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Rifle Chassis & Stocks – What The Pros Use

There has been more innovation surrounding rifle chassis and stocks in the past 5 years than any other component of precision shooting! A large part of that was driven by competition and R&D for military contracts, like the Precision Sniper Rifle contract, but now the precision rifle community is benefiting from the hard work companies continue to put in that direction. It’s an exciting time to be shooting precision rifles! It seems like cool new chassis come out every year, and 2015 was no exception.

I recently surveyed the top 100 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and this post reviews the rifle chassis and stocks those elite shooters were using in 2015. 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 from 300 to 1200 yards. These world-class shooters represent the best of the best in terms of long-range shooting in field conditions. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are, or to view what other gear they’re running scroll to the bottom of this article.

This is one of several posts based on that gear survey of the top PRS shooters. Want to be the first to know when the next set of results is posted? Sign-up to receive new posts via email.

Best Rifle Chassis & Stocks

Here are the chassis and stocks the top 100 competitors were running this year. These are grouped by where each shooter finished overall. For example, if they finished in the top 10 then you’ll see a black bar. If they finished between 11 and 20, that is represented by a dark blue bar, etc. Essentially the darker the bar, the higher up the shooters finished that are included in that bar.

Best Rifle Chassis

Manners Stocks

Manners Stocks were the most popular for the 2nd year in a row … and this year by a really wide margin. Up until last year, McMillan’s fiberglass stocks were the most popular. In 2014, Manners edged them out, but it was pretty even. But in 2015, you can see Manners took a pretty commanding lead. There were twice as many people using Manners stocks as any other brand. About 1/3 of the shooters in the top 100 were using Manners stocks, and almost 40% of the shooters in the top 50 were using Manners stocks.

Of the shooters using Manners stocks, 42% were using one of Manners new Elite Tactical models featuring a 100% aircraft grade carbon fiber shell. I used one of those on my precision rifle build last year, and you can read my review for more details on that carbon fiber stock. The other competitors were using Manner’s traditional shells, which are made with 35% carbon fiber and 65% fiberglass in multiple layers. They are hand laid with high temperature epoxy resins, placed under a vacuum, and heat cured to get the perfect resin to fabric weight ratio.

Here is a look at Manner’s most popular tactical stock options: the Manners T6A, Manners T4A, Manners T2A, and Manners T5A.

Manners Tactical Stocks

Manners even makes a folding stock, and 3 shooters were using one of their folding models. Here is a look at the Manners Elite Tactical Folder that I built a precision rifle on last year. It features the 100% carbon fiber shell. You can read the full review for more details on this stock.

Manners Folding StockManners Elite Tactical Stock

McMillan Tactical Stock

McMillan stocks hung on to the #2 spot, with a very respectable representation. 67% of the shooters were using the popular McMillan A5 Stock, including one shooter in the top 10. But there were 2 other McMillan stocks represented in the top 10:

  • McMillan A3-5 Stock – This is a combination of the A3 and the A5 stocks. According to McMillan, the lightweight A-3 stock is “the most widely used field sniper stock available.” The A3-5 is the same lightweight stock, with the addition of an A-5 style butt hook. I’ve weighed McMillan short action stocks in both A5 and A3-5, and the A3-5 was almost 1 pound lighter. Compared to the A5, the A3-5 has a slimmer forend, which shaves some weight. But, I was talking to Jim See (placed 6th overall in 2015) about stocks, and he shared one reason he prefers the A5 design is because the wide beavertail forend happens to be about the same width as a 56mm objective lens on a scope. So if he is shooting off a barricade or out a window, he can hold the forend and scope against the side of the window or barricade, and because the stock and scope are the same width … his rifle will be level (if what he’s bracing against is level). Honestly, I don’t know if I’d have ever thought about a little detail like that. I guess that’s why Jim has finished among the top 20 every year … and not me!
    McMillan A5 Stock vs McMillan A3-5 Stock
  • McMillan Baker Special Stock – The Baker Special was designed by high power shooter Billie Baker. It includes with an adjustable cheek rest, but is only available with a blind magazine. There are options for a 2-way or 3-way buttplate and a forend rail.

There was also one shooter in the top 100 who was using a McMillan A4 Stock. Here is a look at all 4 of the McMillan stocks represented in the top 100:

McMillan Tactical Stocks

Accuracy International

There were also a large number of Accuracy International Chassis System (AICS) represented among the top shooters this year. Most of the shooters were running the legendary AICS Classic chassis. I noticed in photos from some of the PRS matches that a couple of the shooters were running the AICS Classis chassis with Victor Company’s ViperSkins. Because the AI is a chassis design with plastic stock sides, the Viper Skins replace the factory stock sides with some that are more modern like the AT & AX designs. If you’d like to see more details on the Victor Company Viper Skins, check out a full review I did on ViperSkins.

