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Custom Rifle Stocks – What The Pros Use

This post reviews the rifle stocks and chassis the best precision rifle shooters were using in 2014. The data is based on a survey of the top 50 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS). The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically in the 300-1000 yard range. This is the 3rd year we’ve collected this data. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are scroll to the bottom of this article.

Before I dive into the results, I wanted to share some photos I took during sight-in for the 2014 PRS Championship Match. Every shooter likes walking down the line to see what the other guys are running, right? So here’s a glimpse of the rifle setups of these elite marksmen.

Alright, on to the rifle stock/chassis results! Here is the overall popularity for each brand of precision rifle stock for 2014, as well as how those brands were represented in the previous 2 years.

Custom Rifle Stocks

Manners Composite Stocks was the top brand for the first time in 2014. Almost 30% of all the shooters who finished in the top 50 running a Manners stock. Even more impressive, 7 of the shooters who finished in the top 10 were running Manners stocks!

Here are the Manners stocks that were most popular among this group of shooters. Manners offers a ton of options that allow you to customize each of these models, including an adjustable cheek and folding stock.

Manners-Stocks

Many shooters were running the MCS-T6A model, which has a ton of the most popular features among long-range shooters: long vertical pistol grip with a palm swell, adjustable cheekrest, 1″ Pachmyer decelerator pad, and is able to accommodate large bull barrels. The foreend on the MCS-T6A has a slight taper. Earlier this year I was talking to Wade Stuteville, winner of the 2012 Precision Rifle Series, about a precision rifle build and he recommended a tapered forend to help when shooting off barricades or other improvised rests. Wade said if the forend is tapered, you can use that to your advantage, because you can slide the rifle forward or backwards on the rest to make minor vertical adjustments. However, if the forend is parallel to the bore, you have no such adjustment. The MCS-T4A was also very popular among this group, and is Manners bestselling tactical stock overall. It has similar features to the MCS-T6A, but has a wider foreend (2.5 inches wide) that runs parallel to the bore. Some shooters prefer a wider forend to ride sandbags. It also has a butt hook that can be used to ride bags or control your rifle with your non-trigger hand. There were also shooters who said they were running Manners MCS-T2AMCS-T5A, and MCS-T1 stocks.

3 shooters were running the new Manners Elite Tactical Stock, which was released earlier this year. Manners has been using carbon fiber in their stocks since the beginning, with their standard composite stocks are made with 35% aircraft grade carbon fiber and 65% fiber glass in multiple layers. But their new elite tactical line features a 100% carbon fiber shell. The strength to weight ratio of carbon fiber is off the charts compared to traditional stock materials. Engineers love it because carbon fiber is 5 times as strong as steel, 3 times as stiff, yet 70% lighter. When Tom Manners founded Manners Stocks in 2001, the 1st stock he developed was actually a 100% carbon fiber stock for 50bmg benchrest competitions. That stock still owns most of the 1000 yard 50bmg records. So this new line of Elite Tactical stocks has been both a throw back to the early days at Manners, and introduced a new level space-age technology to the tactical world at the same time.

Only 2 of the 14 shooters using Manners Stocks chose to go with the folding model. The hinge adds a few ounces of weight, which can become a handicap in this style of competition … although having a folding rifle can be convenient.

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
Manners Tactical Stock$500
Manners Tactical Stock with Adj. Cheekpiece$650
Manners Folding Tactical Stock$850
Option for 100% Carbon Fiber Fill (Elite Tactical)Add $150

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

McMillan Stocks had another strong representation in 2014. In previous years, about half the rifles were sporting McMillan stocks, but this year 27% of the top 50 shooters chose Macs. 11 out of the 13 competitors running McMillan stocks were using the McMillan A5 tactical stock. There was also 1 shooter running a McMillan Baker Special stock, and 1 shooter running the McMillan ALIAS rifle system.

McMillan Custom Rifle Stocks

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
McMillan A5 Stock$675
McMillan A5 Stock with Adj. Cheekpiece$875
McMillan Baker Special with Adj. Cheekpiece & 3-Way Butt Plate$875
McMillan ALIAS (only available as complete rifle)$7,000

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

McMillan and Manners combined to represent 55% of the shooters who ended up in the top 50. The remaining 45% were split among a few different systems.

