Posts Tagged ‘Caldwell Lead Sled’

Tales from the range

by Tom Gaylord, a.k.a. B.B. Pelletier

I was at the rifle range yesterday and there were some things that I had to tell you. There’s no order to this — it’s just what I want to say.

First thing, I get to the range and there’s a young man with 3 very fine rifles. One has been custom made for him, and the other 2 are factory models that each have some add-ons such as aftermarket triggers. He mentioned that he had just gotten rid of a .257 Weatherby Magnum from which he was unable to get good groups.

Each of his rifles had a Leupold Vari X III scope, which is not a cheap sight. There are couple thousand dollars worth of fine firearms and sights laying on his bench. But every 10 minutes or so, he asks if the range can go cold so he can walk down to the 100-yard target holder and look at his targets. That’s right, sports fans, he hasn’t got a spotting scope!

I set up my spotting scope; and when he saw it, he immediately launched into a spiel, “I really need to get one of those!” He told me he was using targets with red bulls because he couldn’t see his .25-caliber holes on black bulls through his rifle scopes at 100 yards. I invited him to look through my spotting scope, and he was amazed that he could clearly see all his holes on the target. How much easier his shooting life would be if he only had a spotting scope!

Spotting scope
My spotting scope allows me to see every shot I make at 100 and 200 yards without leaving the bench. It’s not a thing to appreciate in its own right, but it enriches the time spent on the range.

He asked me to recommend a good spotting scope, but I couldn’t. All I could say is that nearly all telescopes are made in the Orient these days, and you really need to look through them to find a good one. The fancy names mean very little, as I found out with a Celestron spotting scope that had horrible optics. I actually traded a rifle for my current scope because it’s so clear. More rifles I can get. Good spotting scopes are hard to come by.

What bothered me the most about this encounter was that I could see myself 30 years ago in this young man. I did the same thing then that he’s doing now. I spent all my money on guns and had nothing left over for the mundane equipment that matters so much when you want to shoot comfortably.

Tale 2
Same day, same range. Another young man arrives and just wants to blow the dead bees out of his barrel before he drives to work. He has a fine rifle, too. Know what he uses for hearing protection? The filter tips from 2 cigarettes!

Tale 3
Then, I’m down at the 100-yard berm, looking at my targets. The holes made by the bullets are sharp and distinct. They can tell me a lot — especially when untoward things happen — like bullets tumbling. I glance over at my neighbor’s target. It’s a piece of paper torn from a notepad, with a bull inked-in by a black Sharpie. The holes are more like tears than bullet holes.

So, Mr. thousand-dollar rifle with his five-hundred dollar scope is shooting dollar-apiece rounds at a piece of wastepaper he has colored to look like a real target. There’s real economy for you!

target paper target
This real target from National Target shows the pattern of tumbling bullets quite well. Note paper can’t do this!

Tale 4
Remember what I said a couple days ago about a right-handed shooter who pulls the trigger on a handgun instead of squeezing it? He’ll always shoot low and to the left. I was on the pistol range and a fellow was trying out a new (to him) .40 Smith & Wesson that he just traded for. It had a fat double-stack magazine that he loaded to the max, then he walked halfway to the target on the 15-yard range. So, he is now just 7.5 yards from the target. Hey, 90 percent of all defense situations happen at less than 9 feet — right?

Bang! Bang! Bang! Guess what? Nice tight group on the target, but below the bull and to the left. He says he guesses he’ll just have to adjust his sights on this pistol, too. Funny — all his pistols shoot to the same place.

And I have a bloody tongue from biting it so hard.

Tale 5
Another guy on the line is shooting a Blaser single-shot rifle. They cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,500, by themselves. And, guess what he’s resting it on? A 6-inch by 6-inch wood block with a pillow cushion on top. What — he can’t find an ironing board like everybody else?

I shot for many years using a plastic MTM Case-Gard Predator rifle rest. I found it stable and accurate. Maybe not as fancy as other rests, but for the cost of 2 boxes of rifle ammo, it was pretty good.

M-T-M rifle rest
The MTM Case-Gard Predator rifle rest served me well for many years.

Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest
Today, I use the Caldwell Lead Sled rifle rest.

I upgraded top a Caldwell Lead Sled a while back. It’s even more stable and rigid, plus is allows adding weight to absorb recoil.

What’s my beef?
I don’t really have a complaint, as much as a plea to those guys who are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Shooting equipment is not sexy, but it can make a huge difference in your level of enjoyment while you’re behind the trigger. This is the stuff you buy begrudgingly today, then celebrate your good decision for the rest of your life. And its more than just the few things mentioned here. It’s also good gun cases, nice holsters, indestructible bullet traps, handy range bags and boxes — in fact anything that helps you enjoy your time afield in any way.

This isn’t the stuff that dreams are made of, but having it does allow you to dream. And here’s how you will recognize it. When you look at your equipment, pick out the things that have been with you the longest. The things that are worn shiny by handling. The things you would miss sorely if they weren’t there. You probably grumbled when you bought them, but today you couldn’t imagine going shooting without them. They aren’t the experience by themselves, but they make the experience possible.

How I shoot

by B.B. Pelletier

Several of you have asked to see how I shoot; and with Christmas coming soon, I thought it was time to show you. There are several things I use that you may want to see under your tree this year. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, they’re still valid things for every shooter’s wish list.

