Target shooter Thomas Bristow explains how a tailored stock and hamster will let a competitor get the best performance out of their rifle.
Nowadays most of the successful competition shooters use air rifles that are highly configurable. During the lockdown period I was fortunate enough to test out some of these amazing rifles that were kindly loaned to me by a friend.
Most manufacturers now offer adjustable stocks as standard. Although this maximises the chances of the stock fitting the shooter properly, all factory stocks are compromised to some extent in order to fit most people. It is impossible for manufacturers to offer different variations of size in a factory offering, and because of this many competitive target shooters opt to invest in a custom stock.
In all shooting disciplines it is vital that the shooter is accustomed to their equipment. In most cases consistency means accuracy, and therefore the addition of a custom stock is extremely beneficial. Benchrest shooters will often try to touch the stock as little as possible. Doing so decreases the amount of physical interaction with the rifle and therefore reduces the amount of human error.
One of the rifles I was fortunate enough to test was a 12 ft-lb RAT Works-converted Anschutz 9015. A popular choice amongst target shooters, these premium rifles promise pinpoint accuracy, as I soon found out. It was dressed in a custom grey laminate stock made by Tommy Bennet at Tilley’s gun stocks. Although the stock was not designed to my exact specifications, my bodily dimensions are not too dissimilar to the owner’s, so I was extremely comfortable when shooting the rifle. Immediately the level of detail and hard work that had gone into the stock was noticeable.
Having a custom stock guides the shooter into the most comfortable position for every shot they take. It is the combination of a world-class Anschutz 4K trigger and a precisely machined barrelled action in a stock designed to fit the shooter’s anatomy that enables these rifles to flourish in their disciplines.
Unlike Benchrest, Hunter Field Target and Field Target require a different type of stock. In most cases an adjustable stock is a must for top-level performance. The rifles I was loaned were for Field Target and Benchrest. As I mostly shoot HFT, I was able to make a good comparison between the stocks and how they differentiate from one another.
A dedicated Field Target rifle requires a fully adjustable stock, and this is something that the Walther LG400 boasts. The aluminium stock was surprisingly lightweight and adjustable in every way possible. A matching aluminium butt plate with hook is used to take some of the weight of your rifle, and it helps to keep it steady.
The butt hook can be positioned to sit firmly into the shooter’s shoulder, offering more support in standing and kneeling shots. After shooting the rifle for some time muscle memory kicked in and I was able to subconsciously get into the correct position for every shot – and I was extremely comfortable in doing so.
Unlike the stock on the Walther LG400, where the weight was distributed evenly, like most HFT stocks the majority of the weight on my TM1000 is towards the back of the rifle. This helps for kneeling shots and makes the rifle more bearable for standing shots. The thumbhole grip is comfortable and urges the shooter into the correct trigger position, providing consistently accurate results.
The addition of a matching red/black laminate hamster offers more stability for standing and kneeling shots, along with providing a platform to elevate the rifle whilst shooting prone. Even small additions like a hamster can really help in disciplines like HFT and FT.
As the name suggests, I use my Air Arms HFT500 for HFT, therefore the installation of one of Tommy’s hamsters was critical in balancing out the rifle, as well as enhancing my skeletal structure to offer more support in standing and kneeling shots.
Hamsters are used to add much-needed extra height at the forend of the stock just in front of the trigger.
This extra height makes elevated shots much easier, which is something a shooter may struggle with if they were using a stock with a fairly shallow forend.
Even though the stock on my HFT500 is standard it offers huge amounts of adjustability and versatility, ensuring it is comfortable and enjoyable to shoot.
Being in tune with your equipment is vital, but it is up to the individual to learn their rifle in order to get the most from it. The addition of a custom stock can hugely benefit the shooter, allowing them to thrive in whatever discipline they take part in.
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