The History of McMillan Family Stock Making.
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 was just interested in making a few stocks a month to help the competitors become better at their chosen sport. His true passion was for building accurate rifles. The stock business was intended 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, which was more than the entire prior year’s production. In a moment of panic, Gale 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. "Laying the camo gelcoat in the mold, and then the fiberglass cloth, then opening up the shells on the manual mill so they can be filled with fiberglass and epoxy. Once filled, the action area and barrel channel would be machined and 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 and had been programming CNC machines for a living since graduating from ASU in 1975. He 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 mold development, programming, and trial and error, they were able to produce what was at that time, the very first fiberglass stock offered by a major manufacturer on a line of rifles. The stocks were finished with a baked-on wrinkle paint and had a white diamond inlaid into the pistol grip cap. The following year in addition to the Fibermark, Weatherby offered the Fiberguard. It was a Vanguard Rifle with a McMillan stock and finished in a light green wrinkle paint.
Before too long the team took delivery of another CNC machine which enabled them to make stocks for Remington, Winchester (US Repeating Arms), and Sako all within a span of about 3 years. By the early 1990’s they were producing close to 10,000 stocks per year of which 8,000 of them were being shipped to major OEM accounts to be 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.
The Marines decided after the Vietnam war that they were quite happy with the success they had with their sniper program. As a result, they decided to expand the M40 program and develop a rifle specifically as a sniper rifle. The original M40’s that were used in the war were just factory-produced Remington 40x rifles; 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 what amounted to a hunting stock that could accommodate a heavy contour barrel, had a Monte-Carlo comb for use with a scope and was made 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.
After Gale had handed down the company to his son Kelly, he spent the next 15 years tinkering in 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 invented the first day/night scope which he sold the rights to ITT Night Vision and tinkered around in optics until finally starting a scope manufacturing company called the McMillan Optical Gunsight Company.
Days before Gale's passing in May of 2000, Ryan McMillan, Gale's grandson, was informed about Gale’s worsening health. Not knowing what to say, Ryan spoke these final words to his grandfather, "Grandpa, I am going to be a Navy Seal". Ryan, knowing that this would be the last time he'd ever speak to his grandfather, someone he admired dearly, also knew that this would make Gale extremely proud. Gale had a rich history of working with the Seal teams helping them develop sniper rifles for their newly formed Seal Team 6 and creating lasting bonds within the community. And even though Gale had lost his ability to talk, Ryan could see in his grandfather's eyes how proud he was.
The work Gale did with the SEAL teams in the late ’80s and ’90s had a great influence on Ryan which ultimately drove Ryan to join the elite community. Gale said this about Ryan in his memoirs, "Kelly’s son Ryan is the only boy left to continue the name…If I had to pick one to be the seed of the family, I couldn’t pick a better example. He has been my pride and joy since the day he was born."
In August of 2000, Ryan enlisted in the Navy, completed BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition / Seal) in April, 2002 and deployed multiple times with Seal Team 2.
Ryan later left the Navy and came to work at McMillan. After 7 years of working together, Ryan and Kelly were unable to unify their vision as one, so Ryan set off in 2014 to develop his own riflestock company, aimed at inventing a process that would revolutionize composite stock making. During his time at McMillan, Ryan came to the realization that composite stocks could be made much more efficiently than the hand-laid-up processes that was currently being used industrywide. 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.
Today, there are no more “McMillan” companies owned by a McMillan. Grayboe is the only McMillan-owned company left.