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Bipods & Shooting Rests: You Need One

Sandbags, shooting rests, bipods, tripods, monopods—there are a lot of different ways to support your guns, but not everyone uses them. Maybe you think you don’t need one. Perhaps you feel they’ll get in the way. Whatever your reason for not using one, we’re here to tell you why it matters. Yes, having a (good) shooting rest is a great plan, assuming you’re a fan of accuracy and stability. So, what are they, what are your options, and what are they for? Let’s find out.

Sometimes, you find yourself needing to use a sandbag on top of a backpack when you’re zeroing at an odd angle during a hunt. [Photo: Kat Stevens]

What is a shooting rest?

Looking at this from a broad perspective, a shooting rest can be whatever object is safe and stable enough to let you keep your gun steady. That means your backpack or the bed of your truck might be a shooting rest. Of course, there are a lot of actual shooting rests on the market. They range from inexpensive, lightweight plastic designs to bulky metal sleds and attachable “rests” like bipods. (Because really, what is a bipod but a shooting rest that goes with you.)

rifle with a bipod
Having a bipod mounted to your rifle gives you an at-the-ready stable rest. [Photo: Kat Stevens]

Bipod? Monopod? Tripod?

Generally, a bipod is a two-legged rest of adjustable height that attaches at the muzzle end of your handguard or forend. When you start getting into monopods and tripods, you’re usually talking about shooting sticks that you carry along as a portable rest. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any attachable versions of monopods or tripods; they’re just far less common.

Figuring out which one is best for you depends on what you’re doing. You might be more likely to want a bipod if you’re shooting from a bench or prone on the ground. I can tell you from experience, though, that bipods can get in the way if you’re hunting. While hunting, you might prefer shooting sticks, and the tripod versions are impressively stable. The downside there is you do have to carry it. That’s less of a big deal if you’re in a hunting blind, but definitely a bigger issue if you’re hiking into the woods or mountains.

If you go with a bipod, it helps to be familiar with a few things, like how to get the best possible performance. There are right and wrong ways to use bipods. When you mount the bipod to your rifle, take care that the legs are aimed at the muzzle when in their collapsed position. Bipod legs that face back toward you when folded down can be accidentally closed during use. Some bipods are specifically designed to fold both ways which makes the mounting direction no longer an issue. It’s also important to learn how to hold and load a bipod.

Loading a bipod is about putting some weight into the bipod during use. You don’t need to lean into it or get carried away, but loading with a little weight is a good way to further increase stability.

sandbag shooting rest
Sandbags are great because they’re stable and hug the shape of the gun better than plastic rests. [Photo: Kat Stevens]


Sandbags, plastic rests, metal sleds, or some other inanimate object are examples of shooting rests not attached to your rifle. You might use your backpack as a rest when you’re hunting or shoot off the hood or bed of your truck. If you do those things, just be sure you’re paying attention to height over bore. The field of vision you get through the scope doesn’t guarantee the muzzle of your gun isn’t going to direct a bullet into your rest. People have shot divots into truck hoods and holes in backpacks by not keeping an eye on height over bore. Always take the time to make sure your muzzle and the bullet exiting it will safely clear your rest.

A sandbag rest might sound odd, but they’re specifically shaped bags filled with a substance that allows them to form more closely to the forend of your rifle. Many have a notch where you place the rifle, but some do not. There are even sandbags that can be strapped to your rifle, often used by competitive shooters. Sandbags are great for zeroing your rifle and, other times when carrying another piece of gear of variable size.


Plastic rests are made to provide a stable platform without the bulk and weight of a sandbag or metal sled. They can be great, thanks to their portability, and they’re usually affordably priced. Some also have adjustable heights, which can be useful for getting the right fit for the shooter.

caldwell lead sled
The Caldwell Lead Sled is a quality metal rest that offers shooters a far more stable, secure shooting platform. [Photo: Caldwell]

A metal sled, often called a lead sled, is a great option for a truly rock-solid shooting rest. Lead sleds are heavy and have both a forend rest and a buttstock cradle. The forend, or handguard of your rifle goes in the rest at the front end of the sled, and the stock is securely fit into the cradle. This drastically reduces felt recoil and mitigates human error that can make zeroing or precision shots harder to accomplish. The one downside of lead sleds is their weight. Although that heft is a big pro during use, it does make them harder to transport.

Do you need a shooting rest or bipod?

If you want to get the greatest accuracy possible out of your rifle or require a more stable platform for zeroing, you want some sort of rest or bipod. This gear is useful for a wide variety of uses. With a bipod mounted to your rifle, you can go prone without worrying about how to support the front of your gun. Having adjustable leg height on either side makes up for uneven ground. And with a shooting rest, you can keep your gun stable while shooting from the bench. As for sandbags, they come in all sizes and designs so you can adjust them for the ideal height.

300 BLK with sandbag
Sandbags come in a variety of shapes and sizes. [Photo: Kat Stevens]

How do you choose between a bipod or shooting rest?

Whether you want a bipod or some other form of shooting rest depends on what you’re doing. If your main focus is zeroing rifles or bench shooting, check out shooting rests. But if you’re going to be on the move with your rifle, you might want a bipod instead.

It’s also worth mentioning that durable, heavy metal sleds are excellent for teaching new shooters. They cut down on struggles with keeping a gun steady, felt recoil is reduced, and the shooter can focus on learning the basics. Due to the stability, a metal sled can also create a safer learning environment.

The higher-end bipods and metal sleds can get pricey. There’s no reason you can’t start with a more affordably priced model. If you’ve been propping up your rifle with whatever’s handy, you’ll find shooting life gets a lot easier with the right rest.

The post Bipods & Shooting Rests: You Need One appeared first on The Mag Life.

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