Rifle chassis and stocks continue to advance at a rapid pace, as creative entrepreneurs bring new products to market and every company is in an arms race to release new features that allow us to get more steady from barricades or other improvised shooting positions. Stocks and chassis have become serious tools in the hands of a marksmen, and they can provide a competitive advantage if you know what you’re doing. Never in history has there been more competition in this space, and in the end that means we as shooters all win!
I recently surveyed the top ranked shooters in both the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and the National Rifle League (NRL) to learn what gear they’re running in long range rifle matches. (Learn about the PRS & NRL.) This data represents 150 of the best precision rifle shooters in the country. This post will focus on what they chose for their rifle stock or chassis. (View other What The Pros Use articles)
Most Popular Rifle Chassis & Stocks
Let’s dive straight into the data! There were a few interesting trends this year, so let’s look at a summary of the various brands of rifle stocks and chassis this group of elite shooters were running:
The various colors on the chart represent the league and rank of the shooters. For example, black indicates shooters who finished in the top 10 in the PRS, dark blue is those who finished 11-25 in the PRS, and the lighter the blue, the further out they finished in PRS Open Division season standings. The green colors represents the top shooters in the NRL, where the darkest green is the top 10, medium green is 11-25, and light green are 26th to 50th. The legend on the chart itemizes the league and ranks each color represents, but basically the darker the color, the higher up the shooters placed.
The Masterpiece Arms Competition Chassis took the #1 spot, with 27% of these top shooters running their innovative and feature-packed chassis. This is the first year a chassis has been the most popular among these shooters. I’ve been publishing this data since the 2012 season, and ever since then either Manners or McMillan stocks have been in the lead. However, I didn’t publish the data last year, but it was pretty obvious as you went to matches that Masterpiece Arms had picked up significant market share. This year, Masterpiece had good representation across the board, including 3 of the top 10 shooters in both the PRS and NRL using their chassis. And for good reason!
The Masterpeice Arms Competition Chassis is absolutely packed with innovative features. They pioneered the full-length arca-swiss rail, which allows you to clamp in directly to a tripod or run your bipod directly in front of the magwell to get a steady rest on a very small surface. They also pioneered an extensible forend that allows you to mount a variety of barricade stops and accessories at virtually any location. They also offer an “Enhanced Vertical Grip” with a thumbshelf that is very comfortable and popular among this crowd. The truth is most of these ideas came from these top shooters, because the guy behind it is one of them. Phil Cashin and the MPA team are constantly soliciting feedback from shooters and then rapidly prototyping and deploying new features at a dizzying pace. With how quickly they’re releasing features, their commitment to “Forward Compatibility” is valuable. A primary drive of their design criteria is to ensure their future innovations can be retrofitted to previous versions of the chassis, meaning you can send them the MPA chassis you bought a couple of years ago, and they’ll add all the new features for $100 or less! I went into a lot more detail on the MPA Competition Chassis in a recent post on my personal twin 6mm Match Rifles, so check that out if you’re interested in learning more. The street price for the MPA Competition Chassis is currently $920.
Manners Stocks was the 2nd most popular brand this year, representing 17% of these shooters. Manners has been one of the most trusted brands among top shooters for a long time, finishing as the 1st or 2nd most popular stock or chassis for more years than any other brand. This was the first year that I surveyed both the NRL and PRS, and it was interesting to see that Manners Stocks were far more popular in the PRS than the NRL, for whatever reason. Manners represented 23% of the top PRS shooters, compared to 4% among those at the top in the NRL.
Manners stocks are made from advanced composites, for the perfect balance of both stiffness and weight. Manners offers more options and stock customizations than any other brand, including some that feature a 100% carbon fiber shell. They also offer a lot of advanced features you might not expect on a traditional stock, like MPA’s barricade system integrated into the forend, arca-swiss rail attachments for connecting directly to a tripod, and many other options. Manners tactical stocks with detachable box magazine (DBM) systems typically run $850-1250, depending on the options you choose.
Foundation Stocks were also very popular among these top shooters this year, with 15% of these top shooters running one of their stocks. Foundation Stocks may be the newest brand on this list, but obviously has already been widely received among this group. This is especially true in the PRS, where Foundation had an 18% market share among the top shooters, compared to 8% in the NRL. That could be due to the fact that this product is still fairly new, and hasn’t made it into some shooting circles.
