I wish I could shoot out my window. Tyler can. He’s shot deer from inside his ranch’s kitchen. Anyway, I’m not sure if this is a fair test. Boyds Gunstocks‘ presser proclaims “A gunstock serves as the foundation of the barreled action and plays a big role in eliminating movement. A hardwood gunstock assists in dampening the vibration and impact created when the trigger is pulled. If a stock is hollow or flexible, it allows the barreled action to move, which can significantly affect the accuracy of your shot.” While I get wood (so to speak), there are plenty of polymer or fiberglass gunstocks that aren’t flexible. Also by the time you experience recoil the bullet has left the building. The lesson here: don’t cheap out.

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49 Responses to Hardwood Gun Stocks Reduce Recoil. No Really.

    • The 270 150 grain load can match the velocity of a 150 grain 308 load. So that’s not surprising. Weight and velocity give you recoil. Assuming all else is equal.

      • http://www.jbmballistics.com/cgi-bin/jbmrecoil-5.1.cgi

        .270 data, max load 150gr, using H4350
        Charge Weight: 49.0 gr Muzzle Velocity: 2724.0 ft/s
        Firearm Weight: 10.0 lb Bullet Weight: 150.0 gr
        Output Data
        Recoil Velocity: 9.1 ft/s Recoil Energy: 12.9 ft•lbs
        Recoil Impulse: 2.8 lb•s

        .308 data, max load 150gr, using H4895
        Charge Weight: 45.0 gr Muzzle Velocity: 2900.0 ft/s
        Firearm Weight: 10.0 lb Bullet Weight: 150.0 gr
        Output Data
        Recoil Velocity: 9.2 ft/s Recoil Energy: 13.3 ft•lbs
        Recoil Impulse: 2.9 lb•s

        So barely a lick of difference.

  1. My hunting rifle has a polymer stock. It also has a steel framework in the stock that the action also rests in. The rifle is more capable than I am. It’s also in .243 so recoil wouldn’t be an issue regardless of stock material.

    When I was a young man my father ordered a light weight single shot 16 ga. from sears or monkey wards. Deliverd right to the door by usps. His primary hunting gun was a model 12 winchester and he wanted something easier to carry over the day.

    The 16 ga. had a hollow plastic stock and forearm. No recoil pad and I doubt it weighed 5 pounds. We had our own version of the T-Rex rifle, recoil wise, with that damn thing. If the innerwebz had existed then we would have had a viral video.

    • My first gun was a Sears variant of the 12/1200 Winchester. It’s still the closet gun for home defense. I tried putting a cheap plastic stock on it for that duty but the balance was way off and the recoil became brutal. The Sears winchesters have a different receiver and Mossberg (among others) style stocks fit, between that and the fantastically strong action I’m surprised these Wins have not become more popular among the tacticool shorty crowd.

  2. F=ma. A heavier rifle will have less perceived recoil due to the inertia of the mass, all other things being equal. Less recoil may reduce flinching, which could improve accuracy.

      • Boyd normalized that for the test. OTOH I would be more interested in the peak numbers, not the total force. The part that sucks about recoil is the peak, that is what creates the pain on your shoulder.

        Without digital logging it is hard to say, but playing the video back using a slow motion tool, it appears that the peak was lower on the polymer stock. But that might be simply that the camera didn’t capture it.

        • I’m not at all convinced at this video, nor by the claim that he added weight to the synthetic stock to make it equivalent. The crucial question is, how was the weight attached? With so many variables involved, such as stock design, attachment points, etc., this test is only valid, if at all valid, for the two unique stocks involved on the day of that test with that particular rifle.

          Adding a bit of weight at the back of the stock where it abuts the measuring device would be the least favorable point to add the weight, I would guess.

          With a hollow synthetic stock, is it more or less flexible than the solid wood stock? If less flexible, does the higher felt recoil occur later than with the more flexible stock? There are far too many variables. And like Robert suggested, a solid synthetic stock probably has a different result as well.

          Without some explanation of the physics involved in his postulation, I don’t think any conclusions can be relied on.

          The only thing that is clear is that Boyd’s wants you to buy their stocks.

        • He may have tried to normalize the weight difference for the test, but I’m not convinced he did it correctly.

          Actually, I saw a lot of problems with the testing methods here, such as:

          1. The entire measuring fixture is not solidly attached to the building; it is held in place by springs (seen at the lower-left corner). If the measuring fixture moves during the test (as it clearly does, if you watch for it), it is absorbing and/or redirecting some of the forces which can and will affect the accuracy of the measurement.

