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Phil Bourjaily's wooden stock shotgun and a couple of its %22victims%22 (courtesy

Over at, self-professed gun nut Phil Bourjaily ain’t got time for shotguns with synthetic stocks. His objections are less about the field and more about the stream. “Synthetics are inferior to wood stocks when it comes to handling the elements: the buttstocks are much more likely to take in water when you dunk them than are wooden stocks. A couple of weeks ago, just to do it and because there were cameras rolling, I threw a Mossberg 930 into a pond . .

As the gun settled in to the mud you could see a stream of bubbles running out of the juncture between the stock and the pad as the hollow stock filled with water. You don’t have to throw a synthetic stocked gun in the water to get the insides wet either, just dipping it every once in a while can be enough. That water can rust an action spring or its tube if you don’t remove the pad and make sure everything is dry in there periodically. Wood stocks, which are solid except for the stock bolt hole drilled in the middle, don’t take on water as quickly or easily.

More than that, Phil doesn’t like the way synthetic stock shotguns look. I totally heart my Benelli SuperNova, M2 and M4; I’d happily dunk any one of them and expect it to continue to function flawlessly. But I wouldn’t trade my wood-stocked Citori for love or money. Your thoughts?

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  1. I’ve seen too many wood stocks start to warp and bulge from exposure to elements. I love the look of wood on a gun, but synthetic definitely handles the elements better.

    • Absolutely. This is more huff n’ puff from OFWG purists that can’t accept anything in a gun other than wood and metal. If even the buttstock has a rubber pad or the trigger guard is polymer, they’ll turn their nose up to it and spend $500 more on an all metal pistol they intend to carry, do it once, and say it’s too heavy and leave it in the safe.

      • Is it OFWGs that can’t accept change, or is it OFWGs that got paid to somehow come up with some reason why wood might be better than synthetic?

        (I think it’s the latter)

        • There’s no proof wood is better than polymer, it just looks better and I can understand how OFWG might project their self conscious about having a gun that looks really good.

      • Wood and STEEEEEL. Alumiums are too weak to be used in guns, kiddo.
        (aluminum as does suck as a feed ramp material and barrel material, but other than that it’s pretty good)

      • What other ethnic slurs do you use? Are their other races you insult and disparage? Or is it just confined to whites?

    • If your hollow synthetic stock takes on water there is an easy solution – drill a little hole into the hollow section so that when you stand the shotgun on its butt-plate the water drains back out.

      Not a shotgun guy, but an awful lot of AR style, M16 and M4 rifles are out in the wild with synthetic everything and I don’t hear any operators complaining about them getting water logged. It wouldn’t take much Google-foo to find a picture on the InterWebz of Navy SEALS emerging from the ocean carrying fully synthetic stocked weapons.

  2. Hunting shotgun = wood
    Defensive Shotgun = synthetic

    And synthetic on a over/under or SxS is heresy and the offender should be stoned.

    • This was my lunchtime conversation with an ex SWAT buddy.

      His response? “Blood never stained the polymer on my 590.”

      Take it as you will~

    • Why on Earth would a *typical* defensive shotgun need a synthetic stock more than a hunting shotgun? A hunting shotgun is much more likely to be regularly exposed to the elements than a defensive shotgun. The shotgun I use most frequently for hunting is likely to get wet well over a dozen times every year, and I don’t hunt nearly as often as some. My defensive firearms get wet rarely, if ever. (The author of the article does have a point about synthetic butt-stocks, though. I have had to disassemble and dry mine out on several occasions.)

      The main reason I can see for a defensive shotgun needing a synthetic stock is for durability if it is used in a lot of physically intense training. Such training is obviously a great idea, but it is not the norm for the vast majority of defensive shotgun owners (who are private citizens). In reality, a wooden stock on a shotgun used for hunting is much more likely to be broken as a result of use than a wooden stock on a shotgun owned exclusively for defense.

      • An M16 style composite stock on a defensive shotgun, no.
        An M4 style adjustable stock on a defensive shotgun, yes!

  3. Any practical use shotgun for me will always have a synthetic stock, duck blinds and fields can be a bit harsh on a nice wood stock. Trap or skeet guns can keep their nice walnut and maple where it won’t get dented and scratched.