There were also a few shooters running the AICS AX chassis (4 were using the Pre-2014 model, and 3 were using the more recent model). There was also 2 shooters using the AICS AT chassis.

Accuracy International Chassis AICS

Manners, McMillan, and Accuracy International made up 67% of the stocks and chassis used by the top 100 shooters. The rest of the shooters were spread across a range of stocks and chassis. These other designs are also very capable, and have a lot of compelling and innovative features. Here is a quick review of the other stocks and chassis represented among the top 100 shooters:

J. Allen JAE-700 Stock

6 shooters in the top 100 were using stock from J. Allen, including one shooter in the top 20 and 2 more in the top 50. Their most popular model is the JAE-700, which is pictured below.

J Allan JAE-700 Stock

XLR Chassis

5 shooters were using an XLR chassis, including 2 in the top 10! 4 of the 5 were running the XLR Element chassis, and 1 shooter was running the XLR Carbon chassis. The 2 in the top 10 were both using the XLR Element chassis.

XLR Chassis Element Carbon

KMW Stock

5 shooters were using the KMW Sentinel Combat Stock, including 2 shooters in the top 50.

KMW Sentinel Combat Stock

McRees Precision Stock

3 shooters were using a McRees Precision Stock. 1 shooters said they were using the McRees Precision G7 Rifle Stock, 1 shooter indicated they were using a G5 side folding model, and one shooter said they were using “Gen4,” which may have been a previous version of this stock.

McRees Precision Stock

Desert Tech SRS-A1 Chassis

2 shooters were using the Desert Tech DTA SRS-A1 Chassis, which features a compact, bullpup design. 1 of the shooters finished in the top 20 and the other finished in the top 50.

Desert Tech Chassis

KRG Whiskey 3 Chassis

2 shooters were running the KRG Whiskey 3 Chassis by the Kinetic Research Group, including one shooter in the top 50.

KRG Whiskey 3 Chassis

Rock Solid Stock

2 shooters were running the Rock Solid Stock, including one shooter in the top 50.

Rock Solid Stock

JP AMCS Chassis

1 shooter was running the JP Advanced Modular Chassis System (AMCS) from JP Enterprises, and he finished in the top 50.

JP ACMS Chassis

Ashbury Precision Chassis

1 shooter was running the Ashbury Precision SABER-FORSST Modular Rifle Chassis System. This is a pretty interesting chassis, which I hadn’t seen before this year. It is a modular, folding chassis with a ton of features and options.

Ashbury Precision Chassis

Kelbly KTS Stock

1 shooter was running the Kelbly KTS stock.

Kelbly KTS Stock

Masterpiece Arms BA Chassis

1 shooter was using the Masterpiece Arms BA Chassis, which was another very cool chassis that I hadn’t seen until this year. Man, it’s a fun time to be a precision rifle shooter!

Masterpiece Arms Chassis

Folding Chassis & Folding Stocks

Many of these chassis and stocks have options for either folding or a fixed stock. So I was interested to know how many guys opted to use a folding design. I suspected most were running fixed stocks, but the results were interesting.

Folding Chassis and Folding Stocks

There was not a single shooter in the top 10 using a folding stock, and only 2 shooters in the top 20 had folding stocks. But outside of the top 20, folding chassis and stocks were far more popular with 1 in 3 shooters using them. I’m not implying some shooters didn’t place in the top 10 because they were using a folding stock, but this is an interesting correlation.

I can appreciate the convenience of a folding stock, and personally own a Manner’s folder and an Accuracy International folder. But I realize most of benefit of the folding feature is convenience during transport and cleaning, and it doesn’t provide tangible benefits while shooting in the field. The metal hinge in a folding stock will always add weight compared to their non-folding counterparts, and that could make maneuvering and off-hand shots slightly more difficult. Folding stocks also cost more than fixed stocks. All of these factors likely play into why fixed, non-folding stocks and chassis are more popular among these top PRS shooters.

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:

Meet The Pros

You 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.

Watch PRS In ActionThe 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. These matches aren’t shot from a bench or even on a square range. They feature practical, real-world field conditions, and even some improvised barricades and obstacles to increase the difficulty from hard to you-have-to-be-kidding-me. You won’t be able to take all shots from a prone position, and time stressors keep you from getting to comfortable. Typical target ranges are from 300 to 1200 yards, but each PRS match has a unique personality with creative stages that challenge different aspects of precision shooting. You might start off the day with a single cold bore shot on a small target at 400 yards, then at the next stage make a 1400 yard shot through 3 distinct winds across a canyon, then try to hit a golf ball on a string at 164 yards with no backstop to help you spot misses (can’t make that up), then see how many times you can ring an small 6” target at 1000 yards in 30 seconds, next shoot off a roof top at 10”, 8”, and 6” targets at 600 yards, followed by a speed drill on 1” targets at 200 yards and repeated at 7 yards … plus 10 other stages, and then come back tomorrow and do some more! Many stages involve some type of gaming strategy, and physical fitness can also come into play. For a shooter to place well in multiple matches, they must be an extremely well-rounded shooter who is capable of getting rounds on target in virtually any circumstance.

