Frequently, I find myself rewriting something that I truly believe: guns today are better than they’ve ever been. Advances in everything from metallurgy to machining have enabled gun makers to turn out affordable guns that are absolutely as good as the high-dollar custom rigs from only a few years ago.
Granted, the truly custom guns are even more remarkable, but what the technological advances have done is democratize the shooting world.
It’s no longer the exclusive purview of the $8,000 custom rifle to compete in precision long-range competition. Ruger’s Precision Rifle (MSRP $1599 -$2099 with street prices significantly lower in most calibers) can compete right out of the box -leaving money for one of the many affordable long-range scopes and ammo.
Like I’ve also said before, it’s a great time to be a shooter.
Another affordable rifle I’ve found to be very accurate and durable is the Thompson/Center Compass. I’ve put a lot of rounds through my Compass Utility, having first met it on a prairie dog shoot where I put a lot of rounds downrange (T/C was buying the ammunition and providing the rifle). I was so impressed that it now lives in my safe, venturing out for the occasional trip to the range.
It’s a great rifle, but utility is an apt description. It’s solid, accurate and reliable. But its basic blued/black composite appearance is, in a word, boring. Like many other reliable tools, it looks about as interesting as a hammer.
Recently, I’ve started looking at thinning the crowding in my safe. And I’m going Marie Kondo on this one- with a twist. If a gun triggers a memory, I’m not only going to keep it, I’m going to see if I can’t enhance it. The more accurate description might actually be honor it. The goal’s simple, to boil my accumulation down to a few proven performers that will pass down to friends and family.
For some, that only requires a good cleaning. They’re awesome as-is. For others, say for example, the T/C Compass, I’m planning on making some improvements.
There’s nothing I have the ability to do that will enhance the rifle’s accuracy. But the very basic stock’s another matter. Thanks to Boyd’s Gunstocks, I can put a wooden stock on the gun that not only improves the look, it improves the fit-for whomever’s shooting it.
A conversation with Boyd’s led me to get one of their AT-ONE laminate stocks for the conversion project. A couple of reasons: first, I like laminated, and second, their stocks are as close to idiot-proof as you can get when it comes to installation. Not being a competent gunsmith, I’m not one for lengthy fitting sessions that could involve metalwork or technical fitting.
What I am qualified for is a simple installation. And the AT-ONE didn’t disappoint. The only fitting I had to do was the installation of the trigger guard and the magazine catch. I got the magazine catch on the first try. The trigger guard was also a quick remediation (turn it around, you dope).
Removing the stock (top) was no big chore. Two screws were no big issue. My initial trigger guard installation was backward, but it was easy to spot the mistake (below). The bolt wouldn’t come back because the stock screw blocked it. Quick fix.
It was a really simple process -despite my initial backward-install of the trigger guard. When the bolt wouldn’t come to the rear, it was instantly obvious that something was wrong. Take a quick look, turn it around, and repeat the torquing of the two screws holding the action in the stock.
There’s really nothing much to screw up. Boyd’s has the idea of specific-fit down to the point that if there’s a problem- you’re probably it. The only variable is the need to know that firearms need to be torqued correctly- and “correct” usually means inch pounds, not foot pounds.
Fortunately, I learned that distinction several damaged screws ago.
It’s not the most artistic portrayal of a transformation, but the differences in the look -and fit- of my older Compass is noticeable. It’s now a rifle that looks as good as it shoots. And it shoots well.
When I finished, I appreciated the look of the new laminate stock. But when I started adjusting the stock to fit, I really realized how much improvement I’d made.
With the adjustable cheek piece and butt, I now have a mild-mannered, accurate -and still lightweight- rifle that’s capable of wreaking havoc on prairie dog towns or punching holes in targets-while being adjustable for almost any body type.
Don’t know about you, but a lightweight, accurate rifle that’s capable of varmint control or target shooting that’s distinctly “mine” - at a total price under $500 (plus scope) looks like a pretty good deal.
Especially since I have a durable, all weather stock that’s not only functional, it’s good-looking.