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Updated Mar 13, 2023 2:55 PM
Shooting rests may not be exciting, but you should consider them to be an essential piece of your shooting equipment. Using one provides a solid baseline to learn what your firearm is capable of and how it performs with a new type of cartridge load or a new optic. They can also be very beneficial during the adrenaline dump that can occur during a hunt. It takes as much of the human error out of the equation as possible so that you can get repeatable and measurable results
Anyone who has spent any amount of time at a shooting range has likely seen myriad different options when it comes to shooting rests. They can be as varied and as versatile as both the guns being used and the shooters who utilize them. The choices are nearly endless, and it can be difficult to narrow it down to the right one. No doubt your online searches will turn up plenty of names that you’ll start to see repeatedly: Caldwell Lead Sled, MTM, Vanguard, CTK Precision, and others. They’re all great brands, so how do you choose the best shooting rests for you?
How I Chose The Best Shooting Rests
I’ve shot a lot of different guns over the years in a lot of different setups and scenarios. By far, one of the best ways to get acquainted with a new gun is to shoot it from a rest. That way, you learn all about the gun and its capabilities before introducing any of your personal flaws to the equation. At times, I’ve needed a rest setup that is minimalistic; other times, I’ve needed something more robust. As a result, I own multiple shooting rests. I’ve got monopods, tripods, and tabletop units, and they all get their fair share of use. When it comes down to picking the right one for me, I evaluate shooting rests using the following criteria:
Versatility: Can I use this shooting rest for a variety of different purposes? Will I be able to use it with both handguns and long guns? Can it be used on a bench as well as mounted to a piece of standing equipment? The more things I can do with one product, the better.
Build Quality: Is this shooting rest well made? A good shooting rest needs to be able to withstand repeated use and still maintain its structural integrity so that it performs exactly the same time and time again. Is this rest built to a quality standard that can do this?
Cost: Is this shooting rest a good value for the price? If I buy it, am I going to be getting my money’s worth out of it?
The Best Shooting Rests: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Caldwell Lead Sled FCX
Why It Made the Cut: The Caldwell Lead Sled FCX is the latest and greatest addition to the Lead Sled lineup, capable of absorbing up to 95% of felt recoil.
- Reduces felt recoil by up to 95%
- Comes with custom-fit weight bag
- Features 4 inches of elevation adjustment
- Windage and elevation adjustments can be made in a single movement
- Overall length of rest is adjustable to accommodate youth sized guns as well as those with longer lengths of pull
- Contoured rear support protects stock’s finish
- A gun barrel retention strap is not included
The Caldwell Lead Sled is one of the best-known shooting rest product lines of all time, and the new Lead Sled FCX model is the most advanced shooting rest on the market. Unlike previous models where windage and elevation adjustments had to be made as two separate adjustments, the Lead Sled FCX uses a control arm that does both at once, easily and effortlessly. It provides four inches of course elevation adjustment, which translates to about five feet at 100 yards.
Unlike many other rests, the overall length of the FCX is adjustable for different length firearms, and the rear portion can even be removed if you don’t want or need to use it. When equipped with the custom-fit weight bag, the Lead Sled FCX will ensure proper, repeatable shots time and time again that also reduce felt recoil up to 95%. This is the rest to get for precision tuning of your rifle scope during sighting-in sessions because of how securely it holds your firearm while making adjustments.
Best Budget: FAS FoamRest
Why It Made the Cut: FAS FoamRests are inexpensive, lightweight, and portable. You can easily tote this along to any shooting location.
- Incredibly lightweight
- Use with long guns or handguns
- Super easy to transport and set up
- Can be used individually or in pairs
- No issues with clearance for magazines on semi-auto firearms
- Not as stable as we’d like
- Not the best for precision scope adjustments
Generally speaking, a shooting rest isn’t something that can be easily tossed into your shooting bag due to its size and weight. FAS FoamRests solve that dilemma, by packing one of the best shooting rests into a package that weighs mere ounces. Made from a durable, closed-cell foam, these rests are so light that you’ll hardly even notice that they’re there. You won’t even notice it amongst the bricks of ammo and eye and ear protection in your range bag.
