Another week goes by and with some shooting done at the range it’s time for another update on the Evolution of Tripod Shooting series! Last time we had talked about how there are some theories and some rumors flying around about how different aspects of tripod shooting improve accuracy. We talked about keeping the rifle low on the tripod, direct mounting versus saddle style, etc. This week I’m going to give a preliminary report on how I’ve gone about testing some of those claims. I’m also going to set up PT4 where I’m going to do some direct comparisons and report back with the results on the different theories about tripod shooting enhancements.
Tripod Shooting Baseline
The first idea I wanted to explore was a sort of baseline to try different aspects of the different tripod shooting claims flying around. One of the best ideas I’ve seen so far is to basically do what most of us are doing from prone. To test the accuracy of your tripod shooting setup shoot a five round group just as you would from prone. This highlights the differences between prone shooting and tripod shooting accuracy. If you think about that test it’s very easy to scale. If you have a rifle that shoots half MOA from prone, how does it do when you drop it onto the tripod shooting setup you have available? If you upgrade part of your setup, you can note any change in performance.
The first thing I did was get my gun zeroed in. I was playing with my AR10 in 6.5 Creedmoor because I had some older ammo to burn up. While this rifle is certainly capable of excellent accuracy I’ve not spent much time behind this semi auto in a while, and it shows. I got everything zeroed up on the bottom and put three rounds off the side into a roughly 1 MOA group. Not so great, so I need to get out there with this gun more often and practice! In any event after I finished that up I shot two groups standing off my tripod with a sling. The first was pretty ho-hum but I noticed something interesting. I fired another group which measured just under 1.25 MOA. So not bad! Only added a quarter minute of inaccuracy going from prone to standing tripod shooting!
Tripod Shooting at Distance
The next part of this little experiment was to get an idea of how doable tripod shooting testing would be at distance. I set up a couple steel targets at around 425yds to check and see. The round BEST Targets gong is an 8″ circle and the small IPSC silhouette measures about 7.78″ across. Both are a touch under 2 MOA at that distance. Which is about right in my experience. When doing positional shots the people running the matches typically don’t hold you to MOA size targets because of the inherent difficulty and lack of stability. As distance increases the target sizes tend to get to 1.5 or 2.0 MOA and positional shots (other than prone) seem to follow the same pattern.
In any event I wanted to see just how difficult a 2 MOA target would be from the same position as the 100 yard test. Standing with a sling while tripod shooting. I found it was challenging but not anywhere near impossible. So it seems to fall about where I’d prefer for this kind of testing. I don’t want it to be as simple as putting up a tight group from prone but I don’t want it to be so impossible that regardless of the tripod setup I couldn’t see differences or improvements in accuracy when adding/subtracting/using different tripod shooting components!
Tripod Testing Conclusions
I think both of these tests will work well for trying different tripod shooting enhancements and components. The 100yd test on the pasters helps establish a baseline accuracy that you can compare to ideal circumstances like shooting prone. A 2 MOA target at 425 yards is smaller than the 10″ target used on a lot of the PRS Skills stages. So this size seems about right for testing what components aid a better tripod shooting setup, which ones hurt it, and which ones don’t make much of a difference at all.
I’m planning to test both direct mount and saddle mounted options for mounting the rifle and their effects on both accuracy and repeatability at distance. I’ve already talked a bit about how the Really Right Stuff tripod enhances stability. In the next part of this series I’ll show you guys how it all turned out. I’ll also talk a bit more about the costs of the different pieces of gear and what benefit I believe they provide.
So to finish this one up it’s mainly been about testing some different ways of measuring accuracy from a tripod. This gives me a way to test some of the changes I’m planning to make to my tripod shooting setup. I’ve got some things that I’ve held onto from my prior setup and some new toys added to the box of new goodies. I’m going to test it all and then let you guys know in PT4 how it all shook out. This way you guys can decide which of the items make sense for your budgets and which ones are more expensive than they are worth.