually there are about a dozen shapes to choose from for one-piece stocks. Two-piece stock options tend to be more limited.
Once you pick the shape you like, you can proceed to select the wood, the finish, the length of pull and the recoil pad. Some stocks offer additional upgrades including grip caps, white line spacers, laser engraving and adjustable combs. As each option is selected, the page displays a mock up of what the stock will look like and a subtotal for what that particular configuration is going to cost. So there's no guess work involved. You know what you're going to get and how much you'll pay for it before checking out.
Just how much of a change can a stock swap provide? Let's take a look at this top notch carbon fiber barrel Magnum Research Custom SwitchBolt .22 LR semi-automatic rifle. It's a competition grade rimfire that’s compatible with aftermarket stocks for Ruger 10/22 rifles with 0.920" diameter bull barrels. When I ordered the Switchbolt, I requested the adjustable black polymer stock you see here. The AR-15 pattern grip and adjustable shoulder stock give the rifle a more military appearance which is not everyone’s cup of tea. Now take a look at this.
Here's the Switchbolt fitted with the Boyds Spike Camp stock in the Blaze laminate with orange and gray layers. This is a much more cheerful looking multi-purpose stock that's also a budget-friendly option. It has a starting price of $119 when you select one of the standard laminate colors. Upgrading to a bright color like this one adds $15.50 to the price tag. Although this stock is intended to be a budget model, it still looks and feels like a top end option. And just in case anyone is wondering, Boyds does offer a variety of grip shapes in addition to thumbhole stocks. I just happen to like their thumbhole configurations because of how well the grips fit my hands.
One of the most popular competition models for Ruger 10/22 rifles is the curvaceous Barracuda. Shown here in the blue and gray Sky laminate, the Barracuda is built for bench rested shooting. It sports a raised comb, skeletonized shoulder stock, competition grip and a free-floated barrel. The flattened forend stabilizes the rifle nicely when using a sandbag rest. I've found the Barracuda to be quite comfortable to work with for extended shooting sessions. This version currently ships for $172.50.
Boyds' answer to adjustable rifle stocks is the modular At-One series. A push-button release allows the aluminum-backed recoil pad to be easily shifted to change the length of pull. Another button allows the polymer cheek piece to be adjusted for height. The polymer plate attached to the lower section of the shoulder stock protects against all-too-common bumps and bruises to the stock’s finish. Dual sling swivel studs up front allow for a bi-pod and a sling to be used at the same time. The purple and gray Royal laminate shown here is one that my daughter prefers to the bright pink stocks that some companies offer. As configured, this stock costs $210.50.
I've had the pleasure of working with Boyds Hardwood Stocks for several years now. Its stocks are a terrific alternative to polymer that are comfortable to hold and look great at the shooting range.
The company is picky about the materials they use and dedicated to providing a positive customer experience. All of the stocks that I've worked with were easy to install and properly fitted to the gun right out of the box, no alterations required. If at any point in the ordering process you have questions or concerns, you can give the company a call during business hours and a staff member will help you to pin down the options you need. For more information, visit boydsgunstocks.com.