It’s a well-known fact that to shoot a rifle accurately, you must typically use a rigid support. When it comes to spending time at a bench with stout recoiling rifles, a rest device that helps absorb recoil will make the experience more enjoyable and prevent “flinchitis.” And employing a recoil-absorbing rest isn’t just for the heavy magnum rifles. Recoil produces a cumulative effect on your nervous system, as those who’ve dropped the hammer on a mild-recoiling rifle, like a .308, more than 100 times in a single shooting session can attest.
It’s not necessary to calculate free recoil to enjoy the benefits of a recoil-reducing rest, but understanding how it is calculated may win you a bet some day. To figure it out requires using a dab of physics and a pinch of math. The part you can’t calculate is an individual’s physiology and recoil tolerance.
The formula for free recoil energy is E=.5(M*V)2. “M” is the mass of the gun and “V” is recoil velocity. To calculate recoil velocity, multiply the weight of the bullet and powder charge by its muzzle velocity. A helpful website is Handloads Online, which features a recoil calculator (handloads.com/calc/recoil.asp)—just plug in your data and click “=.”
Most recoil-reducing rests work by essentially adding weight to the gun. Add the weight of the rest to the weight of the gun, and the math works the same. Once you’ve satisfied your recoil curiosity, check out these rests to find the one that fits your needs.
Hyskore Recoil Killers
Hyskore’s recoil-absorbing shooting rests use compression dampers and spring technology to progressively absorb recoil and return the rifle to battery after each shot fired. At the range, the shooter can shoot directly off the shoulder with as little or as much recoil absorption as desired.
The author has tested the Black Gun Machine Rest, which is convenient and portable, weighing just 22 pounds and requiring no additional weights or sandbags. Numerous spring/damper combinations accommodate anything from .17 to .416 Rigby. The rest is equipped with a “V” notch, a pedestal for bag rests and a magnetic spirit level to assure that the device sits level on the bench. The center of the rest is constructed with extra space allowing for extended high-capacity magazines and pistol grips. The unit retails for $250.
Hyskore also offers a Dangerous Game Machine Rest, which will return to battery (plus/minus 3 minute of arc) if the rest is firmly anchored to a solid bench. This device, and the Black Gun Machine Rest, uses nitrogen-filled dampers to absorb the recoil. These two rests are easy on your gun. They absorb recoil in a way quite similar to that of a human shoulder. The Dangerous Game rest differs from other recoil-absorbing rests by staying firmly in place once mounted to a solid bench, negating the need to reposition the rest after each shot. If you want the ultimate in accuracy, a remote trigger release eliminates any human-induced motion. The Dangerous Game retails for $240.
Magnum-caliber rifles are growing in popularity, but the heavy recoil they produce can be a real pain—literally. To address the issue, MTM offers a four-point, flexible-base shooting rest designed to ease the shoulder punishment inflicted by powerful magnum rifles.
The Shoulder-Gard features an integrated recoil-reduction sling, into which the stock of the rifle is tightly fit. The strap absorbs the rifle recoil and transfers it into the back of the flexible base, which in turn delivers the reverberations to the shooting bench. Properly secured, the rifle moves rearward hardly at all, sparing your shoulder an unpleasant whack.
Muzzle rise remains an issue, however—though the problem is easily solved by grasping the forearm of your rifle with your off hand and applying slight downward pressure. For maximum accuracy, lock the front fork in place by tightening the fluted knob.
Lead Sled Plus
I have been a fan of Caldwell’s Lead Sled for several years. It’s a rugged device that works simply by cradling a rifle with a rigid, padded, metal rear piece that holds the rifle’s butt. I usually place 20 pounds of lead weights to the cradle, which essentially adds that much weight to the weight of the rifle in regard to absorbing recoil energy. An adjustable front rest can be raised via a heavy screw that locks in place.
I have fired several thousand heavyweight magnum 12-gauge turkey loads from lightweight shotguns, and I take far less punishment when using a Lead Sled. Recoil is recoil, whether you are shooting a rifle or shotgun. One of the weaknesses of the original Lead Sled was that it worked poorly with rifles employing high-capacity magazines. The bottom of the magazine would come into contact with the center of the rest and throw the gun off-kilter. Caldwell’s answer is their new DFT (Dual Frame Technology) rifle rest, which incorporates twin support bars that ride along the sides of an extended magazine.
Caldwell didn’t stop there. The Lead Sled Plus is their next-generation recoil-absorbing rest. Like the original, the Lead Sled Plus reduces recoil by up to 95 percent while securely keeping your gun on target. Several key improvements include a newly designed precision elevation shaft, which eliminates wobble and play, keeping you on target, and a re-designed universal weight tray. The new tray adjusts to accommodate a variety of weight types, including 25-pound barbell weights, sand bags or lead shot bags. This new model holds two 25-pound barbell weights or 100 pounds of bagged lead shot. Non-marring rubber feet keep your bench in good shape and additional position adjustments can be accomplished using an adjustable-height rear foot. A filled front rest bag is included, along with a padded rear rest. This device is made from durable, powder-coated steel, so it will last a long time. It measures 12 inches wide and 27 inches long.
Shooter’s Ridge Zero Kick
The Shooter’s Ridge (An ATK/Blackhawk company) Zero Kick rifle rest utilizes front and rear sandbags, which gives the device a traditional bench-rest feel. A large center tray supports whatever low-profile weight you might have at hand—sandbags, perhaps, or a weight plate. A rear recoil strap grips the butt of the gun, absorbing the jerk delivered by firing. The Zero Kick, now only available on the used market, also features elevation adjustments front and rear. Constructed from aluminum, the rest weighs a hefty 16 pounds without additional weights.
Blackhawk Sportster Titan FXS
Like the Zero Kick, the Blackhawk Sportster Titan FXS features a padded front bag for bench rest-style shot support. Rather than using a sling, however, the Titan includes a fairly plush padded rear rest, into which the rifle butt can be slotted. An assemblage of durable cast-aluminum- and steel-made parts, the Titan contains a removable center tray designed to accommodate magazine-fed rifles. Designed for ambidextrous use, the Titan can be adjusted for elevation up to 2.25 inches and for windage up to 1.33 inches. A set of adjustable steel feet, with removable polymer covers, protects the bench surface. The Titan retails for $180.
There you have it, a good handful of new “bench best bets” that can help you wring the most out of your rifles. Which one you choose will depend on price preferences and your personal shooting needs. This you can take to the bank: any one of them can make you a better rifleman and hunter, because as your bench accuracy improves, so will your confidence afield. Hopefully we’ve helped you combat future bouts of flinchitis…buck fever is a whole other affliction we’ll deal with in a future column.