Build a Custom Stock for the Springfield M1A





Introduction: Build a Custom Stock for the Springfield M1A

About: I am a perpetual student, researcher, and hopelessly dedicated skill collector. I hope that you can find something inspiring or useful in the instructables I publish.
I'm a big fan of the M1A rifle in all it's configurations - it's accurate, fun to shoot, and reliable as an anvil (and almost as heavy - lol) - but even it can be improved.  I also like pistol-grip stocks - mostly because I find them more comfortable for the target shooting I typically do.  The issue for me is that while there are commercial rifle stocks out there for the M1A (Vltor, McMillan, etc), they're pretty far from what one would consider "inexpensive" - ranging in price from $500 to $900 dollars.... so I decided to build my own. 

A while back I picked up a handful of surplus Vietnam-era synthetic stocks (1 nice one, 2 thrashed ones) with the idea of using them as a starting point, and after some experimentation, came up with a technique that I think is worth sharing.  Depending on what materials are used, a nice stock can be built for as little as $150-$200.  In this Instructable, I'll show a technique that I used to build 3 variations of a comfortable and functional stock.

What you will need:
  • Donor stock - this can be a nice one, but it's better to use a structurally sound "less pretty" one as the nice synthetics are becoming harder to find - and the less "aesthetically pleasing" ones are a lot less expensive.  Expect to pay around $20-30 for a solid candidate.
  • A pistol-grip style buttstock.  I've found the aftermarket stocks for the Mossberg 500 series shotgun seem to work well and have about the right shape as well as a good "keying" surface.
  • Epoxy - I use a quality 30-minute epoxy.  I find the faster-setting epoxies don't seem as strong and don't seem to bond as well - just my opinion, of course.
  • A Tee-Nut that matches the buttstock mounting bolt you intend to use.  5/16" X18 X 7/8" in this case.  I used the 3-hole version, not the barbed version of the tee-nut.
  • Hot glue gun
  • Fiberglass cloth or chopped fiberglass
  • Petroleum Jelly to act as a parting compound or release agent
  • A sculptable epoxy clay or similar (possibly fiber-filled bondo, but I like to use similar materials for better bonding)
  • Paint - Duracoat in my case, but rattle-can paint would work, too.
  • An electric handpiece, Foredom, or Dremel would be very helpful
  • Various files, sandpaper (wet/dry aluminum oxide), clamps, hacksaw or sawzall, sander, etc

Step 1: Design

When I originally decided to do this, I spent some time trying to find an aftermarket pistol-grip stock that seemed to have the same lines as the fiberglass stock.  I took a picture of the fiberglass stock with the action in place against a light background, took the image into Photoshop and then ran the "Find Edges" filter.  I did the same with a few product images that I found online of a few pistol-grip stocks.  This gave me a line drawing of the shapes to work with and kept me from being distracted by shading.  After trying a few different combinations, it seemed that the stocks designed for the Mossberg 500 shotgun were a good match, so I took the plunge and ordered an ATI adjustable stock.

One thing to keep in mind is whether you plan to use optics or not.  In my case, I knew I wanted to use the iron sights, so I wanted a stock that would allow me to keep the same cheek-weld as the original stock.  If you plan to use optics, you will either want a different shaped buttstock, or, one with an adjustable cheek riser (see the folding stock in this Instructable).

Step 2: Modifying the Stock - A.k.a. - the Point of No Return

Once you have the new buttstock in hand, it's time to figure out how to locate it and in turn, where to cut the stock.  The easiest way for me is to just lay the new stock on the old one, make sure that the comb (cheek area) is lined up, and mark the angle and placement of the mating face.  After this is done, I use a reciprocating saw with a bi-metal blade (you may hit one of the steel alignment pins in the stock) to cut shy of the line.  Using a belt sander, I sneak up on the final line, stopping to check how the new buttstock will mate up as I go.  Take your time - you can always take a little more off, but you can't put it back on.  It might be helpful at this point to scoop out some of the foam that makes up the core of the stock so that you can fully fit the mating surfaces together to check trigger position relative to the grip and the buttstock's angle of attachment to make sure you like it.

