Once a competition marksman, match armorer and coach for the Army, I enjoy spending my Saturday mornings coaching juniors in a county-wide program run by the Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club, teaching competitive shooting to youngsters between ages 8 and 18 (photo left above). As the pool of families active in shooting sports diminishes with urbanization, a surprising number of opportunities exist for talented youngsters to win college athletic scholarships, service sponsorship (the right-hand photo is an Army-run clinic for advanced juniors) and ultimately even Olympic Team berths in the various small-bore and air rifle disciplines. While our program has a selection of vintage, entry-level target rifles suitable for the younger juniors (mostly WWII-era Remington 513’s), older and exceptionally talented youngsters rapidly reach the point where they need their own rifle. As most of our parents work at the local naval bases and shipyard or in the timber or construction industries, this poses a problem as high-end rifles like the Anschutz below that provide the best chance for holding a talented youngster’s interest and ultimately winning scholarships cost upwards of $4000 new and $2500 used.
While this Anschutz Model 1913 “Super Match” may look like a space gun, and the action, sights, trigger, barrel and their mountings are certainly “best-quality”, they are still 1890’s technology with some later refinements that have been equaled in many rifles. What makes this rifle the best of the best is its precision barrel and mountings to optimize barrel harmonics (reducing sensitivity to differences in ammunition and other conditions) and its fully-adjustable grip, cheek piece and butt, allowing optimum hand and head placement in each shooting position. Ideally, the grip should be perfectly consistent and the eyes should be dead level when firing in each of the prone, sitting, kneeling and standing positions, because as the rifle fires, the brain anticipates losing control for an instant and the balance mechanisms in the inner ears cause the body to move so as to level itself. This can throw the shot off slightly, especially with slow-moving target bullets and pellets that take a while to leave the barrel. While not as critical during casual shooting or with higher velocity rifles, at this level of competition the challenge is to reduce the probability of making a bad shot across hundreds of scored rounds fired in succession, and every advantage counts, head position being one of the most important.
Fortunately (for shooters if not taxpayers), in the late 1980’s the Army contracted with Kimber of Oregon for 15,000 target rifles to be used as trainers for Junior ROTC, and for a number of reasons never used them. These were built to a standard of consecutive shot groups never larger than .700 inches at 50 yards, and are made with components sufficiently close to or equaling the quality of the $4000+ Anschutz. Their limitations are they were built for children, have short barrels and inadequate stock adjustments, and are somewhat heavy, given the intended audience (although they weigh less than the Anschutz above). As surplus, these new rifles were turned over to the government’s Civilian Marksmanship Program and are available to qualified competitors and clubs for $425 each. I ordered three of them with the intention of converting them into competitive yet affordable high-end target rifles available to parents at cost, and this article is a tutorial on how you can do the same. The techniques I show are all oriented to minimizing shop hours and costs – you may want to use more expensive Anschutz components and a higher level of bedding and finish on your own rifle.
After removing the factory-applied preservatives and minor surface rust from poor storage, I begin with the stock. (The rust I encountered was merely surface flaking limited to the sights and few recesses and was easily removed using Kroil penetrating oil and a small bronze brush.) The Kimber uses simple plastic spacers to adjust length of pull (LOP) from 12 to 13 ½ inches for growing children. I’ll replace these with a 4-Way Buttplate with Hook from Alex Sitman of Master Class Stocks in Bellwood, Pennsylvania ($165.00), the least expensive of the target buttplates that adjust for length, cast, toe-in/out and height. I’ll also retain the stock’s design features so it can be easily put back into original configuration should subsequent owners ever want to use it to train younger children or are concerned about collector value. I chose this option because although the DV buttplate has a large LOP adjustment, I don’t want to cut the stock much shorter than it already is, as the length of the comb where it contacts the cheek is already at close to the minimum length for an adult firing offhand.
The first step is to drill the new base plate to match the stock’s existing buttplate screw inserts. I use the original buttplate as a template to centerpunch the holes, and set the depth stop on the drill press to drill the countersinks first, so the hole and countersink allow the plates to nest perfectly flush with each other.
Because this plate is slightly narrower than the Kimber stock and I want to avoid major work reshaping the stock from the wrist rearward, I’ll make a walnut plate to fair the transition between stock and butt plate while also protecting the stock’s end grain from chipping. Layout of the plate is straightforward, using the drilled base plate as the template to mark hole locations.
The hole in the plate for the buttplate extension is bored plumb on the drill press and its shoulders serve as an index to freehand the deep hole for the buttplate extension. Set the drill press up to do this if you lack experience. An L-shaped jig can be fabricated from half-inch plywood to clamp to the edge of the drill press table to hold the stock vertically.
The final result is a serviceable 4-way buttplate with a minimum LOP of 13 ½” for a small adult, yet with the capability of putting the rifle back into its original buttplate spacer configuration for children. This stock is ready to use for most competitors of average body build.
An alternative of greater benefit to shooters (especially those with long necks) at the expense of spoiling any future collector value is to shorten the stock and install adjustable comb hardware. Here I’ve taped the stock to prevent chipping by the saw and to aid layout. I remove 5/8” of the stock’s length using a large miter saw, reinstall the aluminum base plate assembly and lay out the locations of holes and their depths to decide where to cut the comb. The threaded inserts anchoring the buttplate bolts remove and reinstall easily using an Allen wrench, and are sized to match the existing bolt hole, precluding the need for drilling new pilot holes. To insure all cuts are plumb, I mount the stock to a scrap of sacrificial doorskin using shims and tape, and will cut through the doorskin as well as the stock. I’ve also used heavy cardboard and spray adhesive for this purpose of squaring and plumbing odd-shaped workpieces for cutting…it’s the easiest method to insure perfect cuts on expensive wood. Here I’ve chosen Graco adjustable comb hardware from Brownell’s that easily adjusts using Allen wrenches for cast as well as height. This hardware is more often seen on shotguns than rifles, but at $28 to gunsmiths, it’s by far the most economical solution. These also come with the posts mounted to a plate instead of to disks, but the disks and bushings are perfectly sized to match common Forstner bits and take less shop time to install.