What Is a Gun Stock?

Photo of butt stock and forearm from a Winchester Model 94 rifle.
Butt stock and forearm from a Winchester Model 94 rifle. Photo © Russ Chastain

The stock is most often the portion of a firearm that allows it to be held and/or rested against one's shoulder in order to fire the gun. The stock on a long gun (rifle or shotgun) serves a number of purposes, usually providing for comfortable placement of the firing hand and the cheek while insulating the forward hand from the heat of the gun's barrel.

While the term stock is most often used in reference to rifles and shotguns, many handguns also have proper stocks, and the grips on revolvers are sometimes called stocks.

The most common handguns with actual stocks are usually bolt-action or single-shot pistols. On these guns, the stock lies below the barrel (either all of the barrel or just the rear portion) and provides a handle for the shooting hand to grasp. The stock may be of two pieces or only one piece.

Some manufacturers also call the revolver grip panels stocks, and the term is also sometimes used to describe the portion of a semi-automatic pistol which is grasped while shooting. 

Also known as: Grip (sometimes), rifle stock, shotgun stock.

The Parts of a Gun Stock

The rear (shoulder) portion of a gun's stock is referred to as the butt stock, and the portion below the barrel is called the forearm or fore-end. The portion directly behind the gun's action, where it is usually gripped by one's firing hand, is called the wrist. The top portion of the butt stock is the comb. The rear surface of the stock, which rests against the shoulder when firing, is the butt.

The top of the butt is the heel, and the bottom of the butt is the toe.

Variations

Gun stocks come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, but most rifle and shotgun stocks are quite similar in shape and function. Many guns used in competition have stocks with all kinds of adjustable features. The thumbhole stock is popular--this style provides a hole in the wrist of the stock through which the shooter may pass his or her thumb.

The stock, while an integral part of a given firearm, is most often a sort of adapter which allows the gun to be handled and fired, and it doesn't serve much, if any, mechanical function. There are exceptions to this rule, however. For example, the Remington Nylon 66 semi-automatic 22 rifle features a stock which also serves as the gun's receiver.

Materials

Traditionally, gun stocks have most often been made of wood, but other materials have been used and some have become quite popular. Plastics, fiberglass, and metal have all been successfully used, and all are popular for certain types of guns and for certain types of shooters. The plastic stocks are lighter, more durable and less prone to marring than wood--and they won't swell or warp, as wood sometimes does.