It’s odd how the meaning of a phrase can change over time.
For instance, if you ask me what I think of pistol grip stocks, I’ll tell you that I think they’re great as long as the walnut is decent and the checkering is well executed.
These days this opinion will draw a few strange looks because the pistol grip stock is now commonly associated with plastic, a decidedly steeper angle and the AR-15 breed of rifles.
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When I was growing up, pistol grip stocks were associated with companies like Winchester and Marlin. They were special order items that made a lever gun more desirable and were considered something of a high end oddity.
Now, pistol grip stocks are associated with names like Rock River Arms and DPMS. Far from being a special order item, folks would think rifles from the above-named companies without a pistol grip stock were some kind of freakish anomaly.
So what’s the deal with all these pistol grips? The world obviously got by just fine with traditional stocks for a long time. Why change what we’re all used to?
Well, the simple answer is that not everyone is used to a straight-comb stock. There is an entire generation of shooters out there who came up using pistol grip, AR-15 style stocks. Many of these shooters were first exposed to shooting when they joined the armed forces and to them the AR-15 is as much a familiar item as the bolt action rifles of my youth were to me.
In my hands, an AR-15 is a mess, ergonomically speaking. It feels strange, the controls are in funny spots and my cheek just can’t find a comfy place to sit. I’m sure if I handed an avid AR-15 shooter my 71 Winchester, the result would be the same.
When it comes to shooting, muscle memory and comfort are the two key components to smooth movement and accuracy. Your body works better with equipment it knows, and for many shooters that means a pistol grip stock.
The interesting thing about the current trend in stock design is that many companies are now making use of modern manufacturing techniques to offer models with both traditional and new-age pistol grip stocks.
Remington has begun offering the venerable Model 700 equipped with a “tactical chassis” stock, essentially the same old bolt gun everybody knows and loves mounted in an amalgam of synthetic and steel that closely mimics the look of the AR-15.
Savage currently offers several bolt gun models with AR-style stocks and my guess is that other companies like Ruger will soon get on the bandwagon.
For better or worse, the pistol grip “tactical” stock is here to stay. While I’m not going to be carrying a pistol-gripped hunting rifle any time soon, a lot of other people will because of their own preference, and if it makes them better shots then I’m all for it.
As ethical hunters and shooters, we should all use the equipment we’re most effective with, even if it does look a little odd next to our grandfather’s rifles.