Today there exists an ocean of parts and accessories. The rifle has gone from custom to custom-ish if not “personalized.” Custom work has mostly gone by the wayside as individuals often order barreled actions, then slap them into a chassis. But many overlook chassis consideration, and overlook rifle chassis like the 7 in this top list.
7 Top Rifle Chassis
With so much emphasis on barrels and actions it’s coming to light that the chassis might be an afterthought. When, in fact, I’m more and more convinced that the chassis (or stock) is equally important. This comes from interaction with a larger variety of complete rifles.
Why? Consider this: The barreled action doesn’t need anything else in the rifle build to complete its duties. If you secure the action into a mount or sled, you can shoot tiny groups without any real human interaction. But in order for us to interact intimately with it, we need a device such as a chassis/stock.
If this component isn’t just so, it can have a detrimental effect on outcomes for the shooter. Therefore, we must think of the chassis/stock as an interface. It’s where the shooter and the components congregate to hopefully allow great things to happen. Here, we are focusing on rifle chassis, so from here on out that’s all we’ll address.
Nuts And Bolts
This interface must be ideal or possess the ability to become ideal for the operator. With all of the different shapes and sizes of shooters, in order to be accepted and widely used a chassis must be highly adjustable. Beyond that, it must be of quality construction, concentric and stiff. A good rifle chassis must be able to accommodate a barreled action and accompanying barrel profile. As well, it must maintain a level of repeatability when you remove and replace the action. And, the action screws must stay tight.
The rifle chassis must have a good balance or the ability to reach an appropriate balance through the use of weights. The forend must have a good layout and accommodate accessories such as weights and NV rails, Pic rails, etc. It must also be stable when placed on a bag or barricade, and able to effectively/easily “settle” into place.
It also has to accept comfortable grips and hopefully allow for adjustability for the shooting hand and finger. All this, and it should look good. Because the chassis typically carries the brunt of the operator’s external expression of his or her personality and style. Yes, the chassis has the burden of an extraordinary responsibility.
I partnered with fellow shooter Tom McKenna. Tom helped me evaluate rifles in last year’s issue of Ballistics Best (Dec. 2020/Jan. 2021). We looked at some of the more popular top rifle chassis available to draw some conclusions on what they offer and what we like about them. As we evaluated them, we took many things into consideration. Including how the chassis will likely be used by the end user. We also took into consideration the design and marketing.
While we drew our own conclusions, all of these chassis are excellent in their own right and category. Ultimately, how one stacks up against another will come down to the end user. The chassis, and which one is best, is a personal thing. We did our best to generalize in this comparison.
MASTERPIECE ARMS MATRIX
Masterpiece Arms owned the chassis space several years ago. The BA line was widely accepted, and many still think it is the best chassis around. Two years ago they released their Matrix line and with it came more modularity/adjustability.
The Matrix has six grip options, three thumb rests and four trigger support options. The forend has M-LOK attachments and is two inches longer than the BA/Comp chassis. It accepts barricade stops, night vision and a weight kit.
The Matrix has an interesting look that you either love or hate, with a thumbhole and more traditional looking buttstock. I like the feature, while my fellow reviewer did not. Yes, the Matrix is packed with stuff.
What we like about it: NV capable, almost toolless adjustability but with lots of range. Also, mag release size, weight kit, built in Arca Swiss rail, protected mag well, thumb rest options and ambidextrous capability.
What we’re not crazy about: Several small screws and detents that can loosen or get lost can be a problem. Although there are many grip choices, it was hard to find an ideal one. We also didn’t care for the overall aesthetic appeal of the large rear end, and the length of pull that starts at a long 13.5 inches. It’s hard to describe exactly but the MPA, for as good as it is, just feels dated. Espeicially compared to other chassis on the market.
The MDT ACC is a popular chassis within the competition scene and rightfully so. It has excellent balance and tons of adjustability in the buttstock. Also the grips come in different sizes that you can adjust, fore and aft. MDT supports the chassis with tons of accessories including a weight kit. When you pick up the ACC it feels good from the start.
What We Like About it: Long flat forend, excellent balance, built-in Arca rail and a buttock adjustable for height and cant. We also liked the shorter LOP, protective mag well, AR grip compatibility, good general ergonomics, aesthetic appeal.
The ACC feels like it is meant for competition work with outstanding balance. It is easy to get comfortable behind and might require the least amount of setup time.
What we’re not crazy about: The mag release paddle is small, screws can loosen and get lost. Also, it’s not ambi, it has a small thumb rest and it’s a non-folder. The ACC is a great chassis, but the maintenance required for the “little parts” is the biggest ding against it. All in all, it’s an amazing chassis on the racy side of things.
XLR ENVY PRO JV KIT
Another widely used chassis is the XLR Envy. It sells in “packages,” and starts out as a chassis only. But you can expand it to include weights, a night-vision mount and more. You can also add weight inside the forend, like the ACC and MPA chassis. The Envy pro JV comes with a nose extension that allows the user to run their bipod further out front.
