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August 11, 2008

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Petzal: Like Peas in a Pod

"This rifle is mine. There are many others like it, but this one is mine…." The Creed of a United States Marine, written by MG William H. Rupertus, just after Pearl Harbor

The United States Marines, who know more about motivating men than just about anyone else, know that to a marksman, his rifle is a living thing with a personality all its own. Rudyard Kipling said it in a poem, "The Young British Soldier"

"When arf o' yer bullets fly wide in the ditch
don't call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch
she's as human as you are; you treat her as sich
an' she'll fight for the young British soldier"

Which brings us to the only problem I have with synthetic-stocked rifles--they lack personality. Even after you get to know their likes and dislikes, and put some history on them, one pretty much looks like another. You can put a memorable paint job on one, like the rifle Kenny Jarrett built for a former New York Yankee that was done in pinstripes, had a big baseball on the cheekpiece, and had YANKEES on the fore-end just in case you missed the point. I once had a rifle stock painted like vomit, and it was a very good rifle, but it's a lot of trouble to go to.

Even wood-stocked military rifles had personality. In basic training I once forgot I was supposed to be marching troops and stood gaping at an M-14 standing in the rack with a glorious piece of walnut for a stock. This caused SFC Kenneth Kane to say how disappointed he was in me, and how he very much hoped I would pay closer attention to what I was supposed to be doing in the future.

Wood ages with you. I have a .300 Weatherby stocked in walnut that has gone from blond to dark tan to golden brown in the 38 years I've used it. Fiberglass and graphite don't do that. They stay as they are…while you don't.


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Paul Wilke

I have a nice double(s/s), a fine 30-30 and a great 22. I will at some distant point in the future purchase the best figured walnut stock I can get for each of them. Not familiar with "plastic" stocks, but { have memories of vans painted with wild murals, wouldn't that be a great way to give some personality to a featureless stock? Sort of like the fine engraving on those wonderful shotguns.




I think I'll have my Rem 770 restocked with Hormel Pepperoni ... it's got a lousy action so I may as well eat it.


vomit? you got to be kidding me - Z

Thos. B. Fowler

Taste may be a personal thing, BUT...I cannot help but notice that a good-looking woman always has more friends and admirers than one who is plain, but serviceable. It may not be fair, but it is what it is.

What can take the place of beauty in a family heirloom, worthy of a King's envy?

Nice friends to shoot with, nice refreshment at the end of the day, and a nice piece of wood to admire in the corner, beside the sleeping dog.

Tom Fowler

Edward J. Palumbo

I remember when I used to define a good hunting rifle as a "marriage of wood and steel", but I admit that time, technology and practicality have gradually swayed me to willingly accept (even embrace) composite stocks. A beautifully figured wood stock falls just short of a king's ransom these days, and AAA Fancy walnut is no guarantee of stability from season to season. I relocated from southern California to the Northwest, and, though they still grouped tightly, many of my rifles very noticeably changed point of impact after years of stable performance.
I lastingly appreciate an attractive and carefully inletted wood stock. I admittedly have a weakness for Mannlicher-style stocks on carbines, short rifles. I sigh with sentimental regret when I recall Fajen and Bishop stocks in their heyday, but my new purchases and stock replacements seem to gravitate toward laminates and composites for one very practical reason: I highly value a rifle's ability to place 5 shots in a respectably tight group from one season to the next.
These days, most (not all) of my rifles are bolt action varminters. I have redefined a "beautiful rifle" to include new stock materials, and I don't consider it a compromise.
I agree with Dave's observation that wood ages with you, and every scratch earned over that rifle's hunting history is worth a story around the campfire. That's something with which composites can't compete. On the other hand, I've had some fine-looking rifles that were mediocre performers at best, and they've passed to other hands. I've had rifles with stocks with scratches and dings that were used and abused over time and were still very accurate. If you have a rifle that does all you ask of it when you do your part (Be honest!), then that rifle's a "keeper", whether in wood or composite.
Semper Fidelis.


I switched to synthetic when I about made myself sick with the scars I made on my M77 International with my climbing stand. I prefer the looks of the wood, but I hunt harder in synthetic. I'd rather sit in the rain with my Bell & Carson than come in so I don't mess up the wood.


Along with all of the good comments, I appreciate 3kidsdad's remarks. I'll never "go in" because it might mess up the wood. After one hunting season the stock on my Marlin 1895 looked like it'd been lost in a gravel pile for a while. I'm thinking that sanding off the Mar-shield finish and oiling it regularly for the rest of its life is the best idea -- and much more appealing than "being careful" in the rough and tumble woods that I have to frequent!

