Q: Is there any real difference between rifle stocks made of American walnut and those made of French walnut, besides cost?
A: Worldwide, there are some 50 species of walnut (genus Juglans). In addition, many other species are mistakenly called walnut. In terms of walnut best suited for gunstocks, most is taken from three species: Juglans regia (Circassian, English or French walnut; also many other types), Juglans nigra (American, Eastern and Oregon black walnut) and Juglans hindsii (California black, claro and Hinds walnut). Also suitable for high-grade stocks, but very rare, is Bastogne walnut, a hybrid of Juglans regia and Juglans hindsii.
Most favorite of these is Juglans regia (Circassian, English or French), which in Latin means “royal walnut.” This species originated in Asia, but has been transplanted widely trough Europe and the Americas, resulting in many sub classifications that exhibit slight differences in color and figure resulting from variations in growing conditions. All woods of this species, however, have a fine, dense grain, excellent hardness and workability, high strength and shock resistance, good stability, and appealing grain and figure.
Juglans nigra (American, Eastern and Oregon black walnut) is the name for varieties of true black walnut. Juglans hindsii (California black, claro and Hinds walnut), collectively known as claro walnut, is very similar in properties to the Juglans regia varieties, though it is both slightly weaker and not as shock resistant as the Cirassian or Bastogne varieties. Black and claro walnut are also known for their distinctive grain and figure.