The Foundation Stock is precision machined from micarta, which is a durable material used in some knife handles and is formed through combining layers of material and resin with intense heat and pressure. Foundation says the high-compression strength of their material allows them to build an action/DBM specific stock that requires no bedding or pillars! The dense material doesn’t have any air pockets, which is a common issue on other composite stocks, and the structure and density of the material allows them to finely machine structural geometry into the stock to create a balanced stock while maintaining high levels of strength and rigidity. These stocks typically feature a 11.25” Anschutz Rail along the bottom of the forend for mounting accessories, like bipods, barricade stops, arca-swiss rails, etc. Another cool feature is you can personalize the cheek rest with custom engraving to personalize your rig. The look of the Foundation Stocks is very distinct, and I think they’re really sharp in person, but it’s hard to capture in a photo … which is why I provided a few high-res photos below that I tried to color correct and get the contrast as similar as possible to what they look like in person. They’re now available in a few finishes (light, dark, distressed, etc.). Foundation stocks currently start at $1,180.
The XLR Chassis was the next most popular brand, with 12% of these shooters choosing to run one of their chassis. It shouldn’t be surprising that the XLR Envy Chassis is popular among this group, because it was designed based on feedback from some of these top shooters. It has several integral features that are handy, including a bubble level, a 5.5” picatinny rail for a bipod, and an arca-swiss dovetail mount on the forend just forward of the magazine for mounting to a tripod or using other accessories. The forend also features several M-LOK compatible mount locations and flush cup sling swivels. The XLR chassis is packed with features, but the coolest thing may be the price. The XLR Envy Chassis with tactical buttstock is $780 as shown below, making it the lowest priced option on this list so far.
The J Allen Chassis was the next most popular brand, representing 8% of these top shooters. The J Allen Chassis is touted by some shooters as the most comfortable stock/chassis they’ve ever used. Their distinctive design is available in a variety of colors and configurations, but at $1,900 they’re the most expensive product on this list.
Accuracy International was also popular among these shooters, with 7% of them choosing to run an AI chassis. AI has made rifle chassis longer than just about any other company on the market, and their products are in active use by some of the most elite military units around the world. The Accuracy International AIAX Chassis (shown below) is priced at $1660 for a short action version.
The KRG Chassis was used by 5% of these shooters. Their flagship precision rifle chassis is the KRG Whiskey-3 Chassis, which very well-designed and packed with features. It is very adjustable, and weighs a pound less than most other chassis in this list, making it a great option for those who might want to use it for competitions and hunting applications. While the forend isn’t as extensible as the MPA chassis, it does have a few mounting locations for barricade stops, picatinny rails, tripod mounts, and other accessories. The KRG Whiskey 3 Chassis starts at $900, but I’d also make mention of the KRG Bravo Chassis which starts at $350. The Bravo doesn’t have all the advanced features of the Whiskey 3, but it has most of the “must-have” features and is arguably the best value of any precision rifle stock/chassis on the market. I’d bet most of these shooters were using the Whiskey-3 chassis, but the Bravo chassis is great option for those on a tight budget.
Behind those was a list of other capable stocks and chassis, but they simply weren’t used by as many of these top shooters, for whatever reason. The MDT ACC Chassis and McMillan tactical stocks were each used by 4 of these top shooters. Kelbly’s Stocks and the KMW Sentinel Stock were both used by 2 shooters. Finally, the Desert Tech Chassis, H-S Precision Stocks, and McRees Precision Chassis were each used by 1 shooter.
Stock vs. Chassis
I’ve been publishing data on what the top precision rifle shooters have run since 2012, and stocks like Manners and McMillan have always been the leader. Yet many of these guys have converted over to chassis, and this was the first year the most popular overall was a chassis. Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of guys who love their stock, but there are more significant numbers running chassis than ever before. This certainly isn’t the first year chassis have been represented in significant numbers, but I wanted to point out some interesting data related to the “stock vs. chassis” trends. Here’s a high-level breakdown of those using chassis from any brand compared to those using stocks from any brand:
You can see the top shooters in the NRL strongly prefer chassis, with 82% of the top 50 shooters surveyed running one of the brands of chassis. The PRS is more balanced, but there is still 8% more of the top 125 shooters in the PRS Open Division running chassis. The style of shooting is not significantly different between matches in the two leagues, so this may largely be due to regional variation. For example, I’d bet your group of shooting buddies uses more or less of particular products (maybe what bipod you all use, or scope mount, or even stock/chassis) than compared to the national population, partly because of “groupthink” and partly because it takes a while for everyone to become aware of a new advancement and convert over.
