How To Install A Grind To Fit Recoil Pad


Obsessed Member
Staff member
After a buddy asked how to do this last week, and then I had to do it to that old Browning A5 I bought from him, figured I'd just right it up in case anyone else was a wonderin how to go about it.

How to Install A “Grind to Fit” Recoil Pad

Installing a “grind to fit” recoil pad is not a daunting task, it can be accomplished with simple tools, time, preparation and patience.

Grind to fit recoil pads are those that come oversized (usually labeled “Small”, “Medium”, “Large” and “Magnum”) and the package will show the maximum size in inches in both width and length that the pad will fit, as well as the smallest dimensions it can be ground down to.

And of course, it will also show the thickness of the pad.

They usually come in increments of ¼”, from ¼” up through about 2” in thickness. If you need to add more than 2” to the length of the stock, you can buy black or white or brown phenolic grind to fit spacers in thicknesses of 1/16”, 1/8”, 3/16”, ¼”, 3/8”, ½” ¾”and 1” to make up the difference. These can be stacked to get the exact Length of Pull you require.

For starters you will need a new grind to fit recoil pad, some 2 inch wide blue masking tape, a sharp scriber point or a finely sharpened pencil, Philips and/or flat screw driver, a sharp nail or center punch, a belt or disk grinder with course (say, 60 grit) and fine (320 grit) belts or disks, a dust mask (MANDATORY, lots of rubber dust in the air, BAD for your lungs), safety glasses (MANDATORY, bad stuff in the air, you don’t want it in your eyes!) , an electric drill and drill bits, a shop vacuum and old clothes. Old clothes because grinding these things is really, really messy! You are going to end up with nasty black rubber powder everywhere, so do this outside (windy days are nice for this!) or in the garage, but definitely not in the house!

To get started:

READ THE DIRECTIONS on the new recoil pad box, there may be some special instructions there, like the fact you may have to “slit” the recoil pad with an Exacto knife over the holes for the screws, and other oddities. Depends on the brand of recoil pad.

Ensure the gun is empty, both chamber and magazine, then remove the stock from the action (shotguns) or the action from the stock (rifles).

Start this by taking the old recoil pad off the stock, normally this requires a Philips screw driver to be inserted through the two holes in the rubber butt pad and the screws backed out.

Sometimes they will be flat slot screws though, and it can be difficult to see down the holes to tell which type of screwdriver you need, most are Phillips, so try the Philips first. By the way, to get the screwdriver shank, and /or the screws to go through the holes easier, lube them with a bit of liquid dishwashing soap, it will let them slide through the rubber much easier.

If it’s a shotgun with a single large screw or bolt in the center of the stock, such as a Remington 870, you will have to remove the old butt pad first to access the stock bolt hole.

Be careful to get the screwdriver (or if you are lucky and it has a hex head bolt down inside that 7/8” diameter hole) centered up on the slot or on the head. If you get a flat blade screwdriver between the head of the screw and the wood in that hole and twist, thinking you are on the screws slot, you will most likely shatter the stock at the wrist point. A bit more difficult to screw it up if it’s a hex head bolt that you can use a socket on.

Brownell’s carries special screwdriver bits and guides for various brands of shotguns that ensure the blade won’t get between the screw head and the inside of the stock bolt hole, they are well worth the money, being much cheaper than a new stock!

If you are working on a Browning A5, I highly recommend purchasing the specially ground screwdrivers, or bits, your choice, that fit these guns! They take an extremely narrow slotted bit, only about .003 inches thick, and it is a real pain to have to grind your own to that thickness, the correct length for the slot, have it keep its strength and not twist or break off. These bits MUST be parallel sided and hollow ground, DO NOT use a tapered wood working screw driver, I guarantee you will bugger up the screw heads and slots.

And also don’t forget on Brownings, you have to remove the smaller, “LOCKING” screw before you remove the big screw that actually holds the stock on.

On the old A5’s, there is only one screw , through the bottom tang of the receiver,that holds the stock on, the little screw in front of it is the locking screw. Take the locker out first, then the big screw, then smack the comb of the stock rearward with the palm of your hand to drive the stock out from between the two tangs of the receiver. And remember there is a big long coil spring in there, don’t lose it! It’s the action/recoil spring and without it, the A5 is just a clumsy club.

Now that you have the recoil pad and stock off, break out the new pad, the scriber or pencil, and that 2” wide blue masking tape.