    • I really like the synthetic stock on my Versa Max Competition Tactical.

      I have a 500 ATP from 82, replaced the wooden stock with a spec ops spring loaded one in ’09. Dumped the plastic stock and reinstalled the wooden one last year.

  4. Because clearly my AR goes all rust bucket on me when I chuck it into a mud puddle in the middle of going prone… Oh… Wait…

    Clean. Your. Guns.

    That means with soap and water followed by CLP and brushes.

  5. … you could see a stream of bubbles running out of the juncture between the stock and the pad as the hollow stock filled with water.

    So go replace the stock with one that’s not hollow. Go get yourself a fancy tacticool one like I did for mine.

  6. Wood retains moisture far longer than plastic.

    Also, don’t submerge your gun in water. If you do, take it completely apart to clean and dry it.

    • If you dunk your gun, water in the action is far more of a concern than water in the stock. Either will require a full disassembly to deal with properly.

    • Like wood, doesn’t take on water. Like synthetic, it shouldn’t be susceptible to warping, etc. also, it’s cheap.

      One thing I learned, though, is that there isn’t the consistency you get with molded plastic or the drive for exactness that you get with wood. Apparently, that’s why limbsaver can’t make a pad for the laminate.

  7. “Needing” something for a rain gun, I got a Remington 887 for $270 out the door. Don’t mind the stock except for the hollow sound when knocked. Is there a solution for that?

    • Take off the butt pad and fill the hollow space with something. Sand would be good … although it would add some weight of course. If the weight of fill sand was a no-go, you could try lighter weight options like styrofoam or even expanding foam.

      • DO NOT use expanding foam. You won’t be able to access the screw. If you don’t like the hollow sound you can just fill the void with an old sock stuffed with wadded up newspaper. It doesn’t add much weight and it’s easily removable(and re-usable) at any time.

  8. Meh-I’m not a hunter/competitor. Synthetic for home defense. Rust huh? Bizarre-yeah both guys on that TV show are annoying…

  9. If my Benelli falls in a pond, I’d take it a apart and clean it, rather than relying on wood as a rust inhibitor…

    • What a novel idea. It would have never occurred to me to do that.

      I had just been believing that if I had a whood stock there was magically not change of rust and I wouldn’t have to clean it if dropped in water

  10. Well I was pondering a Winchester SXP Defender, but if you insist I guess I’ll just get a 2×4 at the hardware store and use that.

  11. “the buttstocks are much more likely to take in water when you dunk them than are wooden stocks”

    I have a super awesome solution for this that allows you to keep your blacktical synthetic stock! It’s awesome did I mention.

    Don’t, I repeat, don’t dunk it in water.

    Next question.

  12. Wood stocks on a waterfowl gun or wall leaner? No. Just no.

    Plastic stocks on a upland bird or skeet/trap gun? No. Just no.

    Take your pick on a slug gun.

    Both wood and plastic have their place.

    • Hey Ralph,

      Is your Pardner Pump wall leaner a 12 gauge or 20 gauge?

      If yours is 12 gauge, why not 20 gauge? (I like less recoil and blast when I don’t have to give up stopping power. And I don’t see 20 gauge shotguns being any less able to stop home invaders at home defense ranges than 12 gauge shotguns — especially when shooting slugs. After all, when facing a human attacker, what can a .73 caliber slug do that a .64 caliber cannot do? Hence I am a 20 gauge proponent.)

      • My PPP is a 12 gauge. After seeing what a 20 gauge can do, I’m considering buying one. Because, after all, I have more than one wall. 🙂

      • Nothing wrong with 20 gauge. For me, the 12 does everything I need, and I don’t need to worry about another shotgun “caliber.” That’s simplifies the process.

  13. I don’t hunt waterfowl, so dunking is not an issue unless I fall crossing a stream. For deer hunting, I purposely bought a good pawnshop rifle with a scratched up stock so I wouldn’t have to worry about it getting wet or beat up in the first place.

  14. I love my Benelli Nova. I kill just as many ducks, pigeons, geese, clay pigeons and squirrels as the next guy with his woodstocked shotgun. Which one of is better?

