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Short-Action vs Long-Action: Choosing the Correct Stock

by Adam Scepaniak

So you are in the market for a new stock for your rifle? That is great because Boyds can help! So do you need a long-action or short-action stock?... You don’t know?... You are not alone if you are unsure. Firearms are not labeled as being a short-action or long-action openly on them, and it can be hard to determine with some calibers. You might guess that one is simply longer than the other, but what else is different? Why does it matter? Let’s take a look at some of the differences between a short-action and a long-action so you are more confident and educated in your Boyds Gun Stock purchase!


A short-action rifle is, in fact, shorter than a long-action, but that is not the only difference worth noting. A short-action rifle has an action that is loosely based off of the overall length of a .308 Winchester cartridge. Some other common calibers that are a short-action are as follows:

  • .243 Winchester
  • .260 Remington
  • 6.5 Creedmoor
  • 7mm-08 Remington
  • .308 Winchester
  • .338 Federal
  • .358 Winchester



This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but should give you a rough idea of the calibers that you would associate with a short-action. If you have a question as to whether a specific caliber you own requires a short-action or long-action stock from Boyds, please feel free to give us a call (605) 996-5011 Monday through Friday from 8AM to 4:30PM CST. Or if e-mail is more your speed, reach out to us here, help@boydsgunstocks.com because we are always glad to help!

Some other differences you will notice in a short-action are the shorter bolt throw, or shorter travel to work the action. The difference from a short-action to a long-action in overall length in your firearm is roughly ½”. In theory, a short-action is faster to reload because of the shorter travel when working the bolt. This is only marginally faster though; we are talking tenths of a second.

A short-action will also have a smaller and shorter ejection port. This, not surprisingly, is because it is ejecting shorter casings once they are fired. Since the ejection port and overall size of the action is smaller, a short-action compared to a long-action in most cases weighs 4 ounces less. Sometimes people want as lean of a rifle as possible if they are hunting. Other times people appreciate a weighted rifle to mitigate recoil. So it is up to the user to decide as to whether or not that is a positive attribute.

A few other small distinctions are a short-action is more stiff; exhibits less flex. In an extremely small way this can manifest in short-actions being more accurate, but it will not be obvious unless you shoot really long distances. Another key difference is short-actions typically have less recoil because the cartridges have less powder capacity, but this is not universally true. Also, “recoil” is a bit arbitrary. What a younger shooter might believe is a lot of recoil an older shooter might laugh at and retort: “Is that all you got!

Long Action

So it is beginning to sound like there is a mountain of benefits to a short-action. What about a long-action? Well, many of the things previously mentioned are the opposite for a long-action. First, to get us in a solid frame of mind, here is a short list of some common long-action calibers:

  • .25-06 Remington
  • .270 Winchester
  • .280 Remington
  • 7mm Remington Magnum
  • .30-06 Springfield
  • .300 Winchester Magnum
  • .338 Winchester Magnum



As you can kind of notice, a lot of magnum calibers and just generally larger cartridges fall into the long-action category. A long-action is loosely based off of the overall size of a .30-06 Springfield cartridge just like the short-action is shadowed after a .308 Winchester in size.

A long-action has a slightly longer bolt travel, and throw to it, and takes a hair longer to cycle the action. In hunting or target shooting situations, most people will not miss a shot or opportunity due to one-tenth of a second of difference in cycling the bolt. So this is a negligible difference, but still worth noting.

A long-action also has a longer ejection port to accommodate the larger spent casings it will eject. This equates to more mass in the action and overall weight of the rifle. Also, it will mean a longer distance rings and mounts will need to bridge to mount a scope. For this reason, a lot of long-action firearms utilize rails to give you more real estate to mount optics.

Long-action cartridges also boast more powder capacity; thus, more boom power. If you need to take down big-game animals that demand more Foot-Lbs. of energy, a long-action is where you need to be. The trade-off to that is more recoil. So long-action cartridges and firearms are not quite as popular for target shooting.

Finally, a long-action has the potential to flex more than a short-action, but only on a microscopic level. This can adversely affect accuracy, but you may never notice this unless you shoot long distances with your long-action.


Picking your Boyds Gun Stock

There is a lot of information to digest when comparing a short-action to a long-action. Where this all comes together in your purchasing decision of a gun stock is getting the correct size. There are sadly no agreed-upon, universal action sizes when it comes to a short-action and a long-action. Every firearm manufacturer independently decides the size of their actions.

To figure out if you require a short-action or long-action Boyds Gun Stock there is one measurement you need to obtain. You need to measure the distance between your action screws.

Action Screws

The action screws of your firearm are the two screws that hold your barreled action to the stock. All of our Boyds Gun Stocks list that number (the distance between the action screws). So if you can accurately measure that distance you can be assured you are purchasing the correct Boyds Gun Stock.

To get an accurate measurement make sure you are measuring from the center of one action screw to the center of the other action screw. Also, do not mistake one of the trigger guard screws for an action screw. This will give you an incorrect number when referencing the Boyds Gun Stocks website creating all sorts of confusion for yourself.


If you believe you have measured correctly, then simply: choose your favorite model stock, verify the correct action and pick your favorite color!

If all else fails and you just are not sure for the firearm you own, please feel free to give us a call (605) 996-5011 Monday through Friday from 8AM to 5PM CST. Or if e-mail is more your speed, reach out to us here, help@boydsgunstocks.com because we are always glad to help!

Thank you for choosing Boyds Gun Stocks! Where you get far more gunstock for the money!