Rifle Stock or Chassis?
In the world of precision shooting, you may have noticed that the wooden rifle stock is fading out. Once the primary material for traditional stock, wood offered a cheap, workable solution for mounting your rifle. However, it was realized decades ago that this is where the advantages ended. With the progression of manufacturing materials, wood is no longer as economical and can warp and change size over time and with temperature. In the early 1960's, fiberglass composite stocks started to appear on the market. They offered a stronger, lighter and more stable alternative to wood-stocked rifles. For years, these fiberglass / synthetic stocks have dominated the bolt action market.
However, both wood and fiberglass stock have their limitations. While they can provide a solid shooting platform, fiberglass and wood stocks have an inherent resistance to adjustability and customization. Most are more akin to the one-size-fits-all variety, though some newer models do have adjustable features. The amount of finish work required to make them an acceptable and stable platform often puts the final cost much more than the shooter originally intended. Although bolt action rifles are generally not used for long strings of fire, fiberglass is also an insulator and will hold in much more heat.
Today's precision shooter wants something that can be tailor-made for them for the ultimate in comfort and versatility. What's more, it must be highly accurate, customizable, and stylish. This is where the aluminum rifle chassis comes into play. If you seek to improve your current rifle platform, a chassis may be the best investment you can make.
There is no overstating the ease of installation provided by a rifle chassis. Choose a model that features a custom inlet for your receiver and it will install in minutes; this is as easy as tightening down the action screws. If you plan on switching barrels in the future, you will find the chassis design to be especially user friendly, as you may not even have to remove the action from the chassis.
Chassis style gets away with this style of installation with a couple of different methods. The most common is the V-block. A V-block is simply an aluminum "V" that cradles the receiver while giving it two solid contact surfaces. This allows for inconsistencies in receiver diameter.
Another method, and the one used by XLR, is what we call a multi-point, radial cut inlet. Like the V-block, a multi-point inlet has raised surfaces to contact the receiver. However, instead of just two contact points, XLR inlets have a multitude of high points that will essentially "self-bed" the receiver to the chassis - giving much more contact area to the receiver than a traditional V-block. This multi-point bedding system takes much longer to machine than the V-block, but is a worthwhile sacrifice.
A visual comparison alone will tell you much about the comfort features available on chassis vs. those on traditional rifle stocks. Much of the comfort you receive is actually found in the buttstock.
XLR's Tactical Lite buttstock has adjustments for length of pull, cheek rest height, and recoil pad height.
The modern detachable buttstock, compact and relatively lightweight, is a marvel in providing support and adjustability to an individual shooter - and is something you just can't add to a traditional fixed rifle stock. On a well-made buttstock, you will find a cushioned recoil pad, adjustable length of pull, adjustable recoil pad cant, adjustable cheek rest height, and attachment methods for monopods and slings. Most chassis systems will also come with a molded pistol grip, such as the Ergo, that enhances performance by providing a better interface between the shooter and the firearm. Most of the time these grips are of the AR-15 variant and thus offer yet more customization for the end user by allowing them to select the grip of their choice.
A rifle chassis can improve accuracy greatly over factory stocks by as much as 50% in some scenarios. In addition to providing a more solid bedding system, aluminum chassis are not affected by the elements, so you will not see variations in accuracy during shooting sessions. Furthermore, the inclusion of an aluminum bedding block in the chassis enhances stability and reduces vibrations, resulting in improved shot consistency. The adjustability of the stock is also a key factor in end accuracy. By fitting the rifle to the shooter, the shooter is much more consistent in his/her shots, as their natural point of aim is unaffected.
Chassis systems also allow adding multiple accessories such as thermals, night vision, bipods, quivers, sling adapters, barricade stops, and Picatinny rails. They may even have integrated features such as M-LOK or Key-mod compatible slots and Quick Detach or QD sling sockets.
The ENVY chassis system has several integrated features including a dovetail mount for tripods.
Some models, such as the XLR Envy chassis, have all of these features as well as an integrated dovetail mount for tripods and a built-in bubble level for adjusting rifle cant. In any case, there are a broad range of accessories that can add ease and enjoyment to your shooting experience.
An off-the-shelf rifle usually comes with an internal magazine that only holds a minimum number of rounds. You can convert your stock so that it will accept box-style magazines but expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars for this transformation. On the other hand, most chassis will come with an integrated detachable magazine system capable of receiving large-capacity magazines. The XLR systems, for example, accept all AICS-style magazines.
Much like traditional aftermarket stocks, chassis systems range in price from hundreds of dollars to thousands. But often, the lack of gunsmithing and modification required to add comparable features and accessories makes a rifle chassis the better value. From the bedding of the action to the addition of a detachable magazine system, many find the traditional composite or wood stock more expensive in the long run.
Choosing the best chassis for your needs can be daunting, as there are many makes and models to choose from. As chassis have increased in popularity over recent years, manufacturers have responded with competitive pricing and a variety of styles and configurations. All of this development has benefited none more than the consumer. There has never been a better time to enter the exciting world of shooting with a rifle chassis!
XLR's ELEMENT chassis, with its $442 price tag, is a highly functional and affordable chassis model for shooters of all levels.