Yes, you are correct about the wood. With a really bad piece, even a planer will leave uneven "chatter" in the yellow bands. I find it's important to select a good piece of wood if possible. The bad pieces are hard to impossible to work with.
Also of interest, there's a guy that hangs over on the FALFiles forums that builds FAL furniture from exotic hardwoods. There's some pics of his stuff over there and it's real nice. He uses zebrawood, cocobolo, and other woods.
I'll build a stand for any pistol or rifle. I just happen to be partial to 1911s.