Like most firearms and their components, rifle stocks have gone through a profound revolution during the past two decades. They used to be made of wood nearly exclusively—usually walnut—and a good one was one that had a pleasing grain figure and sharp, well-cut checkering. Today stocks are made of a variety of modern components, many of the materials concocted by man, others of metal, but fewer are made in the classic walnut. It might be a prudent exercise to examine exactly what a rifle stock is and should be.
Perhaps the first order of business is to define what a rifle stock is as well as its purpose. A rifle stock is a device that provides an interface between the shooter and the rifle. Its foremost purpose is to allow the shooter a repeatable point of contact in relation to the rifle’s aiming device. Good rifle stocks also should provide rock-solid support of the rifle’s receiver and either have just enough support of the barrel to dampen its accuracy-depriving vibrations, or allow the barrel to vibrate freely and repeatedly. Finally, a good stock allows the shooter to control the rifle and enhance his or her ability to hold the rifle perfectly still for the shot.
Some of the first firearm stocks preceded the concept of rifling—therefore a rifle—and were designed at hand in the field to simply support the firearm and protect the shooter from injury. Many of the 12th and 13th century gonnes were a tube closed at one end, loaded from the muzzle and fitted with a metal spike to be driven into a log at the site and then fired. Thankfully, we have evolved considerably.