There are about 15 national-level PRS matches each year. At the end of the year the match scores are evaluated and the top ranked shooters are invited to compete head-to-head in the PRS Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the championship, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 100 shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Wade Stuteville of Stuteville Precision, Jim See of Center Shot Rifles, Matt Parry of Parry Custom Gun, Aaron Roberts of Roberts Precision Rifles, shooters from the US Army Marksmanship Unit, and many other world-class shooters.

Think of the best shooter you know … it’s actually very unlikely that person is good enough to break into the top 100. I know I’m not! I competed against a few of these guys for the first time earlier this year, and I was humbled. It’s incredible what these guys can do with a rifle. For example, the match in Oklahoma I was in had a station that required you to engage 4 steel targets scattered at random distances from 300 to 800 yards, and you only had 15 seconds! I think I hit 2, and rushed my 3rd shot. I didn’t even get the 4th shot off! But, one of these guys cleaned that stage with 4 seconds to spare! Yep, he got 4 rounds on target at distance in 11 seconds. That’s the caliber of shooter we’re talking about. It’s very different from benchrest or F-class competitions, but make no mistake … these guys are serious marksmen.

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? or watch this video to see it in action.

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. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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46 comments

  1. Nice summary. But you know what would be good for a follow up article – a table comparing the stock weights and ergonomics. The weight issue is obvious, especially when new guys are building “belly benchrest” rigs that only perform off a bipod.

    Ergonomics refers to the practical use of the stock in a range of different scenarios and positions. Can you use this stock shooting in the Hawkins position, the supine/lay back position, the prone supported position and off a tripod with the same amount of effort and achieve the requisite level of accuracy?

    • I agree, that would be a great follow-up. Unfortunately manufacturers don’t publish that kind of information in a way that makes it possible to compare. You can’t even find weights for most of these, which is really frustrating. I think some kind of stock and chassis field test would be a great idea, but it may be hard to get one of each of these stocks. Doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying! I may try to go around and talk to all the manufacturers at SHOT Show this year and see if that’s an option. That way I could weigh them all myself to make sure it’s all apples-to-apples. For example, most of the chassis include bottom metal … but many of the stocks require you to add bottom metal. So for it to be fair, it seems like you should add the bottom metal weight to all of the stocks. That’s why I weighed the McMillan A5 and A3-5 stocks like that.

      Thanks for the suggestion! You’ve got my wheels turning!

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Stock/chassis weights would be interesting, but more so in the context of the entire PRS setup. Are the top ten or twenty in the 12-15 lbs range, or the 15-18 lbs range? How much of that is stock? Barrel? Scope?

      • Great questions. I’ve been weighing stuff like that for a couple years now, with the hopes to eventually make a tool where you could pick and choose a stock, action, barrel length & contour, scope and mount, and mix and match to see what optimize for the weight you’re looking for. But I don’t have enough of the parts for it to be very complete at this point. I’ve just really taken everything apart that me and a good friend of mine own and weighed it. That’s why I had the photos of the A5 and the A3-5 stocks on the scale. We own a lot of stuff, but it’s not even close to complete enough to for that tool to be very helpful. Unless I know the weights of all these different chassis, and I don’t trust published manufacturer numbers … if even everyone did publish them. I’ve learned most people lie are optimistic in marketing materials.

        I’d guess most people are in the 14-17 lb. range loaded with optics. I’m sure there are some below that and some above it, but I’d bet the majority fall in that range. That’s a guess, but I’ve weighed a lot of stuff and know a lot about their rigs … so it’s an educated guess. Here is a little info that might be helpful:

        • Surgeon 591R Action: 34.6 oz.(includes bolt and tactical knob)
        • 22″ Bartlein Heavy Palma: 71.3 oz. (chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, no flutes)
        • McMillan A5: 74.9 oz (includes Surgeon bottom metal)
        • McMillan A3-5: 60.6 oz (includes Badger bottom metal)
        • Manners Elite Tactical Folder: 74.3 oz. (steel hinge, includes Surgeon bottom metal)
        • AICS 2.0 Folding Chassis: 79.9 oz. (short action 308 model)
        • AICS 2.0 Folding Chassis w/ Upgrades: 92.8 oz. (with ViperSkins & Victor Company Cheekpiece, Surgeon Adjustable Buttplate)
        • Harris BRM-S Bipod: 13.4 oz.
        • AI 10rd Magazine: 9.0 oz. (empty)
        • TAB Gear Sling: 10.7 oz.
        • Sphur Scope Mount: 11.4 oz.
        • Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25×56 Scope: 39.7 oz.
        • Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 Scope: 38.7 oz.
        • Nightforce NXS 5.5-22×50 Scope: 31.5 oz.
        • Leupold Mark 6 3-18×44 Scope: 23.6 oz.