Once you have it aligned and working, you can clean the foam out the cavity at the base of the stock.  You'll want to remove as much foam as possible - and preferably grind all the way down to the fiberglass (but not through it, of course).  I use a combination of carbide and tungsten burrs with an electric handpiece for this process and it goes very quickly.  While doing this, try to break (round) any sharp edges - you want to avoid leaving any sharp corners inside the cavity as they tend to be what are known as "stress risers" and will often be the place that a crack will originate.

Step 3: Installing the Buttstock Anchor

I spent a good bit of time experimenting with anchoring systems for these stocks before settling on using a tee-nut embedded in fiber-reinforced epoxy.  This system is quick to put together, inexpensive, forgiving to build, and very strong.  I chose fiber-reinforced epoxy for it's bond strength and shock resistance - and ease of obtaining parts and materials.

I decided to use the 3-hole tee-nuts over the barbed versions because I wanted to control the shape of the cutouts and I was skeptical that the barbed versions would embed themselves as thoroughly - I thought the barbs might keep the epoxy/glass slush from fully flowing over the top of the flange and locking it in.  I used a cutoff wheel in a 4" angle grinder to make the cuts - but anything that will cut metal will work.  I also roughed up the entire outer surface of the tee-nut to give the epoxy more purchase.

I made the "chopped glass" by cutting up some fiberglass cloth to around 1/4" to 1/2" lengths and teasing the strands apart to make them more random.

The basic t-nut embedding process is this:
  1. Mount your tee-nut to the grip using the mounting bolt.  Make sure that the tee-nut is short enough to allow the grip to fully seat against the front part of the stock - you do NOT want to find out it won't fit once the stock is packed with epoxy and glass.
  2. Figure out your clamping setup ahead of time - do a dry run to make sure everything will hold it's position while the glue cures.  Leave your front stock clamped up in a vertical orientation. Check alignment twice.
  3. Take the bolt and tee-nut apart, coat the bolt with petroleum jelly and re-install the tee-nut.  Make SURE you don't contaminate the outer surface of the tee-nut with petroleum jelly - if you do, clean it off thoroughly.
  4. Fill the end of the tee-nut with hot glue to keep epoxy from seeping into the threads.
  5. Mix about 2 tablespoons of epoxy (30-minute or longer setting is preferred)
  6. Mix glass strands into your epoxy.  You're going for a paste-like consistency
  7. Pack the paste into the cavity.  Do a decent amount of "packing" with a small stick or pointed instrument.  What you are doing is trying to pack the material against the sides and force out any air bubbles.
  8. When you have the epoxy mixture packed in, press the stock with tee-nut into place.  A slight side-to-side motion is helpful to kind of dig the tee-nut in and get material to squish up around the sides.
  9. Clamp your pistol-grip in place and wait for everything to cure.  Even though the epoxy will seem cured in a couple of hours, don't put any serious torque on the tee-nut for at least 24 hours.
Now it's time to move on to filling in and "keying" the grip....

Step 4: Filling and "Keying" to Fit the Buttstock

At this point, your buttstock will bolt up, but it will likely not look very pretty and would probably rotate with a little effort.  You need to "key" the C-shaped ridge on the mating face of the buttstock into something to lock it in place - and that something is Epoxy Sculpt.

Epoxy Sculpt is a two-part epoxy clay that once cured is *extremely* hard.  It comes in three colors last time I checked - grey, black, and brown.  If you want to buy it locally, check with a taxidermist supply - they tend to keep that kind of thing around ;)   Epoxy Sculpt bonds to just about everything and is extremely hard to remove if it does bond to something you don't want it to (like a counter top) so keep that in mind.  One interesting thing about it is that you can use water to smooth it and wash it off while it's still soft.

Some tips on mixing Epoxy Sculpt: 
  1. Wearing gloves, pull out equal-sized portions of hardener and resin and roll them into balls.
  2. Mash the two balls together either between your hands or on a sheet of waxed paper.
  3. Tear the flattened layers in half and stack on top the other.
  4. Mash it all flat again, tear it, stack it, mash it, repeat.
  5. Once you get a lot of layers, go ahead and knead it all together.  Doing it this way saves a lot of time and strain.
Once you have the Epoxy Sculpt mixed, cover a spare bolt with some petroleum jelly and thread it into the tee-nut.  You're doing this so that you won't accidentally get some Epoxy Sculpt down in the threads - which would be bad.  Begin packing the  Epoxy Sculpt into the cavity around the tee-nut.  You're looking for really good bonding to these surfaces - so a decent technique is to pack in pea-sized globs and really make sure they're pressed in to every nook and cranny.  Once this is done, go ahead and build up enough Epoxy Sculpt to fill the voids in the mating parts of your buttstock.

