May 20, 2021
There are two rules every big-game hunter should live by. Jeff Cooper laid them out in The Art of the Rifle when he wrote, "The basic principle of field marksmanship can be stated thus: 1. If you can get closer, get closer. 2. If you can get steadier, get steadier."
Getting closer is the hard one because it is dictated by the situation, animal, wind, terrain and your hunting skill as well as your physical condition. Getting steadier is easier because it is dictated by your equipment.
I could write a book offering hunting advice on how to get closer to game and still fall short of providing pertinent information. What I can do, however, is give you some gear recommendations that will help you get steadier.
There are essentially two types of shooting supports: those that attach to the rifle and those that do not. Direct-attachment supports provide a steadier rest, and bipods that mount to a rifle are the most common examples. Bipods have been around for a long time, but because they can be heavy and cumbersome, they are mainly employed by hunters only in locations where their use is expected or easily applied, such as in open prairie country.
However, bipods can be beneficial in other areas and types of terrain, especially if you take some time to go over the available options and choose a design that fits your hunting situation.
When selecting a bipod there are several things to consider. Solidly mounting the bipod is critical, and most aftermarket bipods attach to the rifle via the forward sling-swivel stud. Bipod height is another consideration. Heights of 6 to 10 inches might work great on the range but can be too short in the field. On the other hand, longer bipods add even more weight and unfriendliness to the rifle. Finally, for hunting, a bipod should offer the ability to cant the rifle. You should be able to tilt the rifle from side to side, at least slightly, with both bipod legs firmly planted on the ground.
One of the most popular designs is the Harris bipod (harrisbipods.com), easily recognized by the exposed springs that apply tension to the legs. Harris bipods are offered from heights as low as 6 inches to as high as 27 inches; the latter will accommodate seated shooting. They attach directly to the forward sling-swivel stud, and Harris offers adapters to work with M-Lok and Key-Mod handguards common on AR-style rifles. These bipods are very steady, available as either a fixed or tilting unit, and retail for $70 to $150. The primary downsides to Harris bipods are they weigh 10 to 20 ounces, can be rather unwieldy on the rifle, and are slow to remove or install.
Magpul (magpul.com) makes a relatively light bipod at 11 ounces that will adjust from 6 to 10 inches and offers an amazing 50 degrees of tilt. Several attachment options include mounts for a sling-swivel stud, M-Lok slot and Picatinny rail. Its downside, like the Harris bipod, is the bulk it adds to the rifle during carry and while shooting offhand. The Magpul bipod retails for $110 to $130.
Atlas bipods (accu-shot.com) are a bit different from the Magpul and Harris designs in that their legs can be positioned at five different angles, which makes them somewhat more versatile. The smallest Atlas bipod is adjustable from 4.8 to 9.1 inches and offers 30 degrees of cant. The lightest Atlas bipod weighs 11 ounces, and the 12-inch model weighs only 16 ounces. Atlas bipods are more expensive; they start at around $220, and the 12-inch version retails for a bit more than $300.
Several years ago, I stumbled on the Javelin bipod (javelinbipod.com), which is made by Spartan Precision Equipment in England. The Lite model is 7 1/2 inches high and weighs only 4.8 ounces. It offers 15 degrees of cant and also allows for 30 degrees of pan, which is helpful when trying to get a shot at an animal. (Animals tend to walk around.) The bipod attaches by a magnet to an adapter that can be installed on a sling-swivel stud, M-Lok or Key-Mod handguard, or Picatinny rail. Spartan also offers a custom, flush-fitting gunsmith mount.
There are two radically different and very appealing features of the Javelin bipod. Since its primary means of attachment is a magnet, it can be carried in the pocket and installed in seconds. You do not have to walk around with the bipod hanging on your rifle. The bipod and mount are also part of a comprehensive modular system that enables you to retrofit longer legs or attach your rifle to a tripod. There are a host of other accessories that include a magnetic adapter to fit the crafty Primos Trigger Sticks.
The compatible Sentinel tripod also accepts a spotting scope and camera, and believe it or not, forms the support for a one-man tent. You can even convert the tripod into a bipod or a walking stick. At $513 the Sentinel tripod is expensive, but it is so versatile it’s worth that price.
When I’m hunting on my feet as opposed to on a stand, I almost always have the Javelin bipod with me, just in case. But I always carry the Sentinel tripod because it offers shooting support from the seated or standing position, provides a mount for my spotter or camera, and even serves as a backrest during long glassing sessions. You may not always be able to get closer, but with the right bipod or tripod, you can always get steadier.