Mocking up the cheek piece.
A c-clamp works great during this stage.
All rifles have a different feel depending on the stock shape, comb height, length of pull, etc. After that it comes down to what scope, rail and ring setup you're running, all the way down to how you hold your face to the rifle. All of that greatly varies from person to person. It’s this reason that I always like to tinker and customize pretty much every piece of gear I own. If you're looking for a different feel, you could get a new rifle stock, but that can get expensive really fast. I prefer to do a little work myself in order to get the feel I'm looking for. I’ve shot raised cheek pieces on rifles for a while now and each time I set one up on my personal rifle or for a friend, it gets a little less scary when you take the drill to the stock (which is the biggest hurdle to overcome). Some setups do not need a rasied cheek piece at all, but if you look at the above photo, you'll notice that the distance from the original rifle stock to the center of the riflescope is 2.78 inches. This increase in height is due to the 20 MOA picatinny rail, the size of scope rings and the size of the Vortex Viper PST 6-24x50 riflescope. So if you struggle getting the correct line of sight with your setup, this process is for you.
So, how you do go about customizing this feel on the stock? The process is very straightforward after you get over the fear of drilling into a perfectly good rifle stock. For this article I’m going to show you the steps I took to add a Karsten Adjustable Cheek Piece to my Browning Hell’s Canyon Speed rifle before the 2016 season. There are lots of cheek pieces on the market, this is just one that I prefer due to the streamlined version. I'm not a huge fan of the ones that you can strap on the back of stock due to bulk and impacts from weather created a soaked "bag" feel when you place your face against the stock if your in a rainstorm or hunting in snow.
Karsten has three models to choose from; Model A (big quick adjust knobs), Model B (holes for adjusting height), and Model C (one long track for infinite adjustments). I'm running the Model C version.
It’s best to mock up the cheek piece on your stock before you start drilling holes. You'll notice that in all the photos, I have my picatinny rail and riflescope mounted. I do this to ensure I set the cheek piece perfectly the first time, otherwise if you do the cheek piece first, you're adding a ton of extra steps because you don't know what the height of your riflescope will be.
The first consideration I look at is how far the bolt goes back when you’re cycling through rounds and when you need to remove the bolt for cleaning out the rifle bore.
I went with a fairly tight approach on my setup. When I want to clean the rifle bore, I need to drop the bolt into the cheek piece slightly as shown in the above photo. This isn’t a problem for me, but it’s something to think about. I know several people who have taken a Dremel to their cheek piece to further customize the front end of the cheek piece for removing the bolt. So if you want an extremely tight fit, this is another option.
For a more “real life” mock up, I’ll take a c-clamp and secure the cheek piece to the stock. This will allow you to place your face on the cheek piece to see if you like the height and position by looking through your riflescope. I prefer to test my cheek piece height while laying in the prone position because that's how I shoot 90% of the time.
Once you’re happy with the location of the cheek piece, it’s time to mark the location where you'll drill. I follow the "measure twice, cut once mentality" so I go another step further and will measure the front and back height with a digital caliper to ensure I get the perfect position.
My setup was ideal at 1.031” from the top of the stock to the top of the cheek piece with my scope and picatinny rail setup. I'll also set the cheek piece square to the stock. Note: I pulled off the rear recoil pad to see if there was anything in the back of the stock that I should be concerned with when drilling. If you had something in the way, you could always move your drill location higher or lower.
Now it’s time for the slightly scary part… drilling the stock. This system uses a carriage bolt so I needed a 1/4" and a 3/8" drill bit. This keeps the system relatively smooth to the stock with the recessed nut on the one side and a rounded bolt head on the other.
It's best to do everything you can to drill straight through the stock and not at an angle. I drilled all the way through with the 1/4" bit and then used the 3/8" bit on the other side with the pilot hole. Note: if you have access to a drill press, it might be a good idea to use that to ensure you get perfectly straight holes. I decided to drill out the 1/4" holes on the right side of the stock and the 3/8" holes on the left. But that's all personal preference. Note: Make sure you only drill through one side when using the 3/8" bit.
After drilling out the stock and mocking up the cheek piece with the carriage bolts, I noticed that I needed to cut the bolts a little shorter due to the width of the Browning stock.
Now attach the cheek piece to the rifle stock with an allen wrench. You could go back and measure the height with a digital caliper or adjust by feel.
The last step should be validating that your cheek piece is comfortable while shooting prone, standing, kneeling, etc. in the field.
Hopefully after all of these steps, you'll have a comfortable setup and your accuracy will show due to improved repeatability. The above image is just after I took a shot at my 2016 Wyoming backcountry mule deer on the last day of the season. This offseason is the perfect time to tinker with your setup. Best of luck this season!
Raised cheek piece
1/4" drill bit
3/8" drill bit