History of the McMillan A-Series – Part One
Most people know that McMillan started making the M40A1 in 1975, but don’t really know the story of the rest of the A series stocks. So I thought I would take a few minutes and let you know how and why the rest of the stocks came about.
The Marines decided after the Vietnam war that they had had a much higher success rate with their sniper program than they did with their battle rifles. As a result they decided to expand the M40 program and develop a rifle specifically as a sniper rifle. The original M40’s that were used in the war were just factory produced Remington 40x rifles; factory barrels, wood stocks and no glass bedding. Though they were effectively hunting rifles, they proved the concept. A man with an accurate bolt action rifle was the scariest warrior in the battle. In their effort to develop a rifle that would serve the needs of the elite Marine Corps Scout Sniper, they asked Gale McMillan what he would build as a sniper rifle if it were left up to him. He basically said it needed to have a fiberglass stock to combat the variables presented by the environments around the world. It also needed a match grade stainless barrel and an optic tough enough to hold up to the rigors of a Scout Sniper’s duties. The Marines insisted that the stock be simple, non-adjustable and most of all Marine proof. My father designed what amounted to a hunting stock that could accommodate a heavy contour barrel, had a Monte-Carlo comb for use with a scope, and was made as indestructible as possible. He provided a sample of what he thought the rifle should look like, and the Marine Corps basically adopted it just as he built it.
After about 10 years in the field, the Marines had gotten a good feel for what the M40A1 stock’s strengths and weaknesses were. With the Unertl scope and scope rings chosen for the M40A1, the comb, although a Monte-Carlo, just wasn’t high enough to get a good solid cheek weld. The forend, though plenty stiff enough, was a little narrow and did not provide a solid platform from which to shoot while laying the forend over something such as your ruck. Because the M40’s were issued to many different shooters, the fact that they were a fixed length of pull with a standard recoil pad really didn’t help it fit a lot of the shooters. So the Marine Corps came to us in the early 90’s and asked us to work with them on designing a new stock that would correct all these flaws in the M40A1 stock, and we did. We took the Monte-Carlo off the stock and raised the comb as high as we could get it and still be able to operate the bolt. We left just enough room to get a saddle type cheek piece on and not interfere with the operation of the bolt. We devised a spacer system so that we could offer an adjustable LOP. And lastly, we widened the forend so that it would make a more suitable shooting platform and deepened it to give extra space for installing forend rails and spigots for Parker Hale bipods. Thus the the A2 was born. Unfortunately, the Marines weren’t quite ready to switch out all of the M40A1’s and never purchased any. The FBI purchased some as well as the Navy. Crane built them into the Mark 13 sniper rifles issued to the SEALs and the FBI used them for the HRT.
It wasn’t very long until the A2 was very popular, but several of the users complained that the forend was too deep which made it hard to control when shooting off a window ledge or ruck sack. Users wanted to know if we could cut the forend down. Also, they wanted an integral adjustable cheek piece rather than the saddle type. Therefore, we made those changes to the A2 and named it the A3. The A3 was popular among civilian shooters but was never adopted by any of the military groups with which we dealt. In the end only a few law enforcement agencies ordered them.
To be continued…