by Brian Sheetz - Monday, March 14, 2016
In backyards or at ranges with no permanent benches, establishing rock-steady rifle shooting platforms often means making due with rickety picnic furniture or investing in dedicated benchrests that are too often over-engineered. Lately, though, several options have proven that effective supports can be versatile and relatively uncomplicated—and available from unexpected sources.
Possibly the best example is a tool marketed to the home improvement crowd as a combination sawhorse/vice. Sold under the well-known Rockwell brand (rockwelltools.com), the Jawhorse ($150) is an all-steel, 43-lb. unit that rolls for easy transport and quickly unfolds from its collapsed size of 29"x14"x13" to form a super-stable, tripod-supported, T-shaped structure.
Once erected, its rubber-padded jaws can be clamped onto all manner of unwieldy objects—think doors, bicycles and furniture—weighing up to 600 lbs. simply by foot-stroking a stirrup-like pedal suspended just above the ground. Not only is the unit exceptionally rigid, it securely holds objects in positions that would be physically unsustainable. And though not marketed for shooting per se, the Jawhorse’s two front and single rear legs make it ideal for a right- or left-handed shooter seated on a simple stool to position himself alongside the jaws’ track area as it supports the gun and firing arm. The jaws themselves then provide a resting place for the rifle’s fore-end either on a bean bag set atop them or in a firmer support clamped in between.
Two examples of the latter are the Hog Saddle (hogsaddle.com), designed by a Marine sniper to support precision rifles on a tripod, and the Stack-A-Rest, a set of nesting, dense foam blocks ($40) from Quake Industries (quakeinc.com) designed for benchtop use. The Hog Saddle (MOD7, $309) is made of CNC-machined aluminum, weighs 16 ozs., and has screw-adjustable jaws lined with dense polymer pads that will not mar a rifle’s fore-end but will grip it securely when tension is applied. (A precision stamped and welded steel model called the Pig Saddle costs $135.) The underside is fitted with 3/8"x16 and 1/4"x20 threaded sockets for attachment to any standard camera tripod, making the Hog Saddle useful for field shooting with heavier hunting or precision tactical rifles.
The 7"x10"x2" foam blocks that form the four-layer Stack-A-Rest set can be used singly or in combination to support the firearm and/or the shooter’s arm. One block even has a groove running perpendicular to its V-shaped sections that allow it to be placed on the edge of a vehicle’s window glass when such a technique is appropriate.
Used in combination or individually, supports such as these can altogether remove much of the instability inherent in the human body from the rifle-shooting equation, making each shot more predictable and revealing the gun’s inherent accuracy and the proper function of its accessories.
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