Walnut Stocks - They'll Hunt With the Best of 'Em

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There is something about the look and feel of a bolt action rifle with a walnut stock that pleases me.  Call me old fashioned, but the character of the rifle I choose to own is equally as important to me as how that rifle performs. 

I’ll be the first to admit that the lack of weight in a carbon fiber stock is awfully nice when chasing elk in high country and that any synthetic could help a bit when mother natured decides to rain on your parade.  My own preference, however, is to feel the warmth of wood under my fingers and against my face, to enjoy the unique quality innate in each piece of walnut at night around the campfire and to admire the battle scars that come with age and that secure memories of past hunts.

Years of using walnut stocks has helped me develop a few techniques for ensuring my rifle is ready for hard field use and performs as it is expected to.  Despite my insisting to use walnut stocks regardless of weather conditions or type of use, I’ve never missed a shot that could be blamed on the stock.

Seal the Stock
As useful as walnut is, it’s still wood and is subject to physical changes due to moisture.  If the environment in which you will be hunting is more or less humid than the environment the rifle is normally in, the stock will naturally try to gain or release moisture to match its surroundings.  If the stock is able to change moisture content, the physical dimensions of the stock can change.  If the stock changes dimensions, it is very likely that accuracy problems will follow.
Most walnut stocked rifles come from the factory with a modified urethane coating of some sort, and often times this is all the protection the stock will ever need.  It is, however, worth a little time to ensure that the stock is completely sealed against the elements.  I have found that the easiest and most effective way to seal a stock is to apply a tung oil in the barrel channel, underneath the trigger guard, underneath the recoil pad, in the checkering and on any part of the inletting that is not bedded.
If it is clear that there is already a factory coating in these places, it is best to leave well enough alone.  The point is to look for any area of the stock that does not have a protective barrier and put one there.  Gun supply stores and catalogs offer numerous brands of tung oil and the type you use is up to you.  Just be sure to follow manufacturer instructions to the letter.
Most of the time and in most hunting conditions ensuring a continuous protective barrier between the wood and the elements will maintain the performance you expect out of your rifle while in the field.
Mind your Beeswax
After I’ve ensured that my rifle is completely sealed, I add a topical wax coating as insurance.  The wax coating acts as a first line of defense against moisture.  I choose to use a wax that is comprised of White Carnauba and Beeswax.  It is just like waxing your car.  You rub it on, let if flash, and then wipe it off.
I typically remove the barreled action and wax the stock inside and out, making sure to stay away from bedded areas.  A wax application will last up to six months and the results are impressive - water beads up and rolls right off.  A word of caution; be sure to test the wax on a similar but separate surface first.  Some of these waxes can be slippery when applied to wood and clearly that is not a good quality for a rifle stock.
Keep it Covered
Whenever it is practical, I keep the rifle physically protected while hunting.  If I’m stand hunting during rainy weather I put a strap on umbrella over my tree stand.  If I’m hunting in an environment that requires a good bit of hiking I keep my rifle in a Gun Kozy until game is spotted and it’s time to start stalking.
Not all hunting situations will accommodate keeping the rifle completely out of the elements.  Truth is, if you’ve sealed your stock and added a wax coating, it’s hardly necessary.  But when it is not likely to affect my ability to see game or my chances at getting a shot, I go the extra mile and do my best to keep the stock as physically dry as possible.
I own a CZ 550 in 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser that sports a walnut stock with nice grain and figure.  I’ve used the rifle in West Virginia, Wyoming and Alaska in weather that has varied from horribly hot and dry to downright wet and nasty.  The stock has never once let me down.
I have no plans to stop using walnut stocks on my rifles.  To me, the benefits of walnut far outweigh any potential risks.  I suppose that if I hunt with enough walnut-stocked rifles I may find one that lets me down in the field.  Knock on wood; it hasn’t happened to me yet.


arrowflipper's picture

what type of walnut

Great tips on keeping a wood stocked rifle in good working order.  I had not heard of putting wax on but I will sure remember it.  I have quite a few rifles and most of them sport wood stocks, but not all walnut.

Which brings me to a question.... are all walnut stocks created equally?  Most Winchester rifles come with a pretty much straight grained walnut stock with very little fanfare.  They have some nice checkering but don't try to show off.  The old classic model 70 is a perfect example of simplicity and grace in a plain walnut.  Ruger is pretty much in line with the Winchester.  They don't have a flashy gloss finish or flashy wood grain.

Then comes the Remington 700 with a much different walnut.  The lines are a little more dramatic and the finish is totally different on most ADL and BDL models.  They come with a clear, semi-gloss finish and even some colorful spacers.

Now comes the old style Weatherby with a totally upgraded (that is in the eye of the beholder) walnut stock.  Much more often they are a nicer (again this is a personal preference) grained wood with a fancy grain and a much higher polished finish.  There are those who would think they border on the gaudy.  When I was a kid, I thought they were the pinnacle of perfection.  Over age, that perception has changed.  In fact, I have a German made Mark V that the stock has been removed and replaced. 

