When discussing the rear bag vs monopod debate in precision rifle shooting it feels almost like the Ford vs Chevy debate. I’m going to say right now that this is really a personal preference thing so the shooter should pick the option they prefer. Having said that this post will discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of each option in hopes of educating new shooters about the options. There are excellent products available in both categories and we’ll toss in some experiences with the products we’ve used so far. If you aren’t sure which you like better I would encourage you to try and find somebody with the bag or monopod you are considering and see if they will let you fire a few rounds off of it to help you decide!
Rear Bag vs Monopod: What Are They?
What we are really talking about with the rear bag vs monopod discussion is a rear rifle rest. An object used to steady the buttstock of a rifle and make both coarse and fine adjustments to the point of aim. Traditionally a rear bag has been used for this purpose. They come in all shapes and sizes with a variety of features but the principle design is the same. A container full of small pellets, beads, rice, whatever that can be squeezed and held under the buttstock to make changes to the point of aim and help steady the rifle on target. This is much more stable than having the rear of the rifle stock floating freely in the air.
The newer option is the monopod. A small, collapsible rod with a cap, that attaches to the rear of the rifle stock. The idea is you flip it down from a folded position and then either screw the monopod up or down a threaded shaft to alter the height of the monopod and thereby the point of aim of the rifle. This is a bit of a different spin on the concept of a rear rifle rest. It tends to provide a much more stable rear rest that can also be as finely adjusted as a rear bag. The downsides to a monopod tend to be cost of the device, weight added to the rifle, and speed of adjustment.
Rear Bag Vs Monopod – Bags
This is by far the older and more popular option when discussing rear rifle rests. Guys have been using socks full of sand tied in knots since the concept of accurate shooting has been around. For that reason alone it may be more popular, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. The huge upside in my mind to rear bags when talking about rear bags vs monopods is speed of adjustment. It takes fractions of a second to add or release some squeeze pressure on a bag which really makes transitions between targets quick and precise. Whereas with a monopod you typically have to thread the pod up or down a shaft to change elevation.
There are tons of rear bag options out there. That’s a good thing, competition drives innovation. Manufacturers like TAB Gear, Wiebad, Short Action Precision, and Triad Tactical all produce different twists on the rear bag concept. You can get wedge shaped bags designed to allow a shooter to slide a rifle stock up and down the ramp to change elevation or large bags that strap to your forearm to help steady offhand and kneeling shots. The sky is really the limit and as shooters come up with different ideas where a new shape or size would be beneficial you see new products emerging constantly. Wiebad is a good example of this with the release of the Todd Tac Pad and Pump Pillow!
These kind of bags highlight another real strength of rear bags when discussing rear bags vs monopods, multi function capability. You can use a standard rear bag to steady the bottom of the rear portion of a rifle stock as it was designed. You can also drop it under the fore end of a rifle when you shoot off a barricade. You can wedge it into the space between the bottom of your thigh and top of your calf when kneeling. You can stick your bipod through the hand strap to give a soft support to the front end of the rifle when shooting through a window or other obstacle at a match. Like I said, guys are coming up with new ways to use them all the time and the sheer number of different bags available just helps illustrate all the different ways you can use one.
Rear Bag Vs Monopod – Monopods
I have owned a rather nice Monopod made by Accushot in the past so when I discuss monopods I’m not making stuff up, I’ve given it a good whirl. That said it’s not my personal preference for a rear rifle rest. The main advantage of a monopod when discussing the debate of rear bag vs monopod is rock solid support. If you are shooting at distant targets, regardless of surface beneath the gun, when you dial in a monopod for the height you want for point of aim the gun feels like it is in a vise. The setting is very firm, supportive, and consistent. When dialed in you can leave the gun, stand up, and lay back down and it will still provide the same point of aim as when you set it up.
Another great thing about monopods is they are dummy proof. You don’t need a ‘dummy cord’ to keep track of it or keep the monopod around. It mounts to a rail or swivel stud in the rear of the stock and most will either fold up out of the way or retract within the rear of the buttstock when not in use. The monopod is always there, can’t be forgotten, and is fairly quick to deploy from the stowed position. The only downside I have found is the speed at which you can alter the height for different targets, and a lot of guys have managed to get really fast with this! The other ‘potential’ downside would be cost. Most rear bags can be had in the $20-60 dollar range. Monopods can run from $50 to well over $100 depending on the manufacturer and parts involved in installing one.
Wrapping Up Rear Bag Vs Monopod Debate
I said at the beginning this is really a personal preference kind of debate. It really comes down to which option you prefer based on the feel you like better for a rear rifle rest. If you have to start with one or the other I suggest starting with a rear bag. Not because that’s my personal choice, but because even guys that run a monopod will have a rear bag with them for the other uses we talked about above.
The multi function aspect of rear bags makes them pretty indispensable. The nice thing about monopods is they are like a good dog, always along for the ride and ready to help any way they can. You can drop a rear bag moving around, the monopod is always faithful. I suggest trying both whenever possible and if you like both, nothing says you can’t use both!