  15. I’ve ruined to many wood stock shotguns hunting to ever get another one. That being said I will always love the look of wood.

    As for hollow butt stocks filling with water, they’re usually held on with two screws and it takes about a minute to take it of and dry them out. The one time I forgot to do that on my SX2 I remembered about a week later and took it apart and wiped it down, all the rust wiped right off and that was after being filled with salt water. So I have no issue with synthetic on hunting/defense shotguns.

  16. If you want to prevent significant water intrusion in your hollow plastic stock, remove the recoil pad and fill the butt stock with expanding foam.

    I have to wonder if filling the butt stock with expanding foam would make it sound and feel a little bit more solid as well.

    Keep in mind that there is a bolt in there that attaches the butt stock to the shotgun receiver. If you simply fill the entire void with foam, you will not be able to access that bolt … which means you would never be able to install a different butt stock on the receiver. I would lower a 3/4 inch diameter cylinder (like a cardboard paper towel roll that you have reduced to 3/4 inch diameter) into the hollow butt stock and over that bolt before spraying in expanding foam. Then you will still have an access hole for that bolt AND you will have filled your butt stock with as much material as possible.

    • If I’m thinking the same as you on expanding foam like Great Stuff spray foam look for the *blue* can of Great Stuff, its meant for door’s and windows and doesn’t expand as much as the *red* can that’s meant for gaps and cracks.

      • I’ve never used ‘Great Stuff’ in a gun stock, but I have used it in places on the small boat I had.

        Expect a small amount of water to get in there, and expect it to take a *long* time to get it out of there.

        That wasn’t a problem on the boat, but it could be in a gun stock.

        I’d be more inclined to put the drain holes in the stock for drainage and keep a low-wattage heat source in the gun safe for the health of all the guns stored in there…

  17. To all you outdoorsmen, do you bow hunt with carbon fiber shafts and limbs? Do you fish with a boron rod? Then there’s nothing wrong with “plastic” guns.
    Now if it displayed over the mantle, definitely wood. Just say no to laminate.

  18. I like both wood and synthetic stocks on shotguns.

    I tend to tip the scales in favor of synthetic stocks because, unlike wood, there is no outer protective finish/coating that you damage/remove when you scratch a synthetic stock.

  19. “More than that, Phil doesn’t like the way synthetic stock shotguns look.”

    Then why not just come out and say that right off the bat instead of trying to come up with some convoluted s#!t of how wood stocks are better because of reasons…

    This guy is just another elitist fudd lecturing us Neanderthals about how backwards we are.

    I’m suprised he didn’t go full Zumbo in proclaiming that synthetic-stocked, pistol-gripped and Combat Shotguns are “terrorist” weapons and that they should be banned.

    • This. The writer’s opinion is moronic and should not be taken seriously. His personal, visual dislike of synthetics, and support that isn’t should be disregarded at the first opportunity.

      • Agreed. It could’ve and should’ve been an op-Ed about personal preference, and I would’ve respected that.

  20. I have and use both wood and synthetic stocked shotguns. I would note however that wood factory stocks are never sealed/finished under the buttplate or other out of sight areas. I have not experienced a problem with wood stocks or forends because I remove the wood components and seal the wood against moisture before reassembly.

    • I think you meant to say that cheap wood stocks aren’t finished under the buttpad/plate and in the inletting channels.

      Nice guns are, in fact, finished/sealed in those areas.

  21. As many have said, both wood and plastics have their pros and cons. Undoubtedly wood is great for certain shotties. Those of us who are of modest means, probably have little choice but to go with plastic now, on new rifles and shotguns. So it kind of becomes a moot point right?

  22. No. The writer is simply a die-hard moron. He probably thinks the M14 is a perfect, reliable system in the field, too. There’s many a reason there aren’t any military rifles in current service that sport wood. They’re the same reason we’ve essentially replaced wood with polymer everywhere: easy to manufacture, polymer doesn’t absorb moisture (Original writer is an idiot), warp, is typically lighter, and has much better strength and impact resistance than wood. Maybe the writer should get his head out of his ass and either seal his current shotgun, find one that is made to float, or better yet, stop tossing your shotguns in a pond like they weren’t made to do!

