As most of you know McMillan has manufactured stocks for the Marine Corps since 1975. First the M40a1 and then the M40a3/5. Many of you want to build replicas and therefore need some information about the stocks in order to help you make better decision about which stocks to order and how you want them made.
First, “Smear Pattern”. This was actually created early in the life of the M40a1. The Marine Corps stocks were the first stocks in which we used colored gelcoat to effect a camouflage pattern. We were new at it. And honestly, I did a pretty poor job of applying the gelcoat. Since we had three different colors two of the colors were put into the mold first. Then the main color, the forest green portion was put in the mold over the other colors. While rubbing the base into the mold it tended to smear the two colors place in the mold before it. If I didn’t mix the gelcoats thick enough it would smear terribly. Some looked better than others, but it took about three years to figure out how to make the stocks so that the gelcoat didn’t smear. So, the “smear pattern” was a mistake and an example of a young company not having well established procedures to insure consistency. I will not duplicate the pattern for two reasons. One, it would minimize the value of the original “smear pattern “ stocks, and two I refuse to repeat my mistakes, even if there is a good reason.
The stocks we made for the Marines were smooth surfaced and had no texturing in the pistol grip or forend. When we first started making hunting stocks using the M40a1 molds, we called them General Purpose Hunting Stocks. The biggest complaint was that they were too slippery to hunt with in cold and wet weather. So we made a few molds specifically for hunting and added texture to them, but we continued selling the Marines stocks without texture. We still have a couple of the original molds so we can make stocks just like the Marines used.
So that does it for the stock. Now we will talk about how the rifle was built. The reason this is important will become clear as we progress. Lets start with the simplest thing first. Lets define the terms that are being used in relation to building a rifle that resembles an M40.
REPLICA – This term is used to indicate that you intend to build a rifle as close to the original M40a1 as is possible, using all materials and techniques still available. This rifle more than likely will be shot for accuracy one or twice and then reside in the display case or the gun safe for most of its life.
CLONE – This term indicates you intend to build a rifle to the basic specs as the M40a1 but plan to use it as you would any rifle in your safe. Having an identical rifle isn’t really the point so when challenged with some of the more difficult choices you should opt for ‘easy’.
Now we can discuss why this makes a difference. If you want to build a replica, by all means spend the time and the money to do the very best job possible. Have us install the steel inserts, drill them, tap them, and then install the Wichita swivels. Supply us with the Red Pachmayr ½ pad, with the leather texture, so we can install it. And do all the adaptations to the action required to have a ‘replica’. If you just want to build a ‘clone’ then don’t worry about the Wichita swivels, just have us install standard Uncle Mike’s studs. It is much cheaper and for a rifle you are going to shoot frequently, it won’t make any difference. Taking the sling off and on when shooting from the bench will be much, much easier with Uncle Mike’s swivels than with Wichita swivels.
When deciding whether you want to build a replica or a clone, there are two issues you need to consider as they relate to the stock. The first relates to the butt hook itself, and the second to the cheek piece. If you are building a replica, you need to decide whether you need to build the original M40a3, the late model M40a3, or an M40a5. The original A-4 stock that we designed by the Marines had a large butt hook that was about two inches forward of the recoil pad and was pretty deep. We made about 100-150 of them before they decided it really wasn’t designed right so they had us make it smaller and move it toward the grip so that is in-line with the rear screw on the cheek piece. No other changes were made at that time, the stocks looked very similar and if you weren’t looking hard you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. So you have to decide whether you want to build a “Mod 1” or a “Mod 2”. We are in the process of making a couple dozen of the “Mod1” stocks that will be available on the on-line store. The “Mod 2” stocks are a standard item. (They won’t be called Mod 2, just an USMC M40A3.) It you have an opportunity to buy a McMillan A4 on the secondary market and want to know which stock it is, the Mod 1 is tapered from the butt hook to the front of the pistol grip in a straight line. The Mod 2 is angled from the hook to the rear of the pistol grip and has a pronounced grip cap. Once you know this it is easy to tell the difference.
Once you have decided which Mod you are building, then you need to determine whether you are building a clone or a replica. The reason you need to know is simple. The current A4 McMillan stock is a much better designed stock, and the cheek piece elevator is much better. If you want a rifle that you can take to the range and shoot, a lot, and not worry about whether the butt hook is designed right and whether the two screw cheek piece elevator will continually come loose while you are shooting, then buy our current issue A4 stock. If you want a replica you plan to shoot very little, one that sits in the display cabinet, by all means buy whichever Mod you choose, and specify the two screw Marine cheek piece.