Shooting the Bull: Synthetic Stock Upgrade from Spam to Glam

2014-07-17T02:00:00Z Shooting the Bull: Synthetic Stock Upgrade from Spam to GlamRich Simpson Twin Falls Times-News
July 17, 2014 2:00 am  • 

Whether you love them or loathe them, synthetic gunstocks are here to stay. Even the most casual perusal of your local gun shop or big box store will reveal that the majority of the firearms available will be bolted into a synthetic stock of some sort. The odds are very good that your favorite model of centerfire or rimfire rifle, shotgun or even handgun is offered in a synthetic-stocked version.

This trend makes sense from both a practical and economic standpoint. First of all, most synthetic stocked firearms are suited up with relatively inexpensive injection-molded thermoplastic stocks. Once the manufacturer has amortized the initial costs of the molds, these babies can be cranked out by the truckload for just a couple of bucks per stock. That is a tremendous savings over harvesting, machining and finishing either a low-cost hardwood or pricey walnut stock. Those savings can be passed on to the consumer, and this accounts for the relatively low cost of most entry-level firearms.

Synthetic stocks are more environmentally stable than wooden handles; nonporous, they are less affected by changing temperatures and moisture out there in the real world. They are also materially stronger, and most would survive being flung from the scabbard should your pony suddenly become startled and get to bucking. And joy of joys, they will not warp and change your rifle’s point of impact while you’re trailing a herd of elk through snow-soaked black timber for two days.

The downside is that the lower-end synthetic stocks are not aesthetically pleasing. They tend to be rather blocky, most have visible molding lines, and they are usually available in only one color: black. But as I’ll illustrate today, with just a few simple tools, a modest expenditure and a bit of elbow grease, you can easily transform your bland utilitarian synthetic stock into a thing of beauty.

Pictured in the “before” and “after” photos are the objects of our attention: a friend’s solid gray Stevens Model 200 stock and my battered old Weatherby Fibermark .30-06, with the factory paint removed. The restoration process begins by roughing up the stocks’ exteriors with a piece of fine-grained sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. This will remove any previous finish, molding seams or imperfections, while texturing the surface for better paint adhesion. Next, carefully clean the stock surfaces and recesses with rubbing alcohol or acetone. In a well-ventilated area, lay down several thin coats of automotive enamel primer or a base coat of Krylon Fusion spray paint, which is formulated for plastics. Lay down successive coats until the desired color and texture are achieved. Complete your stock’s upgrade by applying multiple layers of a matte or glossy clear-coat finish.

Remember, these are paints and the finish can be touched up, modified or changed according to your fancy. Inspiration in the form of useful hints and tips is available online.

We’re in the summer hunting hiatus: the perfect time to customize and dress up the utility or scuffed high-grade synthetic stocks on your AR, shotguns or hunting rifles. Heck, even your drab economy wooden stocks would love a makeover. Be amazed as each is inexpensively transformed.

Rich Simpson may be reached at

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