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December 11th, 2012

Pappas Airgun/Rimfire Front Rest — Artistry in Aluminum

Our friend and product tester Joe Friedrich is the proud owner of a spectacular front rest from James Pappas. This rest is used for both air rifle and rimfire benchrest matches. The fancy Pappas front rest is a shortened, front-support-only version of the Pappas one-piece rest, which is popular with rimfire benchresters. Pappas engineered this rest to comply with air rifle benchrest rules which do not allow use of integrated (one-piece) front and rear rests. The end result was a 30.8-lb masterpiece of machining.

Pappas Air gun front rest

Pappas Air gun front rest

The workmanship on this Pappas front rest is astounding. Accurately described as a “work of art” by Joe Friedrich, this rest, crafted of aircraft-grade aluminum, sets new standards for “Benchrest BLING”. It looks like it should be on display in an art museum. Nearly all components of this rest, including the adjustment controls, have been polished to a mirror finish.

Pappas Air gun front rest

Convenient Rear Windage and Elevation Controls
The Pappas front rest features separate fine-tuning controls for windage and elevation, plus a central gross-elevation control. Normally, once the rest is centered-up on the target, you can make all needed elevation and windage adjustments with the rear (fine-adjustment) controls. In the video below, Joe explains how the controls work as he practices with his modified Theoben Rapid MFR air rifle. Joe hopes to use this new Pappas rest in the upcoming Air Rifle Benchrest Worlds to be held in South Carolina this summer. (Note: In the last minute of the video, the back-lighting was so intensely bright that we lost detail in the foreground. We apologize for that flaw, but you can still hear the audio.)

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Price for this Masterpiece? Don’t Ask…
If you are interested in getting a similar rest, visit PappasRimfireProducts.com, or call James Pappas directly at (817) 735-9883. Be forewarned — James said “If you need to ask about the price, you probably can’t afford it.” This is truly the “Rolls-Royce” of front rests, and it will be priced accordingly.

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December 23rd, 2010

Model 1000LP One-Piece Rest From TargetShooting.com

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a chance to test and evaluate a one-piece shooting rest designed by Wally Brownlee of TargetShooting.com. The model 1000LP rest is solid, strong, nicely-machined, and versatile. We found it provides a very stable platform for every kind of rifle — from big magnums all the way down to benchrest air rifles.

TargetShooting.com 1000LP Rest

The 1000LP rest is distinguished by its use of two (2) leather sandbags, a normal-sized one in the front and a compact mini-bag in the rear. Many other one-piece target rests use low-friction pads or Delrin contacts in the rear. The typical “lead-sled” rests use a solid cradle or V-block in the rear. The small, cube-like, rear mini-bag helps the model 1000LP out-perform typical, one-piece steady-rests. The small rear bag, which is supported by metal plates on three sides, does a great job stabilizing your gun. We also found that the combination of front and rear sandbags seems to provide good vibration damping — something that really helps with precision shooting.

When our designated trigger-puller Joe Friedrich tried the 1000LP with his tuned rimfire benchrest rifle, he immediately noticed that his gun shot amazingly well. Joe owns a variety of high-quality, one-piece rests, and the model 1000LP produced results equal to the best of them. Consider this, in Joe’s ARA unlimited discipline, a perfect score on a 25-bull target is a 2500, with “worst edge” scoring. “Perfect” 2500s are very rare. Only a handful are shot each year in ARA competition. Now get this, Joe managed to shoot multiple 2500s in a row off this rest, and he did that shooting in a variety of conditions (with different lots of ammo) over a 24-hour period. Joe was amazed that this rest, which was not designed for rimfire benchrest competition, could perform so well.

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TargetShooting.com RestThe model 1000LP has many features which contribute to the rest’s fine performance. First, as noted above, the small, 3-way-braced rear bag really seems to work, as long as it fits your stock well. Second, the windage control (which can be switched from left side to right side), is extremely precise and positive — it has zero slop. Third, the 1000LP has a relatively low-mass center bridge connecting the higher-mass front and rear sections. We think this barbell-type design, combined with the integral hand-rest, helps quell vibrations. Finally, the rear height control lets you make fine elevation adjustments without altering the gun’s position on the front bag.

