This week’s article is on the evolution of tripod shooting! I thought over the next few months we would do a multi part series on the evolution of tripod shooting. Specifically, where it came from and how it’s been evolving. We’re right in the middle of what appears to be a Quantum Leap (remember that show?) in tripod shooting technology. For the longest time guys would just grab a regular camera tripod and cook up a homemade rifle rest from a piece of PVC tubing and go to work. As positional shooting has become more popular, due in large part to the Precision Rifle Series, tripod shooting itself is evolving! That’s the focus of this series of articles, the evolution of tripod shooting!
Tripod Shooting Origins
While we go through the history and evolution of tripod shooting I want to make it clear that there’s always going to be somebody who saw it sooner than the other guy at another place and time. I can’t help that. I apologize if I miss anything like that. That being said there are dual origins for tripod shooting. Part of it can be traced to the evolution and advancements of the urban military sniper in modern military conflicts. Specifically, post 9/11 military snipers saw themselves deploying to more urban environments in Iraq and other hot spots around the globe. An urban environment does not lend itself well to prone shooting positions. Especially when you are seeking a shooting position with a good view of the area. Our MIL guys are creative and started rigging up homemade rifle rests on camera tripods to allow themselves to shoot in more unconventional positions.
The second origin of tripod shooting is the competition circuit. As precision rifle shooting became more popular and shooters became more skilled, the match directors looked for ways to make the courses of fire more challenging. What did they come up with? Unconventional shooting positions. Forcing guys to shoot at smaller targets that were farther away from less stable positions made the courses of fire considerably more difficult. This has driven the advancements in tripod shooting to the greatest degree from what I’ve seen.
When competitive shooters realize they are losing points on positional shooting all kinds of ideas start flying around. How can you shoot from less stable positions with greater stability? What tools and widgets will assist in tripod shooting? The first taste of this I ever had was at the 2012 (Going on 5 years ago?! Already!) Sniper’s Hide Cup. That year the match was run by the Competition Dynamics crew who are somewhat notorious for putting shooting positions in places where the targets are only visible from non prone positions!
The advent of the Precision Rifle Series has only solidified and increased the need for shooting aids like a tripod. Positional shooting (shooting from positions other than prone) has become a hallmark of the Precision Rifle Series matches. It seems like each big match that goes by there’s a match director who finds a way to force people to shoot from a new oddball position. In this regard the Bushnell Brawl at Rifles Only was one of the earliest pushers of oddball shooting positions. The Rifles Only “Mousetrap” is an odd looking obstacle course that forces shooters to shoot from kneeling and standing positions both strong and weak sided. They were doing this before all the cool kids!
Tripod Shooting Technology Surges
With all of this non prone shooting being done we were bound to see some technology surges. One of the first items to pop up was the ShadowTech Hog Saddle! This was an item designed by a veteran specifically for shooting from non standard positions. It is a beautifully machined rifle clamp which can be tightened down on a rifle to enhance stability from non prone shooting positions. It’s a tripod head designed specifically for rifle shooting. It also happens to work really well! The next big item we saw popping up in competition were the Wiebad “pillows!” These are an assorted line of different size lightweight shooting bags. The idea is by using a bag to eat up spaces between body parts, obstacles, and the ground you enhance stability.
Tripod Shooting Enhancements
They say necessity is the greatest motivator for innovation. The guys at ShadowTech and Wiebad looked at unconventional shooting positions and said, “we can make this better!” It would only be a matter of time before folks in the Tripod industry began to look at doing the same. Lately there’s been a huge push towards upgrading tripod shooting technology. Rather than grabbing an off the shelf Manfrotto like most of us did years ago, now guys are looking for things that are more specialized. People used to just grab a regular camera tripod and add a homemade or specialty shooting rest like a Hog Saddle. Nowadays you see guys looking for something that’s been catered to the needs of the precision shooting industry!
Now you see companies like Really Right Stuff producing a line of tripods, heads, and accessories specifically designed and tailored to precision rifle shooting. Rather than adapting a camera tripod for shooting purposes these guys are designing and modifying existing products to work in the specialized environment precision shooters operate within! Guys are looking at heavy duty tripods that support the weight of heavy match guns much better than their camera specific brethren. There’s been some big surges in the purchasing of tripods from Really Right Stuff and Feisol lately. We try real hard at AccuracyTech to stay on the cutting edge and to offer our readers the “regular guy” perspective on some of these products and technology shifts.
This was just an intro into the concept of Tripod Shooting and the evolution of the concept. One of the big considerations of these technology shifts is price. There’s a saying in the precision shooting community, “buy once, cry once.” Precision shooting is not a cheap sport to get into or stay on the leading edge of for any amount of time. We’re going to be upgrading our tripod setup here at AccuracyTech, testing it all out, and adding to the tripod shooting series of articles. Then you guys, our readers, will be able to see if some of the costs for the different upgrades and advances in tripod shooting are worth it to you! As always we welcome comments and discussion so if you have something to add, drop it in the comments below!