Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time at various firearms ranges and I have really enjoyed them all. Busting clays on trap, skeet, and sporting ranges is probably my favorite past time. Working on defensive pistols skills is also lots of fun. And finally, I really enjoy my rifles, whether it be shooting small groups or banging steel at crazily long ranges, it is a very relaxing pastime for me.
With lots of practice and lots of powder, I’ve developed my precision rifle skills to a pretty high level. Shooting sub minute of angle groups (less than an inch) takes a quality rifle, consistency in ammunition, lots of practice and patience, and a rock solid shooting position, i.e. a good rest. I’ve tried lots of options over the years and I hope a brief description of each will be of some interest and help to those of you whose groups are a bit large.
For many years I used a set of somewhat small bags. These were leather and filled with fine sand. I also used a vertically adjustable rest that was topped with a small leather bag. I enjoyed reasonable success with these two setups. I found that I could produce some decent groups with some consistency. But I also found that I was getting “beat up” by the recoil of my .30 caliber rifles and after about 10 rounds I was losing interest in any more practice.
Several years ago, Caldwell® began offering its Lead Sled™ shooting rest. This was a one piece design that used bags of lead shot to help soften and absorb the recoil produced by hard kicking, large bore, high velocity centerfire rifles. If you have ever fired one of the Remington® Ultra Mag cartridges in the larger calibers, you will know what I mean. Since the introduction of the Lead Sled™, Caldwell has expanded the line-up of available models as well as options for adjustment. Other manufacturers also offer models that hold bag(s) of shot and offer adjustable rests. My own preference for a lead shot enhanced rest is the Shooter’s Ridge Rifle Rest. This unit has both vertical and horizontal adjustments and holds a 25 pound bag of shot in a removable center shelf. Believe me, it really tames the recoil that my 300 WSM produces. One drawback that I have found with these types of rests is one might have a little trouble with eye relief, but with practice one will become more proficient in their use.
I have never been very recoil shy, and after a few hundred thousand rounds of 12 gauge competition loads, I’ve become less bothered by it. I’ve experimented with a couple of new setups and the one I now use is consistently providing me with sub MOA groups. I start with a Caldwell® Tack Driver bag, this is a very large and long bag with high “wings” that cradle about 14 inches of the rifle stock. This provides a very stable platform. I combine this bag with my old leather, sand filled, rear bag to support the butt stock and give me the ability to make small elevation changes simply by squeezing the bag.
Finally, I have added a Lyman® Bag Jack™ to this setup. I’ve found that shooting tables, stools, and benches are rarely at the right height. I either have to “scrunch down” or get on my knees on the bench to get a good sight picture; neither makes for a good shooting position. The Bag Jack™ makes it quite easy to elevate the bag to the proper height for a solid position. Lyman® also makes very good bags and they are competitively priced. Make sure you get a large one. You can buy the bags already filled or buy the bag alone, at a substantial savings, and fill it yourself. I chose the latter and used kitty litter (new and fresh of course), but I would recommend the walnut litter over the standard as it is much finer and provides less break in time. I top this off with a vest that has a thin recoil reducing pad in the shoulder.
Good shooting positions and stable rests will help you get your rifle zeroed for the hunting and competition seasons. Practice and patience will get you results that you may have never thought were possible; stick with it.
Be safe and good shooting.