February 15, 2013
Shotgun Stocks: Wood vs. Plastic
By Phil Bourjaily
The first time I saw a shotgun with a black plastic stock I was horrified by its sheer ugliness. That was back in the mid-90s and the gun was a Benelli Super Black Eagle belonging to Buck Gardner, who had won it in the World Duck Calling Championship.
I would never have bought a black stocked gun, as I believed then that shotgun stocks should be made of wood, but a year or so later I got my first black shotgun. It was a Winchester Super X2, which Winchester gave out to all the writers on the trip to North Dakota I wrote about in “My Higher Calling.”
Now I have a few including one camo dipped turkey gun. Between black and camo I prefer black, which wears better than dip finishes. There is no question synthetic stocks are easy to care for – if you bother caring for them. I don’t wipe the mud and blood off the stock of my 391 until the end of the season. And, I took my X2 pheasant hunting one day, tripped, fell and launched the gun. I know a wood stock would not have survived but all I had to do was dust off the X2 and go on my way. I also dropped a Benelli Nova on some rip rap once. It bounced and clattered but except for a couple of little dents in the stock it was fine. So plastic – excuse me, “synthetic” – has its advantages. And, I can let my sons shoot my synthetic stocked Berettas and be sure they will come back un-dinged.
Honestly, though, except for duck hunting – and I mean the pack in decoys, wallow in the mud kind, not the genteel sit in a permanent blind kind – there’s not much reason to have a plastic stocked gun. They are ugly, they are harder to cut to length and impossible to bend. Walnut looks better and with the right finish it neither glares nor does it get those white scars when you scratch it in the field. For my newest enthusiasm of dove and field goose hunting, there is no reason not to shoot guns with wood stocks although I have been doing both with that black 391. Besides, walnut adds aesthetic appeal to the hunt and I think – this is a goofy thought, I know -- it shows some respect for the birds. I have shot some pheasants with plastic stocked guns but I dislike doing so. I believe upland birds generally prefer to be killed with good looking guns.
Of course this whole train of thought is an attempt to rationalize the purchase of a couple of wood-stocked goose guns that have been tempting me at my local stores. It is the off-season right now and there is no hunting to be done, so I look at used guns a lot and try to justify their addition to my collection.* There’s an old 3 ½-inch 12 gauge BPS built on a 10 gauge frame at one, and a very nice old 3-inch Model 12 that has been tempting me at my local sporting goods store. Still, I am not getting rid of my plastic stocked guns but I would like to add these.
* “collection” is not the right word. I have an “accumulation” of guns.