Who doesn’t know who McMillan is? After close to 5 decades of producing some of the best rifle stocks on the planet, it is kinda hard not to. We got the chance to take a tour of their manufacturing facility in Phonix recently to see exactly how they build stocks that are engineered to help competitors shoot to win.
As soon as we walked into the building, we were met by none other than Kelly McMillan, the owner of McMillan stocks. Kelly led us down a hallway lined with many of the style and colors they offer; there were several more than I realized that McMillan produced.
Once Kelly ducked into a doorway we were led into the mold room where the each stock starts its life. They start by hand applying the color requested by the customer, then lay the fiberglass into the mold. They wouldn’t tell us much more about the process, after all, there are still some secrets as to how McMillan produces their stocks.
As you move through the entire factory, you find boxes upon boxes of stock in various stages of completion. I asked how they kept track of each stock and was shown the inventory tag affixed to the side of the stock. It includes all the information that the staff needs to build the stock from start to finish.
Next stop on the tour is the inletting room. Right after walking into the room you are greeted with the sight of a CNC machine clearing the fill material for the rifle action. You might incorrectly think that this is the most time intensive step in the fabrication process. Not only does the CNC machine shave off a bunch of time, but it also produces the same perfect fit every time.
To test fitment McMillan keeps hundreds of bottom metals and actions in stock. What I saw laying out was only a small selection of the actions and bottom metals they have. Kelly said that they are also capable of writing a program for any action that you might want for an additional fee.
Every time Kelly spoke about the process it was easy to see that McMillan Stocks is far more than a business to him, he takes great pride is what is built inside these walls. His pride in the company and the people that it is made up of was rather apparent when I spoke with a couple of them, many of them had been with McMillan for over a decade, some over 30 years!
While I was wandering around during the tour, I came across one of the A4 style stocks that were destined for the Marine Corps as replacement parts. Even though McMillan stocks are crazy tough, a servicemember can break anything. Sadly the marines have moved to a chassis system on the new sniper rifles leaving tradition behind; Kelly believes that they may move back to the stocks in the future.
Previously I said that you might think that the inletting was the most time intensive portion of the stock building process. Wrong, it is the quality check and touch up step. I can see why Kelly has almost nine hours tied up in each stock that leaves his facility, the level of attention that was given to each stock before a customer sees it was astounding. The blemishes that they were fixing were near nonexsistant, and I would have a very hard time spotting them if they weren’t shown to me.
So how do they fix those small blemishes? With a palette of resin just like what is used to build the stocks from the get go. Each color is painstakingly mixed and applied with what looks like a butter knife; I was in awe at how skillful each one of the employees was. Watching them apply the resin to the stock was enjoyable, but what got me is that once they were done the only clue that they added material was a wet sheen to the undried resin. The camo colors and swirls were matched perfectly.
We had one more stop inside, the shipping area, but it wasn’t anywhere as interesting as the McMillan Museum. While the shipping area has completed stocks and boxes, the museum had some of Kelly’s most prized rifles as well as some history as well!
The rifle on top was a McMillan Tac-338 just like the one Chris Kyle used, below that a USMC M40A4, and the rifle on the bottom is an original (demilled) M40A1 with weapon record book next to it. Other notable rifles in the collection were his son’s Tac-50 and Kelly’s safari rifle; a McMillan Prestige chambered in .404 Jeffery. Kelly keeps it in a beautiful wood stock when at home but changed over to a McMillan fiberglass stock when he takes it to hunt. He even had a large stuffed bear that he was able to harvest with the heirloom rifle.
The most interesting one in the collection would have to be the below rifle. Mac McMillan shot a .009″ 5 shot group at 100 yards with it, setting the world record and holding it for 39 years. The action and bolt was made by Mac, the barrel by Pat McMillan, and the stock by Gale McMillan. After Mac shot the .009″ group he never fired another shot in competition, what a way to end a shooting career!
Before I got the McMillan tour I knew that they made great stocks, but I never had a clue as to what was involved in building stocks that are relied on by police and military all over the world. I want to thank Kelly and his family as well as the employees of McMillan for welcoming TFB to take a tour so we can share the experience with our readers.
You can learn more about the McMillan lineup on their website HERE.