Buehler Custom Sporting Arms LLC

Maker of Fine Sporting Rifles

Tips on purchasing the right stock blank

Buehler CSA .500 Jeffery rifle with a Turkish walnut stock

Buying a stock blank for a custom gun project can be a little daunting. I usually assist my clients in finding a stock blank that appeals to their taste, is within their budget, and is strong and stable. Currently I don’t have many available rifle blanks in my shop, but I do have a very nice collection of two-piece stock blanks for sale. I have a network of wood dealers and they update me regularly on their inventory. Pictures of the blanks that I find suitable I pass on to my clients.

As you may know, there are different types of walnut. I prefer to work pretty exclusively with English walnut. English walnut is generally stronger then Black walnut, Claro and Bastogne. While these types are fine for certain applications, I don’t think they are well suited for a rugged bolt action rifle. Most of the English walnut on the market today comes from Turkey, some from Russia and other Middle Eastern regions. California-English walnut has been mostly logged, but some nice blanks still come up for sale. Each piece of walnut varies in weight and density. I’ve seen a weight difference as much as 9 ounces between two identical stocks.

For a nice English stock blank, you are looking anywhere from $750 to $3000. I would say the blanks used for my custom rifles average at $1400. No question, the prices of blanks have been increasing and the supply has been dwindling. As there is no precise formula for the pricing of stock blanks, often the price is determined by the eye of the beholder. A high price tag does not always mean that it is the best and nicest blank. In choosing a blank, here is what I look for:

  • Age: The blank should have been stored for a minimum of 4 1/2 years after harvesting and before using it for a gun stock. It takes at least that long for it to stabilize.
  • Moisture content: About 8 – 10 %. Depending on the climate, this varies. I’m more concerned with the age of the blank. We have a low humidity in Southern Oregon, and the blanks dry pretty fast.
  • Cut: Typically there two types of cut. Flat sawn and quarter sawn. Looking at the end grain (front and back) of the blanks, if the lines go sideways, it’s quarter sawn. If the grain lines flow vertical, it has been flat sawn. I’m not convinced that one cut makes for a stronger blank over the other. But it is considerably easier to predict the final appearance of the stock with a quarter sawn blank.
  • Top view and bottom view: Just as important as the side views are the top and bottom views of the blank. Often the dealers don’t show it on their websites. It is very important that the grain flows straight and does not curve to one side. Should the forearm warp for any reason, it would probably move in the direction of the flow.
Top view of a blank with a pretty good grain flow through the forearm
This top view shows less then ideal grain flow through the forearm. This is a blank I would reject.
  • Grain flow: What I’m looking for is a straight flow through the grip and magazine box. On the forearm the grain should go slightly up, towards the barrel. Behind the grip, it really is not that important, but I have seen broken off toes because of bad grain flow. You might want to pay attention to it, especially if a steel butt plate is to be installed.
Great grain flow on this blank.
Erratic grain flow. This layout will produce a weak and likely unstable stock. I would reject this blank.
  • Color: A natural warm color is always ideal. Staining can help, but is tricky and the results are not always the best. Tastes vary of course when it comes to the wood color. I very much prefer dark mineral lines over brown ones. Again, a matter of personal taste.
  • Fiddle back: Fiddle back are the finger like lines going from top to bottom. To me, it is an added bonus and gives a beautiful 3D effect.
  • Imperfections: It’s wise always to be on the lookout for knots. And sometimes little holes can turn into big problems.
This stock blank revealed a deep internal crack after sawing the contour on the band saw. I didn’t see any indication from the outside and this blank had to be re-placed. This is a rare occurrence, however.
  • Price tag: I shudder when I see a blank with a big price tag but terrible grain layout. Walnut is a very strong material, but a bad grain flow will weaken it for sure. Not everything that glitters is gold.

I made a couple of plexiglass stock templates that are a great aid in determining the layout of the stock. The dealers sometimes outline the stock contour onto a blank. Often I don’t follow their layout. Keep in mind, they have experience in wood cutting but probably not in stock making.

For good examples of grain flow and stocks check out the guns on my website:


Springfield custom rifle

Not many custom rifles utilizing Springfield military actions are being built today. Back before aftermarket magnum actions where not widely available, due to the receiver length American custom gunsmiths often used them for big game projects. The work involved to turn one of these actions into a worthy custom rifle is pretty extensive, and once all done the action rivals the cost of a Granite Mountain Arms action.

The rifle in the picture is my version of a Springfield custom rifle. I modified the action pretty heavily with a new safety, new bolt handle, new bolt release and re-contoured housing. A new bottom metal was added, custom machined scope bases and a Lilja match grade barrel. The stock is made of a beautiful piece of Turkish walnut.