        Great question though. Hopefully I can provide more context and even that interactive tool at some point. None of us are running 50 pound benchrest rifles, so we’re all trying to strike the right balance between that and weight. So that tool seems like it’d be helpful to give you an idea of weight before you invest in a build.

        Thanks,
        Cal

      • Unfortunately you forgot quite frankly the best precision rifle chassis in the World. The Cadex Defence Chassis. Contact me for info. shawn@cadexinc.com

      • Sorry, Shawn. I do like your product … but I actually didn’t forget it. There just weren’t any of these top shooters running it. I’m just reporting the data here (hence the tagline of “A data-driven approach to precision rifles…”). I have a feeling the absence of such a capable chassis may be related to weight and price. These guys are forced to shoot in a lot of improvised positions, so weight can limit maneuverability and ability to hold a position. Of course, some guys are using the AI chassis, which is also heavy … but not a ton of them. I did look at the Cadex Field Tactical Chassis at SHOT Show, and that may be a popular option moving forward. It seems like it dropped some weight over the previous models. Honestly, I personally thought about picking one up to try out … which shows that I really do think they’re a capable product.

        But, the Cadex chassis are still priced higher than these other products. The flagship Dual Strike chassis is $2400, which is more than double what most of these run. I saw the Field Tactical Chassis is $1560, so that is a considerable improvement. So that is another thing that may help you guys appear in future results, but there just wasn’t a single guy who finished in the top 100 in the 2015 Precision Rifle Series that was running a Cadex chassis.

        By the way, I think I read that you guys helped design the Remington RACS-LW chassis, and I LOVE that chassis! I got to test a Remington PSR rifle for 6 months, and I miss it. It was very well thoughtout, and didn’t have any unnecessary weight. It’s my favorite chassis or stock that I’ve ever handled. Of course, it seems to be selling for $3000+ … so I guess it should be! But, regardless of price … that is some elegant engineering.

        Thanks,
        Cal

    • +1 on a weight chart. I was scrolling down looking for an email contact to request this when I saw the comment. Most chassis have similar features so really a big part of the selection comes down to looks and weight

  2. Great review as always, Cal. Something to keep in mind for the folding stock/chassis aspect here, is that for competitions like the PRS style events, folding isn’t a big deal. Where folding stocks really shine is in military applications or military sniper type competitions (like the sniper adventure challenge) where you’re gonna be moving over large amounts of terrain before actually taking a shot. The lower your silhouette and the less material you have that can hang up on something and damage you or your equipment pays off in dividends.

    • Great point, David. Makes sense to me! Like I mentioned, it’s beneficial for transport … but just doesn’t help you get more rounds on target. I appreciate you giving another perspective.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. Good article, Cal. I will take a while to read through it and fully absorb the content. Apropos of Richard’s comments, I would like to know if any of those stocks have adjustable pitch, i.e. if the butt plate can be angled back or forward to ensure proper fit against the shooter’s shoulder. If it cannot, the stock is essentially, a rather heavy prone stock, only. Some people can work with that but many, in my experience and obviously, that of Anschuetz, Gruenig und Elmiger, Feinwerbau, Walther, etc. do benefit from the ability to customize stock pitch. The Ruger 10-22 RB, the basic model, has always had a curved butt plate, for that reason.

    Keep up the good work, mate.

    • Well, I can see your point … but in these styles of matches, you typically don’t have time to adjust the stock for different shooting positions. I know other types of competitions are different, but on these you typically have your rifle setup in a way that would allow you to shoot prone or from improvised shooting positions. It’s whatever is thrown at you in the next stage, and on some stages there may be multiple positions that you need to engage targets from … and it’s all on the clock. So while I love adjustments, I’m not sure that would be as beneficial for these styles of practical, fast-paced, field-based matches as some other types of competitions. I’m not sure I’ve seen butt plates like you’re talking about in any of the matches I’ve been in. But, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be helpful! I appreciate the comments.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Cal
        You have missed my point. I was not talking about fiddling around with the butt plate during the match, which is something that shooters with prone stocks frequently have to do, when shooting in competitions BUT setting the rifle up at the start. The old hard rubber/plastic slightly concave butt plate that slides vertically in a convex groove is the most basic and useful of such devices, if you want/need adjustability. This is why Anschuetz still supplies it to customers. I had one on my first Match rifle, a Match 54; and I have one on a Walther that I picked up several years ago. It is also one reason why, the Brno Model 2 and the CZ 452 Military Trainer (essentially the same rifle) with their corrected pitched stocks are so much better than the CZ 453 and other rifles with lightweight-prone stocks in 4 position shooting competitions.

