Once the finish is off, try a deep pre-soak on the dent and then steam it out (really hot iron on top of a washcloth). Maybe that's what you meant by "raising the grain" but people don't realize you can do it multiple times and sometimes get it all out. Or at least shallow enough to sand the rest out.
I had some really horrible dents in a walnut 10/22 stock I got at a gunshow. Bought it cheap so I figured I had nothing to lose. I used the damp washcloth with a hot iron 3 or 5 times and it did the trick! Turned out beautiful! The wood does need to be stripped first though so that the steam will get into the wood.
I use a tea pot to bring the grain back out on wood item that don't have the Browning plasticoat. Older wood stocks and pool cues can be fully brought back to original spec. If is swells more than I want, I press it back to shape by rubbing with a glass jar prior to sanding.
I've been able to do some remarkable restoration work on antique gun stocks by using a very large soldering iron (600 watts) and wet cotton "waste" (industry name for rags). It takes a lot of patience, sometimes taking numerous applications over several days. The dents that are a problem are those with torn wood. They've been impacted too hard and generally don't steam out well. Another issue is finish. The best success is with no finish on the stock. It's often difficult to steam out a dent that has a seal coat on top of it.
I've had good results using clear epoxy (resin/hardener) as filler. First use a stripper to remove the old finish inside the dent. Get rid of any light wood in the dent with stain as best you can. Then fill the dent with clear fast setting epoxy. Be careful not to create bubbles when you mix the two ingredients and when you fill the dent. Overfill slightly and let it set. When hard, file or sand off the overfill and sand the filled area with 400 grit paper to match the surrounding wood. Then apply a few coats of Tru-Oil until you get the desired gloss to match the rest of the stock. The dent will no longer be visible or may look like a slight abberation in the grain. Fast and pretty easy.
Another possibility is to use a thin piece of veneer cut to fit. I had to do that for a gouge on a Winchester 1885 stock that was over 100 years old. Kept moving the veneer piece around until I found an area in its grain that came close to matching, then inlaid it. You have to look really close to see that it's a repair.