Adjustable cheek-pieces have become more and more popular, especially as the objectives on the scopes have grown to 50mm, 56mm, and beyond. In order to get a good cheekweld while keeping the eye in line with the scope a raised cheek-piece has been required. This is a common problem even on the US Army M24 sniper rifle, if you look closely you will often times see snipers that have literally taped on pieces of foam padding (often cut up old sleep pads) to the top of the comb area of the stock of the M24 to raise the eye in line with the scope. I had to do it on the M24’s I was issued while in the N.G. This same effect can be achieved with the stock design itself by having a raised comb or Monte Carlo style cheek-piece. Another approach has been for the stock manufacturers to incorporate an adjustable cheek-piece so the stocks can accommodate all shooters with all types and sizes of scopes. McMillan & HS Precision has long had adjustable cheek-piece designs on their stocks and many of the other stock manufacturers have done the same. But what do you do if you already have an existing stock that does not have an adjustable cheek-piece, or you like a style of stock that is not available with one? A shooter, Mr. Karsten, was wondering just that when he decided to do it on his own and designed and manufactured an after market saddle type adjustable cheek-piece that can be retrofitted to just about any stock.
We ordered a cheek-piece and it arrived without a problem and included a single fairly detailed page on how to install the cheek-piece. It included instructions on how to do it with a hand drill as well as with a drill press and included some important tips on how to install it on AR15’s and other gas guns. While it was just a typed out page, it did provide everything you need to know as well as a phone number to call with questions. Some additional pictures would probably go a long way to help some people with the install, the instructions were enough to get the job done.
The saddle type adjustable cheek-pieces sit on top of the rear comb section of the stock like a saddle, hence the name. There are two bolts that mount across the saddle and through the stock itself, and then with the two lock knobs you hand tighten and loosen the bolts to move and tighten the cheek-piece in place. Karsten uses a very high quality Kydex thermal plastic which really sets them apart from some of the cheap knock offs that have cropped up on the market since Karsten released their cheek-piece. The design is nice and simple and works quite well for what it is intended to do. The hand tightened lock nuts have gone through several iterations but the current design is quite nice and easily adjusted by hand.
The cheek-piece itself is lightly textured to help provide a good resting surface for the cheek, and while it is not as nice as the hard rubber coating used on the McMillan saddle type cheek-pieces or not as grippy as the Alcantara type of material used on the eagle strap-on cheek-pieces, it is also a lot cheaper and still nice enough to get the job done. Karsten does provided a small piece of 1/8″ thick rubber that can be glued to the upper surface of the cheek-piece to provide better grip with your cheek if desired. While wearing face paint and sweating, the hard plastic does get a bit slippery and this piece of rubber just might do the trick for you.
The size of the cheek-piece is just about right, large enough to work with just about any person and provide some area for the shooter to adjust forward or backward, but also small enough to be able to fit on just about any stock and still have mounting flexibility for and aft. Because of the Kydex material used to manufacture the cheek-piece, it also adds the ability to be able to widen or tighten the saddle width for those odd stocks that might be extra thick or extra thin. The instructions indicate soaking the stop portion in boiling water should do the trick in allowing you to make the adjustments you may need to the width of the saddle.
The mounting procedure itself may seem daunting to some but in reality there is nothing to worry about, it is fairly straight forward, and a drill press does help in the process. But because drill presses are not totally common place I decided to show the install process on an HS Precision stock using a hand drill, even though we have a drill press. The rifle I chose was another project rifle that is a subject of a not completed build write-up which made a great candidate for this cheek-piece. It has a HS Precision stock from a Remington 700P which obviously has no adjustable cheek-piece. So off we went to install the Karsten cheek-piece, insuring that we followed the instructions as much as possible.
First, you need determine where you want to mount the cheek-piece on the stock, so you place it on the stock and move it back and forth until it feels the best for all the various shooting positions. One thing you need to be sure to do, and this is mentioned in the instructions, is make sure that you can cycle the bolt and that you can get the bolt in and out (for cleaning) without having to remove the cheek-piece. The picture above shows the cheek-piece sitting on the stock and with the bolt of the Remington 700 action pulled all the way out as if removing it from the rifle. The location of the cheek-piece was still fine and comfortable in this position.
If you really needed to, it should be no problem to take a dremel hand tool and grind away a bit of the plastic at the top and front of the cheek piece to make a little indention in the cheek-piece to provide room for the bolt to come out, but that probably will not be necessary for most applications.
The instructions indicate that if you are using a hand drill, the best approach is to place the cheek-piece on the stock and then mark on the stock with a pencil on both sides where you need to drill the 1/4″ holes, and then to drill half way through on each side. This will help with the alignment of the holes while not using a drill press. With our cheek-piece placed where I wanted it, I marked both sides and prepared for drilling.
It is recommended to use a variable power drill and to proceed slowly and take your time, which is what I did. The Kevlar outer shell on the HS Precision stocks is fairly hard, but does drill without too much of a problem, and then there was a surprise… the buttstock is hollow. Once through the kevlar shell, bam, there was nothing but hollow space and air. In reality, this made the drilling extremely easy and aligning a prefect hole was a non issue, I just flipped the stock and drilled the other side. I am not sure if all HS Precision stocks are hollow in the butt area, but this one is.
One thing I did do, and is probably required, is once I drilled the other side as well, I did extend the drillbit all the way through and proceeded to drill back through the hole on the other side, this will allow the bolts from the cheek-piece to slide right on through without a problem. The picture below demonstrates what I did.
With that done, it was literally just a minute to slip the cheek-piece back on, place the screws through the holes and the cheek-piece and then tighten it up. And as simple as that, the project was done! The finished installation looks nice and is functional. Raising and lowering the cheek-piece involves loosening the two nuts by hand, and then raising or lowering the cheek-piece to the desired height and then re-tightening the nuts. It is not totally smooth like a fancy wheel type adjustable cheek-piece, but it is simple enough for what it is and it is totally functional.
As you can see, the installation looks pretty good and it does add functionality to the rifle as well as that serious look. Shooting with it is about as you would expect. The cheek can slide around a bit but I do not have the rubber attached to the cheek-piece, which will help in those regards. I am pleased with the unit as a whole and for the $55 plus shipping it is a good value and in our case, very easy to install. Other installations, like a wood stock, will involve more work to get those two holes drilled and aligned, but once accomplished, the rest is easy. The cheek-piece adjusts easy enough and does everything an adjustable cheek-piece should. The quality of the material is good and the design solid. If you are looking to add a cheek-piece to an existing stock, the Karsten is a very good choice to consider.