Unlike steel, wood has warmth in both feel and appearance. A wood stock wears scars well and, provided that you don’t abuse it, ages gracefully. Its individual color and figure give your rifle unique character. You can replace wood with a synthetic stock (as in voting you can supplant fiscally responsible politicians with spendthrifts), but in the long run, the results may not please you. However careful you are with wood, hunting and handling can mar it. Once on a steep rock face, I lost my footing and shot down the scree on my belly, fingertips bloodied as I clawed for purchase. My canteen tore free and hurtled over a precipice, shattering on boulders below. I stopped just shy of the cliff, three fingers jammed in a fissure. My battered rifle came briefly to mind.
Hard hunting is hard on rifles! But scratched and gouged wood stocks—and those whose finish has succumbed to water damage or ordinary abrasion and scratches—needn’t stay ugly forever. Repairing and refinishing stocks can be rewarding, even profitable. I once earned a few shekels rejuvenating used firearms for resale at a local gun shop. I learned to see color and figure in dented, oil-blackened wood, through chipped and clouded finish.