Accuracy International chassis were used by 7 of these top competitors. 5 shooters were using the AICS AX chassis (pre-2014 model), and the other 2 were using the AICS Classic chassis. AI released a whole new lineup in 2014, but none of the shooters were sporting the new models yet. I’d expect to see some in the 2015 results. All 7 of these shooters were running a folding AI chassis.

AI Rifle Chassis

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
AICS Classic Folding Chassis$950
AICS AT Folding Chassis$1,135
AICS AX Folding Chassis (Pre-2014 Model)$1,230
AICS AX 2014 Folding Chassis$1,500

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

4 shooters were using the KMW Sentinel Combat Stock, which was designed and developed by Terry Cross, a very accomplished competitive shooter. KMW starts with a McMillan fiberglass stock designed to their specs, then proceeds to customize it with several cool pieces of hardware and peripherals. It is a very meticulously thought-out product.

KMW Stock

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
KMW Sentinel Combat Stock$1,250

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

3 shooters were using an XLR Chassis. XLR makes a few different chassis models, and 2 of the shooters who finished in the top 50 were running the XLR Element Chassis, and 1 was running the XLR Carbon Chassis. These are designed as a direct bolt-on replacement for most factory rifles “with no gunsmithing required.” Both chassis are adjustable for a customized fit. They have inlets for most rifle actions, but will also cut a custom inlet for no extra charge. They feature a 6061 T6 aluminum billet action block. The chassis includes an integrated detachable magazine system that supports AICS style mags.

XLR Rifle Chassis

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
XLR Element Chassis$600
XLR Carbon Chassis$900

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

3 shooters who finished in the top 50 were using the Desert Tech Stealth Recon Scout A1 Rifle Chassis (aka DTA SRS-A1). This chassis was designed to be the shortest purpose-built sniper rifle in the world. The bullpup configuration and telescoping bolt make it almost a foot shorter than conventional bolt rifles. The compact design shifts weight and center-of-gravity rearward. It is built of high-impact polymers, aircraft grade aluminum, high-strength steels, and durable coatings. The monolithic receiver serves as a full length mounting chassis, eliminating the need for any sort of receiver-to-stock bedding.

Desert Tactical Arms SRS A1 FDE FDE Rifle Chassis

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
DTA SRS-A1 Chassis$3,075

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

2 shooters were using the J. Allen JAE-700 stock. It was surprising for this to be the first year where this stock was represented. J Allen released the JAE 700 stock in 2012, and is purpose-built for a precision rifle. It features a full-length aluminum skeleton, with painted composite skins permanently attached. It has a hardened steel insert for the recoil luge. It also features an adjustable, quick-detach cheek-piece, and a ton of optional accessories that attach through various flushmount extensibility points like picatinny rails, palmrests, swivels, sling plates and swivels, etc.

J Allen JAE-700 Rifle Stock

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
Base J. Allen JAE-700$700
J. Allen JAE-700 with Adj. Cheekpiece$850

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

Then there was one shooter in the top 50 using each of the following stocks:

JP AMCS (Advanced Modular Chassis System) – The JP AMCS was designed to bring the ergonomics of AR platforms to a bolt gun. The folding butt stock is fully adjustable, including the cheek piece. It has a tactical grip with palm shelf. The ambidextrous, extended magazine release allows the shooter to perform a magazine change without relinquishing the shooting grip. The chassis is completely machined from 6061 T6 aircraft-grade aluminum with the mil-standard black hard-coat anodizing process. The chassis will accept any Remington 700 right-hand short action, as well as Savage short action rifles. It features QD studs for bipod or sling systems, and is designed to accept the Accu-Shot Monopod system. It uses JP magazines, which will hold 10 rounds of any 308-based cartridge with an COAL of 2.82″ or less.

JP AMCS Advanced Modular Chassis System

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
JP ACMS Modular Chassis$1,100

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

Remington Defense RACS (Remington Accessory Chassis System) – This chassis was born out of the race for the US military’s Precision Sniper Rifle (PSR) contract, which was a catalyst for a lot of innovation around precision rifle stocks and chassis. In the end, Big Green was awarded the contract for the Remington XM2010 Sniper Rifle System. The Remington RACS is reported to be the civilian production version of the XM2010 and newer MSR chassis. The RACS features a folding stock, with adjustable cheekpiece, LOP, and buttplate height/cant/cast-off. This stock accepts AI magazines.

