Gus Norcross, originally trained on National Match rifles and pistols by the National Guard Marksmanship Training Unit specializes in Garands, M14s and 1911s at his small shop on the coast of Maine. His website is www.angusarms.com. He will be offering gunsmithing tips and tricks on Fridays.
When choosing a stock for your M1A, there are several things to consider. If your goal is the best accuracy possible you will favor rigidity, stability in various climates and bedding surface area. If you are building a rifle primarily as a reproduction of the original M14 military rifle, you will want a stock that closely resembles the original. This week we will examine the strengths and weaknesses of wood stocks as they relate to M14-style rifles.
The Classic GI stock was issued in both walnut and birch. It contained a steel liner for the receiver meant to keep the stock from cracking when launching rifle grenades. A hinged steel buttplate was standard and a stamped steel ferrule was crimped to the fore-end to provide a hard contact surface for the front band.
These stocks tend to be thin in the mag well area. Commercial M14 semi-auto receivers are usually machined from castings and have a wide shelf on the right side where the op rod rides.
This shelf replaces the full auto connector found on the original military rifles and adds rigidity to the casting. It also makes the commercial receiver slightly wider than its military counterpart and it may overhang slightly when installed in a thin military stock.
The fore-end on the military stock also tends to be thin and flexible, although thickness varies and some are better than others. The strengths of a military stock are low price and a weight of less than 3 pounds. Negatives are lack of rigidity and minimal receiver contact surface. I would recommend a military stock for a rifle build only if you're interested in building a repro rather than a precision rifle.
Next, we will consider commercial walnut stocks such as those manufactured by Boyd's Gunstocks and supplied as standard equipment on Springfield Armory "loaded" model rifles. This model is thicker and more rigid where it counts than the military issue wood stock and is usually my first choice if the end user prefers wood.
The metal fittings are the same as the GI stock and weight is a couple ounces more, but still under 3 pounds. I would like to see these stocks available with a rubber recoil pad replacing the hinged steel buttplate. A laminated version of this medium weight stock would be nice, but I don't see anyone manufacturing them as this is written.
The last type of wood stock are the heavy models. These dedicated match stocks are much thicker than the light or medium weight models and sometimes lack a steel stock liner. The action is bedded directly into the wood.
Weight is increased to a few ounces over 3 pounds and rigidity is excellent. Heavy stocks are legal in the "service rifle" category at NRA High Power matches if they meet certain exterior dimensional requirements spelled out in the rulebook. The heavies are getting scarce now that service rifle competitors generally shoot ARs in NRA matches and Boyd's appears to have dropped them from their product line.
Most M14-type rifles that pass through my shop still wear wood. I think M1A owners generally like the appearance and lighter weight of walnut compared to synthetics.
The Army Marksmanship Unit (l.) and Boyd's heavy match stocks are noticeably thicker than the GI M14 stock, despite its steel liner.
Most wood stocks contain a steel liner. These were specified to help prevent stock cracking in the receiver area when firing rifle grenades.
While the Army experimented with synthetic stocks for the M14, many M1A owners enjoy the beauty and traditional looks of a walnut stock, Norcross says.