Gunsmithing: replacing a curved steel butt plate with a rubber recoil pad

Many older rifles and shotguns have metal or Bakelite butt plates. Sometimes they are curved as well. While this is a nice touch, often times replacement parts are hard if not impossible to come by if the butt plate is either damaged or missing. In this post, let’s look at how we can install a new rubber recoil pad on a shotgun that used to have a curved butt plate.

Before we get to the work, please take a look at the following disclaimer:

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.

For this project, I ordered the following items from Brownells:

A customer brought in this nice, older 20 gauge side by side shotgun. The curved butt plate was missing.

Someone had previously attempted to fill the void in the back of the stock with epoxy. This attempt to repair the stock wasn’t successful.

The customer wanted to fix this stock by having a new rubber recoil pad installed. To begin, I needed a flat surface to work from. After some careful set up on the miter saw, I square the end of the stock. Notice how little material was removed, the majority of it was done by the .125″ kerf of the saw blade.

The cut trued-up most of the rear of the stock. This is an ample surface to work from. I used a sharp 10″ 100-tooth carbide-tipped blade to make this cut. There was no tear out in the stock. If using a coarser blade, it is advisable to wrap the stock with painter’s tape to keep a crisp edge.

I’m using a thin Pachmayr grind to fit replacement pad. Unlike some of the thicker Pachmayr pads, this one doesn’t have a steel insert and can be ground heavily without destroying it. Luckily, the holes in the stock match the screw holes for the pad. I used a razor knife to cut slits in the pad for the screws to pass through and screwed it to the stock.

With the pad in place, I can scribe the outline of the stock. In this case I am using a dental pick. I usually sharpen the pick with a few passes on a stone so it leaves a crisp line.

The pad is unscrewed from the stock and attached to the BR recoil pad grinding fixture. The fixture is adjustable to match the angles of the stock. In the image above, you can see it adjusted appropriately.

I like to grind on a 2×36″ belt grinder with a very coarse belt. You’ll see a lot of different advice on how to grind recoil pads. Some will suggest freezing the pad prior to grinding, others will suggest fine grit sanding belts coated in oil. I’ve found a coarse grit belt cuts extremely well, doesn’t foul and won’t overheat and melt parts of the pad.

This is the pad as it comes off of the grinder. At this point, the pad is slightly oversized. For most shooters, this would be an acceptable job as is. I prefer to follow up with some hand work.

I wrap the stock where it meets the pad with one layer of painter’s tape. Next, I coat the pad in Kroil and sand it smooth and flush with 120 then 220 grit abrasive cloth. I’ve found that this method gives me the best results across a wide variety of recoil pads and stocks.

The finished recoil pad; ready for the field!