How to Change the Stock on a Rifle

How to Change the Stock on a Rifle

Upgrading the stock on your rifle is one of the quickest ways to increase functionality and, hopefully, improve accuracy. And while gun owners have always enjoyed tinkering with rifle stocks, modern manufacturing has made it easier than ever to swap stocks in your shop and get back in the field.

Why You Might Want to Change Stocks

There are lots of reasons you might want to change the stock on your rifle.

Many aftermarket stocks offer greater adjustability for comb height and length of pull than what comes from the factory. Adjusting the comb or cheek piece to the proper height allows you to get into the scope’s eye box more quickly and might be the difference between a good shot and a wounded animal. Fitting the rifle to your body by adjusting the length of pull also increases comfort–and the odds of a successful hunt.


You might want a new stock that offers more options for attaching accessories like bipods, flashlights, or tripod attachment systems. M-Lok rails have become the most popular option for this, and many aftermarket stocks and chassis feature this rail accessory system.

A new stock might also come with the ability to accept detachable magazines. There is some debate about the wisdom of using a detachable magazine on a hunting rifle (for fear of it falling out or getting snagged on something), but no one can deny that detachable mags are easier to load and unload than many other options.

MDT Folding Stock

And the list goes on. Some aftermarket stocks, like the MDT HNT26 I used in this instructional, feature folding buttstocks to reduce the rifle’s overall length and carbon fiber parts to decrease the overall weight (more on that below). Others use pistol grips, thumb hole stocks, or heavy-duty recoil pads. If you have specific needs as a hunter or shooter, you can almost certainly find a stock or chassis that meets those needs.

Does Upgrading a Rifle Stock Really Improve Accuracy?

Increasing accuracy is usually the primary motivation for changing stocks. Whether that hope comes to fruition is, unfortunately, not always guaranteed.

It often depends on what kind of stock you currently have and what kind of stock you’re switching to. If your current rifle uses an old, warped wood stock with questionable epoxy bedding and contact between the barrel and the forend, switching to a new stock with v-block or pillar bedding can make a significant improvement.

However, if you’re moving from a relatively new rifle like the Tikka T3x Lite Roughtech I use here, don’t expect a massive improvement. I’m not saying it’s impossible for group sizes to shrink, but in my experience swapping stocks, I’ve never noticed a huge accuracy improvement.

MDT Middle

Even so, installing a new stock or chassis system can be worth it. The Tikka T3x is an excellent rifle (be looking for a full review soon!), but MDT’s HNT26 chassis system offers significant improvements on the stock… stock.

Weight is the biggest of those advantages. The T3x Lite is no heavyweight (as the name implies), but swapping out the factory stock for the HNT26 reduces the rifle’s advertised 7.1 pounds by over 18% to 5.9 pounds. That’s despite the fact that the HNT26 uses metal composites and carbon fiber instead of the Tikka’s synthetic material.

The HNT26 is also packed with features, most of which I covered in a previous section: flattened, M-Lok compatible handguard; detachable magazine; pistol grip; adjustable cheek piece and length of pull; foldable buttstock–you get the idea.

How to Install a New Stock

Step 1: Find the Right Stock for Your Action

The first step is to make sure the stock you want is compatible with your rifle. Most aftermarket stock companies make it easy to find what you’re looking for. MDT allows users to “shop by action,” so I navigated to the Tikka page to see all the options available for that rifle maker. Other companies like KRG list the compatible actions under each type of chassis, and McMillan allows users to sort by rifle model.

The good news is that most stock and chassis companies offer options for the most common hunting rifles. Just be sure you know whether your gun uses a long or short action. There is no official standard for long and short actions, so it’s always best to get in touch with the stock maker before ordering. However, there are generally accepted lists of cartridges in each category, which is a good place to start.

Step 2: Remove the Old Stock

Remove Old Stock

Before working on a rifle, always make sure it’s unloaded. Then, remove the bolt (just for convenience's sake), which can be done by depressing a button usually located on the side of the action opposite the bolt. Once that’s done, simply unscrew the action screws (usually two) and slide the barreled action out of the stock.

Step 3: Insert the Barreled Action Into the New Stock

Insert New Stock

Tighten MDT Chassis

Slide the barreled action into the new stock. It should seat where it’s supposed to. Hand-tighten the action screws that came with the stock or chassis but don’t torque them down yet.

Step 4: Torque Action Screws to Proper Specs

Torque Screws

Point the rifle toward the ceiling with the buttstock on the ground or your work bench. This is to ensure proper contact between the stock and the recoil lug and avoid too much movement when the gun is fired. Tighten the action screws to the specified torque weight–first the front (towards the muzzle) and then the rear (towards the buttstock). For this, you’ll need an inch-pound torque wrench. If you don’t have one, it’s a good investment. It’ll come in handy for these kinds of projects as well as for scope installation.

Step 5: Shoot and Retighten

MDT recommends retightening all screws after the first 100 rounds, and I think that’s good advice for any rifle. In fact, you should regularly check to make sure the rifle’s action screws are still to spec.

Last Shot

Now that you have your fancy new stock, it’s time to shoot it!

Full Rifle

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