The 1000LP Works Well for Many Purposes
While we were enthusiastic about the 1000LP’s performance with a rimfire benchrest rifle, we want to stress that this rest was not optimized for smallbore shooting. In fact the 1000LP was designed primarily to provide a stable platform for centerfire rifles. It works great for sighting in your hunting rifle, and it is a fine choice for varminters shooting off a field bench. Though not as fast to adjust as a joystick rest, the 1000LP is no slouch. The rear elevation knob is very quick and easy to employ, while the windage adjustment provides precise horizontal tracking with no vertical or diagonal drift. And because the front support is connected rigidly to the rear section, your front and rear bag always stay in perfect alignment, shot after shot. In the video below you can see Wally Brownlee shooting a 22-250 varmint rifle off his 1000LP rest. Note how well the gun tracks, and how little torque and hop there are, even with a narrow sporter-style stock. (Of course, the installed suppressor does reduce some recoil.)

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1000LP Breaks Down into Sections for Transport
The TargetShooting.com model 1000LP easily breaks down into two or three sections. This makes it is easier to pack up and transport than most one-piece rests. The 1000LP also allows easy exchange of front bag assemblies so you can quickly switch from a 3″-wide bag to a narrow front bag for thinner, hunter-style fore-ends. A variety of accessories are available for the model 1000LP, including extra quick-release front bag units ($125.00), large-diameter machined discs for the feet (for added stability), and a dual-rail, front fore-end stop ($89.95).

Model 1000LP Starts at $699.95
Are there downsides to the model 1000LP? Well at $699.95 for the base unit, the 1000LP is far more expensive than a typical Lead Sled-type one-piece rest sold for hunters. However, that’s like comparing a Mercedes with a Yugo. The 1000LP is far more sophisticated than a Lead Sled. Plus, as Joe demonstrated, the model 1000LP can do double-duty as a true competition rest. Don’t even think about using a primitive $130.00 Lead Sled in ARA benchrest competition.

We also found that peak performance demands careful sandbag packing and a good fit of the rear bag to your particular stock. Someone who shoots multiple rifles may want to purchase more than one rear mini-bag so that the rear bag-to-stock fit is optimal. Joe found that bag-to-stock matching was important if you want to shoot ultra-small groups off this rest.

If you are interested in the model 1000LP one-piece rest, visit www.TargetShooting.com or call Wally Brownlee at (800) 611-2164, or +1 605-868-2164 (int’l).

Disclosure: TargetShooting.com provided a “loaner” 1000LP (with accessories) for testing, but Joe Friedrich then purchased the rest at a slight discount off retail.
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September 3rd, 2009

Load Development — Changing "Drivers" Reveals Human Factor in Gun Performance

When developing a load for a new rifle, one can easily get consumed by all the potential variables — load weight, seating depth, neck tension, primer options, neck lube, and so on. When you’re fully focused on loading variables, and the results on the target are disappointing, you may quickly assume you need to change your load. But we learned that sometimes the load is just fine — the problem is the trigger puller, or the set-up on the bench.

Here’s an example. We were recently testing two new Savage F-Class rifles, both chambered in 6mmBR. Initial results were promising, but not great — one gun’s owner was getting round groups with shots distributed at 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 8 o’clock, and none were touching. We could have concluded that load was no good. But then, another shooter sat down behind the rifle and put the next two shots, identical load, through the same hole. Shooter #2 had his own issues with the bag and rest and eventually produced a 6-shot group that was a vertical line, with 2 shots in each hole but at three different points of impact. OK, now we can conclude the load needs to be tuned to get rid of the vertical. Right? Wrong. Shooter #3 sat down behind the gun and produced a group that was pretty much a horizontal line with almost no vertical. Hmmm… what gives?

