I’ve been meaning to update and add our review of the Shadow Tech LLC HOG Saddle for a while now. Believe it or not this was one of the first reviews I did a few years back. I enjoyed it and there was a favorable response from Shadow Tech who sent an upgraded tension knob for the effort. So here we are a few years later and after a few website changes and redesigns we thought we would revisit an oldie, but a goodie. For those not familiar with the concept, the HOG Saddle is a rifle rest with a clamp designed for shooting off a tripod. In modern military engagements and particularly in urban environments shots are taken less and less from the prone position. In order to keep the soldier better concealed they shoot from cover and that often entails an alternate position. The HOG Saddle was designed by a Marine Scout Sniper, so there is definitely some experience and a solid knowledge base behind the product!
The HOG Saddle
While the concept of a rest or shooting off sticks or a tripod may not be new, prior to the release of the HOG Saddle there weren’t any products devoted to making that task as accurate and easy as possible. When shooting from alternate positions off a rest, like the HOG Saddle, there is inherent movement in the rifle-shooter system. Since the positions are less stable than prone, you begin to get some drifting of the reticle as the muzzle floats a bit as the support and the shooter move and flex a bit. The name of the game with alternate position shooting is to try and reduce and eliminate as much of that floating movement as possible. This is where the HOG Saddle comes in!
The HOG Saddle attaches to tripods either via the tripod head itself, or quick release mounting plates. I’ve found, at the suggestion of the HOG Saddle developer, that if you want the most stable shooting platform possible with a tripod, less is more. In other words, rather than mount the HOG Saddle to a traditional tripod head or handle, remove the tripod head, and mount the HOG Saddle directly to the tripod itself. High quality tripods, like those produced by Manfrotto, typically have a center column that rotates. So you can still pan the tripod head by unlocking the center column even without the traditional “ball head” mounted to the tripod. Elevation changes are easily accomplished by loosening the HOG Saddle clamp and changing the angle of the rifle in the rest.
HOG Saddle In Action
So how does it work? Really freakin’ well, to be honest. I’ve shot as far as 750 yards with it in a modified sitting position with success. I’ve found that the Hog Saddle itself is about as close to perfection for a clamping rifle rest as you could hope for. It’s machined beautifully, works supremely well, and the owner is very receptive to feedback. Any issues or minor oversights reported by customers are implemented and fixed in short order. I have an earlier model, for example, where if you unscrew the clamp far enough it will slip out of the threaded portion of the clamp that it tightens against. The new Mod 7 has a retainer clip to prevent that from happening. Some people reported having trouble dropping a stock with a wide fore end into the HOG Saddle, so they increased the width that HOG Saddle can open!
HOG Saddle Tips
Like any piece of gear, there are tips and tricks to getting the most out of it. I will tell you, from experience, that if you plan to shoot from a tripod, an excellent rest like the HOG Saddle is essential. However, even the best rest in the world won’t perform to its potential if you drop it on an unstable, cheap, tripod. So investing in a really nice, stable tripod, from a quality manufacturer is essential. I tried it initially with a Manfrotto 190 model tripod, with a Manfrotto ball head, with good results. I could not believe the difference when I moved to a Manfrotto 055 model tripod and no ball head. It is way more stable and handles the weight of the rifle with ease. I would recommend buying a tripod specifically for shooting off of rather than having a camera or spotting scope tripod pull double duty. Right tool for the job and all that!
A couple other tricks involve the use of the sling in conjunction with the HOG Saddle. There are a number of ways you can do this, but the premise is the same. Hook the sling up to the front of the rifle, if possible I think the bottom of the fore end is preferable if you have the ability to mount the sling there. Then you can run the sling straight down, under the center of the tripod, and back to one of the legs. Wrap the sling around the leg and if you grab it with your hand you can torque it to tighten the sling against the leg. This, in conjunction with the clamping power of the HOG Saddle, can do wonders for reducing the amount of movement in your reticle.
If you want to get fancier still, and if your sling supports it, get a second tail for your sling so that you can unclip the main tail, and clip the secondary tail into the sling. Only instead of a flush cup end like most of us use for attaching to the stock, get one with an HK Hook. Run the sling down under the tripod beneath the HOG Saddle like before, and clip the HK Hook to a steel loop on a riggers belt on your pants. Now you can tighten up the sling and use your body weight to torque against the rifle and HOG Saddle to help reduce movement in your sight picture!
The HOG Saddle is a lot of things, cheap isn’t one of them! This bad boy runs $310 USD to take one home. Personally, I’ve never found myself regretting that choice. However, what we said before about the company being receptive to feedback is true. A lot of people loved the idea but the price was a bit beyond their reach. Shadow Tech then added the PIG Saddle to their lineup in addition to the HOG Saddle. The PIG is a more affordable option at $135 and less than half the cost of the HOG Saddle. So there is a more affordable option out there! We’re hoping to get our hands on one of those as well to compare features and design differences. In the meantime, if you’re thinking about buying a high end Manfrotto and you want the absolute best clamping rest to mount on it for shooting, look no further than the Hog Saddle from Shadow Tech!