Birch is the stronger of the two, it is a more dense wood. This explains why it is more difficult to stain, because the grain is harder to penetrate. I have read that it is stonger than walnut by 20 percent.
In general, I understand that birch is regarded as the stronger wood, however, as someone above pointed out, angle of grain can be important to every individual stock. Thus, you may encounter instances where a walnut might surpass the birch or a situation where you might prefer one over the other because of its grain run no matter how pretty the wood itself.
But now that it has been brought up, does anyone have pics or examples of the ideal grain run in a stock? This could be very helpful to folks finding them at gun shows and trying to make a decision. Should we be looking for something in the pistol grip or the end grain under the butt plate?
According to Gus, birch is structurally stronger but compresses more than walnut. It's also my understanding that the only reason that there are birch stocks was because at the time, there was a shortage of walnut in some form or another, so the government made an exception and took an inventory of birch stocks as a substitute. My memory is a little shady on this, but that's what I remember reading.
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