First hold the new pad with the side that will go against the stock up, and the pad oriented so that the heel is at the top and the toe at the bottom and put the stock in the same position.

Compare the holes in the new pad to the ones in the stock from the old pad.

Do they line up? If you are lucky, they do and you can proceed. But they probably won’t.

So now you need to plug the old holes (if the new ones will intersect them that is, if they are far enough apart that they won’t you can just drill the new holes).

But on the chance, you do need to plug the old holes first, get some walnut or oak dowel from Home Depot, Michaels Craft Stores, Lowes, Ace, etc. and some good wood glue, like Gorilla® brand wood glue.

If you can’t find a diameter of dowel that fits in the old screw holes, buy one slightly larger, and drill the old screw holes out with a drill bit the same diameter as the dowel and then glue a short piece of dowel into each of the two holes.

When the glue dries, sand the dowels off flush with the end of the stock and proceed to drill the new holes.

To get the new holes in the right spot, I start by putting the pad upside down on a level, flat surface, then I position the stock butt on the bottom of the pad and center it up length and width wise.

I take the scriber, or a sharp pencil, and putting the point in against the junction of the stock and the pad, with the barrel of the scribe or pencil held at a 45-degree angle out away from the stock (this lets me trace as close as possible to the stock) I go all the way around the stock two or three times to make a good trace of the stock onto the back of the butt pad.

Then I take an 18 inch long strip of 2 inch wide blue painters masking tape and I lay it sticky side UP on the flat surface, and position the new pad right in the middle of the 18 inch length, with the tape going across the width of the pad at the pad’s middle.

Put the stock back on the pad, and line it up with your trace marks so it is centered lengthwise and widthwise on the pad, and now bring one side of the tape up and onto the stock, then the other side, pressing them nice and tight and flat on the stock.

Now add a couple of more strips of tape across the pad and onto the stock, just don’t cover the holes up in the new pad, we need those.

The tape will hold the pad on the stock (check to make sure it is still centered inside the lines you marked!) while we mark the holes location.

You can use a sharp nail, or a center punch, or even the proper size drill for the pad screws, to mark the holes locations by putting the object through first one and then the other hole in the new pad and giving it a gentle tap with a light hammer to make a mark on the wood buttstock face.

By the way, if you are not sure what size drill bit to use for the wood screws to secure the pad, you can just look for one that is about the same diameter as, or a bit smaller than, the shank portion of the screw. That’s the part of the screw at the bottom of the threads.

It’s pretty easy to hold up the screw and a drill bit together so that they overlap, on top of the other lengthwise, and see if the diameter of the shank and drill bit are the same. Put the screw on top first, see if you can see the drill bit under it, then put the drill bit on top, see if you can see the screw shank under it. If you can’t see the one on the bottom in either of these positions, then the diameters are pretty much equal and that drill bit will bore a hole the right size for the screws you are using.

Back to the drilling.

Take the pad off the gun, chuck up the drill bit in your drill, and carefully drill the holes into the stock in the marked location, going just a little bit deeper than the length of the screws for the recoil pad are long.

Now take a larger drill bit, or a counter sink tool if you have one, and lightly counter sink the two holes to a very shallow depth, just a slight dish depression is enough.

This countersinking prevents the screw from pulling up a cone of wood when it is tightened down tightly, which would raise the recoil pad off the stock and leave a gap.

Put the recoil pad back on the gun, and screw it down tight, checking to see that the stock ends up inside your scribed or penciled lines. If it does, good, if not, you may need to plug and re-drill one or both of the screw holes to get it aligned properly, something slipped somewhere along the way.

If it’s ok, take that 2” wide tape and wrap it around the stock so that one edge butts up against the lip of the still too large butt pad.

Make this wrap 3 layers of tape thick.

Now take the pad off the gun and grind it on the belt or disc grinder, or with a hand held belt, palm, orbital or what have you sander until you are just barely outside the lines you marked, by say 1/16 of an inch or so.

If you have steady hands, you can leave the pad on the gunstock and grind it there, this makes it easier to “continue” the tapering lines of the top (comb to heel) and bottom (belly to toe) onto the pad so that it matches the stocks taper.

Put the pad back on the stock if you took it off to grind and see how close it fits around the perimeter.

You can now sand it down to a still closer fit with a hand sander, a block of wood with sand paper wrapped around it, or on the belt or disc grinder if you have steady enough hands and good enough eyesight.

Sand until you start to sand into that top (of 3) layers of masking tape, at which time pad should should be almost flush with the stock.

