Let’s compare the best shooting sticks with rifle mounted rests and look at the tradeoffs and best use for each style specific to hunters. We’re always looking at stability, range, weight, the different shooting positions the rest will support in varied terrain, speed to get on target and how quickly we can adjust our sights to moving game and new targets. It’s important to put in range time practicing with any new rest and check for change in point of impact from bench rest or offhand shooting especially at long range. Next practice in the field duplicating the situations you’re likely to face next season. Put in the time because confidence is half the battle.
Hunting is ultimately mission specific so what we hunt and where we hunt dictate what rest or rests work best for us. Sometimes that calls for a single purpose dedicated rest for each hunt, but often versatile shooting sticks are the ticket. From there it’s personal preference. Let’s consider rifle mounted rests first.
Attached bipods are the most popular rifle mounted rests and have been used for many decades by precision rifle shooters and the military. Their specialty is long range shooting prone on fairly level terrain without low vegetation. Some models have telescoping legs or leg extensions to support shooting sitting or even kneeling. They can be rested on fences and rocks, ridgetops and walls or rooftops as common with the military. Rifle mounted Bipods used prone or sitting really approximate a tripod’s stability because the shooter becomes the third leg and you’re close to mother earth. Setting up for narrow, comfortable fields of fire and triangulating your body keeps you rock steady.
On the plus side, they are always with you attached to your rifle, quick to deploy, lightweight and very stable and durable. Some models have individual telescoping legs with incremental locking spring pins or lever locks to set the elevation for the immediate terrain. The addition of a swivel forearm mount allows some panning and the ability to keep the rifle level. Some have flexible connecting mounts or legs that allow a little leg splaying for some lateral or forward/rearward motion to gain more sight adjustment.
The downside is their limited shooting positions in varied terrain. Uphill shots from flat ground are nearly impossible and the same is true with cross slope and standing setups. They’re also slow to get comfortably on target and adjust beyond small incremental movements without stretching out of your natural point of aim or stopping to change the leg lengths. Rifle mounted bipods change the rifle’s balance when shooting offhand and you need to practice with them. They also can catch on brush and tree branches when you’re moving. Hunters find them very mission specific. They provide a rock solid rest for long range shooting and excel shooting prone. Harris and Atlas Bipods are good examples of popular attached bipods.
Attached tripods have become more popular in recent years with competition shooters, military snipers and stationary hunters. They can be set up for sitting to standing even on sloped ground and provide a solid foundation for long range work, but are heavy and not very portable. They are very mission specific in hunting situations for basically stationary set ups, but offer extreme stability.
Many have wide panning capabilities even up to 360 degrees. The hunter of course then needs to rotate around the tripod and raise or lower their body to adjust for up or down shots and that can spook game. They’re a great option for stationary positions with there’s little need to quickly change position and weight isn’t a major consideration. Some hog hunters use them for these reasons. Really Right Stuff (RRS) offers one of the most popular rifle attached tripods.
Portable shooting sticks such a bipods, tripods and monopods are by far the most popular hunting shooting sticks for short to long range and can support all shooting positions. Each are offered in many configurations in various lengths from standing to sitting by many manufacturers. Now we really need to narrow our mission focus with so many options available for us. Stability, range, weight, versatility with shooting positions in varied terrain, target acquisition speed and fast sight adjustment on moving game and new targets become critical choices. Like most things in life the choices usually come with tradeoffs and they need to be considered. The following three rules always apply with all the best shooting sticks…
The closer to the ground the more stability with all shooting sticks. Always shoot from the steadiest position from which you can see the target.
Terrain, vegetation and range drive the decision. Prairie dogs to long range antelope or other big game in open country make low to the ground always the best choice. The key is open, hospitable country that won’t hurt you to go prone or sit. When I hunt the Arizona sonoran desert I hesitate to shoot sitting or prone for obvious reasons unless I bring a pad and watch for snakes and scorpions. If you can’t go low then kneeling or standing is the only option. That brings us to rule number two.
