Friday, August 17, 2012

Stock Investments

       This might not be about what you think it is. Finding the perfect biathlon rifle is similar to fighting an incurable disease. Modifying the barrel is one thing, but altering the stock is the real clutch. Most of the time we can only make changes to the barrel and action when we're in Europe where we can work with Fortner or Anschutz for a rare request. The wooden stock that the metal sits in is another story. With the right tools and adequate patients you can do a lot to the stock. It might make a big difference or it might only be subtle. Either way, it's seldom a quick fix. This year I've made a hand full of tweaks on my stock. I'm very close to be being done for the year. Chances are, next year I'll have a list of new improvements to deal with.
       I own an Antila stock. It Finish and don't ask me what kind of wood it's made from. If I were a betting man I would say maple, cherry, or maybe walnut. It was nice from the start, but “nice” isn't perfect and since perfection is what we're going for here, changes were inedible. A friend of Armin's in Antholze helped with the first round of changes. I still use the butt plate he carved for me. He was a very talented wood worker who recently started making his own line of biathlon stocks (bachmann-biathlonstocks).
        Last year we made some significant additions to the standing grip. This is was where I got to know wood filler and how to use a dremel tool. The first touch is always the hardest. Once you've hacked away at it a little or added any amount of material it's pretty easy to get carried away. The goal was to mold the wood filler to fit the grip of my left hand while in the standing position. This could help with stability and ultimately raise the probability of hitting the target. The problem with wood filler is that you can only add a thin layer at a time. That thin layer is never smooth and always needs to my sanded down once it hardens. This meant going back in forth to the rifle room at the OTC frequently. When I thought it was close to being done and feeling good I gave it a trial run during combos. It only took one sessions for my back to start bleeding from the extension that I'd worked on so diligently to set me back to the drawing board. The extra grove where my fingers slipped into were digging into my back when ever I skied with the rifle on. To fix this we had to add enough wood filler on the outside edges of the groves to increase the surface area to a less painful level. That seemed to help. I added in some dimpling for grip and varnish for durability. It wasn't the prettiest looking stock on the circuit but I was proud of it.
        When May of this year rolled around Armin and I sat down for one short session. About two hours later we had laid out the ground work for what I knew would take me all summer to finalize. It didn't seem like too many changes, but I know enough now that small projects always take longer than they should. The changes weren’t limited to the material side of things. There were a lot of refinements in the set up for both prone and standing in an effort to bring range time down. Some of the ideas we had will have to wait until next week when we're in Germany. The rest was up to me to do.
        Yesterday I lathered on the final layer of stain. The additions now look somewhat like they originally belonged on the stock. Most of what I did was move the standing grip from last year ahead an inch or two. This made my left hand during standing less crooked. It wasn't as simple as just moving it ahead, however. I have to hack away all of last years work and then rebuild it again. I also had to flesh out the pistol grip for prone to accommodate smoother bolting. I also came up with the idea of added something to my arm sling to make it more accessible and less awkward when hooking into my cuff for prone. I couldn’t start any of this until I got back from the training camp in Bend. And even then I had to borrow Lowell's dremel tool and buy more wood filler. Do you see how obnoxious a simple task can be?
I'm in the midst of looking into getting a better camera. 

        Most of that is done. I will see Armin next week and look forward to his opinion on it. We will test my new sprint barrel against the old fat one in a cold chamber to see if it's worth using this winter. Assuming it is, we will make a few minor changes to the clip chamber to allow smoother loading. The other guys on the team have always made new changes to there stock year after year, if not that than just bought a whole new one. I'd like to think that I've found the perfect fit, but at this point I'm pretty sure that's a pipe dream. Training camp in Europe marks the first 3:1 week cycle of the training season. It's about two weeks of rain in Ruhpolding, and one week of ski tunnel snow in Oberhof. If they have internet, and they just may not, I'll keep you posted.  

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