Sling swivel stud installation

Sling swivel stud (QD stud) installation with KLEINENDORST – SLING SWIVEL DRILL FIXTURE

I’ve been in the gun business a long time.  Back in the late 90s I worked at the local gun shop, one of the most common “gunsmithing” jobs we’d get (after scope mounting) was the installation of sling swivel studs into wood stocks.  For some reason many gun makers didn’t (and still don’t) install them at the factory.  What may be a cost saving measure for the manufacturer, is a nuisance for the gun’s owner and a potential money maker for the gunsmith/gun shop.

While installing a sling swivel stud isn’t exactly rocket science and certainly doesn’t require the fixture we are going to use in this post, it is entirely possible to screw up the job.  Depending on how that goes, a simple 10 minute stud installation can turn into an expensive mistake, requiring the replacement of the customer’s stock.

If you are a wood worker, engineer, or really OCD, this is a job that can be accomplished with a pencil and a drill.  For those of us less focused, a fixture can help.  The one I used to use was a piece of 1×1 aluminum angle iron with some leather glued on the inside.  On the edge where the two faces met, there was a small guide.  You’d rubber band it to the stock (and believe me, I’m not saying that this was best practice), start up your drill and make a hole.  I installed hundreds of studs with that fixture and the vast majority were straight.

For the occasional user, a simple fixture, or padded vise in a drill press make sense.  For the gun store or gunsmith, something that can speed up production time and help guarantee great results is always welcome.  For many shops, including mine, this is a KLEINENDORST sling swivel fixture.

The KLEINENDORST sling swivel fixture is a fairly simple tool that is very well made (above).  I ordered mine from Brownells, and while this fixture is a bit “spendy”, within a few installations it will pay for itself, and hopefully you’ll never have to replace a stock.

Sling swivel (or QD or dome) studs typically come in various lengths with either wood screw threads (above) or machine screw threads (typically 10-32).  For a wood stock, you’d obviously want a wood thread, like those shown above. You can find both kinds here.

In this post, let’s use the Kleinendorst tool to install a swivel on a factory stock.

The contents of are produced for informational purposes only and should be performed by competent gunsmiths only. and its authors, do not assume any responsibility, directly or indirectly for the safety of the readers attempting to follow any instructions or perform any of the tasks shown, or the use or misuse of any information contained herein, on this website.

Any modifications made to a firearm should be made by a licensed gunsmith. Failure to do so may void warranties and result in an unsafe firearm and may cause injury or death.

Modifications to a firearm may result in personal injury or death, cause the firearm to not function properly, or malfunction, and cause the firearm to become unsafe.

This gorgeous piece of walnut belongs to a 1894 Marlin.  The customer requested a swivel 2″ from the toe of the stock.

I always wrap the work area in painter’s tape to prevent marking and help mitigate wood splintering.  I begin my drawing a witness mark 2″ from the toe as requested.  A few notes; first, you want to avoid placing a wood screw or screw-in stud at the end wood. In general, too close and you can end up having the stock split either during the installation or in the field when it is under use.  The second is to avoid placing the screw holes on the butt plate or recoil pad.  Some plates and pads use relatively larger (#12 and bigger) and long screws to retain themselves to the stock.  It is important that you don’t drill into one.  That can damage the bit and, depending on how deep it is when you encounter it, leave you with a hole that will not accept the swivel screw.  

Now the fixture is installed.  There is a large socket head cap screw that has a hole in it to act as a guide.  I remove the screw and use the hole to align the fixture with my witness mark.

On the opposite end of the fixture is a knurled handle used to tighten it in place.

The stepped drill bit is included in the kit.  You’ll note that it comes with an adjustable stop collar.

I use a hand drill to make the hole.

Once I remove the fixture and tape, you can see how nicely the hole was formed.  I’ll use compressed air to clean the hole out.

Most sling swivels use a small black or white plastic spacer between the stock and the swivel.  Since the bottom of the stock has a slight radius, simply screwing it on under the swivel will leave a small gap on the side.  You can either counterbore the stock (which can potentially chip out) or form the spacer.  I prefer to form the spacer. It just took a minute with my round file.

I use a punch through the swivel hole to screw it in.  Looks great doesn’t it?  Sometimes some wood will be harder or more dense than others.  In cases where the screw isn’t going in easily, the threads can be lubricated with bar soap or wax.

All done.  If you install swivel studs with any frequency, the KLEINENDORST sling swivel drilling fixture from Brownells is worth a look.