Folding and Collapsing Stocks: Are They Practical?

Firing AR-15 with Adjustable Stock

The rifle and shotgun stock is a pretty important piece of design. The stock must be a contact point for the shooter and the firearm. Cheek weld is important if you can have it, and many stocks offer a superior fit.

The correct stock will help you be a better marksman, whether it is precision shooting or fast-moving tactical shooting as the goal. Let’s look at some of the types.

A Look at Telescoping Stocks

The most common rifle is the AR-15. It is America’s rifle. The non-adjustable stock isn’t exactly a thing of the past, but it is far from common today. As an example, the Springfield Saint is supplied with a BCM Gunfighter stock from the factory.

My personal PSA rifle features the Troy Tomahawk, a great stock that aids in cheek weld, while maintaining light weight. My Remington 870 wears an Adaptive Tactical stock.

The bottom line on the fixed non-adjustable stock is that they are rugged. If one fits you — well it fits. A collapsible stock can be adjusted for the length of pull.

This is useful if you are wearing a vest or heavy clothing in the winter for example, and it is a good option for a rifle when the shooter may be short or tall, or have long or short arms.

An adjustable stock may have the normal type of length of pull adjustment and also add a cheek riser. The collapsible stock is often called a telescoping stock.

The telescoping stock also makes it easier to transport or store the rifle, although this isn’t my top consideration. The modern telescoping stock — in good examples — is rigid when locked and offers good shot to shot consistency.

AR-15 with Telescoping stock
A quality telescoping stock is ideal for use with an AR-15 rifle.

A Look at Folding Stocks

Then there are other rifles that may take stocks that that cannot possibly work with the AR-15 buffer assembly. AK-type rifles may be fitted with an underfolder stock.

A collapsible wire stock was once common on M1 Carbines and submachine guns. They are not very study, although the original GI M1 Carbine wasn’t a bad setup.

The underfolder stock is a neat trick, but not the best all-around for accuracy potential. Its primary advantage is easy storage. The Arsenal underfolder is fairly stable, however, getting a cheek weld is very difficult.

The advantage of the underfolder is that it fits a tactical bag easily and may be fired with the stock folded at close range. The side folder with its plunger mechanism is a little more difficult to use quickly, but works as well as the underfolder for most uses.

Cheek weld is difficult enough with standard AK rifle sights and the folding stocks may make the problem worse in my opinion, based on a lot of shooting experience.

The mortis and tenon lockup are solid in the Arsenal-type rifles. The primary reason to use a folding-stock rifle is the same across the board for all of the folding stocks — storage.

If carrying the rifle for a tactical reason or if facing danger, the stock should be locked in place. The rifle should be on a sling. You will find the plungers and locks horribly slow and the cheek weld problem is always present.

Generally, the stock doesn’t have much effect on the function of the rifle, although I imagine a cheap stock that has too much give may not provide a solid platform for the rifle to recoil against.

AK with Under-Folding stocks
This arsenal AK features a well-designed under-folding stock.

Are Adjustable Stocks Practical?

Some folks like to keep the rifle on their ATV or even a dirt bike, depending on how the hunting trail is found. In this type of action, a good quality folding sock is a good choice, and the side-folder AK is good.

However, the side folder trunnion will dig into your back when you carry the rifle slung over your shoulder. A side folder or underfolder limits how you may carry the rifle.

The primary consideration with any stock, is that the stock, when extended, puts the angle of the stock in line with the rifle’s sights and the bore line. Good stocks lock up tight, while poorly made stocks will wobble.

There is also a difference between cheek weld with iron sights and with optics. If you are a shooter and enjoy shooting for accuracy, a fixed stock is never a bad choice on an AK rifle.

A telescoping rifle stock, however, can be a very solid and accurate choice. As an example, the Advantage Tactical Stock I have mounted to the Ruger 10/22 rifle offers not only a wide range of adjustment, no matter at what point it is adjusted, it is also rock solid.

This is the most accurate rifle I have owned in this caliber. Forward and rearward motion may be stabilized better than under-folder and side-folder motion in my experience.

Be certain you consider all options and choose well. It is one thing to enjoy recreational firing, but for top accuracy, the more rigid the better. For all-around tactical use, with storage and adjustment for different garments more important, the adjustable stock rules.

AK with Solid Wood Stock
The author favors a solid stock with the AK rifle.

Do you like folding and collapsing stocks? Why? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. The AK with under-folding stock is based on AKMS, side folding is based on AKS. Both were introduced in Soviet Army to paratroopers and Spetsnaz because they made it easier to jump from aircrafts. Later, those models were introduced to tankers and some infantry units because those made it easier to get out of armored vehicles as well. I love side rifles with side folding stocks. They are easy to transport, you can carry one in a backpack if needed and you could fire it with stock folded if you must or you can unfold it as you draw.

  2. I have a Ruger 10/22 with a Butler Creek side folder. Had the barrel end cut off and machined for a long M14 flash hider with built in front site pinned on to make length 16.5 inches. Added a rear peap site and a Duracoat ACU paint job. Turned out really nice. Locks up tight and folds up compact. Fires and carries closed.

  3. The primary purpose of a folding stock is to improve mobility by making the weapon smaller. Making the weapon easier to store or conceal is a secondary benefit

  4. I don’t see the point of a telescoping stock. Whenever I’ve used one, I always found the short position worked just fine (I’m 5’11” with normally-proportioned arms), so there was never any reason to extend it. Short stocks on “youth” guns work fine too, even for taller men I’ve persuaded to try them.

  5. In my experience, by far the most solid folding stock is made from metal tubing, like a Galil or an FAL, or the Ace folder. However, they tend to be heavy.

    The silliest idea in folding stocks is putting an AR-style telescoping stock on a rifle that doesn’t need it to cover up a buffer. The silliness is compounded by putting the AR stock on a hinge to fold to the side, as for instance on the newer Mini-14’s. Marlin even puts this type of stock on a .22 lever action, calling it a “tactical” version! Samson is now making the original Ruger folding stock, a masterpiece of simplicity. Ruger should make this stock available on a factory Mini, with either a stainless or blued (or black coated) finish.

    In general, folding stocks are not as stable or comfortable to shoot as fixed stocks. They should be used on a working firearm only where compact carry/storage is an issue, for instance in a vehicle.

  6. I have a collection of many long guns and shotguns, hunting guns and some of my military have solid stocks…no problem. How ever my ARs all have tele stocks but on old Colt AR. 4 have the 6 point stocks and they work fine for me…I have 2 Grand Daughters who have short arms so adjusting is the answer. My LR308 has a Luth-AR MBA3… it does tele but I love the fine adjustment that allows me to position the rifle to MY sweet spot. I love how many adjustments that can be made and once set ( I am the only one who shoots it) Fits like a glove. Solid material stocks or matter…it is what you are more comfortable with. Be safe and shoot well.

  7. A few years ago I bought a Hungarian AMD65 that had been imported by FEG. The AMD65 was a full auto AK platform with a 12.5 inch barell and a funky wire folding stock. It was meant to be used in armored vehicles and by paratroopers with a 20 round magazine. To sell them here FEG welded a 4 inch muzzle brake on and it made a 16.5 inch barrel and changed them to be semi auto. I changed the wire folder out for an Ace folder. Put on an Ultimak railed gas tube, added a red dot and a picatiny rail on the sheetmetal forenv and added a vertical grip. Nice rifle now, short, light and really short folded.

  8. There are companies that make folding stocks for the AR platform, which makes storage much easier. You can’t shoot the rifle with it folded, but saves length. My Daniel Defense came with one on a 10″ AR pistols, works great, very solid.

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