Steve Ferber

Dave, I know you live in New York State so I was amazed to read that you own synthetic-stocked rifles. Not that they're poor performers, because they are--tending not to change bullet impact because of weather changes...but because I thought only plastic Califormia allowed such plastic guns.

Steve Ferber

Senior moment...meant to say 'aren't'.

Del in KS

Do I prefer nice wood over synthetic? Does Howdy Doody have wooden balls? I just sold a gun with a glass stock. Only have one left. Love my longrifle with full curly Maple stock and all the others with Walnut. With a hand rubbed oil finish scratches are easy to repair. Syn is just plain ugly.


Hunted with a gent in my younger years that would absolutely drive you nuts!
"Don't hit my rifle!"
"Look out for my gun!"
I swear JS would have carried his rifle to the stand in a hard case if he hadn't taken the time to chop out a trail so a limb wouldn't scratch the urethane finish on his Weatherby!
A good oil finish like Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil is beautiful, resilient and easily touched up.
I'm not going to use a nice piece of walnut for a jack handle, but I have used a Mod 12 Win for a boat paddle!



My first centerfire rifle was a Remington 700 Classic. It came with a beautiful wood stock, which I put aside and replaced with an early Kevlar. I have now been through a Weatherby, a Ruger No. 1, some other 700s, a couple of Ruger 77s (some of which I still have, some are gone) and that first 700 remains the rifle I go deer hunting with, and because it has always been in its Kevlar that has become its personality. I occasionally put on the wood stock, and it's pretty, but it's not the rifle I know so well so the wood goes back on the shelf and it's the Kevlar that goes to the field with me.
(To show that I am wierd, however, I must say that all my shotguns are in wood and I positively do not like synthetic on a shotgun. Go figure.)

Clay Cooper

I had a picture of a Marine walking away past enemy bodies and a wall that was blown up on his left.

The caption read,

No war has never been won without the courage of the United States Marine Corps

They are the first ones in and the last to leave

My boss referred to them as idiots.

I think of them as?
On the Eighth day, God created the Marine!

Any questions!

I asked a young Marine back in 91 during Desert Storm why did he join the Marine Corps and not another branch of service?
He swelled up in pride then looked looked straight in my eyes and with a warm firm voice and said
To give my life so others may live Sir!

I love my M1A Ultra Match with McMillan Match Stock


Clay Cooper

I have a Model 700 BDL in 22-250 and after 35 years, I have worn off the Remington clear coat.

Del in KS


Where ya been man? Haven't heard from you in a while. You and RMH have been remiss in not posting often enough lately. It gits bohrin' 'round heah when you don' post. Oops I was born in Georgia and lapse back into southern speak sometimes. BTW Hawaiian Koa wood makes some pretty stocks.

 Dr. Ralph

wgp, that's not weird... all my shotguns are wood too. I think since they all have two piece stocks it doesn't matter so much and accuracy is not as critical.


I bought a Benelli SBE synthetic after I had to paddle my duck boat back to shore after running out of gas w/ my Ruger Red Label. That Ruger is a beutiful gun for pheasants and bunnies, but it didn't make a very good paddle.


Dave, I can't tell you how much I enjoy this site. Today's was outstanding! I'm sitting here, looking out the window of my cabin in Wrangell, Alaska, wishing that you were here with me, talking about such over a cup of coffee.

I'll be in Harrisburg, PA, in February. 'Hope to see you there again.


I bought a used LH Remington 700 BDL a couple of years ago. Beautiful wood stock that had been taken care of. Put a Nikon scope on it and at about 650-700 yds. put a round in the 6 in. black. I have not killed a deer with it yet, but another season is coming and this beauty will be with me on the hunt.


I found this forum after paging through an old copy of F&S sent to me here in Afghanistan by my mother-in-law (God bless her!)
For me, the beauty and personality of a firearm (or most things for that matter) is in the function and experiences had with it. I own and use both wood and synthetic stocked & gripped firearms, but my favorites are the synthetics. Granted I don't have much choice with my issue arms, but the memory of impressing the hell out of my ANA students with the accuracy of my M-4 from a moving truck vs. their AK-47s, and then teaching them to do it will endear it to me long after I have to give it back.
The synthetic stocked Remington 700 PSS tack-driver I’ve used for years in my SWAT sniper duties back home (and taken a few Whitetails with) has so much “personality” with me that I think I miss it more than my family ;-) When I think back to the literally thousands of rounds I’ve put through it, the grueling sniper courses I’ve gone through with it, the miles I’ve run with it, and the countless hours of call-outs I’ve frozen, sweated, and soaked with it, the bond I have with that rifle far outstrips the wood-stocked M1A Super-Match that preceded it. It’s also a heck of a lot more accurate!
I can’t imagine that the affection my son and I have for the Remington Model 700 Youth I bought for him a few years back could be any more if it had a wooden stock. We painted it camouflage together before his first hunt, sighted it in together, and he took his first buck with it. The scratches in the paint are battle scars from our hunting trips and a testament to his skill with it.
I own numerous wooden-stocked firearms, and some of them are quite attractive, but losing all of them wouldn’t sadden me as much as losing either one of those 700s.