Well each of the three shooters had a different way of holding the gun and adjusting the rear bag. Shooter #1, the gun’s owner, used a wrap-around hold with hand and cheek pressure, and he was squeezing the bag. All that contact was moving the shot up, down, left and right. Shooter #2 was using no cheek pressure, and very slight thumb pressure behind the tang, but he was experimenting with different bag positions. His hold eliminated the side push, but variances in bag position and down pressure caused the vertical string. When he kept things constant, the gun put successive shots through the same hole. Shooter #3 was using fairly heavy cheek pressure. This settled the gun down vertically, but it also side-loaded the rifle. The result was almost no vertical, but a lot of horizontal.

A “Second Opinion” Is Useful
Conclusion? Before you spend all day fiddling with a load, you might want to adjust your shooting style and see if that affects the group size and shape on the target. Additionally, it is nearly always useful to have another experienced shooter try your rifle. In our test session, each time we changed “drivers”, the way the shots grouped on the target changed significantly. We went from a big round group, to vertical string, to horizontal string. Interestingly, all three shooters were able to diagnose problems in their shooting styles, and then refine their gun-handling. As a result, in a second session, we all shot that gun better, and the average group size dropped from 0.5-0.6 inches into the threes.

That’s right, we cut group size in half, and we didn’t alter the load one bit. Switching shooters demonstrated that the load was good and the gun was good. The skill of the trigger-puller(s) proved to be the limiting factor in terms of group size.

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July 10th, 2009

New Monkey Bag Modular Field Rest

Here’s a new product that may prove useful for tactical shooters and walk-around varminters. The new Monkey Bag™ (MSRP: $29.95) from Shooters Ridge®, is a versatile three-part, poly-filled bag rest that can adapt to a variety of placements. You can stack all three “rolls” to create an elevated front rest. Use one or two rolls in the rear to support your buttstock in prone position. Available summer 2009, the Monkey Bag features a soft suede pad to protect a firearm’s finish and provide a gripping surface. NOTE: As the Monkey Bag hasn’t hit the shelves yet, we haven’t tested it. But it looks promising for shooters who want something more versatile than a “sausage roll” sand-sock, but lighter and more compact than an Uncle Bud’s Bulls Bag.

Sandbag Monkey Bag

Filled with polymer stuffing rather than sand, the Monkey Bag is lighter and easier to carry than conventional sandbags. Shooters Ridge claims the Monkey Bag is “ideal for fence posts, box blinds, [and] shooting benches.” This versatile bag joins Shooters Ridge’s existing line of modular bag rests such as the Gorilla Bag and Mini-Gorilla Bag (photo below). For more information, visit ShootersRidge.com.

Sandbag Monkey Bag

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May 2nd, 2009

May Specials at Midsouth Shooters Supply

There are some great deals among the May Specials at Midsouth Shooters Supply.

Midsouth Shooters Sale

Browning 15″ Bull’s Bag — This bag, an “X”-type front sandbag similar to the popular Uncle Bud’s bag, is on close-out for just $24.99 (sand not included). Choose from Black/Yellow (item 237-16022), or Black/Mossy Oak Camo (237-16024). This is a great deal. An Uncle Bud’s Bull’s Bag normally runs about $49.00.

Caldwell “Rock” Competition Model Front Rest — Midsouth has the “RocK” Comp Model on sale for $149.99. While many “Rock” owners end up replacing the front bag, this unit is a surprisingly good front rest for the money. With a 15.5-lb cast-iron “slingshot” base similar to the Bald Eagle design, the Caldwell Rock is very stable. The captain’s wheel works fine for elevation adjustments. Windage adjustment is less than ideal, as a threaded shaft rotates the whole head to adjust windage, rather than sliding the head back and forth in a straight line. Yes, at the extremes of adjustment, that can cause some binding, but most of the time it works just fine.

Smart Reloader Kinetic (Impact) Bullet Puller — Midsouth has its “house-brand” hammer-style bullet puller on sale for just $11.13. This unit is virtually identical to “name-brand” bullet pullers sold for up to $20.00. The unit comes complete with three, o-ring-secured collets (small, med, large) that will work with just about any cartridge… from 22 Hornet to 45/70.

