Having discussed the finer points of the musket lock and lock timing, tuning and polishing, it is time to discuss the stock and the role it plays in marksmanship. The stock is designed to provide the shooter with the platform for his or her projectile launch. A poorly made or designed stock will inhibit good marksmanship, while a well made and designed stock will allow the shooter to concentrate more on the target then the fit of his weapon.

A musket or carbine stock is very utilitarian. It not only provides a place for the lock to ignite the barrel charge, it also can be used as a weapon, or with a weapon attached. The stock also provides mass to counteract the effects of recoil. The creation or improvement of any musket or carbine depends as much on the stock as it does on the lock or barrel. There are several concepts of stock design which the shooter should be familiar with. There is a standard nomenclature for stock parts, and every stock has specific measurements which manifest its' design. The part of the stock which rests on the shooters shoulder is the butt. The top of the butt (with barrel on top) is the heel, and the bottom of the stock is the toe. This is easy to remember if you stand at Order Arms. The heel of the buttstock is by your right heel, and the toe of the buttstock is by your toes. The butt of the stock is covered with a buttplate to protect the end grain of the wood from splitting in the service of the weapon. Any reader with skirmishing or reenacting experience has slammed the butt of the weapon on the ground more then a few times. The buttplate protects the exposed grain at the buttstock. The stock tapers from the butt to the wrist, which is the area where the shooter wraps his trigger finger hand for support. The comb is that part of the stock behind and above the wrist. The comb and heel form the top of the buttstock where the shooter rests his or her head for sighting. The amount of drop in the top of the buttstock. from comb to heel, is expressed as the AVERAGE BUTT DROP.

Several other measurements define the stock architecture precisely. The measurement from the bottom tip of the trigger to the middle of the buttplate is called the LENGTH OF TRIGGER PULL. The measurement from the heel to the trigger tip, and from the toe to the trigger tip define the pitch of the buttplate, if any.

The table included in this article includes a brief overview of the two main styles of stock architecture. The Enfield has a straighter stock and a larger buttplate then the Springfield style weapons. The Enfield also weighs more then a Springfield, a hinderance on the march but a blessing on the line when more weight means less recoil.


in inches)





Drop at


Drop at



Butt Drop



Enfield 1.87 5.12 1.25 1.75 1.50 14.00
Springfield 1.62 4.50 1.62 2.62 2.12 13.25


The stock also contains several inletted areas. The barrel channel provides the joining of the barrel to the other components. The lock mortise and trigger mortise provide the mounting of these vital systems. A ramrod channel allows the loading rod to be carried safely with the weapon.

There are two main styles of stock for the purpose of creating a Civil War era long-arm--American (Springfield) and English (Enfield). Within the American stock architecture style are several notable subgroups of design, including Mississippis, Fayettevilles, Springfields and Harper Ferrys. The English stock architecture remained constant for almost two centuries, evolving from the Queen Anne Musket of French and Indian War service through the Enfields of the Crimean War and was continued in the Lee-Enfield cartridge weapons of English manufacture.

Interestingly, it is the constant of the Enfield stock which delights me. I shoot an Enfield Musketoon in carbine events, and an Enfield Model 1858 Rifle-Musket (Two-band) in musket events. The stock dimensions are identical, only the weight and length are different. Both stocks fit my shoulder the same way, which eliminates any adjustment when shooting individuals. I favor the Enfield stock architecture because before I was an N-SSA shooter, I was an NSSA (National Skeet Shooting Association) shooter. I earned my Marksmanship Merit Badge in the B.S.A. with a shotgun, in my younger days I was a frequent bird hunter with a shotgun, and my first recreational shooting was with a shotgun, so I appreciate an Enfield because of its' high comb. Other shooters will swear an Enfield beats them to death, so it really is a matter of personal preference.

Ultimately, it is the shooter who must decide which style is best for him (or her). The purpose of this discussion was to highlight the difference in style between the two major patterns of military arms in use in the War Between the States. Hopefully, I have given the reader enough information to understand the physical differences between the two. Next time, I'll talk about improving your stocks performance and custom fitting your stock to your style of shooting. Until then, shoot safe and have fun.

(c) 1994 by Tom Kelley

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