Whether you are a bench rest competitor or a hunter, as I am, the goal is universal: to obtain the highest level of accuracy possible while shooting from the bench.
I think it is a given that your bench or table needs to be rock solid to achieve maximum accuracy results. So, aside from individual shooting technique, I believe that a robust rest is the most important part of getting the most out of your rifle and chosen ammunition. I have tried many different types of rests over the years that range from homemade sandbags and couch cushions, to commercially available front rests and bag sets. For a long time I never wanted to spend a lot of money and figured I could come up with a rest system on my own that would give me the same results as the more expensive sets. Until recently, my favorite setup has been the Caldwell Tack Driver fore-end bag with a homemade rear bag for stability and adjustment.
A couple of months ago I was presented with an opportunity to try out the new “Fire Control” full-length rest from Caldwell. I was excited, to say the least. I thought this would be the first time I would have the chance to compare my relatively low budget setup with some high quality, cutting edge shooting technology.
The following paragraphs contain a breakdown of my full review. It is divided into categories I think are important for product success. I have graded each relative to my personal feeling as to whether it is Excellent, Good, or Sufficient. I am a strong believer in the theory behind continuous improvement, so I have also added what I think could be possible improvements for each of the categories.
I. Packaging/Presentation — Excellent
Review: As received, the box itself was worth a study before reaching for my pocket knife to open it. There are very good full color photos that show the rest fully assembled from different perspectives and diagrams that illustrate how the adjustment mechanisms work. I opened the box to find that the rear portion of the rest was already assembled … I assume for proper alignment of the tubes. The front base and adjustment mechanism also were assembled. All other parts were contained in a sealed bag. The assembly and use instructions are well laid out with illustrations and individual part descriptions. They are very easy to read and understand. And, even though there is very minimal assembly required, the instructions are very well detailed, right down to suggested maintenance and lubrication points. Caldwell even included the required allen wrenches in the parts bag, so no tools were needed at all unless you want the fore-end stop more than finger tight. Then you would need either an adjustable wrench or half-inch wrench. It took longer to read through the instructions than it did to assemble the rest and have it ready to take to the range. All total, I had just under half an hour into assembly.
Possible improvements: Because of the apparent ease of assembly once the rest is unpacked, one may have a tendency to skip reading the instructions and go right to assembly. However, unless the directions are read through thoroughly, the user may not know that there are friction adjustments that can be made to both the coarse elevation and the control arm. I would suggest a tag or sticker be placed close to each area that flags the user’s attention to let him know there are adjustments that can be made.