Laminated Rifle Stocks
Q: I like the look of the laminated wood stock on your Model 70 Winchester .300 WSM. It looks just like a standard walnut stock and not one of those green and brown monstrosities that are fitted to many sporters these days. What can you tell me about laminated stocks? What makes them so strong? Why are they more expansive than a standard walnut stock?
– Noel Henderson
A: Most of the laminated stocks supplied to commercial riflemakers are made by Rutland Plywood in Vermont, USA. As a rule they are comprised of 30 to 35 individual layers of 1/16th inch sheets of white birch. The pre-dried and dried sheets are epoxied together in huge thermal presses which apply tonnes of pressure while the adhesive cures. The only difference between turning a stock from a laminated blank instead of a walnut one is that the epoxy is hard on conventional tool-steel cutters and carbide must be used. This justifies much of the extra cost a laminate stock commands. As well as being stronger and more stable than traditional walnut, laminates can, and often are dyed any colour of the rainbow or in any combination e.g. black, brown, green. Like you I prefer an all-brown stock - the most conservative colour choice possible, like the one on my Model 70.
The laminate is as stable as a synthetic stock, and generally keeps shooting to the same point of impact month after month, even when taken into different climes. But laminate has it all over the synthetic stock in aesthetics - the warmth of wood and individuality - something traditional hunters simply hate to trade off. They don't like the cold feel and hollow sound and vibration that runs through synthetic stocks.