          2. Drop at heel/toe will have an effect on how the recoil is delivered to the shooter (or the measuring fixture); unless the stocks have the exact same drop, the recoil is being delivered at an angle, and that makes the measurements non-comparable. If you stop the video and check the angle of the gun at 0:53 and again at 1:12 (the moments just before each shot; bounce back-and-forth a few times, if you can), you can SEE the angle of the gun in the fixture is slightly different, with the wood stock allowing the rear of the receiver to sit higher in the fixture, less in-line with the measuring sensor. Major fail.

          3. Having hands on gun interferes with an accurate test; it should be strapped-down at the front, and fired by a solenoid placed in the trigger guard. At beginning of each firing test, it appears as though he “pre-loaded” the gun on the rest differently; the digital readout showed “35” just prior to the first firing (seen at 0:52 in the clip), but only “10” prior to the second shot. Just adding the weight of his hands/arms to the gun by varying his grip pressure could throw-off the results quite a bit. If he had shown 10 shots each way, we could have judged the repeatability of the results, but with only a single shot shown for each stock, there is no way to see how consistently the test jig functioned.

          4. It appears as though he added the weight by clamping it between the stock bolt and the stock, meaning as the stock mating surface compresses during recoil, the additional mass may not be firmly secured. If it “floats” at all during recoil, it is changing the results.

          Just points number 2 and 3 alone should be enough to scuttle this as any kind of repeatable “scientific” test.

  3. Slightly off topic, does anyone know of a good quality maker of wood furniture for ARs? The maker who is offered on Brownells gets too many less than great reviews. Meanwhile, some who were getting good reviews on various sites back in 2008-2010 are no longer around.

    Anyone know of a good maker?

  4. This isn’t exactly news in the gunsmithing community. We’ve known this for years – since synthetic stocks have come of age in the 70’s.

    Some of the worst stocks for recoil are the cheap synthetics from Winchester/Remington/etc’s factories.

    There’s a reason why most rifles of African cartridges are stocked in wood. There’s also a reason why many of those large load rifles are stocks with crossbolts in the action area.

    • I thought most Africa guns come with wood stocks since most people who use them fit in following categories:

      -People who want to invoke the romantic image of the colonial period adventurer and hunter
      -People with tons of money who want a gun that is expensive and really good looking, besides, it is going to hang more on the wall then get used.
      -Old school people who liked things how they were and see no reason to change. And hey, if it works why mess with it?

      If I was going on a safari hunt or something I could go for a SVDK (Dragunov SVD chambered in 9.3x64mm Brenneke) but that would really look out of place. So I would most likely go with a Mauser in the same caliber.

      But I agree with you, those cheap stocks most guns come nowadays with are trash. At least the wooden ones can be somewhat improved/salvaged/used for something else while the plastic ones you might as well throw away. I am a big fan of laminate stocks since they aren’t as cold as plastic stocks.

      • No you wouldn’t. Since you are new to interest in African hunting– there’s likely nowhere that will allow you to import or use a semi-auto rifle for hunting in Africa.

        You’ll be using a bolt gun, just like everybody else. (Except the guys who buy Blasers.)

  5. Shooting your food from inside the house. Epic.
    I would love to walk in the door and have a faint smell of burned powder and gun oil.
    Followed up by a venison brisket getting a dry rubdown.

    • When my wife is looking at dream homes she knows not to bother showing me if that scenario is not at least a legal possibility.

  6. While further testing is probably necessary, it was an interesting demonstration. I wonder if laminate stocks would cause as much a reduction as the solid hardwood.

    This test also reminds me of an old story- that carbon fiber stocks and some other stiffer polymers would transmit more vibrations to the bones in the side of a shooter’s face (right for a right-handed one) and therefore lead to more hearing damage over time. Wood or laminate, on the other hand, tended to prevent this (along with putting a small piece of cushioning/padding between your face and the stock). Has this ever been substantiated, or is it just another tall tale?

    • The stock shown in the demonstration was a laminated stock.
      You can tell by looking at the “grain” pattern on the side.

    • You could make a hybrid stock. Have the contact areas made out of or covered with laminate while the rest of the stock is carbon fiber. Have a leather cheek rest and a good buttpad and it shouldn’t transmit vibrations.

      Though this is the first time I have heard about that.

    • The answer to your question, from the data and slo-mo films I’ve seen is “no.” Laminates often have crossed or angled grain patterns in the various layers, and this changes how the wood absorbs recoil energy.

      Solid wood stocks absorb recoil energy, especially in the action area through to the wrist area of the rifle stock. Wood has (in general) a high compressive strength to weight ratio, but wood isn’t like metal or composites – wood will flex and bulge under compressive loads, and that’s where some of the recoil energy is going.