        Michael

      • I apologize, Michael. Sorry I misunderstood. I did think you were talking about adjusting the stock between different courses of fire like a High Power “across-the-course” Competitions (i.e. you fire 1 string standing, then later you fire 1 string kneeling or sitting, then later in the day fire 2 strings from the prone position … with plenty of time to make whatever adjustments you need between strings). A lot of people come into precision rifle competitions from that style of shooting, and while there are a lot of similarities … there are also a lot of differences. So I assumed you might be coming from that perspective, but apparently I was wrong. My bad. I am familiar with the style of stocks your referring to from Anschuetz. I appreciate your thoughts. With so many of these chassis moving to AR-style buttstocks and grips maybe that standardization would open a door for a 3rd party to come out with something like what your talking about. It’d be interesting to see.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  4. Where is Cadex listed. They make some finest on the market.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Milo. I actually commented about that on a Reddit forum after I published this post. There wasn’t a single shooter who reported using a Cadex stock. While they’re really great designs … they’re also really heavy … and really expensive. Even the Lite Strike (one of Cadex’s lightest chassis) is likely heavier than any other stock or chassis in this list. I was a huge fan of the Remington RACS-LW chassis when I reviewed the Remington PSR rifle, which was designed in conjunction with Cadex and integrates a lot of the features you see on their other chassis. In fact, I loved using the RACS-LW. I probably like it more than any other stock or chassis I’ve ever used. Bottom line is that they include a lot of nice to have features, and not need to have. All of those little touches make the chassis more enjoyable to use, but they all add weight too. If you’re just flopping down on your belly and taking shots from prone, then the weight is actually in your favor. But if you are having to maneuver through obstacles and take shots in improvised shooting positions … the weight is a liability. I just know a lot of these guys are very conscience about the rifle weight and balance.

      I’d bet the weight and the fact that it costs 2-5 times as much as the other products represented have something to do with the absence of a Cadex chassis from this list. Just my guess though! I’m with you. They do make outstanding products.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  5. I always like reading your articles
    Really great info
    I am starting myself with F-Class next month at 29 Palms, CA although not immediately with this level of equipment like these Pro’s use
    Just a moderate Savage 12 LRP 6.5 Creedmoor
    So more kind of a budget F-class competition shooter

    • Hey, Marc. That will definitely get you started, and probably take you a long way. I see a lot of guys that either 1) think they can’t get started without this same level of gear, or 2) they get this level of gear and are surprised when they figure out it doesn’t magically put rounds on target for them. I always say good gear can compliment a good shooter, but it will never make a good shooter. The only way to become a good shooter is through lots of practice putting rounds down range. So you’re set. That might even be the rifle I’d suggest to a friend to get started. Take it out to the range and put some time in behind it … then go get them, buddy!

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • I will for sure Cal !
        It’s gone be quite an adventure but I love to take some challenges
        Need to get into reloading since I already noticed that finding the 6.5 Creedmoor ammo isn’t that easy
        We’ll see how goes . . .

      • Hey, Marc. It can be tricky to find in-stock, but I use a tool called AmmoSeek to find places that have it. It also helps you find the place that has the lowest cost per round. You may already know about this, but I literally use it to buy all my ammo. Here is a link to 6.5 Creedmoor ammo:

        http://ammoseek.com/ammo/6.5mm-creedmoor/Hornady-rifle-140grains-?ikw=match

        If it doesn’t have anything listed, that doesn’t mean nobody has it in stock. Just Google the part number of the ammo you’re looking for. You might have to go through the first 5 pages of results, but I can typically find it in stock. But one of the tricks of using factory ammo is laying in a big supply, because there are variations lot to lot and that also helps tide you over during the occasional dry spell of ammo. I know that can be hard on a budget, so if that is not an option … reloading may be the best path. At least then you can control the consistency lot to lot. When your muzzle velocity can vary 50 fps from one batch of factory ammo to another, it can be really frustrating. You feel like you’re always chasing DOPE. I’m not sure there are many problems more frustrating than that. It can erode your confidence as a shooter, and that is a big part of this game.

        Best of luck to you!
        Cal

      • Starting with reloading seems to be one of my only options
        All new for me but we’ll get through this part as well
        Gonna start with the bullet seating depth and go from there

  6. Cal
    Great articles. …… Appreciate the info

    • You bet, Bobby. Glad you found it helpful. It seems like there are so many new designs coming out all the time, and that can make it hard to stay aware of all of them. This post at least provides you a high-level summary of what the experts and best shooters are using, and lets you scroll down the page and look at all of the different designs side-by-side. Just getting all these photos in a consistent format was a chore! I’m not a big guy on marketing, but most of these manufacturers could use a better marketing person! They just don’t make it easy to get to the photos and details about the products you need. I guess that is job security for me!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. 1. “Aircraft grade carbon fiber” means absolutely nothing. I don’t trust anyone using that term to know a single thing about composites. You mean the fiber used has also been using in aircraft? You mean the epoxies? The layup and vacuum or the prepreg process? There is not “grading” organization that puts a stamp on things as “aircraft grade” that’s a misleading term at best.