MTM portable shooting bench
Edith and I campaigned to get Pyramyd Air to carry the MTM shooting table, because several readers said they would like to own one. It’s inexpensive and light (14 lbs., 9 oz.) and most of all — portable! I have different shooting ranges in many places, including a couple right here in the house. No matter where I go, indoors or out, this bench is what I use. Even at my rifle range, where the benches are made of concrete and are completely immobile, I choose to use this one and I’ll tell you why: Because I can put it anywhere I want!

Is it a bench or a table? Well, in shooting terminology, it’s always called a shooting bench, even though you don’t sit on it. But MTM chose to call theirs a table, so that’s what I will call it from this point on.


The MTM shooting table when it’s collapsed. It’s a small 14 lb., 9 oz. package that fits flat in the bed of a pickup truck, or stands on the floor of the rear passenger compartment of a mid-sized sedan.


The legs unfold in seconds and the table stands ready to shoot. With this table, you can make a range anywhere — indoors or out.

As long as I have this table, I can make use of almost any space as a range when I want to. If I show up at my club and find all the benches taken, I set this one up on one side of the line and, presto — there’s room for one more.

The table is very light, and the legs fold flat underneath the top for transportation. I did have to tighten all the nuts that hold the hardware together, but I probably set up this table about five times a week and have been doing so for going on two years, so a little maintenance is normal.

I don’t just use the table for benchrest shooting. When I want to shoot pistols it serves as a handy table for guns, ammo and any accessories I need.

If you want something to criticize, the table is a little wobbly. It isn’t steady enough to hold a spotting scope; but when I’m in position behind a rifle, I push against it and nothing moves. Also, I have to slant the table to the left to fit behind it, where a good shooting bench has a top designed with a cutout at the back to allow you to sit next to it. This one won’t support your weight sitting on it, so consider that before ordering. But the good points far outweigh the bad, and this is one of the essential pieces of equipment in my shooting kit.

I’ve had several shooters ask me where they could get a table like this, because at the range you have to use what they have. On our 100-yard range, the benches are all oriented wrong, because the 100-yard berm is angled off to the left and the benches were installed for the 200-yard range. Since most of them are cemented in place, the shooters can’t do much about it, but I can. And now anyone can, because Pyramyd Air now carries this shooting table.

MTM Predator shooting rest
Several of you spotted the MTM Predator shooting rest in my older reports and asked me about it. The truth is that I was ambivalent about this rest until I tried two more expensive ones, including a Caldwell Lead Sled. This one does everything they do except retard the movement of the rifle. If you need a rest to absorb recoil, this isn’t the one to choose; but if all you need is something to hold the rifle in place as you shoot, I can’t think of anything better. All the super-tight groups you’ve seen me shoot were shot from this rest or off a sandbag.


The MTM Predator shooting rest works for both rifles and pistols. It’s lightweight and quick to set up and adjust. Here it’s shown with the tail piece collapsed.


And here the tail piece is extended. It extends in seconds to accommodate rifles and carbines of different lengths. Or remove it altogether and the rest is for pistols.


A Savage 1920 bolt-action rifle lays in the rest. As you see, the butt is free to move and must be held against your shoulder. Slide the gun forward and back to lower or raise the sights on the target.

Some rifle rests hold the rifle entirely, with the butt held in a socket that takes all the recoil. I’ve used these rests and don’t care for them, because they push me to the side and make sighting more difficult. That’s probably why I like this MTM rest so much. With this rest, the butt of the rifle rests against your shoulder and you absorb all the recoil. And you have more control over the rifle.

Also, most high-end rifle rests have some lateral movement adjustment built in, so you can move the gun from side to side. The MTM rest doesn’t have this. If you need to move to the side, you simply slide the rest on the shooting bench. It’s so lightweight that it’s no problem to move — even when there’s a rifle on it.

If you’ve never used a rifle rest before, the main feature you’ll like is the elevation adjustment. Turning the adjustment wheel allows the rest to move either up or down in very small increments that equate to about one-thousandth of an inch. Combine the adjustment wheel with moving the rifle fore and aft, and you have very fine control over the elevation. And it’s repeatable! Shot after shot will be targeted on the same aim point once the rest is properly adjusted.


Turn the thumbwheel for vertical adjustment. The weight of the rifle will cause it to lower as you turn. The black thumbscrew is to lock the elevation adjustment.

New airgunners take note
A word to the new airgunners is required. If you shoot spring-piston airguns, you cannot shoot directly off a rest like this one and expect to be accurate. You need to lay the rifle on the flat of your hand and rest the hand on something to support the weight. The Shooter’s Ridge Monkey Bag Gun Rest would be ideal.

A stapler!
Pyramyd Air doesn’t sell these, but I carry one all the time and have worn one out over the past 40 years. You need the stapler to fasten your targets to the backers at the range. If you don’t want to walk an extra 200 yards and anger the other shooters, put extra staples in your pocket the moment you get to the range so you can load the stapler when it runs out — because it always happens when you’re downrange (think about it)! Forget the fancy electric staplers, because they don’t work as well on heavy wood and rubber backers as a manual model. Unless you have arthritis, use a manual stapler.


A stout stapler is a must. Forget the electric ones and just use one like this.

Binoculars
Believe it or not, there are times when a small pair of binoculars comes in very handy at the range. A month ago a buddy of mine bagged a large bobcat on our range because he was able to identify it under the trees while shooting with iron sights. In some countries like Germany, it’s considered extremely bad form to use a scope sight in place of binoculars. Think about it — under that scope there’s a firearm!

Well, that’s about it. These are the essentials I always take to every range. Of course, I carry insect repellant and hand warmers, depending on the season, but these four items are with me all the time. Other than my spotting scope, this is how I shoot.

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