Gale McMillan, the founder of the original McMillan company, McMillan Fiberglass Stocks, began producing stocks in 1973 for himself and for fellow competitors who were always in search of the next competitive edge.
He just had an interest in making a few stocks a month to assist the competitors in becoming better at their chosen sport. His true passion was for building accurate rifles. He intended the stock business to be a supplemental business at best. One that would allow him to focus on building rifles but provide a steady income to get him through the long build times the rifles required. Gale had no idea that he'd just invented a genre of stock that would dominate the stock-making industry for a half-century.
In 1975, the Marine Corps placed an order for about 200 stocks. This was more than the entire prior year's production. Gale McMillan was in a moment of panic. He called his son Kelly and asked if he wanted to go to work for him. "My first job was making the stocks’ shells" Kelly stated. They start by laying the camo gelcoat in the mold, followed by the fiberglass cloth. After that, they open up the shells on the manual mill so they can be filled with fiberglass and epoxy. Once filled, they machine the action area and barrel channel. A custom fiberglass material could be used along with a mandrel to form the action area and barrel contour. In no time, I was performing every operational task on my own."
Business marched on in a similar fashion for about ten years. McMillan added more competition stocks to the line-up as well as using the Marine Corps stock molds as their General Purpose Hunting Stock which further drove up production.
In 1983 the Marine Corp asked Gale to make a stock for their match-grade M14 rifle, but this time they wanted the stock fully inlet. Gale spent 7 hours on a manual milling machine creating the inletting. When finished, Gale vowed to never do that again and 3 weeks later took delivery of their first CNC milling machine.
That was the moment that changed McMillan Fiberglass Stocks forever. Gale and Kelly learned how to program the machine, thanks to Rock, Gale's older son. Rock was a Manufacturing Technology Engineer. He graduated from ASU in 1975. He had been programming CNC machines for a living. Rock worked with Gale and Kelly to help them develop a rudimentary skill level of programming. That ability allowed them to take on the Weatherby Mark V. After six months of development, programming, and trial and error, they produced the first fiberglass stock. A major manufacturer offered this on a line of rifles. They finished the stocks by using a baked-on wrinkle paint and then inlaid a white diamond into the pistol grip cap. The following year, Weatherby offered the Fiberguard in addition to the Fibermark. It was a Vanguard Rifle with a McMillan stock and finished in a light green wrinkle paint.
The team received another CNC machine which allowed them to make stocks for various brands. These brands included Remington, Winchester (US Repeating Arms), and Sako. They achieved this feat within a period of about 3 years. By the early 1990’s they were producing close to 10,000 stocks per year. Major OEM accounts were receiving 8,000 of them to put on their rifles. USRAC offered the Winlite series in both the Sporter and Featherweight models. Sako offered the Finnfiber as well as the Finnlight models, and Remington offered the Custom Shop KS Mountain Rifles as well as some L/E offerings with assorted tactical stocks. McMillan has also produced stocks for Steyr, Sig, FN, Dakota, Savage, and Browning.
After the Vietnam War, the Marines decided that they had achieved significant success with their sniper program. As a result, they decided to expand the M40 program and develop a rifle specifically as a sniper rifle. In the war, they used factory-produced Remington 40x rifles for the original M40's, which had factory barrels, wood stocks, and no glass bedding. Though they were effectively hunting rifles, they did the job. A man with an accurate bolt action rifle was the scariest warrior on the battlefield. In their effort to develop a rifle that would serve the needs of the elite Marine Corps Scout Sniper, they asked Gale McMillan what he would build as a sniper rifle if it were up to him.
He said it needed to have a fiberglass stock to combat the variables presented by the environments around the world. And it needed a match-grade stainless barrel and an optic tough enough to hold up to the rigors of a Scout Sniper’s duties. The Marines insisted that the stock be simple, non-adjustable, and most of all Marine-proof. Gale designed a hunting stock that could accommodate a heavy contour barrel, featured a Monte-Carlo comb for scope use, and made it as indestructible as possible. He provided a sample of what he thought the rifle should look like, and the Marine Corps adopted it just as suggested.
After about 10 years in the field, the Marines had spent plenty of time assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the M40A1. With the Unertl scope and scope rings chosen for the M40A1, the comb wasn’t high enough to get a good solid cheek weld. The fore-end, though plenty stiff, was a little narrow and did not provide a solid platform from which to shoot with the fore-end supported. And they also needed an adjustable length of pull as these rifles were issued to Marines of all shapes and sizes. So, in the early '90s, the Marine Corps asked McMillan to work with them on designing a new stock that would correct these flaws.
The Monte-Carlo was removed and replaced with a saddle-type adjustable cheekpiece. A spacer system was made to offer an adjustable LOP. And the fore-end was widened and deepened so that it would make a more suitable shooting platform and to give extra space for installing fore-end rails and spigots for Parker Hale bipods, thus the A2 was born. The Marines never ended up purchasing this stock, but the FBI built them for the HRT sniper rifles and Crane built them into the Mark 13 sniper rifles issued to the SEALs.
From mid-1983 until 2000, Kelly ran the company with minor supervision from Gale. During that time, Kelly continued to strengthen the McMillan brand and utilize the momentum they had created early on in both the military and benchrest communities. The demand for high-quality aftermarket stocks was on the rise and McMillan had emerged by far and away the leader in composite stock making.
Gale handed down the company to his son Kelly. Afterwards, Gale spent the next 15 years exploring other areas of the industry. Gale ended up starting his own rifle-making business called G. McMillan Company (then later McBros and McMillan Firearms Manufacturing). He sold the rights to ITT Night Vision for the first day/night scope he invented. He continued to experiment with optics until he established his scope manufacturing company. Gale named the company the McMillan Optical Gunsight Company.
In May of 2000, just days before Gale's passing, someone informed Ryan McMillan, Gale's grandson, about Gale’s worsening health. Ryan spoke his final words to his grandfather, not knowing what to say. "Grandpa, I am going to be a Navy Seal." This would be the last time he'd ever speak to his grandfather, someone he admired dearly. Ryan also knew this would make Gale extremely proud. Gale had worked with the Seal teams, helping them develop sniper rifles and creating lasting bonds. Though Gale couldn't talk, Ryan could see in his eyes how proud he was.
Gale's work with SEAL teams influenced Ryan. Ryan joined the elite community driven by this. It happened in the late '80s and '90s. Gale said this about Ryan in his memoirs, "Kelly’s son Ryan is the only boy left to continue the name. If there was one to be chosen as the seed of the family, I couldn’t find a better example. He has been my pride and joy since the day he was born."
Ryan enlisted in the Navy in August of 2000. He completed BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition / Seal) in April, 2002. After that, he deployed multiple times with Seal Team 2.
Ryan later left the Navy and came to work at McMillan. Ryan and Kelly worked together for 7 years. They were unable to unify their vision. In 2014, Ryan started his own riflestock company. He aimed to revolutionize composite stock making. Ryan realized at McMillan that he could make composite stocks more efficiently. The current hand-laid-up processes were inefficient. In 2016, Ryan's company Grayboe launched its first riflestock to the public.
As 2020 drew to a close, both Kelly and Rock McMillan sold their companies. And then less than 6 months later, Kelly McMillan unexpectedly passed away.
Currently, no McMillan-owned companies exist today. Grayboe is the only McMillan-owned company left.
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