A big contributor to this was how popular both Manners stocks and Foundation stocks were in the PRS. Manners and Foundation combined to represent 41% of the top shooters in the PRS, but only represented 12% among the top shooters in the NRL.
The rising popularity of chassis could be related to the fact that shooters seem to be preferring heavier rifles these days, as we saw in the last post where I showed data for total rifle weights. Traditionally chassis are heavier than stocks, although there are a few lightweight chassis (like those from KRG), and companies like Manners have options to make their stocks as heavy as you’d like (like they do for Benchrest stocks). The new Foundation Stock is also very heavy compared to traditional stocks. But then again, companies like MPA have to innovate by releasing weight tuning kits for their chassis, which allows you to customize the weight to the application. Going hunting? Remove all the weights for a rifle that weighs about the same as most tactical stocks. Going to a competition? Add a variety of weights to both the forend and buttstock to increase the weight and tune the balance of the rifle.
One of the huge draws to a rifle chassis are features like an integral dovetail cut, which allows you to clamp your rifle directly to a tripod for a very solid rest. Once again, this was an innovation originally from MPA, but companies like XLR have started integrating dovetail cuts into their chassis as well. At the same time, companies like Area 419 offer arca-swiss rails that can be added to the forend of a stock, providing the same value as an integral cut. And as I mentioned earlier, companies like Manners have even figured out ways to offer the MPA barricade stop system on a traditional stock.
Another draw to rifle chassis for these types of precision rifles is that they don’t require bedding like traditional stocks. Bedding a rifle creates a precise fit between the stock and the action, which eliminates stress on the action and provides a solid foundation for the ultimate shot-to-shot consistency. But that is a specialized step that most people would pay a gunsmith to do. With a chassis, you can simply drop in a barreled action, screw it down, and go shoot. Some chassis are even precision cut for a specific action, which provides much of the benefit of a custom bedding job, without the hassle or expense. Of course that being said, some shooters may still bed a chassis to try to get the absolute best precision out of their rifle. Whether it’s “worth the hassle” to do that on a chassis or not probably depends on who you talk to. However, Manners Stocks offers a “mini chassis” option on their stocks that provides similar benefit, and Foundation Stocks can be specifically cut for a specific action/DBM system so that they can skip the bedding process as well.
Manners stocks and Foundation stocks both seem to be keeping in-step with the rapid innovation happening right now around rifle chassis. However, most stock manufacturers have fallen behind on features, which has led to companies like McMillan and H-S Precision showing up in very few numbers among this crowd. Now that doesn’t mean stocks from those companies aren’t still a good option. They’re still very popular in the hunting and Benchrest worlds, as well as other shooting disciplines. It just seems like Manners and Foundation are creating some serious distance between them and other stock companies, because of how creative and driven they’ve been over the last few years in continuing to provide for the needs of the long range competitive shooter.
If you think about all the innovation around stocks and chassis in the past 5 years alone, it’s staggering. To see what I mean, go check out the What The Pros Use article from 2013 for stocks. Just glancing at the photos of the products compared to the ones in this post will give you a pretty clear picture of how much this area has changed. I believe the most significant improvement and innovation related to precision rifle products in the past 5 years is probably around stocks and rifle chassis, which is pretty awesome to see. The new products definitely help you get steady in a variety of scenarios that would have been extremely difficult, if not down-right impossible, a few years ago. Like I always say: When companies compete in the market, we as shooters all win!
A: “Learn one rifle system and caliber for at least a year and become as proficient as possible with it before switching. Know your load, scope, chassis/stock, ballistics, mags, etc. like the back of your hand and you’ll be surprised how far you can go. Also shore up as much as you can with it to make it as reliable as possible. Buy the best/most reliable glass you can afford. Reliability and tracking trumps all else though. Take some rifle classes with a reputable instructor as good training will be more important than randomly sending lead down range at paper trying to find a load that won’t really matter in the long run. Also if you are going to reload find a load that shoots sub moa with single digit SD’s instead of one that shoots a 1/4 moa only sometimes.” – Dan Bertocchini, 23rd Overall in NRL
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