    2. Until Manners gets away from the absolutely horrendous molded in texture, I’ll know they aren’t a 21st century company. Anyone who has worked in composites can see right away all the issues and unattractive finish that molding in the texture like that leaves. The construction seems fine otherwise, but this is definitely not a high end carbon product relative to other similarly constructed products – it may be the best there is for rifle stocks – but that’s not saying a ton. I sort of expect someone to come in an eat Manner’s lunch at some point.

    • 1) Okay. Hey, I’m not a composites experts, so you might need to enlighten us. But it appears that this is actually a fairly widely used term to indicate the technical attributes of the material. It is also commonly referred to as “aerospace-grade carbon fiber,” but since Manners material says “aircraft grade” I thought it’d be best to use the same term in my content. It doesn’t seem to just be a marketing buzzword, but has a technical meaning in terms of performance. Here are some excerpts from a whitepaper entitled Assessing Industrial Capabilities for Carbon Fiber Production from DAU.mil.

      “Standard aerospace-grade structural carbon fiber tows are 3k, 6k and 12k.” … “A ‘tow’ is an untwisted bundle of continuous filaments, usually designated by a number followed by “k,” indicating
      multiplication by 1,000 (e.g., 12k tow has 12,000 filaments).”

      In fact, the NMS 818 Carbon Fiber Specification explicitly defines the qualifying attributes of “aerospace grade carbon fiber”. According to Hexcel, a leading manufacturer of advanced composites, “This allows customers to call out an industry standard, aerospace grade carbon fiber without the need to write and maintain their own specification.” That spec goes into a lot of detail on what qualifies a material to be referred to as aerospace carbon fiber, including tensile strength, percent elongation, density, twist, mass per unit length, and even how it should be spooled and stored. It seems exhaustive. It even spells out specific testing and auditing methods to test if the material meets the specifications. So I guess by Manners using that phrase, they are saying the carbon fiber they use meets or exceeds the “industry standard, aerospace grade carbon fiber without the need to write and maintain their own specification.” At least that would be my guess. Once again, I’m not an expert in composites … but I always assumed that referred to technical properties of the material, and there seems to be some good sources out there that confirm that to be true.

      2) Okay. If you don’t like the finish or the product, don’t buy it. But it seems like you might be a little biased against them. McMillan is their biggest competitor, since they make similar stocks, and McMillan explicitly says on their website: “All of the molded-in finishes below should be considered utility-grade. Mold lines, sanding marks, fiberglass cloth and small imperfections may be visible.” I’ve talked to people who said they sent a stock with imperfections back to McMillan only to have it returned with a comment reminding them that the stocks are “utility-grade.” So it doesn’t seem like this is a problem with Manners, but with mold-in finishes in general.

      It seems like you may have had a bad experience with Manners or just hard feelings towards them that has skewed your view a little. Just because you personally don’t like a product doesn’t mean its a loser. I try to keep that in mind, and remind myself of that constantly. Obviously there are a lot of experts out there that gave them a strong vote of confidence. Frankly, I value their opinion over your’s. I hope you understand.

      Thanks,
      Cal

      • Nope. Neither.

        Molding in a generic texture with big pockets and gaps is a very poor way to make a part. I see this as no different than using a belt sander to put a 90degree crown on a barrel, it’s just not done by professionals.

        It gets away in the gun stock world, but in other areas like high performance or OE-level automotive it would be laughed out of town.

        As to “aircraft grade”, yea, I could find lots of papers that say lots of things. Manners (not anyone else rifle stocks) are not “aircraft grade” anything. Hand laying some carbon and epxoy will not eventually get you F-22 components. It’s a cheap term used to mislead people.

      • Wow, JNZ. You seem to be a little biased on this topic. Buddy, if you don’t like it … don’t buy it. Vote with your wallet. It doesn’t mean you have to hate. That’s enough on this topic. I feel like you’ve stated your view, and I’ve tried to respond in a reasonable way. At this point, I won’t approve any more of your comments on this post. It’s not helpful.

        Thanks,
        Cal

  8. Good article. I enjoy seeing the trends every year. Interesting to see how different shooting disciplines source equipment differently. I mostly see Eliseo tube guns in their various single shot and repeater forms where I shoot. They seem very popular with the highpower, midrange, long range and Palma crowds; although, I am seeing more of those 20 lbs. on rests machines appearing to shoot F-class with the asymmetric flat bottoms used by benchresters to fight barrel torque incorporated in the designs. I did see an AI action in an AICS AX turn up last month all done up with an S&B scope in Spuhr rings. Cool looking $12k machine. First one I’ve seen.

