Another question I see asked all the time is whether or not you should bed your rifle stock. This is one of those things that for whatever reason has become a hot topic and it gets new shooters in a fluster. Newer shooters wind up feeling like their rifle is inadequate and will not function properly unless it is bedded. The problem is these same new shooters really don’t have much idea what bedding is for and whether or not it is even necessary in their case. We’re going to discuss the practice and what it’s for in hopes of giving everybody a clear picture on whether or not this is something they need to be considering!
Bed Your Stock?
We’re talking about the process of creating a ‘bed’ of material on the rifle stock for the action to sit in that is precisely molded to the shape of the action. The idea is that a properly bedded stock holds and supports the rifle action without inducing any stress into it and that this is the basis of an accurate rifle. This is different than say just bolting the rifle to the stock with the action sitting on the two pillars common in regular unbedded stocks. The question becomes is any of this necessary? The answer is, it depends. First up, here are some photos of what we are discussing!
In general I see no harm at all and would probably bed an action to a traditional rifle stock any time I was planning on putting a rifle together. I think the practice of bedding a traditional rifle stock is a good idea and a worthwhile endeavor, however, I do think you should have it done properly by a gunsmith. I’ve gone down the road of bedding a rifle stock myself in the past and while it can be done, chances are excellent the first time you won’t do it well. If you are hands on and you must do it yourself, have at it. Personally I think it’s money well spent having somebody like Long Rifles Inc. do the work because they have the process refined to a science. It would take years and many attempts to even claim half the experience needed to produce the results pictured above, let alone match that level of craftsmanship.
Bed Your Stock – What about a Chassis?
What if you don’t have a ‘stock’ but a rifle ‘chassis’? Does that change the equation? Yes! A chassis, by its nature and design is not supposed to be bedded. The idea is that instead of custom molded bedding material supporting the action there is a precisely machined block present to support the action. The idea is that you can then bolt an action into the chassis, torque it to specifications, and then go shoot. No bedding required or desired. In my experience with Chassis systems from several different manufacturers this is definitely the rule. You can bolt any action into the chassis and expect reasonable accuracy.
Both of these stocks allowed for half MOA or better shooting at 100 yards, using the same action no less. This is part of what I’ve been talking about. A quality chassis will allow you to realize the potential of the barreled action. On the other hand if your barreled action isn’t accurate to begin with, the stock is unlikely to improve the barreled action’s accuracy. Sometimes you will see an accuracy improvement on a factory Remington but this has to do with the flexy Hogue stocks the rifles come with out of the box. If the reason for lack of accuracy is a problem with a factory stock, you should switch it. If the problem is hindering the barreled action’s inherent accuracy, then you may well see an improvement buy putting the barreled action into a quality stock or chassis.
So far I’ve used three different chassis systems and all have been capable of producing half MOA or better accuracy at 100 yards. No bedding, just bolted in and torqued. Now there is an important point to note here. You can’t polish a turd, so the saying goes. If you bolt in an action that was never accurate to begin with, you can’t expect a chassis to magically transform it into an accurate rifle for you. So when I say that a Chassis is capable of producing accurate rifle fire that’s assuming you have a decent rifle to use as a base for that combination. Not every rifle will produce that kind of accuracy out of the box.
To Bed Your Stock or Not?
My suggestion here is to let the rifle’s accuracy be your guide. If you put a rifle together or pull one out of the box and it meets or exceeds what you have set for accuracy requirements, why mess with it? Don’t fix something that isn’t broken. If you have a rifle in a traditional stock, I see no harm in having it bedded right away since the support for the action without the bedding is minimal. On the other hand today’s modern chassis systems really don’t need to be bedded. Most are capable of producing excellent accuracy with an action merely being bolted in and torqued properly. On the other hand, if for some reason your action does not shoot well in a chassis, you can have that bedded as well. However, don’t make the mistake of assuming the fault lies in the chassis and its lack of bedding material. Only bed the chassis if you know the barreled action in question is a shooter and it isn’t performing in the chassis.
This is something people spend too much time and heartburn on. You shouldn’t even be considering it unless you know you have a rifle capable of better accuracy and it isn’t performing in the stock or chassis you have installed on it. Don’t be too proud to admit your own skillset may not be capable of that kind of accuracy. Producing tiny ragged holes has as much or more to do with the shooter than the equipment. Bedding material isn’t magical and it won’t make you a better shooter or the rifle more accurate than it already is. Bedding a stock or chassis merely allows the shooter to attain the potential of the components he’s working with, and that’s assuming his own skills are up to the task. If you aren’t sure, leave us a comment with what’s going on and we’ll try to help figure it out with you!