“This rifle is mine. There are many others like it, but this one is mine….” The Creed of a United States Marine, written by MG William H. Rupertus, just after Pearl Harbor

The United States Marines, who know more about motivating men than just about anyone else, know that to a marksman, his rifle is a living thing with a personality all its own. Rudyard Kipling said it in a poem, “The Young British Soldier”

“When arf o’ yer bullets fly wide in the ditch
don’t call your Martini a cross-eyed old bitch
she’s as human as you are; you treat her as sich
an’ she’ll fight for the young British soldier”

Which brings us to the only problem I have with synthetic-stocked rifles–they lack personality. Even after you get to know their likes and dislikes, and put some history on them, one pretty much looks like another. You can put a memorable paint job on one, like the rifle Kenny Jarrett built for a former New York Yankee that was done in pinstripes, had a big baseball on the cheekpiece, and had YANKEES on the fore-end just in case you missed the point. I once had a rifle stock painted like vomit, and it was a very good rifle, but it’s a lot of trouble to go to.

Even wood-stocked military rifles had personality. In basic training I once forgot I was supposed to be marching troops and stood gaping at an M-14 standing in the rack with a glorious piece of walnut for a stock. This caused SFC Kenneth Kane to say how disappointed he was in me, and how he very much hoped I would pay closer attention to what I was supposed to be doing in the future.

Wood ages with you. I have a .300 Weatherby stocked in walnut that has gone from blond to dark tan to golden brown in the 38 years I’ve used it. Fiberglass and graphite don’t do that. They stay as they are…while you don’t.