I should mention, this rifle is in the caliber .22lr. It is prefect for charging squirrels and dangerous rodents. The clip is hidden inside the magazine box.

This rifle is so much fun to shoot! My client owns 2 Buehler big game rifles, and this is the perfect training rifle, as it has the same feel to it. I think he will shoot it more then any of his other rifles. My boys where a little jealous when I showed it to them.

Octagon .450-400 NE barrel

As I don’t do it that often, the machining of an octagon profiled barrel is a nice change of pace and a challenge for me.

The picture above shows my 3 axis CNC milling machine. It has a 54″ long table and is well suited for the profile machining of barrels.

The first cut is finished

The caliber of this barrel is 450-400 NE. It is intended for a Hagn falling block action. Initially I made a 3D model of the barrel on the computer. The first step was to pre-turn the barrel blank on the lathe and remove excess material where possible. Next the barrel is set up on the milling machine table with a dividing head, tail stock and 2 angle plates with fixtures. It’s a pretty rugged set up and prevents deflections and chatter during the machining operations.

After machining one side I rotate the barrel 180 degree and machine the opposite side. This is done to avoid deflection of the barrel.

After the machining of the sides and rib, the sling swivel stud was machined.

And here is the final result: Octagon barrel with full length rib, swivel stud, quarter rib and front sight ramp.

.218 Bee Buehler CSA falling block rifle

This rifle started as a concept in my mind, and I didn’t know initially exactly how to execute it. I always admired the forearms on Boss O/U shotguns with their long forearm metal and wondered if this could somehow be applied to a falling block rifle. The engraver Lee Griffiths is commissioned to engrave this rifle and in discussions we both agreed that due to the small size of this rifle, it would be nice to have additional surfaces for engraving.

It started off with a small Hagn falling block action, the “Mini Max”, as Martin Hagn calls it. A custom turned barrel, chambered in .218 Bee, was installed. A quarter rib with Express sights, custom front sight ramp and a sling swivel base was added to the barrel.

The scope chosen for this rifle is a Leupold Alaskan 4 power scope. These scopes are unfortunately discontinued, but sometimes they still can be found on eBay or other places. It has a steel tube and is small in size, very appropriate for a light rifle. The tube diameter is 7/8″, so I had to machine custom scope rings from bar stock in order to mount the scope to the quarter rib.

Before the stocking I machined a forearm metal from solid bar stock and fit it to the barreled action. It then was inlet and screwed onto the forearm. Next the forearm was inlet and shaped.

The forearm tip is made out of horn. The butt stock has a steel butt plate and a custom made sling swivel stud. The wood is a high grade piece of Turkish walnut.

At present I’m not sure how the checkering will be executed. Mr. Griffiths will do some stock carving for our client. I will work with him and will cut the checkering of the grip and forearm as required. I believe this rifle is a good representation of my work. I try to incorporated interesting details into my rifles, without them screaming for attention. Always a challenge with small rifles like this is to get the proportions pleasing and at the same time ensure comfortable use with the clients dimensions in mind. This I find is much easier to achieve with larger rifles.

Walnut stocks and hunting in Alaska

Wood vs Weather

by Mike @ Cariboo Lake, Alaska

“Heinous” is the only way to describe the weather during Alaska’s hunting seasons.

Oh, it is the land of milk and honey during the cruise ship, summer months. However, as those of you who have hunted up here know; “if you went to Alaska and did not wear hip boots, you did not go to Alaska.”  A hunt on Kodiak, the Alaska Peninsula, or in the Yakutat area, will develop a keen desire to include a photo of the sun in your hunting kit.

The terrain is equally inhospitable.  The summer slopes all look so garden pleasant with their pastels.  However, every experienced hunter knows only distance can inspire such enchantment.  To the cultured eye of every hunter/trapper such landscape, with it’s ten-foot alders, foretell of unspeakably wicked travel.

Alaska is tough on the body, and the equipment.  So, it would seem only prudent to use a composite stock right?  Not so fast flat-lander.

It has been my experience that a fine piece of walnut, on a high-grade gun is a great deal tougher than the credit we are inclined to give it.  This is perfect news for those of us who have a difficult time reaching past one of our favorites, in the gun safe, to grab a plastic stock rifle with all the metal luster of a frying pan.

It is true that if you treat a firearm like a shovel, it will look like a shovel.  In this area of misbehaver Alaska guides, pridefully excel.  Many are convinced there is some sort of macho scale of respect earned by having a neglected rifle.

When it comes to an earned score on the manly meter it is hard to surpass a Marine. The Marines are as proud of how they care for their rifles as they are of their reputations as marksmen.  My father was not only a Marine but was wounded in a Banzai attack on Iwo Jima.  He instilled in me a discipline that firearm care came before any personal comforts in camp, or at home.  He also schooled me to use the best gear (or tools) I could afford.