OK, you love the warmth and feel of the walnut stock, but which one are you in love with?  All of them?  Or do you lean towards the classic lines and style of the Winchester?

By the way, owning all those rifles with walnut stocks, I usually use my Browning Stalker with a synthetic stock.  It too has been to Alaska in some nasty weather and Africa in some HOT weather.  I'm sure I have walnut stocks that would do just as well, but I leave them at home and don't worry about them.  I have two custom rifles with spectacular wood stocks and they sit in my safe 99.9% of the time.  But they don't have any scratches!!!

Tndeerhunter's picture

wood stocks

Great tips there! I went to Alaska this past spring and finally decided on a Browning BLR as my rifle of choice (of all things, a Browning, no less!) I put four or five coats of wax on both the metal and the stock, I waxed everything but the bolt and inside of the barrel lol. True to form, we had a stretch of three straight days of rainy weather with no let up from either moisture or humidity. If I showed you that rifle today you'd likely not believe it had been in the Alaskan bush for 8 days and nights. Wax on, wax off, good words to remember when it comes to rifles and weather.

Thanks again for the great tip!

CVC's picture

I read to wax the metal parts

I read to wax the metal parts of the gun too and at first it seemed odd then I recalled we wax cars to protect them from the elements so I wax the wood and metal parts of my rifle now.

a gun isnt a gun unless it

a gun isnt a gun unless it looks pretty....i love wood stocks...i personally like accuracy as well though....so i have Accurate innovations build my stocks....all are exibition grade or darn close to it....scratch or ding them?? ummm heck ya thats all about the charter of a "hunting" rifle.

i drag em through the sand and mud and gravel bang em against trees rock ledges....oh yaaaa use that rifle like the tool it was built to be

CVC's picture

So what you're saying is life

So what you're saying is life is too short to hunt with an ugly gun!

CVC's picture

Getting over the idea that my

Getting over the idea that my wood stock might get scratched or dinged was not easy.  It was hard, but something I just had to point out of my mind as it is a tool and not a piece of art to hang on the wall.  I came here to post a pic of it, but i just realized you can't post pics in this section or can you?

jim boyd's picture

Great Tip!

Great tip and simply beautiful pictures!

I too love a wood stock... I have a Savage .308 that I bedded into a Boyd's laminated thumbhole stock and it is a joy to handle and shoot.

I do know know much about wood stocks - but I understand that the laminated ones are supposed to add strenth and rigidity?

What I had not done is to work to seal the stock, I will get on that one during my annual spring firearm cleaning sesssions!

Again, your photos are stunning, great work on those... that outdoor picture is postcard perfect.

Way to go, great tip!


I know, I have the same

I know, I have the same problem.  Wanting to hunt with walnut stocks but then tip-toeing through the woods so as not to hurt them too badly.  Agreed that synthetics make a much better tool, no doubt about it.  And honestly I use them when I know I really need a tool and can't afford to fuss over my walnut (same goes for blued vs. stainless for that matter).

But whenever it makes sense I just "feel" better in the woods with Walnut.  Old fashioned I guess...

outdoorsman121's picture

Great Tip


Great Tip! When cleaning my gun the usual concern is focused on my barrel. But after reading your tip I realize that every part of your riffle should be properly taken care of! In order for your riffle to perform at its best everything must be in great shape and clean. I do have a riffle with a walnut stock along with a synthetic stock riffle. These differences in stock allow me to choose among the two based on the weather or the environment that I will be hunting. If I know that I will be hunting in wet weather and thick brush I will take the synthetic stock because is more handles brush without getting scratched up and remains dryer in wet environments. So for me having options is a good idea when hunting different environments and weather.     

Critter done's picture

Awesome Tip

It always seems to amaze me that a hunter will always clean his barrel and gun after a hunt but they almost never take care of thier stock. It's something I forget to do sometimes also. It's a great tip and thanks for reminding me also. I know if your stock is in good condition your gun will shoot better.

Great Tip!!!!!

CVC's picture

I think walnut stocks are

I think walnut stocks are pieces of art, but the only problem I have with them is getting over the fact that they are hunting tools and may get scratched or dinged.  I do take care to wax my rifle stock and it has kept it looking new.  I've hunted in some harsh wet conditions and the wax has protected the stock.  In fact, I use the wax on the metal parts of my gun too.  It protects them just like wax protects a car's finish.

I haven't had any problems with water damage or rusting since I've begun waxing my rifle on a regular basis.  And, as a tip, it doesn't take a lot of wax.  Use it sparingly and be sure to take it on the hunt with you if you're going to be away for a while and the weather conditions are going to be wet.

jaybe's picture

Yes to Wood

My primary deer rifle is also wood stocked. I have finished the stock with linseed oil.

I recall hearing that "back in the day" there was a method of finishing a stock with oil that involved putting oil on it and rubbing it it until it didn't feel oily anymore.

Once a day for a week.

Once a week for a month.

Once a month for a year.

Once a year from then on.

I used Linspeed oil to finish mine and it didn't take that long.

Thanks for the great tip and reminder to all of us to take care of our wood stocks as much as the metal parts.