They provide a solid forestock rest to stabilize the rifle for extreme accuracy. Usually they are bipods, but in various configurations can be monopods or tripods and utilize from one to three legs. Some attach directly to the firearm and others stand alone dependent upon preference. The defining feature of a shooting stick is that it’s portable and stays with the shooter rather than being fixed like a bench rest or sandbags.
The best shooting sticks are stable, fast, lightweight, compact and versatile enough to support different shooting positions and terrain. The very best shooting sticks are multi purpose and can be used as trekking poles and tent supports for the backcountry hunter and combat riflemen to reduce gear weight and further contribute to a mission’s success. They enable the firearm to rest on the ground, a wall or other solid object to reduce shooter fatigue and greatly increase accuracy. Shooting sticks can be of fixed or adjustable length and the most popular are factory produced, but some individual shooters make their own homemade versions.
History indicates American Frontiersman were the first to craft the original shooting sticks by necessity from tree saplings as we’ll see next.
Wayne Guard in his fascinating book “The Great Buffalo Hunt” revealed the colorful history of the Buffalo Hunters and the American West. Using heavy .54 caliber Hawken muzzle loading rifles on the open plains, Frontiersmen soon learned the need for a solid rifle rest. Their simple solutions were single elevation forked shooting sticks cut from saplings. Some hunters used two crossed sticks and squeezed them together with one hand to control elevation.
“I would lie flat on my stomach, get my guns ready, spread a lot of cartridges out on the ground, adjust the gun sights, and be ready to shoot. Usually I carried a gun rest made from a tree crotch. I would stick it in the ground and rest my gun barrel on it. The weight of the big buffalo guns made the forked sticks almost a necessity. The hunter with two guns had an advantage in that he could use one while the other cooled.”
“The Hawken rifle is a muzzle loading rifle built by the Hawken brothers that was used on the prairies and in the Rocky Mountains of the United States during the early frontier days. It has become synonymous with the “plains rifle”, the buffalo gun, and the fur trapper’s gun. Developed in the 1820s, it was eventually displaced by breechloaders (such as the Sharps Rifle) and lever-action rifles which flourished after the Civil War.
The Hawken “plains rifle” was made by Jacob and Samuel Hawken in their St. Louis Missouri shop which they ran from 1815 to 1858. Their shop continued to operate and sell rifles bearing the “Hawken” name under later owners William S. Hawken, William L. Watt, and J. P. Gemmer, until Gemmer closed down the business and retired in 1915. Samuel and Jacob were trained by their father as rifle smiths on the east coast.
They moved west and opened a business in St. Louis at the beginning of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. The brothers’ claim to fame is the “plains rifles” produced by their shop. They produced what their customers needed in the west: a quality gun, light enough to carry all the time, capable of knocking down big targets at long range. They called their guns “Rocky Mountain Rifles,” reflecting their customers: fur trappers, traders and explorers…The earliest known record of a Hawken rifle dates to 1823 when one was made fo William Henry Ashley. The Hawkens did not mass-produce their rifles but rather made each one by hand, one at a time. A number of famous men were said to have owned Hawken rifles including Auguste Lacome, Hugh Glass, Jim Bridger, Kit Carson Orrin Porter Rockwell, Joseph Meek, Jedediah Strong Smith, and Theodore Roosevelt.
The Hawken rifle company was sold in 1862, and the last rifle actually made by a Hawken was built in 1884. Although popular with mountain men and hunters of the fur trade era, up through the mid part of the 19th century muzzleloaders were generally replaced by mass produced weapons such as the Sharps rifle and the Winchester.”
In 1848 Christian Sharp invented the paper cartridged .52 caliber Sharps Rifle. Everything changed. It became the buffalo rifle of choice on the Great Plains. Later models used .45-70 metallic cartridges. Now with a 500 yard effective range and a maximum 1,000 yard firing range, all Buffalo Hunters used shooting sticks. Even at close range the heavy Sharps really required a rest to avoid fatigue. Often a buffalo hunter would fire hundreds of rounds from one position. The Sharps Rifle was made famous in the movie “Quigley Down Under” with Tom Selleck.
The Native Americans soon adopted rifles and Howard Terpning beautifully captured their ingenious shooting sticks using crossed arrows in his painting “The Long Shot”. It graces my office wall with its blend of 19th century technology and cultures.
STEALTHPOD X Shooting Sticks bring today’s innovative technology to a truly enduring All-American frontier tradition.