Remington RACS Stock PSR XM2010 Chassis

While several online reports have indicated Remington does plan to release this chassis for sale to civilians … that has yet to happen. In fact, they haven’t released any pricing and it isn’t currently available for purchase through any retailer. There is some speculation online that the price will be around $1,800 when/if it is released. I’ve tried to contact Remington to get the latest update on this, and had yet to hear back from them by the time this went to press. If I do get any info, I will post an update here.

Rock Solid Stocks – Rock Solid stocks are a full one-piece aluminum stock. Rock Solid’s concept is one-piece design with fewer bolts will equate to less failures and more consistent shots. The only screws on it are for the pistol grip, buttstock spacers, cheekpiece adjustment, and action screws. There isn’t a lot of info out there on this stock, but Sin City Precision provides a good review of this stock.

Rock Solid Stocks

Stock ModelApprox. Starting Price*
Rock Solid Stock$750

*All prices are as of December 2014, and are ballpark street prices for informational purposes. Prices are subject to change without notice. Contact manufacturers directly for current pricing.

Meet The Pros

2014 Precision Rifle Series LogoYou know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.

The PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. At the end of each year, the scores from around 15 different national matches are evaluated and the top shooters are invited to compete head to head in the PRS Season Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the finale, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 50+ shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are also considered experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Francis Kuehl, Wade Stuteville, the GAP Team, the Surgeon Rifles Team, shooters from the US Army Marksmenship Unit, and many other world-class shooters. Thanks to Rich Emmons for allowing me to share this info. To find out more about the PRS, check out What Is The Precision Rifle Series?

Other “What The Pros Use” Articles

This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:

Enjoy this type of data-driven information? That’s what this website is all about. Sign-up to receive new posts via email.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. His engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and ability to present technical and complex information in a unbiased and straight-forward fashion has quickly caught the attention of the industry. For more info on Cal, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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21 comments

  1. Thanks for all of your time in putting all of this info together. Do you know is anyone was running the mini chassis on their manners stock?

    • Thanks, Bill. I don’t know if any of the guys were running the mini chassis on their Manners. I didn’t ask that question, but I might add that to the survey for next year. I’ve had a couple people ask me that same thing. I would expect that most of the guys went with more traditional bedding, but that is just my gut feeling. I see the chassis idea focused on the DIY crowd, essentially the guys who want to upgrade their stock with “no gunsmithing required.” The v-block chassis concept provides consistent support and reduces the skill level required to upgrade a stock on a precision rifle. I still know that a few guys (both Surgeon and GA Precision) still bed the tang area on the AI chassis, so obviously it isn’t completely foolproof. Most of these guys either are competent gunsmiths themselves, or they have all of their work done by one of the top gunsmiths in the country … so I’d expect that they trusted those guys to bed the stock. But, as always … I’d prefer to have hard data on it, rather than a gut feeling. So maybe we’ll ask next year.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  2. One thing I personally would find interesting is knowing what hearing protection the pros use and whether the choice is affected by the use of a sound suppressor.

    • Great question. I’m not sure I can help much, but you can look at the photos and see what a few of those guys were using. The low-cost Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff is really popular, which is no big surprise. I’m sure you’ve seen it around, and probably own a pair. I also saw some MSA Supreme Pro Earmuffs, Pro Ears Gold Earmuffs, and 3M Peltor Tactical Earmuffs. The Howard Leight Impact Sports were by far the most popular muffs, followed by the MSA Supreme Pro. I have no idea what kind of ear buds those guys were using.

      That is a good question about whether the choice was impacted by whether they use a suppressor or not. I know most guys don’t use a suppressor in the competition, so even if you didn’t wear strong hearing protection for your gun … you probably need it for the guys around you. But that’s a good question, that I can’t answer. Maybe some of those guys can chime in to help us on this.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Love the site even though looking at it makes me want to sell a kidney and buy everything. My question is how many guys were left hand shooters and do you know what stocks they were using.

    • Went back and looked at hundreds of pics I took at the 2014 PRS Championship and I could find 4 lefties in the group. That is probably what you’d expect. Studies suggest 10% of the population are left handed, so that is in the right ballpark. I recognized 2 of the 4 were running Defiance actions, which are available in left-handed models. I couldn’t tell what the other actions were in the photos.

      Left-Handed Rifle

  4. What brand (where to buy) of cartridge carrier are they using? Some of the shooters have a two round cartridge holder mounted just under the ejection port on the right hand side. It looks like a handy place to keep a couple rounds.