    Have you thought about a survey of top 100 shooters by region to see if there to document any local patterns in equipment preference that vary in different parts of the country? Also, if the shooter’s rifle is single purpose for PRS or if it also serves as the shooter’s platform for other disciplines. I’ve always been curious to see how the differences or similarities are merging over time.

    Thanks.

    • Hey, Dennis. Glad you find this info interesting. And you bring up a very important point. I do believe there are localized trends. They’re very stark at times, but with the internet-age I bet that starts to become less prevalent. 20 years ago, most people didn’t know what guys were doing on the other side of the country … but now there is information everywhere! (At least that is what I’m trying to help with.) Think about it: with just a few clicks I can know what the weather is like in Austria right now! It wasn’t long ago when that was completely impossible. So while I expect that we’re moving to a more global world, there is certainly still a lot of fragmented pockets of shooters that all trend towards certain equipment. This is also very true for different shooting disciplines. In the benchrest world, many use barrels made by Shillen, Lilja, Hart, Broughton, PAC-NOR, and others. You don’t even see most of those names on the list of barrels used by the precision rifle crowd. And the High Power crowd, 3 Gun crowd, and F-Class crowd all have their own darlings as well. Does that mean the rifle barrels they’re using aren’t good ones? Absolutely not. I’ve talked to some veteran shootings in those other worlds that said they had’t even heard of Bartlein Barrels! Does it mean the ones we’re using aren’t as good? Absolutely not.

      It’s just human nature to specialize and hang out with people that enjoy the same things that we do. We aren’t motivated to learn from other disciplines. I try to fight that as much as I can by attending other types of competitions when I can or reading books written by people in the high power world or F-class world. This reminds me of a quote from C.S. Lewis: “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” He was saying that every generation can be an island and not value the lessons learns or perspectives from previous generations, and that’s unfortunate. Often that means we have to learn everything the hard way or repeat the same sins. It’s kind of like that. We choose to stay on our island and not ever visit the islands of others to see what we could learn from them … and that’s unfortunate. Honestly it comes down to humility and not seeing what you do as more elite or what you know as “the truth” and others just aren’t as smart as you are. I believe I can learn something from anyone. The greeter at Walmart has something they could teach me.

      The truth is this game can be expensive, and when we’re making a big investment in a rifle, barrel, stock, or other component … we are all a little worried that we’re going to make a bad decision. So it gives us comfort when we buy the same thing as the guy shooting next to us. We’re minimizing our risk of making the wrong choice and wasting a lot of money. And that is the root of the fragmented, localized trends. We’re just all afraid to branch out and try something new. It’s human nature.

      Sorry to get all philosophical on you! It would be very interesting if you could somehow get that data and visualize it on a map somehow, like what they do for a lot of political races. You’ve definitely got my mind turning! I appreciate the thoughtful comments and suggestion. I’m not sure if I can make it happen, but I am motivated to try to think of a way.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  9. Cal,
    Thanks for the great work. Appreciate the honesty and objective data reporting and look forward to reading each new post. There is one potentially important element missing or perhaps I’ve overlooked. Happens more as I age. Are the shooters sponsored? I’m sure most of the top competitors could do well with any of the quality equipment so I would expect their choices are possibly driven by costs unless they’re independently wealthy. Thanks again for the great work.

    • Hey, great question, Gary! Sponsorship may influence some choices, but I know a few of these guys personally … and they’re fierce competitors. You won’t land in the top 100 of the 1000+ competitors who shot in PRS-style matches this year if you aren’t really competitive. The guys I know couldn’t force themselves to use a product if they thought it somehow handicapped their chances. They’re too competitive to do that. In fact, I’ve heard one shooter in the top 10 turned down a sponsorship because of that. And while some of these guys are sponsored, many of the guys in the top 100 aren’t sponsored. That’s why I was excited to get results for the top 100 this year and not just the top 50. I’d bet the top 20 have some sponsors and it probably starts to taper pretty quickly beyond that.

      Last year, I had a survey question that asked what equipment guys paid out of pocket for, and that turned out to be a very offensive question to a few guys, or at the very least very politically charged. In fact, some guys refused to take the survey because of that. I honestly didn’t think it’d offend anyone … but it was clearly struck a nerve. So I deleted the question within a few minutes of it being sent out, and I’ll never ask that question again.

      All that to say that there probably is some influence of sponsorships in the data, so that is healthy to keep in mind … however, it’d probably be short-sided to think these guys aren’t running what they believe is the best equipment for the most part, especially over the entire 100 shooters.

