Anybody who has read a rifle review that I’ve written has probably noticed that I complain about stock comb height quite a bit. For some unknown reason, rifle manufacturers seem perfectly content to ship bolt action rifles with stock comb heights that are perfect for iron sights, but far too low to use with optics. This problem is especially frustrating on rifles that ship without irons, were they are clearly destined to wear glass. Replacement stocks can be expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive. But if your only fitment issue with your rifle is comb height, there’s another (cheaper) way to fix the problem thanks to Karsten Kydex . . .
I recently ran into the problem of comb height testing Ruger’s American Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor. The rifle is a shooter (review to follow), but the comb height is stupid low. I knew it would be as soon as I pulled it out of the box, silently cursing Ruger’s name. The problem was exacerbated greatly when I dropped Bushnell’s 50mm DMR atop the rifle. No matter how closely I tucked the objective to the barrel, I had to hover my head or take a “chin” weld to get lined up on target through the scope.
I’d had similar issues with my other Ruger, a M77 MKII that KG Coatings had done up for me in a local camo pattern. I have way too much invested in that paint to ever shuck the stock in favor of something better, but it gives a pretty crappy cheek weld as well.
I’ve never liked the strap-on type cheek risers as they’re usually made of a soft material and in my experience, they slide around quite a bit. During my Google searching, I found Karsten’s website and dropped them a note to see if they’d send me one of their cheek risers. Two days later, three Kydex pieces, and all the hardware showed up in my mailbox.
Opening up the box, I was immediately impressed with the quality of materials as the Kydex pieces are made of THICK slabs of the material. All of the cuts are very clean and look to have been finished off smoothly and cleanly. Each of the three different types uses a different type of hardware, and it appears to be of high enough quality to hold a piece of Kydex to a stock.
Karsten offers three types of cheek risers. All of them are the exact same size and shape, but use three different means of attachment. The first, the Model A offers “infinite” adjustability on the fly thanks to the straight walled sides of the channels in the riser, and the large plastic knobs that adorn the side.
The Model B uses flush mount hardware and a six position, non straight walled channel in the Kydex for attachment. Karsten doesn’t provide any information on why this system exists, but if I had to take a wild guess, I’d say that this provides a more positive lockup for users that really smash their faces into the stock.
The Model C rounds out the lineup and provides the slick walled channel of the Model A with the low profile hardware of the Model B.
Karsten fully acknowledges in their instructions that a bit of fitting will be required. As such, the hardware is sent a little long and must be trimmed back if your stock is a thin one like the stock on the Ruger Predator. Additionally, the instructions include a provision for form fitting the Kydex in case the stock is too wide or narrow. Easy enough, heat it in some hot water, form it into place, call it good.
Installation requires drilling the stock, and that’s certainly a little scary, but with a minimum amount of tools and careful planning, it is a very easy process. The first order of business is to test fit the riser to the stock. In this case, I wanted to make sure that the riser sat far enough back that the bolt could still be cycled and removed without readjusting the riser.
Once in place, I used a clamp to roughly put it in place, and then sighted through the scope to find a perfect head position. I did all my fitting from a standing position, and found it a bit high when laid out prone. I’d recommend that you do all your test fitting in the prone position if at all possible. Once at the right height, I squared it to the stock using a dial caliper. I did this more for aesthetic reasons, and because the factory stock is mostly in line with the receiver. In a situation where the angle of the stock is not parallel with the receiver, you’d want to square the cheek riser to the stock.
Once I was happy with the look, fit, and feel, I chucked a 1/4″ drill bit, took a deep breath, and drilled the stock. With holes were drilled through both sides, I removed the riser and cleaned up the holes on either side with a bit of sandpaper.
The Model B and Model C risers use a 3/8″ Sex Bolt to join the carriage bolt that runs from the other side. This is an ingenious little touch that keeps everything very flush, but does require opening up one side of the stock to 3/8″ to accommodate the shaft of the sex bolt.
Because this was a rough test and eval, I decided not to trim the bolts or heat and fit the Kydex for a truly custom fit. As such, I had to back the sex bolt with a spacer I found in the parts drawer. Had I made this a permanent fixture, that little bit of hardware would not be necessary.
I opted to use the Model B as it appeared to be the most difficult to install, configure, and use. The straight walled sides of the A and C models looked to be very straightforward as did the hardware required. In reality, it was very easy to use, and the A and C models were even easier. As you’d expect from something that raises your face to the right level, shooting with a large objective scope is much more pleasant and enjoyable. The A and C models provide a great deal more flexibility in tuning the fit in the field versus the B model. This is due largely to the aforementioned slick walls.
Given my experience with the B model, specifically my issue with it being a touch too high in prone, but perfect in standing, I would advise most people to use the A or C model. Unless you’ve had issues in the past driving cheek risers down with the force of your face, the B model will require a very precise fit. That said, the B model is the most “bombproof” of the three models, but I had no issues with the A or C model moving around on me.
Specifications: Karsten Kydex Adjustable Cheek Piece
- Material: Kydex
- Hardware: Included
- “A” Model – 2 carriage bolts & 2 plastic coated knobs
- “B” Model – 2 carriage bolts & 2 sex bolts
- “C” Model – 2 carriage bolts & 2 sex bolt
- All Models – Rubber pad for anti slip surface
- Price: $60
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
I see a lot of Kydex while testing holsters, most of it good, but I have to say that Karsten’s work ranks at the top. All of the edges are smooth, there are no rough cuts, and for a product designed to fit lots of guns, it fits in pretty well on most. Because of that dizzying array of guns it’s supposed to fit, there may be some minor fitment needed for your gun. Luckily, Kydex is fairly easy to work with, and the hardware included is long.
Installation * * * * *
It really doesn’t get much easier than clamping it in place and drilling two holes. Assuming you can drill a straight hole, you should be good to go. Minor cutting and heating may be necessary for thin stocks like those on the Ruger American Predator.
Overall Review * * * * *
I fully recognize that the solution to the stock problem is to buy an aftermarket stock. But there are some stocks that are hard to part with like those from Savage and Ruger with integral bedding blocks or those you may have had custom painted or coated. For times like that, the Karsten Adjustable Cheek Piece is the bee’s knees.