  5. Cal from what I can see there is no low light/ night shooting. It would be interesting to see how these shooters deal with that. I know that opens a whole new can of worms in terms of mounting, night vision-day scope interoperability and a variety of other concerns. Also, do you know if any of the courses of fire involve a hostage rescue shot? This is a core function of any sniper, especially in police work. It would also be interesting to see any challenging close up shots (like 35 yards) which is a pretty realistic distance for a police sniper in a typical city environment. Lastly it would really be interesting to see if there was any decision making for the shots, otherwise it is just a fast paced marksmanship competition.

    • Well, Art, that’s a complicated question. The format of PRS matches can vary pretty significantly from match-to-match. So while the PRS Championship Match didn’t involve night shooting, I can’t say none of the matches did. I don’t think there were any that required shooters to have nightvision gear, but I bet there were some that involved low-light and maybe even night shooting.

      I’m sure some of the matches had hostage shots. I’ve even shot in matches that includes a steel hostage target like the one in the photo below. You must hit the red circle without hitting the silhouette in front (the red circle will swing to the other side when hit).

      Steel Hostage Target

      I know some of the PRS matches involve very close target engagements (under 100 yards), but I’m not sure on the distance. I’ve even heard of shots at 25 yards. Most guys don’t know their dope at 25 yards.

      There is DEFINITELY strategy in these competitions. Ray Sanchez says you have to be a serious gamer to good in this game, and he’s right. Now, I’m not sure what type of decisions you’re talking about. Some of the PRS matches in the past had a “know your limits” stage, where you shot targets of diminishing sizes. Smaller targets were worth more points, but if you ever missed … you lost all your points. So the idea was that you had to know when to stop. But even beyond that, there are some matches where it is unlikely or even unrealistic that you’ll find every target or have time to engage them all … so the best shooters have a strategy for how they’ll attack each stage, what targets they’ll engage first, and how much time they’ll spend doing different stuff. There are usually time stressors involved, so like I said … you have to be a gamer. People who aren’t good at strategy don’t make it to the championship.

  6. GREAT JOB ON THIS! i was up until 2am reading this, have you thought about triggers and who is using what?

    • Hey, Tom. Glad you enjoyed the reading! I didn’t ask about triggers, but already added it as a question for next years survey. I bet most the guys are running Jewell triggers, with Timney not far behind. But that’s just a guess. Maybe I can get some hard data for the 2015 results.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. Cal,

    So let me preface this by saying this might be a dumb question. Why don’t more shooters use a quick change barrel platform like the Desert Tech or Accuracy International? Given that a lot of these guys burn through barrels pretty fast I would think it would be an advantage. Yet, I see that most of them are running a more “traditional” rifle. Am I missing something or is there an advantage I don’t know about with the “traditional” style gun over the quick barrel change and caliber change rifles?

    Kyle

    • Hey, Kyle. I’d hate to speculate on why these guys don’t do it. I can really only speak for myself, and I don’t find myself needing to switch a barrel quickly in the field very often. That is really the situation when a barrel swap system like the PSR rifles offer a ton of value. Changing out a traditional barrel in your shop can be done in less than 15 minutes, and is a fairly simple operation. You need a couple specialized tools to do it (like an action wrench and barrel vise), but those can be had for under $200. While you need a very competant gunsmith to chamber and thread the barrel … screwing one on and off is something I feel comfortable doing, and I’m not a gunsmith. Once a gunsmith has made measurements of your rifle, he can ship you a barrel or you can keep a couple spare in your safe that you can just screw on when you need them.

      While there are a ton of different designs out there with different benefits … the revolutionary thing about most barrel-swap PSR style rifles is they allow you to quickly change between drastically different cartridges (cartridges that are typically short action, long action, XL action, and all having different bolt faces, magazine sizes, etc.). PSR rifles also have little features to make changing the barrel easier, like allowing you to remove/install the barrel without having to remove things like the handgaurd, or being able to do it with a single torx wrench that is stored on the rifle itself. Some claim these cartridge changes can be made in less than 60 seconds!!! Wow.

      Don’t get me wrong … that is cool stuff, and I wish I had one! I’d take AI’s PSR … if only it wasn’t $18,200! But I’m not sure what scenario I’d be in where I actually needed all that flexibility. When I shoot out a barrel, I typically go back with a new barrel chambered for the same cartridge … or at the very least another short action cartridge based on the 308 or 250 Savage case. So I just don’t need the flexibility to change out the bolt face, action size, magazine size, etc.