Dr. Ralph

Welcome to the site 10-32... I have to agree it's the memories you have shared with a weapon that give it personality. Good post. Beauty cannot compare to the time and experiences brought back to life when you pick up your favorite rifle no matter how ugly, aged or worn it may be. It becomes a part of you.

Dave B.

Walnut vs. synthetic? Close your eyes and try to picture this: Imagine every Model 12 you've ever seen, then try to picture one with a synthetic stock. --

Me neither.

Rocky Mtn Hunter

I also have owned mny woden stocked firearms. When Rem came out with the 700 CDL in 06 I had to have one. THat was 4 ys ago and evry animal I have shot at with his gun has only taken l shot. Last year I put a sizeable dent in the bottom of the stock. I worked weeks tring to patch the deep dent and stain. Finally got it knda ok. I will never forget that dent. I;ve owned 2 Syn stocked guns, one a CVA B/P aand a new Marlin XL7 in 270. Not zeroed the 20 yet,as waiting on the Scope and mons to arrive. heseguns not prey but dotake a beating on teh 4 wheeler and haul around in the ruck. Can;t wait to see and compare eh shot lacementcompared to the 700 CDl and the Marlin. Plan to take both to Montana in Oc. for Elk, Deer, Lopes.Something abot wood that gives a so-so gun a new look. I got some firearms over 65 ys old, look as did when bought.Once you get a rifle zeroed in and it shoots to pint of Aim, best to keep that gun reardless of what comes out. Never wanted all the firearms, just one of each of what I liked. Now the new fiearms weigh so litle, a heavy caliber will emind you of your shot fordays. I want my hunting guns at 9-10 lbs fully equipted and loaded,with a Limbsaver pad, or etc. Like teh extra wt at the butt end, as can hold more steady with the added weight at my shoulder than at my off arm at the fore-end,.I also got a Custom Built, wod and metal witha Mauser action, that is my pride and joy, especially at the range, but it's my show and ell gun, not my hunting gun. To each his own, but till about 5 yrs ago, reminton 700's were the gun of choice for most hunters. Many Custom built guns, built on Rem action.. A littleused and talked about is the plain Jaee Savage #110,a good shooting gun with now frills. This Model makesa gret Custom job. The new Model l4 is alsoa great feeling gun and shoos well. My 700 CDl will put 3 hots within 2" at 200 yds all day after i allow the bbl to col down while I shoot other guns I take to he range to pratice with. Especially my 30-30 MArlin 336 and Classic 700 25-06 over 40 yrs old. Last year I used teh 25-06 and 30-06 in Wy adn MT,one shot kills in excess of 300 yds.If I cannot get the new MArlin to shot as well, the 25-06 will go again.Better by up Ammo as it's climbing daily, so is firearms. I plan to shop for used guns in Missoula,MT his fall for odd ball calibers which ae cheap out ther now. Everbody thinks they g to have a 300 or larger to hunt Elk/Deer, not so, just a well place shot will do fine. My neighbor huns with a Marlin 22 mag ,w-tails- and he shoots them between the eye and ear. Kills the limit in N.C. and Va yearly. I now use the Rem Scricco's but if not available will still use the famous Core-lokts in 150 or l80 Coe-lokts.Good hunting. Whats your take on a Uberti 44-40 for a side Arm in 5 l/2" bbl smoth Walnut grips ,case harden frame and blue metal? I wanted a gun not evryone had,s bugh this new one. I also go some 32Rim Fire 32's but ammo hard to find and costly. Shoot often and sraight. Kep the guns cleanand good working rder. I hand run down each of my hunting guns at the end of each days hunt and a good cleaning if in Snow or rain.O, even talking of guns/hunting, I can smell the rocky Mtns caling me, love the smell of Aspen and sage, better yet, the Odor of a herd of Elk.


My (most likely) future son-in-law came to visit a while back. This young man had never fired a gun in his life before visiting. We took a couple of handguns out, a new .45 ACP "black" gun and a very old single action Army original frame that my dad rebarrelled to .38 about 50 years ago or so. The young man fired both and shot well. But he said he liked the old revolver best. Why? Because the shiny new semi-auto, he said, had no personality.

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