      In general, when you’re making a solid wood stock, you want the grain to flow lengthwise in the stock, flowing slightly “uphill” into the forearm. This puts the recoil vector pretty solidly into the compressive mode of the wood. The recoil is coupled into the wood typically form a recoil lug either on the barrel, on the mating surface between the barrel and action, or on the action itself. The force of recoil coupled into the wood stock at these points will usually cause the stock to deform outwards around the action area on a bolt gun, or outwards in the buttstock on a shotgun (because shotgun stocks are typically have large hollow cavities where the buttstock screw attaches the stock to the receiver). When this outwards compressive deformation happens on these hollow areas of the wood, the wood is absorbing significant amounts of recoil.

      • Thanks for the information, and I can see how it would work as you’ve explained it. In many ways, it’s a bit like a musical instrument. Perhaps the next time I buy a rifle, I should have my father’s friend (a luthier) check it out first!

        It’s also interesting that what is aesthetically pleasing (the grain direction) also ends up being functional.

        • That’s actually an interesting idea.

          Listening to how a knock sounds on the wood may give insight on its recoil behavior.

  7. Not being a physicist nor a gunsmith, I will proceed to offer my obviously-worthless opinion: Seems to me that the force generated by the explosion would be more dissipated by a more flexible stock, and transferred more directly to the shooter via a more rigid one. If you hold a foam-rubber pool noodle horizontally with one end against your chest and I push on the other end, the force of my push will bend the noodle and you won’t move. if we did the same thing with a broomstick, the force would be transferred directly to you and you would move. What am I missing here?

  8. A well-made stock of any material will improve accuracy and dampen recoil. A poorly made stock of any material will have the reverse effect. I favor wood stocks over synthetic stocks because I like old school stuff, but let’s be honest here — a high-class synthetic stock will do a better job than a poorly-fitted piece of wood.

    • Ok, I gotta jump in here. The word is “damp” not “dampen.” Just like the things under your car are dampers not dampeners, unless there is something truly amiss, nether one makes anything more moist.

      • Dampeners, Not to be confused with diapers which at some point, we will all be in..And it wont be grammar that anyone will care about.., It will be pronunciation without your teeth.

  9. Calling this an ‘experiment’ is like calling a pig in a tuxedo a ‘gentlemen’. So many variables, no control, and conflict of interest like crazy.

  10. I’ve got two Mossberg 500 12 gauges. One is synthetic, the other is a wood stock.

    I’ve long thought the wood stock is more forgiving, I’ve never been sure if was due to more weight or differences in rigidity…,but I do agree that wood helps

    • I’ve got the same thing, and while I agree that there is less recoil with the wood stock, for some reason I shoot better with the synthetic.

      Go figure.

  11. More mass, less recoil. Probably not enough difference to notice though. Effect the accuracy? It’s not like the barrel is moving, so…

  12. I have always preferred wood furniture on weapons, and have fired quite a few synthetic stocked rifles. As several people have already said, the quality of the stock is much more important than the type of material. That, and just not worrying about the recoil. As Peter O’toole said in LoA,” The trick is not caring that it hurts.”.

    And yea! Love that setup.

    • O’Toole/T.E.Lawrence was clearly on to something, for the most important aspect of recoil is psychological. Does the recoil hurt more or less if your .375 H&H has a beautiful wood stock? Well, would a slap in the face hurt more, anger your more, if delivered by Kate Upton or Rosie O’Donnell? I can tell you which one, knowing in advance it would happen, I’d be willing to incur.

      For most people the stock can be a problem, but the more likely problem is technique. The trigger arm has to pull the butt of the stock into the shoulder pocket without causing the pecs to flex. And with powerful rifles shooting fast at shorter ranges a person has to learn to shoot accurately while lightly flexing the muscles of the support arm (without pulling the stock off the shoulder or pulling the barrel to the side) so that the body moves in recoil as a piece. Or so I was taught, both for skeet guns and medium bores.

      • Two points, brother. In teaching young people to shoot I have found starting them out on War Bitch, my SMLE, they quickly learn that recoil is just a thang to be ignored. Once they move on to Whore, my 7.62Nato Garand they are tight, right and accurate. Just my observations from 20 odd years of teaching people how to shoot. And don’t even start me on making coffee in the field.

  13. i can see why they would say that. wood is more dense and would absorb the recoil more. it is also heavier which helps with recoil. if they want to absorb recoil, they need to make a fluid filled chamber inside the stock with a small cavity around it.

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