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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 . . .

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Field Usage

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. 

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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.

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24 Responses to Gear Review: Karsten Kydex Adjustable Cheek Pieces

    • If you are handy, and have a chunk of 2×4, some sandpaper and an oven, you can build about 7 of these out of a $20 piece of Kydex and a visit to the hardware store. I’ve built a few that way myself. It is very hard for me to believe that what I built could be significantly worse than what this is. Other than the fact that my carriage bolts are not black, but some spraypaint could fix that. Each one costs me about $8 to build including hardware.

  1. I have these on 2 HS Precision “Sendero” stocks, and the A2 stock on my Mk 12 clone. They also replaced the strap-on risers I originally used, and are incredible.

  2. I’d be paranoid about f’ing up during the “drill two holes” step and the next step becoming “buy new stock”. When I’m done with apartment living, I’d really like to set aside a little workshop space.

    This is a cool solution provided you’re comfortable with the drilling.

    • I was thinking the same thing, but short of coming up with a Mickey Mouse contraption to hold the bit and stock straight out of 2x4s, sounds like time to make friends with someone that owns a drill press. Those are a neat idea; ready to butcher a spare 10/22 stock to find out if it can reasonably be done freehand.

      • Its not as hard as you think. Most synthetic stocks are hollow, so you don’t have to try to drill straight through from one side. I measured twice, and drilled the holes on each side. Everything lined up perfectly.

  3. Let’s complain about something that when it’s there can’t be removed… This and many accessories will help make a stock right for you. Ruger wants to make a stock right for most and probably not to high becaise you know it would be tough to shave poly.

  4. I really wanted to fix the cheek height on my rifle but didn’t really have the cash and didn’t want to drill my stock. I found this guys’s article and mine came out really good. it’s softer than kydex but I wrapped it tight and there’s hardly any give.

    http://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/make-improvised-rifle-cheek-rest/

    Cut up foam knee pad (like for gardening)
    Wrapped Self attaching athletic tape over it (no sticky residue)
    Finished it off w/ black gaffers tape instead of painting moleskin

      • Home made build up risers are great, and I have certainly used them. The problem comes in when you shoot the same rifle in really cold weather vs hot weather. Your face is fatter with extra clothing on vs when it is bare, and a built up fixed riser is one size all the time. It doesn’t seem like it would make that much of a difference, but it does.

  5. The drilling of the holes is no big thing. Put the saddle on. Check your bolt throw and add a little for removing the bolt. Do this step again. Mark your hole locations with a pen or pencil. Drill holes. Note that if you drill the holes level you cant bottom out the back slot in the saddle. Not sure why it is longer than the other slot. I offset my holes to allow the saddle to bottom out. Not sure why I did that either but it doesnt matter to me. I like it but doubt I would get another one. You still have to lower it or take it off to run a Dewey rod thru the bore. You will need to put index marks on the saddle once you find your sweet spot for the riser height. Better than nothing and a lot better than screwing around with a butt stock pouch/bag and trying to get something stuffed under one of those to get the right height. And then you have to take that off to rod out the bore as well. Nothing is easy…

    • TIL, you can by sex stuff at Ace Hardware…..

      Edit: ok, I just googled sex bolt, and the use of it here is proper and correct. learning something every day I guess.

  6. What keeps the thin stock walls from being crushed together? Is there something to limit how much one can tighten the two mounting bolts?

  7. I would just like to thank Tyler first for being interested in my Cheek Rests and wanting to test them out. Secondly I am happy they functioned as expected.

    I see a few questions and maybe I can address these here.

    When I started out I only had a focus on the M14 DMR rifle being used in OIF and I had been contacted to see if I could come up with something better than what they were being issued.

    I started out with the A Model and both slots were the same length then I got a call from an Army DM who said something about the ability to cant the cheek rest would be awesome….He knows more than I did so I made longer rear slots.

    The B Model came about as a few people started installing these on Bolt Guns and wanted something more semi permanent that would lock in place.

    Evolution again came about when I was contacted and told they liked the Flush Hardware but wanted the Straight Slots….Hence the C Model.

    As for the question of crushing a hollow stock you would have to try very hard and want the stock to fail.

    With the A Model the nuts would strip out of the plastic knobs long before the stock failed.

    The B/C model have what is call a Blind Nut (Sex Bolt) where some grinding may be needed to snug up tight to your stock so again you can’t crush your stock.

    I am pretty proud to say I will only use the best material I can buy as I ship to the many real time operators and quality gear matters.

    Last thing I want is to hear back that something broke on a mission, simple range mishap or Night Ops and a APC and a door…….Long story but I replaced it.

    If you can break it, I will replace it free of charge.

    Should you have any questions feel free to call me at 801-577-5261

    Karsten

  8. 60 bucks for something that takes 5 minutes to make and uses under 10 bucks in materials. I’m sure Karsten makes them just as nice as any shadetree gunsmith but the 60 dollar price point is just highway robbery. If you make your own, make sure to use the right thickness of kydex. .080 makes for nice cheek rests.

  9. The nose drop and heel drop of most rifle stocks made today are set up for iron sights mounted directly on the barrel. They’re not set up for optical sights.

    If the manufactures wanted to, they could offer a stock with a “Monte Carlo” or “hogback” (for the European inclined) style rifle stock butt, but most don’t.

    This is one of my big beefs with factory rifles today. Their stocks are stuck in a timeframe of 100 years ago. Here’s the laundry list of my complaints:

    1. The comb height is too low for optical sights.
    2. The pull is usually too short for people over about 5′ 8″ tall. The pull someone wants isn’t entirely predicated upon their height, but height is a good indicator or longer arms, a longer neck, a wider skull, etc.
    3. There is almost never any cast off.
    4. And I’ve never seen a factory stock that has any toe out.
    5. The grip curve is usually not what I want, and the “what I want” changes according to the type and use of the rifle.

    That’s just for starters. Give me a couple of minutes to think and I’m sure I could come up with a complaint a minute for a half hour.

    • Hear Hear! I wholly agree about gun manufacturers coming up short on the LOP on nearly every model. I have become somewhat of an expert in installing recoil pads for this very reason. I am 6’3″ and have a 14.5″ LOP, most folks would be amazed at what a difference in shoot-ability and comfort if they had a properly fitted stock.

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