by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier
This report covers:
• Bipods are very steady
• Sitting higher is easier on the back
• How I use the monopod
• It really works!
• The camera adapter
When I introduced the UTG Monopod v-rest and camera adapter before Christmas, I made some big claims about its stability. Claims like this monopod is steadier than most of the bipods on the market. Today, I’m prepared to back that up with explanations and pictures.
Bipods are very steady
Make no mistake — a bipod used correctly can be very steady — even benchrest steady. The problem is that they’re often not being used correctly, especially by field target shooters, which is what I want to talk about today.
Let’s go back 140 years ago to a time to when bipods were used by buffalo hunters. They didn’t really have what we know as bipods today — they simply crossed sticks and tied them together with rawhide straps. From that name, “sticks” is often applied to bipods. Shooting sticks still exist today and are very similar to what the buffalo hunters used. Strictly speaking, sticks are a type of bipod, but they’re not the only type.
Buffalo hunters shot from sitting or sometimes the prone position. They did so to keep the muzzles of their rifles as low as possible. That lets the muzzle blast roll across the earth in an indistinct boom rather than a sharp crack that’s easy to locate. Their rifles usually weighed 12-16 lbs., and the sticks were used both to steady the barrels and to support the great weight.
Once on a “stand” (a shooting position), they wanted to shoot as many buffaloes as their skinners could handle in one day. They found they could do this by shooting a herd from afar (300-500 yards) and by keeping their muzzles close to the ground to keep the sound muffled. On a good day, they shot 30-40 buffalo by 10 a.m. and their work was done. The skinners labored the rest of the day, while the hunters scouted new potential positions for the next day’s hunt.
At the peak of the buffalo hunting years (1871-1880), they would get $3.50 per average hide, and up to $50 for a hide with special extra-soft fur that they called a “velvet.” On October 7, 1876, J. Wright Mooar, one of the most famous buffalo hunters, shot a rare white buffalo whose hide is supposedly still owned by his descendants. There is no telling what price that would have been worth!
Okay, so sticks do work — as long as they’re kept short. But that’s not what some airgunners are doing. There are bipods (not just sticks, but actually bipods with mechanisms in them) on the market whose legs adjust out to 3 feet and more.That’s where they start to get shaky. Not all of them are shaky, but a fair number are. They adjust out too far for good stability. Not only are the legs shaky and bendy, but when the rifle’s rested the shooter gets into a forward-and-backward rocking motion that makes accuracy difficult.
This shooter is close to the ground. His bipod is extended no more than 18 inches, which is good for stability.
The legs of this shooter’s bipod are extended very far. It may be steady, but if the legs aren’t rigid in this position, the bipod won’t be. Also, it’s very difficult to control the “forward-and-back” rocking motion a setup like this invites. The shooter pictured here happens to be a wonderful shot, and his bipod works for him — but this would not be my choice.
Sitting higher is easier on the back
When I competed in field target, bipods were not allowed and you could only sit on a bum bag that was no higher than 6 inches. Times have changed and now the hunter class allows sitting on a backless stool of any height, plus the use of a support like a bipod. At the age of 67, I certainly need to use the stool, because getting up and down 20-30 times in a match would wear me out! I know there are others who feel the same as I do; so when I learned that stools and bipods were allowed, I thought about shooting in some matches again.
The stool is no problem. At the Pyramyd Air Cup in Ohio last October, I sat on an empty plastic cat litter bucket that a lot of shooters seem to use. The height is 12-13 inches. And it’s perfect for me. It’s also very lightweight, so carrying it’s no problem.
And, I used the UTG Monopod. But, the way I used it was novel and different than anyone thinks. The way I use it, it’s actually steadier than a bipod!
How I use the monopod
I sit at nearly a 90-degree angle to the target. I’m right handed. When I sit down, the target is off my left shoulder. Don’t worry about the exact angle; sit so you are comfortable doing what I’m about to show you.
The first time I sit down, I have to adjust the length of the monopod to do what you’re about to see. After that, it never changes unless the terrain requires it.
After sitting, the first thing I do is anchor the monopod’s foot against the inside of my own right foot. I’ve done this on all kinds of terrain, both wet and dry, and have always been able to find a way to anchor the monopod this way.
Once the monopod is anchored against my foot, I turn sideways to the left on my stool and rest the monopod leg against the inside of my left leg. This is a very important part of this method. When I do this, the monopod now becomes a very stable bipod! That’s the combination of its one leg and my leg, working together.
Once the monopod is against the inside of my left leg, I place the rifle in the v-rest on top of the pod. I place it with the stock back by the triggerguard. And this is where the magic happens.
When I lean into the rifle and monopod this way (pushing forward), they tighten up and stop swaying altogether! The rest becomes solid like a benchrest.
It may not be obvious, but I am leaning forward (to my left) into the rifle and monopod in this shot. Everything is now rock-solid! The TX200 is a natural air rifle for this since it’s insensitive to hold. You can even forget the rifle’s weight because the monopod is taking all of it!
It really works!
When I shot this way at the Pyramyd Air Cup, I was able to print 5-shot groups that were 3/4 inch at 40-50 yards on the sight-in range. I felt like a crew-served weapon with this setup!
On day 2 of the field target match, when my squad partner, Pyramyd Air saleswoman Ruth Kass, used the TX200 I was shooting instead of the Beeman R9 she had used the day before, she quadrupled her first-day score. The TX is a rifle that can be rested on things other than flesh without a negative impact, just like the Walther LGU and the Diana RWS 54 Air King. The R9 is hold-sensitive and cannot be shot this way with success, while those other rifles I mentioned are very insensitive to hold.
The camera adapter
I’ve talked all this time about the v-rest and its use with a rifle (and pistol — don’t forget that!), but a camera adapter also comes with this monopod. It has a threaded post on top to receive the threads on the bottoms of most cameras. I plan on taking my monopod to all the airgun shows this year to use as a steady rest for my camera. My other photography monopod sometimes collapses when I put 30-40 lbs. of downward pressure on it, but this one remains rigid. This monopod is now the only one I’ll use because of that one feature.
Oh, and here’s a camera tip. You can get a neat boom shot (high angle, looking down over a crowd) by extending the monopod as far as it will go, putting the camera into the automatic mode and using a 10-second delay! Sometimes, that’s the only safe way to get off the ground at a trade show.
I’ll continue to report on the monopod as I test other airguns. From time to time, you’ll see mentions of it. From this point on, though, you know how well it works and also how to use it to be steadier than most bipods.