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April 15th, 2009

New Portable F-Class Front Rest from Butch Lambert

Butch Lambert of Shadetree Engineering & Accuracy has come up with a very impressive new lightweight, break-down front rest base for F-Class shooters. Built primarily of anodized aluminum, the new rest base weighs just about 3 pounds. It can accept a variety of rest tops, including the Shadetree Joystick Top shown below (this omnidirectional top retails for $375.00 plus shipping).

Lambert Shadetree Eng. F-Class rest

Lambert Shadetree Eng. F-Class rest

We like this product and we predict it will become popular with F-Classers as well as varminters looking for a solid front rest that is light to carry and easily stowed. The fact that the rest base breaks down into small components is a big plus for shooters who must travel by air. Over the past year, the airlines have imposed very high fees for extra checked luggage–in some cases as much as $120.00 per bag! With the new Shadetree base, you can easily disassemble the unit into smaller parts that could even be stowed in a carry-on bag. Kudos to Butch Lambert for this innovative new design. To learn more about price and availability of the F-Class rest base, call Butch at (972) 524-2247 or email papawlambert [at] starband.net.

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January 26th, 2009

Sinclair Int'l F-Class Bipod — Impressive Engineering

In mid-2008, Sinclair Int’l released an all-new, super-wide bipod system for F-Class, Tactical, and Varmint shooters. Initially priced at $165.00, the Sinclair F-Class bipod was (then) a steal. The price is now up to $199.95, still a good deal in our opinion. And now you can get the bipod in either a silver (aluminum color) or matte black finish. On a tactical rifle, the low-gloss black looks great.

Sinclair F-Class Bipod

New Wider, More Versatile Design
Sinclair’s previous F-Class bipod was popular but shooters wanted a wider “wheelbase” and the ability to work with 3″-wide forearms. Sinclair’s new unit offers these features and much more. The new bipod is lower, lighter (36 oz.), and easier to mount than the previous model. The new unit attaches via a captured pin system that works fast and can’t get lost. After engaging the pin, two adjusting knobs then clamp the fore-arm onto a felt-lined bracket for a secure fit. The bipod will accommodate up to 3″-wide forearms (and even 3 3/8″ without canting adjustment).

Adjusts for Height and Cant Angle
The new Sinclair bipod features a large rotating lever that allows you to adjust rifle cant angle easily. Vertical height adjusts from 5.5″ to 10.25″, and the leg heights are independently adjustable — an important feature when shooting on uneven ground.

The folks at Sinclair did their homework. This is a completely redesigned system that offers an easily-adjustable, highly stable platform in the field. The unit is well-built, with all the adjustments you want and need. Given the quality of the design and materials, we think it reamains a good value, though the price has gone up since this “second generation” Sinclair F-Class bipod was introduced last year.

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January 15th, 2009

SHOT Show Media Day Report: Spec-Rest Field Test

Spec Rest Rifle tripodAmong the highlights of Media Day were the impressive portable field rests showcased by Lone Star Field Products. Designed primarily for law enforcement and military applications, these rests would also work very well in the varmint fields. The rests are very sturdy yet relatively lightweight. There is a low-profile “Quad Base” version, as well as a “tall” Spec-Rest that sits on top of a tripod. Jason got a chance to try the Spec-Rest with an Accuracy International .308 Win Rifle.

Testing the New Spec-Rest (Tripod and Quad-Base)
Positioned on a tripod, the Spec-Rest swivels 360° and allows a huge range of elevation. The set-up will hold nearly any rifle with its front and rear V-Mounts. According to the FBI, when a gun is firmly mounted, the Spec-Rest will absorb up to 60% of felt recoil with big calibers. The Spec-Rest can be deployed in under a minute without tools. The Spec-Rest is offered in two configurations. With a standing-height tripod and mil-spec carry bag, the Spec-Rest costs $660.00. With a lower quad base, suitable for bench shooting or sitting/kneeling, the Spec-Rest is priced at $575.00.

Spec Rest Rifle tripod

For more information, visit LoneStarFieldProducts.com, or call Lone Star at (972) 276-3110.

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