Judging by appearance alone, the earliest synthetics stocks would have to be considered the ugly stepchildren of the gun industry. The injection molded types, typified by the black Mattel stocks on our Vietnam-bound M16’s were colorized by adding a drab black dye to the molten plastic before molding. Ugly they may have been, but their outstanding performance in the dank, drenched jungles of the Mekong spelled the eventual doom of traditional steel/walnut firearms and the advent of a new stocking material by the world’s military.
State-side, injection molded stocks began to be fabricated in hunting rifle and shotgun configurations. About the same time, the high-precision junkies of the bench rest set started to experiment with hand-laid fiberglass versions. If I remember clearly, these primitive fiberglass concoctions first appeared in two different guises: either as unadorned, crudely-fashioned pieces with visible fiber weave layers or as sleek, smoothly-finished sirens, with outer skins painted in sparkling rainbow colors certain to make any self-respecting unicorn blush in envy. In those early days, appearance-wise, there seemed to be little neutral ground.
But putting outward appearance aside for a moment, it must be realized that it was the unparalleled performance of the synthetics in the field and at the target range that secured their place in the annals of modern firearms manufacturing. In a word, synthetic stocks are here to stay. It’s thrilling to watch their continued evolution as firearms manufacturers around the world expand their inventories to include advanced synthetically-stocked models.
In my last column, I stated that regardless of what type of stock you owned — homogenous wood or a laminate — the finishing procedures that I outlined would work equally well. The same principle holds true with the two types of synthetics that we’re discussing today.
Inspection, assessment and structural repair
Again, under a brilliant light source, carefully examine the interior and exterior surfaces noting any type of physical damage (cracks, chips, fractures). The beauty of synthetic stocks is that most traumas can be easily and effectively repaired with an application of two-part epoxy or a specialized bedding compound. I’ve had great success with Locktite Heavy Duty 2 part epoxy, Brownell’s Acraglas Gel, and Score High Pro-Bed 2000.
At this stage, I often take the opportunity to stabilize and add rigidity to my injection molded stocks by filling the forend channel voids (often with reinforcing baffles) with a layer of epoxy. Where possible, I also embed an appropriately-sized threaded steel rod into the bottom of the epoxy mixture for extra rigidity and to help resist temperature-induced warpage!
As is the case with wooden stocks, the synthetics can be enhanced by applying a number of different durable finishes.
The two most durable finishes currently available are also, not surprisingly, the most expensive. The first, Cerakote, is a thin-film ceramic-based spray coating that’s available in an almost endless array of colors and color combinations. Properly applied, it can be used on wood, metal, alloy, and plastic surfaces. This gives the end user the option of finishing both the stock and barreled action with the same attractive, ultra-tough, corrosion and abrasion-resistant colored and clear finish material. Be creative: produce a custom finish that best matches your firearms’ particular hunting or tactical applications.
Check out their website at www.cerekotefirearms.com for the location of a certified applicator near you or purchase a do-it-yourself kit from a distributor, like MidwayUSA (www.midwayusa) or Brownells at www.brownells.com .
Another popular, but less costly and much less durable paint finish, is Duracoat from Laurer Custom Weaponry. Factory-certified applicators are available or you can do it yourself with commercial spray equipment (and factory supplied paints) or by using their convenient aerosol rattle cans. The huge color pallet, as well as, their diverse camo tape and stencil kits can make any visual pattern you desire a reality.
Due to a rather restricted budget, most of my painting/refinishing work on synthetic stocks has been done with locally sourced aerosol spray paints. My favorites are the Krylon and Rust-oleum rattle can paints. With a bit of experimentation and experience, anyone can create a marvelous, semi-durable custom stock finish. The paints themselves (even after sufficient dry time) are somewhat fragile to both use and abuse, but can be readily fortified by applying a tough clear coat overlayer. The most durable overcoat that I’ve ever used is Brownell’s Acra-Coat for Wood. This formulation works equally well protecting both wooden and synthetic stock finishes. For my next paint job, I am going to experiment with applying the ‘spider web’ effect paints. These marbleizing paints are tough to find locally, but I’ve tracked them down two varieties on Amazon: Krylon Marbleizing paint and the German-produced Montana Can marbleizing paints.
Another plastic stock finish that I’ve yet to try is do-it-yourself spray paint hydro-dipping. Inexpensive and easily accomplished, this method appears to be capable of putting wonderfully interesting custom patterns on gun handles. Check out the methodology and results on YouTube. I like the video put together by OneEyeBehindACamera.
Well, there you have it: several methods for giving your synthetic stocks a custom applications-based paint job. Interested in personalizing and jazzing up your own synthetic stocks? Don’t be scared, give it a try!