It’s a problem that many shooters have—they get a new rifle that seems ideal in every respect, but once you put a scope on, it’s not so ideal.
The scope mounts I have for my new Mossberg Patriot in .300 Win Mag are a little on the high side, and the comb on my laminated stock isn’t high enough for me to see the crosshairs without lifting my head quite a bit, almost removing my cheek from the stock. What to do?
Back in May, the venerable David E. Petzal wrote this post about the DIY comb riser featured in the film “American Sniper,” a version of which he says he’s come to depend on many times.
I re-read that post recently and started poking around the web for some material options, because like Petzal, I was tiring of strap-on comb risers that slid out of place and added considerable bulk to a rifle stock. I figured I’d take a stab at making my own.
After trying to securely attach an old pad made by a company that shall remain nameless and throwing it across the garage, I checked Amazon to see how much it would cost using the list of supplies I found here on luckygunner.com, which has some excellent step-by-step instructions.
The key bit of material is the foam from a sleeping pad or yoga mat. That’s what was used for Bradley Cooper’s rifle, and what many military snipers often use, simply because it’s available, and it happens to work perfectly. When taped down, it compresses to the right density for a rifle cheek pad, not too soft, but not too rigid.
It might seem a waste to buy a sleeping pad just to cut up one end of it, but you only have to cut off a strip. That leaves the rest of the pad to be used as a shooting mat. If you have an old, gouged-up pad, you can use that and save yourself a whole $5.37, which is the cost of a new pad on Amazon.
The other item you’ll need is some Vetrap. This is a bandage material from 3M made specifically for animals that’s remarkable stretchy and only adheres to itself, so it won’t stick to an animal’s fur. This also means there’s no gooey adhesive to get on your rifle stock.
For a battle rifle, there’s no doubt that heavy duct tape is the best material to use, but if it’s a rifle with a nice woodstock—or more importantly, if you’re borrowing a rifle that doesn’t fit you right, going with the Vetrap is a great choice for a cheap, temporary fix that will last if you need it to. As a bonus, Vetrap resists moisture.
If it’s not available in a store near you,you can get a 15-foot roll for $5 online. One roll was enough for my rifle. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors and widths. This is what I got. Notice it’s not the Vetrap brand, and the threads that run through this tape, which give it its strength, are white, making the black wrap seem more grey or pinstriped when it’s all stretched out as you can see in the photos. It works just as well, but if aesthetics are paramount for you, be warned.
Here’s how to do it:
Start by cutting some pieces of foam as large as you would like your pad. Some shooters prefer a narrow stack of pads right at the top of the stock, other prefer to wrap larger pieces of foam over the full comb. It’s up to you. You’ll see as you wrap the foam with the tape that you’ll be able to shape it a little by tightening or slacking your wrap a little.
Get some scotch tape and affix the foam to your stock and shoulder the rifle from a variety of positions, making sure it’s comfortable and tall enough and there’s no scope shadow in your view. I had to stack two pieces of foam to get to the right height.
IMPORTANT: While you’re doing this, if you have a bolt-action or MSR-type rifle, make sure there is enough clearance for your bolt or charging handle to complete it’s full range of motion with the pad in place. If you regularly remove the bolt on your rifle, take this into account as well. If you can’t move the pad back any farther, you can cut a semi-circle from the front of the pad to make room.
I left the scotch tape on to hold the pads in place as I started to wrap them with the vet tape from one end. I removed the scotch tape once there was enough vet tape to hold everything in place. As you do this, you’ll notice the texture of the sleeping pad will grip the stock and to the other piece of pad very well once under tension.
As you get to the ends, make sure the foam is completely covered with the Vetrap before finishing it on the bottom of the stock.
I added a piece of self-adhesive Velcro to the outside of the wrap so I could slap on a shell carrier that I had laying around if I want.
As Kyle Eggimann over at luckygunner.com points out (thanks for the great how-to, Kyle), some might find the texture of the stretched out Vet tape a little rough to rest your face on for extended periods of time. He recommends adding a piece of self-adhering moleskin to the top of the pad to serve as a soft surface for your cheek. I might end up doing this, simply because, as he says, this will keep more face oil and sweat from getting on the vet tape itself, letting it last longer.
Again, this can be done as a simple solution to get the right fit for your rifle or shotgun stock that can be aesthetically pleasing, if you do the wrapping very neatly (I’m not nearly OCD enough to make this look as pretty as it could look) that won’t damage your rifle stock, whether it be wood or synthetic. And you can certainly do it on the cheap.
That’s a Grand Total of: $13.33 and about 15 minutes of effort, or just $10.36 without the Velcro. And if you ever had to make another, you just have to buy another roll of vet tape and cut another piece of foam (if necessary).
If you want to add the moleskin, that will run you another few bucks, depending on the type and color you choose. I still have to see how it stands up to extended use, but after a trip to the range, it’s working great and is even strong enough to hold my shell carrier.