Once this is done, remove the spare bolt.  Coat the mating bolt from the buttstock with petroleum jelly (be generous).  Now, coat the Epoxy Sculpt AND the mating surfaces of the buttstock with petroleum jelly - you're trying to make sure you have a LOT of parting compound because like I said, Epoxy Sculpt will bond tenaciously with just about any surface - and if you want to be able to get your stock apart again to sand and paint it, well, the more parting compound the better :)

Using the bolt to draw the buttstock up tight, go ahead and smush (the technical term, of course) the buttstock into the clay.  Snug up the bolt until you have a flush fit.  Be sure to check that the pistol grip is centered and not canted to one side or the other, then go outside and play with the dog for a few hours while the Epoxy Sculpt sets up.  You can speed up the cure by putting the stock in the oven at 150 degrees or so, but you didn't hear that from me - no fair blaming me when your wife catches you.

Step 5: Details, Finish Preparation, Finish

Once the Epoxy Sculpt has cured and you've managed to get the grip off the stock without breaking anything, go ahead and rough-shape the hardened clay with files or a Dremel.  Rough up the slot in the right side of the stock that used to house the selector switch (if you want to plug that hole, anyway) and also, rough up the sides of the stock toward the rear - you're going to put another layer of Epoxy Sculpt on here to give you enough material to create a nice smooth transition from the pistol grip to the stock. 

At this point, you're going to want to let your hands do the "seeing" to find any bulges or sharp corners that are uncomfortable or annoying - and get rid of them.  Keep checking and adjusting the Epoxy Sculpt around the grip until it's smooth and comfortable to your hand.  Don't worry about making this super - smooth - sanding to 150 grit should be enough - as long as you plan on using some filler primer in the next step.

Once the stock feels good, give it an overall roughing up with a scotchbrite pad and wash it thoroughly.  I used a catalyzed urethane primer (filler primer) sold by Keystone.  One thing great about this primer is that it wet-sands very nicely, and it's pretty hard - a great substrate for the Duracoat topcoat.

Final finish is Duracoat Matte Black and OD Green.

Step 6: Final Assembly

Just a few "beauty shots" of the stocks with action in place.

Thanks for reading - I hope you found something useful here!



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    26 Discussions

    Im about to start this project. What stock is that you used (that has the ar15grip on it) do you have a link to where I can buy it?? Thanks for the awesome tutorial!

    3 replies

    I can't find the specific place I bought mine - it was a few years ago - but this looks like the identical product:

    You might also want to consider the Mesa Tactical adapter - it's aluminum as opposed to glass-filled nylon (and $35 more expensive). I think if these had been around when I built mine, I'd have used this:

    Good Luck on your build! :)

    Still waiting on supplies... How is your build holding up after these years?

    No problems whatsoever - probaby 500-600 rounds through the SOCOM .... although I have refrained from butt-stroking doors with them. ;)

    Hey Jw, ,

    I'm almost finished with my stock . All that's left is to use the Magic -Sculpt to finish the outside contours, add a few small pic rails at 9,6 and 3 O'clock and paint that puppy up . I can't thank you enough for your P.M. and help with this project .It's made an already great CQB full power battle rifle even better . I wish I'd had this when I was still working as a Deputy Sheriff in a small rural Sheriff's Office where backup could be a half hour away at times . I carried a S&W M&P 15-T as my patrol rifle . I like the S&W , but I'd have dropped it like a hot potato for this rifle . My M1A loaded rode as my long range sniper rifle .I'd have gladly given up ten rounds in the mag and taken an extra inch in length and extra pound in weight for the heavy stopping power and barrier penetration of the 7.62X51 0ver the 5.56 .