The V-block design allows shooters to hold their handguns, long guns, and just about everything in between steady. Select from different height positions, depending on whether you stand them upright or place them on their side. You also have the ability to use the blocks as front rests, rear rests, or both if you have a pair. These rests aren’t optimal for precision long-range adjustments at the range since they’re not going to hold your gun securely. However, these are hard to beat in terms of affordability, portability, and simplicity of use.
Best for Pistol: Ransom Multi Cal Steady Rest
Why It Made the Cut: The Ransom Multi Cal Steady Rest is simple, adaptable, portable, robust, and 100% made in the United States of America.
- 100% made in the USA
- CNC machined from solid aluminum billet
- Available in custom colors
- Designed with pistols in mind, but can be used for long guns, too
- Drilled and tapped to accept monopod, bipod, or tripod
- Front V-block is adjustable for elevation
- No-frills design with no extra bells or whistles
Ransom has developed quite a name in the shooting community for building the best rests when rock-solid performance is required, and the Ransom Multi Cal Steady Rest is no different. This rest is a lightweight, yet robust piece of equipment designed for handguns. This is the perfect rest for shooting handguns, with the V-block fully adjustable for elevation and capable of being switched around for use with longer barrel handguns.
While the rest can be used by itself for handguns, it also works well as a front support for rifles or shotguns. For those who don’t want to shoot from a bench or don’t have one available to them, the Ransom Multi Cal Steady Rest is also drilled and tapped for attachment to the monopod, bipod, or tripod of your choice for easy use while standing. When paired with the right lightweight pod of your choice, it could even be used in the field on a hunt.
Best for Rifle: BOG DeathGrip Tripod
Why It Made the Cut: Whether you’re on the range or in the field, stability and precision are the name of the game with the BOG DeathGrip Tripod.
- Available with aluminum or carbon fiber legs
- Patented shooting yoke to hold rifle securely
- 100% hands-free rifle positioning
- Legs deploy for standing, kneeling, or prone positions
- Easily adjust the tilt, pan, and cant
- Lightweight for a tripod/shooting rest combo
- Carbon fiber option is one pound lighter but also $100 more expensive
- Head unit not compatible with other tripods
The BOG DeathGrip Tripod is unlike any other shooting rest on the market. The patented shooting yoke holds your rifle in a, well, death grip to give you repeatable shots and hands-free positioning in any shooting condition. The legs can be adjusted both for height and angle, ensuring that you can shoot from any position: standing, kneeling, or even prone. This makes it ideal for hunting in long-range scenarios in open country. This is a good option for spot-and-stalk hunters.
Available in aluminum or carbon fiber, both options are designed to be lightweight and portable while still capable of holding rifle setups weighing as much as 20 pounds. Whether you’re trekking through a field on a hunt or transporting equipment to and from the range, the BOG DeathGrip Tripod won’t weigh you down. The aluminum version weighs 8.5 pounds, and the carbon fiber version weighs 7.5 pounds.
Check out more tripods in our roundup of top models if this model isn’t right for you.
Best Lead Sled: Caldwell Lead Sled Solo
Why It Made the Cut: The Caldwell Lead Sled Solo delivers the peak performance shooters have come to expect from the Lead Sled name without the hefty price tag.
- Non-marring supports protect your gun’s finish
- Fast pivoting elevation adjustments
- Builds off the company’s legacy at a lower price
- Heavy-duty welded steel construction
- Very stable rubber feet that can be adjusted
- Offset design accommodates semi-autos with detachable magazines
- Gun retention strap needs to be longer
Unlike the Caldwell Lead Sled FCX that we covered earlier, the Caldwell Lead Sled Solo provides all of the features that most shooters will need at less than 25% of the cost. The rest’s two front feet can be adjusted individually for proper alignment if your shooting surface isn’t perfectly level, plus the precise fast pivoting elevation system allows for adjustments that really live up to the “precise” and “fast” labels given to it.
