Have you heard of loading a bipod? You should be doing it as you set up your position before every shot! If you have heard of it but aren’t quite sure how to pull it off then read on as we discuss how to go about loading a bipod and why it’s important! Loading a bipod is closely related to all the fundamentals of marksmanship when firing from a prone position. The purpose of loading a bipod is to take any and all slack out of the shooter and rifle system. Under recoil the rifle is going to move opposite the path of the bullet’s travel down the bore. If the shooter has introduced any angles or doesn’t have a solid position behind the rifle it will jump around more. This is where you see the infamous ‘bipod hop’ in videos. There shouldn’t be any, if the position is built correctly, the rifle just rocks back against the shooter and then back forward as recoil subsides.
Loading a Bipod
I actually heard about the concept and practice of loading a bipod before I ever fired a shot through a precision rifle. It’s one of these things that has some internet lore and mystery surrounding it. I suppose the reason is that as new shooters try to get their feet wet with precision rifle shooting one of the first things they encounter is bipod hop. Understand the bipod should not hop at all. You do have to deal with recoil but the gun should not be hopping side to side or front and back under recoil. If it is moving around, you are doing something wrong. This is universally true whether it be a small caliber, large caliber, bolt action or even semi automatic rifle.
The Practice of Loading a Bipod
This is the part a lot of people screw up. You don’t need to bully the rifle. You don’t have to shoulder check it forward to counteract recoil. You don’t have to lean so heavily on the bipod that the gun is constantly sliding forward away from you. This is all about taking any slack present out of the interface between the shooter and the rifle. It’s not even a push, its more like you are gently leaning forward against the rifle. You aren’t rotating your strong shoulder forward. That’s called shouldering the rifle and what it does is bring your shoulders off the 90 degree perpendicular angle you want behind the gun. If you shoulders and body aren’t at that 90 degree perpendicular angle, the gun is going to come off target under recoil.
If the gun comes off target that means losing sight of the target. That means you can’t tell if you hit or missed and by how much. That leads to anger, and anger leads to the dark side of precision rifle shooting. Just kidding. The point is the whole name of the game with precision rifle is being able to see and spot your own hits and misses. That’s what loading a bipod and proper execution of the fundamentals of marksmanship is all about. If you can see if you hit the target, or how much you missed by, you know exactly what you need to either hit it again or hit it on the second shot if the first missed!
Loading a Bipod Considerations
This happens to be one of the reasons I like Atlas bipods. You can feel the difference when the rifle goes from unloaded to loaded. If you overload it you will feel the gun slide forward. I’m not saying you can’t load a Harris. Of course you can and many a shooter better than me does it all the time. However when trying to teach a newer shooter about loading the bipod I think it is a lot easier to show them what you are talking about and demonstrate loading a bipod for them with an Atlas bipod. Since the Harris is already pretty stiff and doesn’t have much, if any at all, slack in the mechanism it’s very easy for somebody new to this game to overload the Harris and wind up pushing the whole gun forward. Keep in mind that the kind of bipod you have may make a difference in how actually loading it feels against your shoulder.
Loading a Bipod – How To
There are two easy ways to do this. Try them both and see if you can decide which you like better. Method number one is to get into position behind the gun, bring the stock up to your shoulder and relax. Then slowly, pressing off the tips of your big toes with your feet, shimmy your entire body as a unit forward slightly against the rifle. You don’t want to move it, you just want to put a little pressure against it. Here’s another example that will help you visualize this. Sit in your car with the car stopped but in gear. Move your weak foot onto the brake and hold pressure on the pedal, then give the car a little bit of gas. Notice how the car shifts forward a bit and starts to put pressure against the brakes? That’s the kind of effect you are after. You don’t want to move the car forward, you just want to preload it a little. Same thing applies to the precision rifle!
The second method is to get into position, and then lift your chest up off the ground with the muscles in your back. You want to do a little sea otter impression here. As you lift your trunk up slightly, pull the rifle stock up into your shoulder pocket. Then as you relax push the gun forward in front of you but stop short of removing all the forward pressure against the rifle. If you push too far it won’t have any pressure against it. You don’t have to make large movements here, just a small lift, pull the rifle in, then relax back against the gun. When I say push the rifle forward, I’m talking about if the gun is in too close. Push it forward with your hand. You really just want to rest your body weight forward against it. Remember that car analogy, that’s how to do it. I don’t like overusing the same video but this one really happens to show what I’m talking about very well. As you see the gun fire here, the gun rocks back against me, then it rocks forward again. There’s no hop, no jump, and I never lose sight of my target. It’s easy to do but you have to load the bipod properly!
Wrapping Up Loading a Bipod
This is easy to do with some practice guys. It’s also a real integral part of proper follow through so it’s something you need to practice a bit. Experiment with the two techniques I described and try the trick with your car in a parking lot so you can get a feel for what I’m talking about. Once you get this right and your body is in the proper position behind the rifle you will never lose sight of your target under recoil. That will allow you to make your own corrections on follow up shots and it will make you a much better shooter. If you are after something more along the lines of instruction, I highly recommend the online training over at Sniper’s Hide. There’s a lot of good information and video with explanations and instruction available!