- Stocks Explained
In this article, we will try to answer the most common questions that arise when choosing a rifle stock. There are two basic types of rifle stocks for the AR platform, fixed and adjustable. Other options like pistol braces, PDWs and pistol buffer tubes will be covered as well. When selecting a stock, there’s a dizzying array of varieties available and some options provide the best of both worlds between a fixed and an adjustable stock. The good thing is, there are tons of different stocks available on the market, so finding one to fit your needs is possible. The bad thing is, there are tons of different stocks and it can be difficult finding that perfect stock.
Fixed stocks, no matter how basic or fancy, offer a rock solid installation, where the stock has no wiggle or rattle whatsoever. While fixed stocks at the upper end of the price spectrum offer adjustable length of pull and cheek weld, the biggest advantage is that the rifle always feels the same to the shooter. A fixed stock guarantees that when you shoulder the rifle, the shooter’s cheek always lands in the same place, and not inadvertently on the buffer tube. Since there aren't provisions for adjustability, fixed stocks are very sturdy and won't rattle around or hang loose. Some offer monopod attachments, making the stock act as a stabilizing system (similar to a bipod on the front end of the rifle.)
Adjustable stocks are also available at almost any price point. The simpler ones have one adjustment lever and can be adjusted to 6 or 7 different positions, depending on the model. There are many different styles of adjustable stocks to serve whatever purpose you need it for. From very basic setups, to fully adjustable precision stocks, there is something for just about everyone. Since there are so many styles and they are more popular than fixed stocks, most of the content here will cover adjustable stocks.
Basic adjustable stock - The basic stock has a lever for adjustment, a thin/rounded cheek weld and a club-foot shape. These stocks are usually basic looking and don't have a tension lever to take the slack out of the fitment, leaving it loose and rattle prone. Many companies use this stock as standard equipment on their rifles because they know most people will replace the stock anyways and these cheap stocks can help maintain a certain price point for an off the shelf rifle.
Enhanced A-Frame - There are a few different versions of this type, but they all will have an A-Frame body, adjustment lever, replaceable butt pad and rounded cheek weld. These enhanced stocks come at a higher price, but include features like QD sling sockets, superior materials, locking levers and they are light weight. The tightest locking stock we have found is the Wilson Combat Rogers SuperStoc, thanks to the rotating tension lever that locks the stock down on the buffer tube in a very secure fashion. The SuperStoc will also fit on either Mil-Spec or Commercial buffer tubes because of its unique locking lever.
Enhanced L-Frame - Magpul, and many others, make a stock that has a comfortable cheek weld and storage compartments for little objects. This style has a decent amount of heft to it, but there is also a lightweight version as well. These stocks are very similar to the SOPMOD style, but have small compartments for storage and the adjustment lever is covered by a guard. These are some of the most popular stocks on the market because they're relatively cheap, they fit the bill for many uses and they have many options available such as color and weight.
SOPMOD (Special Operations Peculiar MODification) - SOPMOD refers to the different kit options that Special Operations soldiers have access to when adapting their gear to certain environments. The SOPMOD stock is standard kit and has a few desirable options. From the comfortable cheek weld, to the adjustable length of pull and QD sockets, this stock has a minimalistic design while still offering more features than a standard adjustable stock. LMT Defense makes a SOPMOD stock that is actually part of the SOPMOD kit, which is still in use and is considered one of the best SOPMOD style stocks on the market.
DMR (Designated Marksman Rifle) Style - A Designated Marksman is a soldier that fits in between a sniper and infantry. The DM's role can shift between short, medium and long range contact, so they need equipment that can fill the needs of all of those distances. Most DMR style stocks have an adjustable length of pull, adjustable cheek riser, monopod attachment and a hefty construction with QD sling attachment points. LMT Defense makes a fantastic DMR stock that actually attaches to a standard carbine buffer tube, offering even more adjustment. We always recommend using LMT's buffer tube along with their DMR rifle stock so it will lock in the shortest position.
Magpul UBR (Utility Battle Rifle) - The Magpul UBR fits onto an entry-length buffer tube (included) and is adjustable for length of pull. The cheek piece stays in place, while the butt pad portion moves back and forth, always giving you a perfect cheek weld. This stock is also hefty, so if you're looking to add a little weight to the rear of your rifle to balance it out, this would be an option. The unique locking mechanism assures that the stock is rattle free after its adjusted. Stability of a fixed stock, while still adjustable.
Adjustable stocks are usually best on a defensive or battle rifle, where the user can shorten the overall length of the rifle for ease of carrying and transporting the gun, as well as when using body armor. Some adjustable stocks, such as the Wilson Super-Stoc, offer locking mechanisms that provide the user with the versatility of an adjustable stock, but are “locked” in position to eliminate any play or wiggle that typically plagues simpler adjustable stock designs. The downside to adjustable stocks is that they can be noisy if they're loose or if you need to change the position. In the field where the shooter may need to be silent, moving around an adjustable stock can scare away your prey, or even worse, give away your position.
CQB & PDW Type Stocks
For the shortest overall length on your rifle, look no further than the CQB/PDW type stocks. These take 'compact' to a new level by having the stock rods collapse around the lower receiver when in the short positions. These are adjustable for length of pull, so you can have it short for storage or transport and extend the stock out when you're ready to fire.
The Maxim Defense CQB stock is a great example of a well made option in this category. The sturdy construction, short profile and positive adjustment lever provide a great operating stock that can be shortened or extended on the fly. The addition of the custom JP Enterprises Gen2 Silent Captured buffer spring assures smooth, reliable operation and removes the need to use a special bolt carrier like some other similar style options on the market.
Pistol Buffer Tubes and Braces
A popular alternative to an expensive Form 1 stamp for an SBR is to use a pistol lower and buffer tube. Some people like to have the pistol buffer tube exposed with a foam pad like the Phase 5 Hex, while others like to use a brace type of attachment on the buffer tube. Sig Sauer makes a few popular braces that you'll see on many factory produced AR platform pistols. Be sure to check your local laws before committing to the parts for a pistol or SBR type build.
Which Stock is Right for Me?
Just like everything else on an AR, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Whatever your budget, there are fixed and adjustable options at every price level. Some stocks are slim and lightweight, some are big and heavy for durability, some have angled buttpads for easier use while wearing body armor and some have storage compartments. The question you must ask yourself is “how will I be using this rifle and which stock would best match that purpose?” From there, you can figure out which options you like that are built for your particular purpose and select the best one.
The good news is that stocks are easily changed. As you and your rifle change, you may find that you have new expectations or uses for your rifle and that a different stock is preferred. It’s always difficult to find the perfect stock until you’ve been able to install it on YOUR gun and fire it for a while. While you can read review after review, the way it feels on your gun will differ from how it feels on other rifles that have different components. What feels good to you may feel horrible to someone else. Also remember that your rifle is basically a fulcrum in your hands. While a stock may be lightweight or relatively heavy, the stock itself is closest to your body. Consider how well your rifle feels balanced once you have the stock installed, and don’t worry so much about the “specs on the box”. Many top level competitors want a heavier stock or buffer tube to shift the center of mass more towards the rear. Find what you think you will like and go have some fun.
As always, the team here at Strong-Side Tactical is happy to help point you in the right direction to find the perfect stock for you.