    • You left out an important reason for plastic stocks. For the most part, they’re less expensive to make than wood stocks.

      Manufacturers care about improving their margins. That goes double for Remington, which cares about nothing else.

      • Which is really sad, because I want to like the 870 and the 1100 but I keep doing research and see how their QC has taken a nosedive lately.

        I know Mossberg isn’t perfect but I’ve never really had any problems with their products, and they’ve generally been pleasant when I’ve inquired about things.

        Benelli too; I can’t say enough good things about them and their products (especially the M4)

    • Thank you!

      It always bugs the hell out of me how people abuse their guns like running over them and then dragging them behind their truck down a gravel road, smacking them against a tree or rock face, then dropping them in water sand and mud and not cleaning them, and then saying how they’re worthless pieces of junk because they don’t function correctly or shoot straight and then put them up for sale on gunbroker asking for their MSRP as the minimum bid and almost double for the “buy it now” price…

    • Yea, all those Mausers with wood stocks and blued steel from 100 years ago, some of which have been through two world wars, and yet are still in working order prove your points.

      Oh, wait…

      The reason why militaries no longer use wood stocks has to do with cost. Period. It’s all about the lowest cost bidder for the western military forces, as they continue to plow more and more of their GDP’s into health care.

      • Cost is another good reason I left out, however, it most certainly is not the sole reason we’ve made the switch. There are tangible benefits to synthetic stocks. Also, as I said, there are not any current issue weapons deployed with wood stocks. Wood can last, but takes more maintenence, and care to survive. Something less conducive to moving in harsh environments.

  23. Seems like a stupid argument. A well-cared for gun will handle a wood, laminate, or synthetic stock just fine. If my guns get wet out in the field, wood or synthetic furniture, it’s gonna get a good clean when we come back inside.

    Why are we arguing about aesthetics?

    • Click bait (see the comment count).
      A quick post to write, while the cash register rings.
      Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Capitalism, P.T. Barnum and all that.

  24. Synthetics don’t split and can be better engineered for recoil and strength. I don’t throw my gun in a pond or expect it not to have moisture inside after a rain. Wood today is not as nice as years ago unless you pay a lot more

    • Cheap synthetics do split – from mechanical damage. Just not from getting wet & drying, that’s all.

  25. I fall when I’m hunting. Sad fact of life. My hunting pardners say it ain’t a hunting trip til I fall at least once. Synthetic don’t look as good as wood. But it takes the knocks better.

    • Indeed, when I’m hunting chukar, I take only my ugly-assed synthetic-stocked Berettta 390. It has the marks to show that it has been down the mountainsides with and without me…

  26. If I were to dunk ANY of my hunting guns in water and mud, I would do a thorough job of disassembling and cleaning as soon as I could. Expensive walnut can be solid and pretty, cheap wood furniture is essentially expendable, but I’ll stick to dragging my SBE2 into the woods and fields with its synthetic furniture. It holds up better in the elements and I don’t feel too bad when I scratch it up (although that gimmicky Comfortech stuff sure is overpriced…). I like the laminate furniture on my BLR, and laminates might be a nice compromise of look/feel and weather resistance if you want to go that route.

    Regardless, Fudds are gonna Fudd – tradition trumps all for some folks.

  27. Wood or synthetic; I don’t care.

    Unless I have to hump it long distances, then the lighter the better, which means synthetic.

  28. Synthetic works fine for me. If you dent it or scrape it then it’s still functional and won’t make you cry like a wooden stock.

    And what’s he doing dropping his gun in the water anyway? I don’t plan to hunt within shotgun or rifle range of him if he’s doing that. It evokes images of that recent fiasco with TR in California.

    Also, there’s a very simple concept called field stripping and cleaning your gun at the end of a hunt. I can completely disassemble any rifle or shotgun in about 2 minutes (Which you have to do anyway to put a plug in a shotgun), and many people can do it faster than I can.

  29. Plasticky stocks just plain look like junk and look cheap. True, in pistols they make the gun lighter in weight to carry all day and the same is true in long guns but they are also harder to hold steady when you shoot them. I never shoot as tight a groups with plasticky pistols as when using a much heavier all steel pistol.