      And you’re right … most of the top shooters could do well with any of the quality equipment. Great equipment can compliment a great shooter, but it doesn’t make a great shooter. Great shooters are only made putting lots of rounds down range. But these guys are REALLY into this, and while most aren’t independently wealthy … they do splurge invest in equipment. Many are actually gunsmiths and build their own rifle, although that isn’t the majority. This stuff is expensive, but it’s cheaper than a bass boat! At least that’s what I tell my wife! 😉

      Thanks,
      Cal

  10. Cal,

    Thanks for great article as always. I have quick question for this new chassis Tac21 from http://mdttac.com/. Have you tested/tried it? I read some good review on it.

    Thanks,
    Cuong

  11. Cal,
    Great read as always.
    Just curious, how many guys are using a bolt in and go type stock like the AICS, McRees, etc. and how many choose to have their stock bedded with pillars and whatever flavor of Devcon/Marine Tex is popular these days?
    Keep up the great work!
    Aaron

    • That’s a great question, and I’m not sure I can give you an answer. I’d bet most of the traditional stocks like Manners, McMillan, and Kelbly’s are bedded with Marine Tex. But Manner’s also offers a mini-chassis system, and I’m not sure how many of these guys were using that (if any). I also know some gunsmiths still bed under the tang of the action on an AICS chassis. It’s just a tiny little area, but guys at GA Precision and Surgeon told me they both do that. So I’m not sure whether to count something small like that or not. So I’m afraid I couldn’t tell you. But it’s a great question. I do think there is a trend toward chassis-based systems, and part of that might be to get around the bedding process. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  12. Good write-up Cal. There are more than 2 shooters running our chassis as we have a few that are sponsored and several that aren’t but maybe they didn’t fit the criteria somehow. Next year we are trying to add a section to the website for our shooters. We had spoken a bit on email before, we’d be happy to send over a chassis for comparison. We do post very detailed info on the website for guys that like to dig into that stuff. Our chassis are lightweight so we make sure that guys can see that info. Anyway, keep up the good work!
    Justin
    KRG

    • Thanks, Justin. The other shooters may not have landed in the top 100 overall, or there were a couple shooters who wouldn’t take the survey. This is all based on the guys who took the survey (which was over 90% of them), and ended up finishing in the top 100 in the overall rankings.

      And you guys do provide a ton of great info on your website. Thank you for that! When I do research for posts like this, it’s really frustrating when manufacturers don’t have much info online, and there are a handful that don’t even have a website (like Jewell Triggers and few of the top gunsmiths)! So thank you for the effort you guys put into your website.

      I’ve definitely thought about doing a chassis comparison, but just haven’t got there yet. When I do, you guys will be one of the first people I call. A friend of mine has your Whiskey 3 chassis, and from an engineering perspective … it is a work of art.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  13. Great writeup. Ive always been Impressed how well Mcmillan stock fit. They state there is no need for bedding. How about a test with a stock just dropped in and then bedded?

    • That’s what I thought! You know there is a book titled Rifle Accuracy Facts by Harold Vaughn (3rd Edition published in 2000) … and it is a treasure trove of test results from a researcher who led teams at Sandia National Laboratories for decades. It’s amazing. I’m reading back through it, and this excerpt jumped off the page at me recently:

      Contrary to all the grandiose claims, I can’t see a big difference in sporter accuracy between a good inletting job and epoxy bedding. However, it may make a small difference in the case of a sloppy factory bedding job. Since it won’t hurt anything, and may make you think you have done something good, you might as well epoxy bed the action if you feel like it. I have found a think coat of plain old Elmers epoxy to be as good as anything.

      I almost fell out of my chair when I read that. I love it! Bold claims from a respected researcher that just calls it like he sees it. Sounds like a plausible theory to me! Maybe we can test it at some point. Right now I’m working on a massive barrel test that is consuming most of my time, but stay tuned … the data looks pretty interesting!

      Thanks,
      Cal

  14. Hey Cal I am really pondering over a foldable Manners vs non folder. It seems like you enjoy your all carbon folder. Interested in your opinion, this will be a 22″ barrel build if that helps

    • A folding stock is convenient for cleaning and transport, but the hinge adds some weight. So it depends on the application, I guess. If you’re fully optimizing for field shooting … don’t go folder. If compact size matters for you, or weight doesn’t … go folder.

      Best of luck!
      Cal

  15. Hey Cal is there a way of knowing if most of tbe shooters prefer Butt Hooks? Also what is your opinion in them?

    • I’m not sure how you could tell that. I don’t know the specific model on all the stocks, so I’m not sure if you could figure that out. It all comes down to personal preference. I like them. I prefer them because I feel like they give me more control of the rifle. They allow me to pull the rifle into me, or jam the rear bag up into it. But, other guys like a sloped bottom, because they can slide the rifle forward or backwards for minor changes in elevation. There isn’t a right or wrong. Ideally you could try both, and see what you prefer. I’d bet most guys prefer the butt-hook, but that’s just a guess.

      Thanks,
      Cal