    I'll post pics when she's all done, thanks again,


    Hey Lou,

    Sorry - I've been slammed with "regular" work - not a great excuse, but the only one I've got ;)

    PM'ing is pretty easy - just click on my user name in this (or any other) reply (you'll see it underlined and your cursor will turn to a hand)

    Then, on the page it takes you to, click on the "Private Message" button, and it will open a message window:


    Hey jw ,i haven't heard from you.again id like to ask you questions about materials and other details about building my stock please send me another email and explain to me how we can private message here on the instructables forum thanks

    Hey JW, I got your message but don't know how to P.M. here .If you could shoot me another P.M. and tell me how to get my info to you it would be a great help .Also I'm on the M14 forum username cruzerlou. You must know someone there as they told me that they have shot your rifle .Either way toy can reach me there also and we can P,M. through that forum.

    Thanks, Lou

    Hey jwillilamsen, great looking stock .I want to build one my self.

    \I'm new to this social media thing so I 'm on facebook , but I would like to ask you some detailed questions about this build .Do you have an E-Mail your willing to give me so we can talk? .If you give me yours , I'll E-Mail you my cell phone # and we can do it quick .If your not comfortablr with that I guess you know how to reach me on facebook and we can message there I think? Again I'm new to al this .



    1 reply

    Hey Lou,

    Just in case the instructables robot didn't forward the message - I sent you a PM via the instructables system - you should get an email notification. If you didn't get that email, post another comment and we'll try something different (I'm not on Facebook).

    Question, is the putty (I assume it is similar to steel bedding putty) able to bond with wood? I have a couple of old M14 parade stocks that could take a mod like this. I just ordered one of the Maco group m500 folders with the adjustable comb. If its not possible I can order a GI fiberglass beater..........but, I would like to use the ones I already have. I'm a big fan of your ibles of woodworking and rifle mods. I am also a big CZ fan and seeing your bolt handle mod was great. I have a 527 carbine (7.62x39) that would be a cool candidate for that!

    8 replies

    The putty I'm using is able to bond with wood, but it's very rigid when it's cured - which means that if the wood isn't well-sealed, moisture expansion/contraction might create a bonding problem. Having said that, however, I've never seen Brownell's Steel Bed come out of a wooden stock. I think if you made certain that the wood had good "tooth", the putty would work fine. You could also use fiber-reinforced body filler which might have a bit more flex to it.

    If you like these 'ibles, you might be interested in an upcoming instructable on building sporterized military surplus rifles. I've built a Yugo Mauser and a Mosin Nagant that are amazingly accurate with handloads, and dramatically more comfortable to shoot. This is a pic of an 8mm Yugo M24/47 complete with modded trench magazine:


    Thats a pretty SNAZZY rifle overall!! I have a few questions about the build but, they can wait until after you publish this ible. Those Boyds laminate stocks sure can do wonders for a jacked up old surplus military surplus rifle!

    I recently bought a few push chisels and checkering tools and stated working on stocks (wood of course). I never have been able to properly handle an M14 rifle because of the small size of my hands. My Scout was no exception so, after upgrading some of the parts I decided to recut and checker the stock. Here is the result.


    Wow! That's impressive - and I'm not easily impressed! lol I'd say you've "gotten into it" alright - you could do that for hire and probably have more work that you could stand :) Both the standard and basketweave checkering are beautiful! Unfortunately, now those stocks are so pretty I'd be hesitant to use them! :)

    These aren't the stocks I plan to use. Recently, at my local surplus store (which I frequent) I found a box of beat up M14 stocks minus liners. I bought 2 for 10 bucks each. On the mini I saved the original and have three more given to me by a gunsmith. He said that the originals are worthless because everyone wants to change them out for tactical crap and lightweight plastic stocks.

    I also have been getting in to basket weave checkering and decided that it was time to give it a try on a real stock. This type of carving takes a lot of time and is even tougher when done as wrap around.


    One other it me or is the picatinny rail mounted backwards for a reason? I thought the gap was supposed to be facing forward? Mine has a sling loop on the back side of it.......... I think its made by versapod.

    Good eye! The rail IS mounted backward from the usual configuration - it's because I sometimes use a Magpul vertical grip on the rail, and this puts it at a more comfortable distance.

    Nice, glad to see someone else having the same idea as me. I'm currently working on a stock for a Mosin Nagant that I'm building. So far so good, but now that I saw your epoxy set up, I'm finally gonna be able to finish it! Thanks for the idea!