In the back of my pickup truck, I have a half dozen bags.....old 25 pound lead shot bags left over from years gone by when I use to shoot a little skeet. The bags are now filled with playbox sand. I've used them for years, stacked in a 2x2 pattern on the shooting bench to make an adequate front rest for sighting in my rifles and doing load development. Both require as solid a platform as can be obtained and when used with a rear bag, it is pretty stable. That is what I intended on doing when I got to the range this past Monday.....working up some loads for two of my rifles. Little did I realize that I would meet the guy behind M&P Fabrication when I got to the range. I certainly didn't know he manufactured shooting rests. And I really didn't know, as I drove up to the rifle range, just how much I was going to like the Rifleman's Rest, once I got a chance to use it.
While I was moving some of my gear from my truck to the shooting bench, Mike
walked up and introduced himself. He was set up about 50' away on another
bench. Mike and his wife have a sideline business making the Rifleman's
Rest. We started talking about shooting and such and he mentioned he makes
the rest that he was using. He offered me a chance to try it out if I
wanted to. I told him I would give it a try later on.
This is my typical setup at the shooting bench while I am working up new loads or sighting in a scope. I've used the sand bags for years and figured that it was about as good as it gets....and the cost being nearly zero more than made up for the ugly bags. (I have the rear bag under the pistol grip in the above photo so I could level the barrel and align my chronograph with the FNAR....I shoot with the rear bag under the rear portion of the stock.) This setup works OK....right up to the point I can see the reticle move from my heartbeat. My heartbeat moves the reticle about 1/2" in the horizontally. I've yet to consistently break the shot between heartbeats. If my POA is off, say a 1/4", and the shot breaks during my heartbeat, my POI is already off 3/4". It can be challenging to determine how well your loads are doing when this happens. Was there a better solution? Apparently there was.
I had put a few groups down range with my FNAR. Some were OK, some were not. I was using a different powder and some 168gr A-MAX bullets (first time with them too). Mike strolled over and asked if I wanted to try his rest. While we were getting things swapped around on my bench, he gave me a little background on the rest....why he started making them, a bit about the leather bags, etc. What Mike said made sense as he compared his rest to some others one sees on the market. There was no bashing, on his part, just a common sense approach to why some things work better than others.
With everything set up, I grabbed the next five cartridges and proceeded to send them down range. Three of them shared the same jagged holed at 100 yds. The 4th was close to the other three, and I had one flier. I was impressed with my new found rest to say the least. The one thing I noticed right off....no reticle movement from my heartbeat! Awesome! It was much easier to maintain a steady point of aim. I didn't have to futz with a rear squeeze bag. Mike had me right there.....a new customer without a doubt.
Mike was heading for home and I still had more shooting to do. I got with him later that day and bought a rest. I got a chance to meet his wife...the other half of M&P Fabrication. Nice folks for sure. I hope to share some more range time with Mike.
OK....more about the Rifleman's Rest. I didn't have my camera with me at the range so the remaining photos were taken after I purchased my new rest and brought it home.
The Rifleman's Rest is manufactured in Wickenburg, Arizona by Mike and his
wife. The steel tubing wears a nice powder coat finish and all the pieces
are welded together. All the ends of the square tubing are nicely covered
with an insert. I found no sharp edges or anything else that might open a
finger while using the rest. The goal, as told to me, was to make a
quality rest, suitable for use with any long gun, and for an affordable price. If you are looking for "cheap", then
you might consider something painted green and mass manufactured in China.
The first thing you'll notice are the leather shooting bags from Protektor Model in Pennsylvania. According to Protektor's website, "All leather items are made with the best top grain cowhide leather that is available. They will last indefinitely being sewn with nylon thread testing 11.7 lbs. breaking strength." As I checked prices of the front and rear bag on the Protektor website, I saw that these were not inexpensive. Just the Deluxe Corduar Mid-Ear Rear Bag lists for $80.
In the above photo, you see the two knobs for making coarse
elevation adjustments. A knurled jam nut is used along with an oversized
knob on the threaded legs. Together, these make an adjustment to either
side very easy to do.
I'm not one to leave things alone if I think something can be
made better. (I've got 10 years of that on my Jeep TJ.) So, for $2 at the
local ACE Hardware store, I picked up a pair of tapered rubber plugs. They
come in a multitude of sizes.....these were about 1 1/4" across the large end.
Using a 7/16" drill bit, I drilled a hole about 5/8" deep into each one.
From there, it was a simple matter to thread them onto the threaded adjustment
legs. While I've yet to try it, I thought this would provided better
footing on the concrete shooting bench I use at the range. If I'm
wrong....I spent $2 proving it.
I mentioned the Protektor Model leather bags earlier and wanted to comment
more on the rear bag. Mike designed a custom fit tray for the rear of the
Rifleman's Rest. It is exactly sized to fit the Deluxe Corduar rear bag
that he uses. With a 5/8" thick stacked leather base integrated into the
bottom of the bag, it provides a very flat surface which fits perfectly into the
tray. Why this flat base setup? A typical rear bag, once filled with
sand, as a tendency to develop a curved bottom which contributes to an unstable
shooting platform. Mike also put two pieces of what looks like 3M™
Slip-Resistant Tape in the tray. It might be some other brand....no
matter....it grabs the bottom of the rear bag with a no-slip grip.
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