The animals you hunt live amid an abundance of rock, trees, hillocks and other rifle rests. Alas, there’s never a rock or a limb where you need it, when you have little time to fire.
That’s why Cro Magnon man invented a rest for his spear…Well, perhaps the bipod doesn’t go that far back. But it’s been in use a long time. Crossed sticks helped sharpshooters hit at distance before the advent of smokeless powder. Commercial hunters who swept the plains clean of bison used them to deadly effect. By the middle 1880s, the toll was so great that human scavengers would glean three million tons of bones from the prairie.
Military as well as sporting rifles are commonly available with bipods attached. Widely hailed, the Harris bipod has been improved over the years with the addition of extendable legs. New versions also incorporate some latitude for tilt, so you can rotate the rifle slightly to square it up on sloping ground. That’s a useful feature, even if the device has adjustable legs. There may be no time to extend or retract a leg – or you can’t risk doing so for fear of drawing attention. If there’s a bit of “rock” to the bipod base, you can twist the rifle enough to get it reasonably level from the shoulder.
Most bipods for sporting rifles snap into the front QD swivel stud. Some rifles intended for bipod use have two studs, so you can attach a sling to the other. A bipod should be mounted so when flipped to a “carry” position, the legs point forward.
Setting a bipod for a shot, choose a firm but impressionable surface over a hard one. As you pad your rifle on a bench rest, you’ll get better results with bipod legs on soft ground or a jacket, which absorb vibration caused by your pulse and by the shock of firing and bullet travel down the bore. Vibration kicks bullets off course.
At a recent shooting event, I managed consistent hits on pie-plate targets at 500 yards with a Ruger .30-06. The rifle, and Hornady’s M1 Garand load, was partly responsible, as was the Zeiss scope.
But the Harris bipod surely helped. I was careful to plant the legs in gravel, not on nearby concrete or wood. The soft substrate acted like sandbags to suck high-frequency bounce from the rifle.
While long-legged bipods can be used from the sitting position, most are designed for prone shooting. I keep the legs as low as I can to shoot comfortably. A bipod shouldn’t put you in an uncomfortable position. If it forces your head up, or puts an acute angle in your elbows, it’s too high.
You’re smart, after planting bipod feet, to push into the rifle with your shoulder. Pressure on the bipod legs should seat them more firmly. Some lightweight bipods yield to that pressure. They’re not on my Christmas list.
To assist a bipod, make your left hand into a fist and place it under the stock’s toe, squeezing or relaxing your hand to make slight elevation changes. Another tip: buy or fashion a small sandbag – no larger than a baseball, but brick-shaped, with lightweight filler – to hold under the stock toe. It’s a boon if you must bring the stock a little higher than your fist alone can boost it comfortably.
The long-legged version of the attached bipod is a pair of shooting sticks. Standard kit for every professional hunter in Africa’s long grass, shooting sticks can be as simple as shaved tree limbs bound by strips of inner tube. More sophisticated versions, with telescoping, quick-locking legs, have proliferated.
Stoney Point has some excellent sticks. I especially like those by Bog Pod, which offer pop-off heads to accommodate rifles, cameras, even binoculars. There’s a squeeze-grip to bring your hardware on target and lock it there with one hand.
As this is written, I’m bound shortly for Africa with a pair of Bog Pod tripods, which offer more stability than bipods and can be – perhaps counter-intuitively – faster to use. The extra leg adds little heft.
If using a bipod offhand or kneeling, keep the legs a bit longer than you think you’ll need. Swing them well forward when you plant them, so they lean toward you. Grasp the juncture, your fingers and thumb up alongside the rifle to steady it. Lean forward into the sticks. You’ll secure the feet in the ground while letting the legs carry your body weight.
Learn More About Rifle Tripods, Bipods and Shooting Sticks
Continue reading up on rifle tripods, bipods and shooting sticks in the Gun Digest Book of Long-Range Shooting. It’s full of shooting tips, including how to select the right gear for your firearm’s task.
Click here to order the Gun Digest Book of Long-Range Shooting at a great price.
About the Author: Wayne van Zwoll is a regular contributor to the Gun Digest annual, and author of the Gun Digest Book of Sporting optics. He is a nationally-recognized expert on rifles, optics and western hunting.
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