      Plus, there are actually a few downsides to the added flexibility of being able to rebarrel to any cartridge, and that is it’s not really optimized for any cartridge. Some implementations of this style of rifle make you take the full bolt draw like you would on a 338, even when you’re shooting a short action cartridge like the 308. On others, the magazines are huge and they just add spacers when you’re using small cartridges. So essentially you’re always carrying around a huge 338 magazine. All of the precision rifles among the top 50 competitors in the Precision Rifle Series are built on short actions. That means we’d potentially have to put up with a few things that are inconvenient, for very little upside (if any).

      It definitely doesn’t have anything to do with those rifles not being as accurate … at least not in my opinion. So if you need that added flexibility (or can simply afford such a cool toy) … you should go for it! I hope to have on in my safe one day, but that will probably only happen if someone gives me one or they come down in price dramatically. It at least isn’t completely unreasonable that this type of approach becomes more mainstream over time. Hope this helps!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  8. Cal,

    Do you know what bottom metal most of the guys were running on the manners or mcmillan stocks?

    • I don’t have any data on that, but I went back and looked at a bunch of photos I took as these competitors were sighting for the PRS Championship match. It looked like the majority were either using Badger or Surgeon bottom metal.

      I would have guessed that Badger would be more popular, because of the high number of Manners stocks. I purchased a Manners stock for my latest precision rifle build, and asked them to install Surgeon bottom metal … and it seemed like they didn’t get that request a lot. Their template for the inlay was actually off, because apparently at some point in the past Surgeon changed their bottom metal and Manners never got an update. The guys at Surgeon couldn’t even remember when that change was made, which made it seem like it was a long time ago and maybe Manners just didn’t install a lot of Surgeon bottom metal. Surgeon Rifles does seem to use a lot of McMillan stocks, and GA Precision uses a lot of Manners stocks. Obviously Surgeon installs Surgeon bottom metal, and most GA Precision rigs I’ve seen on these kinds of rifles use Badger bottom metal.

      Here is an excerpt from an article on my custom 6XC competition rifle that explains some of the cool benefits of the Surgeon bottom metal design:

      This bottom metal was originally designed by Terry Cross for the KMW Sentinel Combat Stock. It may appear like a simple part, but a ton of thought was put into this design. Here is a little description about the bottom metal and magazine system for the Sentinel design:

      “The conformal magazine release is easier to use, more damage resistant, and more snag resistant than most other DBM systems. This magazine release is accessible with gloves on and minimizes the chance of accidental magazine loss. Forward sides of the trigger guard are recessed to allow maximum access to the magazine release while still protecting this part from damage. The funneled mag well offers greatly improved insertion of the magazine into the weapon compared to other systems currently on the market. The stock and DBM system offers maximum vertical support of the magazine for reliable and repeatable positioning of the rounds in relation to the receiver’s feed ramp. All inside and outside edges of this unit are radiused so that there are no sharp edges.”

      The KMW Sentinel rifle stock features a proprietary McMillan stock, which wraps around the bottom metal mag well in a unique way.

      Surgeon started with Terry’s bottom metal design, but modded it to work in a standard McMillan stock. An unintended side-effect of this approach was it left a shelf in front of the magazine, which actually turned into a cool feature. That part actually acts as a stop/block protecting the front of the magazine. If you’re resting the rifle on a barricade, you can sometimes get a more stable position if you slide the rifle forward and lean into the barricade. This is especially true when standing. It’s common for detachable box magazine (DBM) systems to not have that protection in front of the magazine, which means you are jamming the magazine into the barricade. The weight and subsequent force from recoil can damage the magazine, and possibly even dislodge it. Not cool when an AI magazine costs $90. But with the Surgeon magazine system, the tough bottom metal would be taking the load/impact and not the magazine.

      Here is a pic of my rifle that shows the Surgeon bottom metal:

      Surgeon Bottom Metal

      I did see some other bottom metal being used on these guy’s rifles, but couldn’t recognize what brand it was. But it seemed pretty obvious Badger and Surgeon were the overwhelming favorites among this crowd.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. Arthur G Barkley Jr

    Can the XLR chassis be fitted to a.Ruger 700ml MG bolt action?