When it comes to rifle stocks, form has followed function—that is until some European decided to strap a piece of wood to his hand cannon. Wooden stocks, which are usually walnut, were the norm until chemists invented petroleum-based plastics and other synthetic materials. Some of the earliest synthetic rifle stocks appeared during World War II, when military rifle manufacturing took priority over sporting rifles. When the war ended, shooters still preferred the classic wood stock. It wasn’t until Remington developed the Nylon 66 two decades later that plastic stocks started to take hold.
Rifle manufacturers fed shooters a steady diet of conservative, American-style rifle stocks that had a comb height suited for iron-sight use, until scopes came along. As optics gained in popularity, comb heights began to rise on factory stocks.
Companies such as Choate Machine & Tool started building synthetic stocks for narrow sections of the rifle market. When Vietnam-era veterans started buying new rifles, their acceptance of synthetic stocks continued to rise. Other shooters followed suit, and manufacturers welcomed the shift in consumer attitudes. Synthetic stocks typically cost a manufacturer less than a quality piece of walnut. These days, down at the local gunshop new rifles wearing synthetic stocks seem to outnumber the ones with wood stocks.