By Timothy P. Banse
A shooting rest removes the shooter from the equation so as to more accurately sight in a scope or to test factory or handloaded ammo. More precisely, with a shooting rest supporting the rifle, you can better concentrate on sight alignment, trigger control and breathing.
Shooting rests have been around for many years. The first ones were nothing more complicated than a sandbag or two lengths of 2 X 6 dimensional lumber glued together and padded with a chunk of stapled-on carpet. In the field, hunters used forked sticks to steady their rifles. Through the years shooting rests have matured and variations on the theme are plentiful with everything from a simple, canvas bean bag to the sophisticated Lead Sled.
No big surprise, sandbags don't lend the Rock of Gibraltar feel of a dedicated rest, but for pew-pew-pew fun shooting, they work great and are inexpensive. Additionally, they are eminently versatile because you can throw them down on a log, the car hood, or the sidewall bed of a pickup truck. In fact, almost any place will do that lends a little more support, steadiness and protection for you firearm while shooting.
But when and wherever possible, I prefer firing from dedicated shooting rest, like the Caldwell Rock Jr. It's relatively inexpensive, compact in size (which means at the range it's easier to lug back and forth to the bench) and it's eminently easy to store. With that in mind, here are a few ideas to keep in mind to help get the most out of your day at the range.
1. Know that the rifle needs to move freely in the rest. Which is why some savvy shooters sprinkle baby powder in the cradle.
2. Don't let the sling stud contact any part of the rest, otherwise recoil will transfer through the rest upsetting control.
3. Know that placement of the left hand is critical (Assuming a right hand shooter). So don't make the mistake of putting it under the stock's forearm which opens-up groups. Similarly, notice how some shooters place their hand on top the fore end, especially when using a scope. Don't do that either. Suffice it to say you wont be using your sling with a shooting rest. Instead, curl your left arm under your chest.
4. The trigger hand grasps the rifle, but not in a death grip. Concentrate on trigger pull. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a million times, squeeze the trigger, don't yank.
When ready to touch off a volley, fire a group of either three or five shots. Either way the number of shots doesn't really matter. Personally, a three shot group works for me in either big bore or .22 long rifle. When I head to the range it's not uncommon for me to fire 100 rounds of big bore ammo in the one sitting. If you've guessed that my shoulder feels it the next day, then you'd be correct, sir.
That is to say it used to, until the day I discovered the real benefits of the Caldwell Lead Sled. What it does is as simple as the sea is salt. It softens the recoil of a big bore recoil (.30-06, 7.62 X 54R et cetera) so it feels more like a .22 long rifle. More specifically, it reduces recoil by up to 95-percent. To do its good work, this 17-pound shooting rest needs additional ballast in the form of two 25-pound barbell weights, or in the alternative, 100-pounds of lead shot. A height-adjustable rear foot selects optimal elevation while the no-wobble elevation ram and fingertip elevation adjustment enhance accuracy. My trusty Caldwell Lead Sled has sent many thousands of rounds downrange and is still like new.
Finally, there is the Caldwell DeadShot ChairPod, a shooting rest that provides true benchrest capability in the field. Essentially it is a chair with a 360 degree swinging rest that works well when hunting from ground blinds, field edges or shooting at the range. I like the way it maintains the weapon in the ready position while freeing up hands.