When used in conjunction with the front and rear non-marring supports, the included gun retention strap ensures that your firearm stays put during firing, allowing you to get easily repeatable follow-up shots. The Lead Sled Solo has a built-in tray that can easily hold a heavy bag or two to help keep the rest stable and reduce recoil even further. Just like the other lead sled, this is a good choice for anyone who wants a rest for precision sighting-in sessions. The only real difference is this sled might take slightly longer for making adjustments than the FCX.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Shooting Rests
There are a number of different things to think about before buying a shooting rest. For most buyers, the decision is going to come down to three simple factors. Here are the things you should keep in mind before buying a shooting rest:
How do you plan on using a shooting rest? Is it only going to be used for sighting in new guns and optics, or will it see a lot of use in your regular range trips? Do you need something to absorb recoil, or just hold the gun? Will you be using handguns or long guns? Are there shooting benches for you to set up on, or do you need something that can be used while standing? Having answers to these questions will help you start to narrow down what models to consider buying.
Are you going to be moving your rest around from your house to the car to the range and back? Or will it be more of a “set it and forget it” situation? Do you plan on using the rest for hunting, and if so, how much weight are you willing to carry? A heavy rest may perform well, but you might be less likely to use it if moving it or carrying it around is a cumbersome hassle. But if you are going to be mobile, you might be better off with a tripod. Take a look at our top picks for hunting tripods if you’ll be covering a lot of ground.
The cost of an item—any item—usually plays a big role in the purchasing decision. You’ll have to ask yourself how big your budget is for a shooting rest, and whether or not that will require you to make some sacrifices in terms of features. Thankfully, some of the best shooting rests on the market can be had at very reasonable price points.
Of course, you’ll need more than one of the best shooting rests for day at the range. Safety equipment, like eye and ear pro, are essential. Check out our picks for the best shooting glasses and hearing protection. Tote it all with you using one of the top range bags, as selected by our expert. You can use the National Shooting Sports Foundation range finder to locate a place to shoot near you. And be sure to review the basics of gun safety before you head out. We also have some tips on how to shoot from the prone position.
Q: Are rest bags good for shooting?
Yes, rest bags are good for shooting, particularly because they are both affordable and versatile. You can use rest bags by themselves as front or rear bags or both. And because they are filled with a malleable medium, you can shape them to your specific needs each time.
As a bonus, when the bags are filled with a particularly heavy medium, they can be used in conjunction with another rest of your choice as a weight to help keep the main rest from moving around during firing and to help reduce recoil.
Q: How do I choose shooting rests?
Choosing the right shooting rest is a balance. Ask yourself the following questions: How do I plan on using this rest? How much money am I willing to spend? Do I need the shooting rest to be versatile?
Answering these questions will help you find the shooting rest that works best for you. Of course, it’s rare that one rest can do everything, so you’ll either have to compromise and buy the one rest that provides the best balance of what you’re looking for. Or, you’ll have to come to terms with the fact that you may end up purchasing more than one shooting rest.
Q: How do I use a shooting rest?
A shooting rest can be used in a variety of different ways. They are great for providing a solid shooting platform from which to sight in a firearm before using it for competition, target practice, or hunting. You simply place your firearm into or onto your shooting rest of choice and then shoot as you normally would.
This will provide you with consistent, repeatable performance so that you can see where your shots are hitting and adjust your sights or optic accordingly. Additionally, a shooting rest can also be used in some cases while you’re actually target shooting, hunting, or shooting competitively.
Final Thoughts on the Best Shooting Rests
Walk any public gun range in the country, and you’re likely to see more than one Caldwell Lead Sled being used. They have become the standard by which many other gun rests are measured these days. The FCX was an obvious choice for best overall simply because it takes the best features of every rest built by Caldwell and combines them into the steadiest and most precise package on the market today.
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