Stocks that were lighter and stronger and eliminated the bedding problem of wood stocks had an obvious application in the ultra-precise world of benchrest shooting, and it was there that the synthetic stock concept took root. The Sporter and Light Varmint classes of benchrest rifles can weigh no more than 101/2 pounds (scope included), which previously had caused something of a dilemma for shooters and rifle makers. Obviously, they wanted the feallowable pounds put to use where they would do the most good, that being, of course, in the barrel. By using a fiberglass stock weighing about 11/2 pounds instead of a wood stock weighing twice as much, the barrel could be made a bit thicker and stiffer-and thereby more accurate-and still stay within the weight rules. This was a no-brainer. [pagebreak] Wood vs. Glass
The first fiberglass stock I ever saw was made by Chet Brown, who loaned it to me to use in a major benchrest tournament in the early 1970s. It caused something of a sensation, but not because of my spectacularly mediocre shooting. Chet had painted the stock a brilliant yellow to call attention to its non-wood origin, and attract attention it did, along with a surprising amount of negative comments from wood lovers. The general opinion was that if fiberglass was meant to be used for stocks it would grow on trees. Most benchrest shooters quickly grasped the advantages of fiberglass stocks, however, and within a decade wood had become a rarity on the firing line. The next big advance in accuracy, by the way, was abandoning the screws that normally hold the stock and action together and literally gluing the metal into the stock with super-strong epoxy cement, making the rifle almost a rigid one-piece unit. (Don't try this with your hunting rifle.) Even so, change is always in the wind and I'm reminded of the old saying, "What goes around comes around," because-get this-wood stocks are making a strong comeback. More about this later.