What we like about it: Solid feel, LOP starts at 12 inches and can be shorter as well as much longer. As well as the built in Arca Swiss, ambidextrous, mag release size, buttstock adjustability, folder option.
What we’re not crazy about: Tools are needed to adjust cheek height, the Hogue takes getting used to, AR tube style and aesthetics are questionable.
The XLR Envy has a super solid feel. Even though it’s a competition-style chassis, it feels robust and is free of rattles and questionable screws to come loose. It seems like it might be the least maintenance intensive of the race chassis. It could pull double duty as an “all-around” type of chassis.
KRG WHISKEY 3
While the KRG Whiskey 3 appears as if it would fit more closely into a “tactical” type of use, it’s a good-looking chassis and unique in ways. It is highly adjustable and has the ability to accept lots of accessories. It will work with NV rails, spigot mounts, an ARCA rail and an enclosed forend.
What we like about it: Toolless adjustable buttstock, great adjustability with height and cant, few screws to loosen or lose, solid feel, folder option.
What we’re not crazy about: LOP started at 13.3 inches, weight kit is not available, lack of M-Lok compatibility (upgradable with enclosed forend). Also, ARCA is not built in, lots of parts to add/upgrade, not ambi.
The Whiskey 3 is a pretty specific chassis for a specific type of shooter in that you have to set it up right, and it takes some work. I found it to be the least comfortable of the chassis, but that doesn’t detract from its capabilities. It has its following, though, and will be right for fans of the KRG.
Cadex products have a reputation for being high-end. They make some battle-capable chassis, and the Field Competition falls in this category. Although, it is minus features that would otherwise run up the cost. The Field Competition is sturdy, but a two-piece design. The forend bolts to the main lower portion of the chassis. The forend mitigates mirage, features M-Lok attachment, and an ARCA rail can be attached.
The skeletonized stock does not need tools for adjustment, but once you loosen the bolts, there is no effect to LOP and cheek height. So, you must be careful during setup.
What we like about it: Few screws, M-Lok compatibility, stock adjustability, AR-style grips, solid, comfortable, folding stock.
What we’re not crazy about: Adjustability can be challenging, length of pull at 13 inches, ARCA Swiss separate part and no thumb shelf. Also, the mag well area is angled and not able to be loaded.
The Cadex is more of a general use/tactical chassis that could do occasional competition work. It has undeniable good looks along with functionality.
ACCURACY INTERNATIONAL AX
This is another tactical chassis that might be the standard by which all others are measured. Tough, functional, solid, and adjustable without the use of tools, the AIAX just does work. That said, it is not ideal for competition, but can work in that space if necessary.
What we like about it: Highly adjustable without tools, including cant and height of butt pad. While the AI is not new, it does this better than any other chassis. It’s bombproof, mag well is cut away on one side, it folds and is night-vision capable.
What we’re not crazy about: Key slot proprietary, no Arca without adaptation, mag well area not protected and odd angle in front of mag well. Not to mention no thumb shelf, length of pull starts at 13.25 inches, not available left-handed for Rem 700 footprint.
The AI makes comfort look easy and although it is tactically based, it expertly executes adjustability and adaptability.
MAGPUL PRO 700
I’ll go on record and say the Magpul Pro 700 is the most overlooked and underrated chassis on the market. Why do people overlook it? Probably because of its aesthetics. While there is nothing wrong with its looks, it’s not exciting by any stretch of the imagination. Magpul may have done a better job with their hunter stock in the appearance category.
But form follows function, and the Magpul is nothing short of amazing in function. It has mounds of adjustability, good balance, ability to accept accessories and expandability (supported by Magpul), and great price point.
What we like about it: Rugged design with no parts to jiggle loose, adjustability in stock, ambi and folder or fixed modularity. We also like that it is NV capable, the adjustable vertical grip distance and different vertical grip angles.
What we’re not crazy about: Boring aesthetics, magazine not protected, minimum length of pull is too long, thumb shelf is small, and the chassis is nonadjustable.
While it’s not perfect, I personally believe the Pro 700 is the best “all-around” chassis with the ability to morph into nearly every roll and maintain durability and capability.
The Last Round
It’s clearly impossible to say which chassis is the absolute best without clearly defined measurement parameters. Even with that, we’d have to assume that every shooter’s body, technique and end use were the same. That’s clearly not the case.
No, the decision of which chassis is best is truly a deeply personal one and will continue to be. Even if we agreed that a particular model was subpar, there would be a significant number of people using it to the contrary.
If we both had to crown a winner, it would be the XLR Envy. It seemed to have all the features we deemed necessary in one package. Adjustability is plentiful but it still needs tools. Expandability is there as well. It’s ambidextrous, comfortable, and even though it’s on the racy side, it’s very solid in construction and we believe it could be used in an all-around or even tactical role.
Aesthetically it leaves a bit to be desired, but the other factors more than make up for that.
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This article originally appeared in the Ballistic Magazine Aug/Sept 2021 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions at OutdoorGroupStore.com. Or call 1-800-284-5668, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.