I was one of the fortunate ones who were chosen to test and evaluate the new McMillan A-5 tactical stock. This stock design is the result of input of tactical rifle shooters who frequent the Sniper's Hide website. That Kelly McMillan sought out this input BEFORE designing a new stock, is a credit to him and his company. As we all know, in too many cases, the creation of a new design comes from the top and the ultimate users are left with the choice of "take it or leave it".
The choice of which rifle of mine to put the new stock on was a "no-brainer"; my FN SPR. This was the 1st model SPR that came with the H-S Precision stock and the detachable magazine. The H-S Precision stock is an OK stock, but since I have a McMillan stock on another tactical rifle, I know the difference between OK and great. The other thing that I wanted to change on the FN was the detachable magazine. While the detachable magazine works (something that Remington could never say about their DM Model 700 PSS), I just like a floorplate better.
My A-5 arrived after everyone else's, due to the rather circuitous route it took. Upon completion by Kelly McMillan, it made a trip to Matt Williams of Williams Firearms Company. The Williams Firearms Company uses state of the art CNC equipment to manufacture some of the finest bottom metal for tactical shooting, as well as providing trigger guards and floorplates for US Repeating Arms Corporation (Winchester).
Again, having another rifle with Williams' high quality bottom metal made the choice of their product an easy one. Since the bottom metal was going on a tactical rifle, Matt Williams suggested their Combat-Latch System. This Combat-Latch System incorporates a second button on the trigger guard which must be depressed before the front catch can be released to drop the floorplate. This is the ultimate system for keeping your shells where they belong under the most extreme tactical situations.
After Matt installed his bottom metal, I had him send everything on to George Gardner at GA Precision to have him pillar bed the stock and install a Badger Tactical bolt knob. I think most of us have heard of George and the quality of his smithing work, and I can only say that everything we have heard is true.
When I received the FN SPR in the new A-5 stock, it was everything that I had hoped it would be. Something that I always worry about when designing a tactical rifle using various aftermarket components is the balance. A properly balanced rifle should have the balance point at or near the front end of the floorplate. With the spacer system buttplate I had specified for this stock adding needed weight at the backend of the rifle, I was very happy to see the rifle was perfectly balanced.
The fit and finish of the stock is everything that we have come to expect from McMillan. Particular attention was paid to inletting and installing the flushmount swivels which were installed on the bottom and left side of the stock.
So how does the A-5 differ from the others in the A Series of stocks? Well, it retains the vertical grip of the A-2 thru A-4 stocks, but from there on, it is a completely new animal. What really sets the A-5 aside from all the other tactical stocks is the forearm. It has a relatively shallow forearm, flat on the bottom, but nicely rounded on the sides in the style of the Winchester Marksman stock. This combination of features allows it to ride nicely in a benchrest, while at the same time allowing for a good feel for offhand shooting. The buttstock is also a unique design for this rifle. While it has a butt hook like the A-4, its more forward location and more shallow design makes it easier to shoot off a bag, to say nothing about it not being anywhere near as butt ugly as the A-4 design is.
OK, so with all this fawning over the A-5, what don't I like about it? My only beef is not with the design itself, which I consider the absolute finest tactical stock bar none. My only complaint is with the adjustable saddle type cheekpiece that is available as an option on most McMillan tactical stocks (which is not really needed when using scopes with objectives less than 50mm). The problem is, when using a stock with this saddle type cheekpiece, the bolt cannot be removed or inserted without either removing the cheekpiece or, in some cases, adjusting the cheekpiece all the way up. In my mind, this is simply unacceptable in a tactical rifle. I ran into this problem with another tactical rifle that I put an A-2 stock on, and I had a gunsmith cut out a section of the cheekpiece to allow for removal and insertion of the bolt no matter what position the cheekpiece is in. The material used in the cheekpiece is very strong, and by cutting a section off the front of the cheekpiece with a radius on the corners, it makes for a much more practical stock, without being totally unattractive. In any case, I'll take practical over pretty any day. I don't know if Kelly will make this alteration on his cheekpiece if requested, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
So how does the SPR shoot in the new stock? Better than I can. I was finally able to get it out this April, with temperatures in the low 40's and a 15 - 20 mph wind coming out of the west. We kept our ear muffs on even when we weren't shooting - to keep our ears warm. After I got the rifle sighted in, I had two really nice 5 shot groups, both of which were blown by a single flyer (loose nut behind the trigger). Discounting the flyer in each group, one group was .63MOA and the other was .26MOA. Considering that the rifle was shooting commercial ammo, has less than 30 rounds through it, and was being shot by someone who will never be seen on the firing line at Camp Perry, I am very happy with it. To summarize this article, I believe the McMillan A-5 is the best tactical stock on the market at this time, and I would not consider any other stock for this purpose at this time.