    I do own plasticky pistols and a shotgun with a plasticky stock but I have no pride of ownership in them and when my friends see them they usually throw up their arms, scream, and run away in panic. I can hardly say I blame them, they nauseate me too. Lets face cold hard facts they were originally invented to make the manufacture more money not to do the consumer any favors as you can pay even more for a high end plasticky pistol than some metal pistols. Take a look at what HK gets for their guns. Its obscene.

    And have you ever experimented and put a plasticky firearm next to an all steel and walunut work of art firearm on a gun show table and observed human behavior. The people will not even pick up the junk plasticky gun and look at it, but they mob and fondle and squeeze the work of art walnut and steel gun until it screams for mercy. That alone shows you what most people “really think” about plasticky guns even though they often give lip service to them. In other words “believe in what a Politician actually does rather than what he says”.

    And try and see what the resale value and investment value is on plasticky trash v/s quality guns. Way back in 1999 ( obviously during a temporary period of insanity) I made the dumbest move of my entire life. I had a choice of buying brand new, one of the very last, of the Walther P88 Compact pistols or the newer Walther plasticky P99. Seventeen years later my junk plasticky P99 is worth little more than I originally paid for it but if I had bought the quality P88 it is now worth a huge amount of money. That is the real difference between buying plastic junk guns as opposed to investing in quality guns as far as investment goes.

        • One excludes the other if it’s so pretty you’re afraid to shoot it, or so vulnerable to weather you’re afraid to take it hunting, or so heavy you refuse to carry it. The list goes on.

        • One does not exclude the other. It might only for those who can’t seem to learn how to handle a gun so that it isn’t destroyed in normal use. There’s no shortage of nice shotguns that you see out on upland game hunts, and even waterfowl hunts. I carry a nicely stocks shotgun (SxS or O/U) on pheasant, dove, etc hunts. On chukar hunts, due to the ruggedness of the terrain, I take a 390 that’s been used and abused.

          For trap, skeet & clays, I show up with nice guns. And the nice guns break clays just fine. I have a Fox Sterlingworth that seems to have the perfect choke constriction to hammer clays in singles or doubles. When I shoot that gun, it seems as tho I can’t miss. Not shabby for a 100-year-old gun, BTW.

  30. When the shtf I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with my compatriots, dressed in glorious blue stained wool with our proud 3 point hats and armed with only the finest wood and steel muzzle loaders! Down with the tyrants!

  31. While I’m generally a walnut and blued steel guy, some firearms, AR-15’s for example, are not sposed to have walnut and blued steel. They were designed to have parkerized steel and aluminum parts, with plastic furniture.

    Shotguns? Depends on what they’re used for.

  32. Since most people here haven’t seen synthetic stocks being made, I’ll add this:

    There are cheap, junky synthetic stocks, and there are good synthetic stocks, just as there are wood stocks made/finished on the cheap. Cheap synthetic stocks were never going to look all that much different than well-made, expensive synthetic stocks, and that’s why most people cannot tell the difference.

    Most of the under-$1K guns from the factory are sporting cheap, junky synthetic stocks, especially rifles. I have and used both wood and synthetic stocks, and in a high-recoiling gun, I’d prefer wood because it has some capability of soaking up some recoil force that most synthetics do not. Good wood stocks are sealed against taking up water. Indeed, if you look at how the stocks for the Garand and M14 were treated, they were simply immersed in linseed oil and saturated, then allowed to drain. They won’t take up water. Most of the cheaper wood stocks that are varnish-finished will be unfinished on the inside or inlet areas – a good stock will have been sealed in these areas with the application of tung or linseed oil mixed with a carrier solvent to get it deep into the grain.

    As in most everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

  33. I’ve had 2 wooden stocks break at the top of the junction to the receiver. (thinnest portion where the stock bolt goes through. Always along the grain.

    Never had a plastic stock break yet.

  34. There is ever only one reason to choose wood over synthetic.
    That is when how the gun looks becomes important.

    The only reason the gun makers of yesteryear did use synthetic is because it didn’t exist. If it had, today’s OFWG’s would be bitching about wood on their guns instead of the classic choice of synthetic.


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