Sunday, March 25, 2012

Choate Tactical Rifle Stocks - Drop in Review

Seeing as my .308 savage has been delivering some exemplary performance of late, I decided it was time to invest in a bit of a stock upgrade. I don't have the budget to justify something like a mcmillan or AI stock, so my choices fell to Choate or Bell and Carlson and frankly I like the looks and the molded in bedding block of the Choate a lot more than the other option. The wrist and butt of the stock are hollow as well, another important feature I will elaborate on a bit later.

Thus far this rifle has been used almost exclusively for longer range target kinds of things (mostly steel shooting, but also the occasional spray paint can or light bulb) and, continuing in that vein, it was time to add a little heft to the overall package.First step was an overhaul of my shooting peripherals (front rest got a new sand bag with heavy sand, new rear bag also with heavy sand, harris bipod with some goodies, a few handloading gadgets to wring just a little more out of each shot...) which turned out to be very easy and very modestly priced. With the local stock of Benchmark drying up a number of months ago, I also made the big jump to Varget for all my .308 loads; I'm not convinced that this is a good thing,as the groupings for these new loads are sufficient but not particularly remarkable. Time will tell...

At any rate, since this baby is making her living alternately riding the bags or astride a bipod, there would be no harm adding a bit of heft to the back end in order to balance out that heavy contour varmint barrel. Step one, I got ahold of 4lbs of lead weights (medium sized split shot fishing weights this time, since there was a sale at the local wally's) and what I thought to be a sufficient volume of epoxy. This would turn out to be a wildly inaccurate estimate, but would turn out ok in the end.

Step 2, pop the recoil pad and spacers off the back and the cover off the base of the grip (all this is done before installing the barreled action or the magazine, mind you) and pumping a small amount of silicon window sealer into the bottom of the hollow in the wrist of the stock (this is done because there is space for the epoxy to flow into the butt; sealing it alleviates the mess and hassle).

Step 3, mix enough epoxy to halfway fill the inside of the grip and poor it in. Add lead weights up to the level of the epoxy. Continue filling depending on your intended final weight; I filled the whole thing with lead, but if you prefer a bit less weight or a center of gravity a bit further to the rear you can minimize the lead in the grip and fill the empty space with silicon. Replace the grip cover.

Step 4, secure the stock tip down in a padded vise preferably with a good work light overhead or a bright flashlight. Again, mix enough epoxy to fill the butt about half way then add weights. If you are filling it all the way to the tippy top like I did, make sure you have enough epoxy to do the job. I ended up using almost 16 fluid ounces by the time it was all said and done, so plan to buy extra. Even if you arent filling the whole thing with weight, make sure you fill the voids in the stock in one of two ways.

1. You can fill the whole thing with epoxy up to the level of the side sling attachment points (there is a bar running through the middle that will hold the weight/epoxy in place through any recoil).
2. Fill half the butt with epoxy and weight and allow it to cure over night. Fill the rest of the space with silicone or some other filler. the tricky part of doing it this way is that your center of mass is a lot further forward than the first method, though you end up with a much lighter rifle.

Step 5, allow everything to set and cure, then reattach the spacers and recoil pad before installing your barreled action. All said and done, this package floats around the 14lb mark (rifle, glass, mounting hardware and bipod), rides the bags very comfortably and the muzzle disturbance on recoil is much, much more agreeable.

Good stuff: This is a very good budget level stock that can be easily accurized and modified by someone with a knowledge of hand tools and a modicum of common sense. It is not meant to be the end all varmint or tactical stock; it is a mid-level upgrade from an okay-ish factory stock, and in that role it performs beautifully. I won't say it stands up to a Mcmillan or other high grade custom stock since I have no significant experience with those, but it is still comfortable to shoot and the price tag is much less painful for us lower-middle class shooters. The anschutz style rail on the forend is a nice touch, with lots of options for bipods, hand stops and what-have-you.

Bad Stuff: If you're going to do the lead and epoxy trick, remember to plug the gap between the grip and the butt. I forgot the first time out and made a royal fucking mess of my work bench. The molding is a bit of a pain if the manufacturer didn't happen to be doing a good job of checking quality control that day; the stock I received had the bedding block molded into it alright, by which I mean the fucking thing was covered in molded plastic that I had to carefully remove with a razor to achieve a tight fit with the receiver. Also, note that the forend is much much wider than your average sporter; even compared to the factory varmint stock I had been using, this thing is freaking huge (to the point it dictated placing an order for a new sand-bag for ye olde front mech rest).

Overall: Good mid grade stock. Nothing that's going to win championships, but for the odd day at the range or a friendly local distance shoot it is perfectly at home. Won't break the bank, and it hasn't hurt the accuracy I had before the upgrade, plus the added weight and significant change in center-of-mass makes it much easier to handle at the range. At 14.5lbs I sure as hell wouldn't take it hunting with me, but for a day of plastering the 500m+ steels, it will do just fine.

1 comment:

  1. You know, that was one of the best reviews I have read on this product. It answered all the questions I had and then it answered the ones I didn't have going in. Don't know if I'll ever add weight but knowing that I can and how to do it is valuable stuff. Thanks man, I appreciate your words.