Switch to a finer grit of sandpaper, like 320, and continue sanding closer until you start to eat through the second layer of tape.

Slow down, hand sanding only from this point on, and go a bit more, until you just start to scuff , but not tear through the last layer of tape protecting the stock’s finish.

At this point, for most folks, you can call it good.

The remaining pad that is higher than the stock wood will be only about .002” high, hardly detectable.

But if you want it total flush, as it would end up if you were going to sand flush to the stock (no tape to protect the finish) and then refinish the stock, BUT you don’t want to refinish the stock, take the pad off the stock and using very fine, 400 grit paper and a wood backer block, hand sand the pad a few strokes, then try it on the stock.

Keep doing that until you are satisfied it is absolutely flush.

But really, once you get down to where you are scuffing that final, single thickness layer of tape with hand sanding, it’s close enough, STOP.

That’s about it in a nutshell, takes 1-2 hours to git’er all done if you plan ahead and work carefully, don’t rush it.

Here's a few pictures from that A5 install to go along with some of the above.

Here's the pad the way it looked when I got the gun, pretty hideous. Was actually TWO pads glued on top of another!


The old rubber pad scraped off, some idiot NAILED a phenolic spacer to the stock with finishing nails!

OK, got the phenolic off, but no holes for screws for a pad, so will have to drill some, no, not those big holes GW, dunno why those are there, no purpose on a A5.

Here's the new pad taped to the stock so I can mark the location for the screw holes to be drilled.


One hole hit something is the stock (probably a nail) and went sideways. So I drilled it out to a larger diameter and plugged it. Shadow makes it look like the plug isn't solid, but it is.

OK, holes are drilled correctly, pad is on, and stock is taped, ready for grinding

It's done, nice tight fit, and the angles on the pad match those of the stock. Not going to refinish the stock for now, I like the character it has picked up in it's 83 years of life, so a bit of Old English Scratch cover / polish, then some wax, and called it good.


1911 pistolsmith
Staff member
I'm about to do this on a Win 94 with curved butt stock. Of course I refinished the stock before buying the pad.


Obsessed Member
Staff member
Hmm, curved butt stock, haven't covered that one yet here, there are some tricks to getting a perfect fit for it I can walk you through if you like.


1911 pistolsmith
Staff member
Slight curve so shouldn't be to bad. Quick search shows boiling the pad. But sure tricks would be good.


Obsessed Member
Staff member
Slight curve, yes, boil the pad, install while hot, same trick you use to get the radiator bypass hose on an old Ford V8 without having to remove the intake manifold. Makes the hose / butt pad pliable so you can clamp it down, but in the case of the pad, you have to grind it to fit first of course.

Slightly greater curve, you can lightly score the pad on the side that goes against the stock, across the width of the pad, with a table saw with the blade raised 1/8" inch or less, score it every 1/4" from heel to toe, then boil it.
Same trick you use in wood working to bend a piece of thick wood into a curve. Just score the butt pad's hard phenolic plate to a depth of about 1/3rd the thickness of that hard phenolic plate, no more, or it will crack when you bend it.

For really deeply curved stocks (think old crescent moon curves on Kentucky Long Rifles, Sharps Rifles, etc. ) you have two options.

Buy an extra thick pad, and make a tool out of built up plywood or hard wood to help you get the grind right to fit it, or find a piece of wood that matches the stock , cut it to fit the curve exactly and tightly, leave the other side flat and straight, and mount the pad to the flat side after mounting the spacer / adapter to the stock, via screws so it can be removed later if someone wants to go back to the original curve for some reason.

Finding those thick pads can be tough these days, they were common decades ago, not so much now, so the adapter/spacer approach is probably the easier way to go.
The tool is just wood built up in thickness to match the thickness of the pad's width, and then you trace the curve of the butt stock onto it and cut in out on a band saw or scroll saw or with a jig saw.
Then you clamp the pad to the half of the wood that has the matching curve (the male half of the curve) of the butt stock on it, and use the wood as a template along with a router table and long, bearing guided edging bit to rout the pad to the same shape as the wood pattern, or sand it to the same shape on a disc or belt sander.

Last option is to tape the stock with 4 layers or so of good masking tape, pulled tight, mark a line all the way around the stock just behind the curved area, and cut it off straight with a table saw, with the stock clamped securely to a cross cut sled (you have to build the sled first of course!) and then ever after use flat faced pads.