The more legs your rest has the more solid your shooting stance.
This means tripods provide more stability and range than bipods than do monopods, but more legs usually means more weight so again range is really important. Remember with a monopod or a bipod shooting prone, sitting or occasionally kneeling, the rest can be almost as steady as a tripod over reasonable distances with practice. This is because you can triangulate your body and actually become another leg or two.This mitigates the weight concern, so recognize that with practice intelligent compromises can be made. But if you can’t go low and the range is more than say 100 yards then a Bipod or tripod is the best choice
Always create triangles with your body stance.
We just mentioned triangulating your body using the major bones and muscles of your body. Stay in your natural point of aim always. Don’t reach in any direction unnaturally preparing for the shot or your mind will start creating thoughts about missing. That means you probably will.
We’re going to use general shooting distances for our discussion here, but you make that call with each shooting stick your personal decision. Practice in all positions in real hunting conditions and learn to judge range. Remember the line by Clint Eastwood in the movie Magnum Force, “A Man’s Got to Know his Limitations.”
Monopods are best for closer range shooting say out to 200 yards (prone or sitting positions only) and as mentioned, that effective range depends on shooting position and your ability. I like using them waiting in bear or coyote stands and anywhere shot distance is appropriate. Still hunting elk or deer in timber with my monopod where standing shots reach maybe 150 yards is my favorite. Sometimes I’m close enough to a tree to brace my body against it, making a bipod out of my monopod without losing my sight picture.
They’re lightweight and typically available for different dedicated heights with some offering telescoping, lever lock leg height adjustment. Trigger Stick has two different height models currently available for standing or sitting with some additional height adjustment by simply squeezing and releasing a trigger below the yoke.
STEALTHPOD X adjusts instantly with a handy button control from standing to prone without the need to buy two different heights and doubles as a handy carbide tipped trekking pole.
Those three rules always apply and rule number two leads us to bipods and tripods. More legs means more stability as range increases.
Bipods can handle ranges out to maybe 200 yards standing and 300 yards sitting while triangulating your body. Prone position extends that further depending on the situation. They’re perfect for still hunting, spot and stalk, or stand hunting all game species. The terrain and your hunting tactics will allow you to choose between a dedicated height or an adjustable bipod model. If you know you’ll be sitting in a stand and have good shooting lanes a dedicated short shooting stick may be the best choice. If you’re going to vary your strategy during the hunt and may need to take standing shots you’ll need a variable height bipod.
Tripods can handle ranges out even further and provide even more stability at all distances. I’ve been on antelope hunts where shots were comfortably made in little wind at nearly 500 yards with tripods and minute of angle rifles. They aren’t as fast as bipods and are available fixed or adjustable height in different weights and materials, usually using lever or twist leg locks. Some will accommodate optics or cameras and they basically evolved from the original camera or surveyor’s tripods. longer range is their specialty but of course in Africa they are used fixed height almost exclusively when facing dangerous game.
We know of only two adjustable shooting sticks that can be controlled with one hand for quick adjustment without lever/twist locks. One is telescoping and the other rest rides on the legs like rails.
Trigger Stick’s telescoping legs are controlled by squeezing a trigger allowing the legs to telescope freely to adjust height with some left to right motion. Releasing the trigger sets the position. They are available in two tripod models in various heights for kneeling or standing.
STEALTHPOD X are new, innovative shooting sticks that ride on the legs like rails and are button controlled for instant adjustment from standing all the way to prone. They are available as a dedicated tripod, bipod or monopod and the legs can be shortened in the field so there’s no need to buy various heights. In fact, the modular STEALTHPOD X Complete System converts in the field from monopod to bipod to tripod in minutes and only weighs 3 pounds with a 23 inch travel bag.These shooting sticks cover a wide field of fire left to right and vertically from one ground position while swinging your rifle naturally, even on moving game. Plus the bipod doubles as two carbide tipped, wrist strapped rugged trekking poles as a bonus.
So always think tactically and invest your time and effort in the best shooting sticks for your mission.