Rich Grozik, author of Game Guns, penned it quite correctly, “We do not really own high grade guns, we are only their curator for our lifetime.”  Yet these are built to be used.

We tend to discount the ability of a beautifully made rifle to deliver superb performance in the worst of environments.  At the same time, we over estimate the required care to keep up their exquisite appearance.  It really does not entail much more effort to hunt with something that you truly enjoy owning.

If you are thinking of having a custom rifle made for those hunts of a lifetime, whatever I could say to persuade you to use wood, consider said.  A skillful gunsmith, such as Reto Buehler, will deliver the protection you desire on a tack driving, elegant rifle.

The only exception to this is the English fancy to cover recoil pads with leather.  It is a hopeless cause to protect those in Alaska.

This Buehler CSA custom 7MM Mauser is my go-to caribou rifle.  If the weather is bad, it does not get the day off.

Rifle transportation Alaska style; inside this case is a Deluxe grade Holland & Holland

Additional note:

Thank you very much for your contribution, Mike!! I would like to invite my colleagues in the gun trade and my customers to contribute to this blog. Feel free to submit articles to me for consideration.

In the 90’s I had the great opportunity to work for Corlane Sporting Goods in British Columbia. At that time I was amazed how many British Lee Enfield rifles and Winchester 94’s where still in service up North. Most of those guns where used hard and neglected, yet they where still doing the job.

My friend Nick, hunting in Canada with his custom .30-06 rifle

Happy New Year

I can’t believe 2018 is already behind us. All in all it was a great year for my family and me and for my business. And I hope it was for you too.

Maybe one of your New Year’s resolution is to have a special custom rifle crafted, made to fit your needs and to your requirements. I would be delighted to discuss with you your dream rifle further.

The annual SCI convention is approaching rapidly. This year I’m not displaying at the show, but I will attend as a visitor on Thursday January 10th and on Friday the 11th. If you would like to meet, please contact me prior per telephone or email. The SCI show will be held in Reno, and I’m looking forward to seeing new and old friends.


Gun Digest 2019

I have the honor of being included in the 2019 edition of the Gun Digest. The link above will take you to it.

The picture and article below is an excerpt from the 2018 edition. Many thanks to author Tom Turpin for his kind words and review.

Reto Buehler Granite Mountain Arms .300 H&H Magnum

Reto Buehler Granite Mountain Arms .300 H&H Magnum

One of the younger members of the American Custom Gunmakers Guild (ACGG) is also one of the best, Swiss-born Reto Buehler. The rifle shown here is a perfect example of his exceptional talent as a gunmaker. This magnificent rifle began with a Granite Mountain Arms small-ring long action. Chambered for the .300 H&H cartridge, Buehler did all the metal and stockwork on this rifle, including shop fabricating H&H-type scope mounts. Charles Lee did the lovely engraving and Doug Turnbull did his magic color case-hardening on the action. As some wise person once stated, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Photo by Brian Dierks.

9.3×62 Buehler custom rifle


The metal work of this rifle has been featured on the blog a little over a year ago. I sent certain parts out for engraving, and as sometimes the case, it all took longer then expected. But here it is, completed at last.

The pictures where taken by local photographer Brian Dierks. Brian is a commercial photographer and does the photography for the Harry & David company.

The walnut for the stock came from Turkey. The rifle has a leather covered recoil pad, a trap door grip cap and is equipped with a S&B 1.1 x 8 power scope.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I can’t believe it is already November.

I love the Thanksgiving Holiday as it is such a good time for personal reflection and for spending time with loved ones. Besides my family, friends and good health I’m so very thankful to my customers. Thank you for your business, your trust and your patience! May God bless you as he has blessed me.

Another thing to be thankful for. I love it when things work out and everything goes smooth. The picture above is of a Buehler CSA rifle caliber .404 Jeffery. The 3 shot group was shot at 100 yds with Superior ammo, loaded with TSX bullets. The rifle is stocked with a 30 year old piece of French walnut.

The picture on top is of a nice fall sunset in Southern Oregon. What a beautiful country we live in.


Buehler CSA .300 Win. Mag. rifle continued.

There is much work left to be done on this rifle, but at this stage it is stocked and scoped and I tested it at the range for accuracy and function. I’m very happy how the wood is turning out. An additional couple of coats of oil finish will enhance the 3D effect of the Turkish walnut further.

The flat top checkering has been cut and I will go over it once more after the last coat of finish has been applied.

The picture above is of the rifle at the White City gun range. The 3 shot group at 100 yds with Hornady factory ammo speaks for itself.

My next step is to time the screws and prepare the metal for engraving and bluing. All will be disassembled and the barrel removed off the action. After the bluing and final assembly I will test the rifle again at the range for function and accuracy.




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