As guns grow old, rubber recoil pads start to degrade. Vintage rifles and shotguns with steel plates didn’t have this problem. Early signs of degradation include abnormal hardness, cracking or crumbling of the pad material. In my experience, once the recoil pad starts to show these signs, it is time to be replaced.
In our shop we normally replace recoil pads with either a Sims LimbSaver or Pachmayr Decelerator grind-to-fit pad. While I like both brands, I prefer the LimbSaver. Since I try to avoid drilling wood stocks for new hardware whenever possible, the final decision on which to install will often boil down to the hole spacing (the Pachmayr and Sims both have different spacing).
In this post I’ll be installing a LimbSaver on a Remington 11-87 shotgun. The customer had just had the stock redone and he wanted a new pad to finish the job.
I ordered the following products from Brownells for this project:
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Finding a recoil pad that fits a given stock can be a bit of a challenge. To mitigate this, I normally keep a few different sizes on hand. Better to make sure you are using the right pad than waste a part.
The LimbSaver, like most aftermarket pads, includes a fitting template as well as grinding witness marks to ensure the finished recoil pad won’t be too small for the stock.
Here we have the 11-87 stock next to the new LimbSaver recoil pad. You’ll note the stock has two sets of holes in it, so this will be at least the 3rd pad on the shotgun. You’ll also notice I got lucky, the hole spacing on the stock matches the pad. This means I don’t have to drill holes. If you had to drill holes and they were in close proximity to an existing hole, it could be filled with a wooden dowel.
Brownells makes a special screwdriver bit for installing recoil pads (above). I like to use these to prevent damaging the pad with a larger tool.
On the pad you’ll note an offset boundary mark towards the center of the pad. This is an area that you can’t grind into. When fitting a pad it is important to make sure you don’t grind off too much!
Using a Phillips screw driver I attach the pad to the back of the stock. I also take the time to wrap the stock in some tape. No sense in dinging up such a nice piece of wood.
Typically I trace the outline of the pad to scribe a line with either a one sided knife, a scribe, or a razor (above). This is a critical step. If the line isn’t perfect your final fit won’t be either.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that the image above isn’t an 11-87 and isn’t a LimbSaver. That’s because I forgot to take a picture of it. This is the recoil pad grinding tool I use, a B&R Recoil Fitting Fixture. The pad attaches to the fixture and the geometry is adjusted to match that of the stock.
Next, I need to make the scribed line easier to see. I use a little bit of file chalk. You can either use a file to sprinkle it, or rub it in the mark. Either way will make it more visible (you can see the interior grinding boundary in this photo).
I head over to the belt grinder and guide the recoil pad in the second part of the B&R Fixture. Next I SLOWLY grind down to the scribe mark. My goal is to split the line. I use a fine belt and GO SLOWLY !!! If you heat the pad too much, it’ll start to gall together and chunk out. You’ll ruin the pad. Some suggest freezing the pads prior to installation, I’ve found grinding slowly with a fine grit belt and not allowing the pad to overheat works best for me.
I like to test fit the pad a few times to make sure that I am not grinding too much.
All done! Looks great, doesn’t it? Remember, better to have the pad slightly proud of the finished stock surface to protect the wood from splintering or cracking.