II. Overall Design — Good
Review: All of the components seem to be well-built from sturdy materials like steel and/or heavy aluminum. Plastic has been incorporated where it makes sense (in my opinion) for knobs, adjusters, etc. This is a very solid feeling rest with some good weight to it for stability on the bench. There are three separate stainless steel adjustment feet that are spiked on the bottom with knurled locking nuts for quick and easy leveling adjustment. This type of adjustment foot allows for quick adjustments and a solid feel on any type of surface (concrete, wood, carpet, etc.). I have used the rest mounted on bare wood, as well as a carpeted surface, with very consistent results. The fore-end rest has screw-in clamps on the outside of the bag so you can adjust the width of the bag to fit a particular stock snugly. The rear rest is shaped into a deep V to accept the rear of the stock and hold it firmly. Even with a featherweight rifle, the cross hairs don’t jump at all when I dry fire. The fore-end stop allows you to return the rifle to the same position relative to the rest before each shot. Though I have used the rest only with rifles that have narrow to medium fore-ends, the extra three-lobe bag gives you the option to set up correctly for target guns with wide fore-ends. The bags are high quality and are made from durable materials. I have several Caldwell bags that have held up well over the years. The tolerances are tight and adjustment mechanisms work very smoothly. The fine tune adjustment stops and holds dead on where you leave it, provided that you have the friction adjustment set correctly. The internals are well protected with seals and a rubber boot.
Possible improvements: Even with the fore-end clamped firmly in the front rest, I noticed that slight movements on my part resulted in lateral movement of the cross hairs on the target prior to pulling the trigger. To remedy this, I cut a piece of rawhide and placed it in between the rear rest and the rifle stock. This helped grip the rear stock better than the plastic insert and significantly reduced the amount of lateral movement that I was seeing. I would suggest a rear rest that incorporates either a soft liner or an inner “bag” to help grip the rear of the stock a little better than the current design. I also noticed that once my rest was fully assembled, the front adjustment mechanism was not quite square with the base and rear rest. A quick adjustment revealed to me that once the retaining bolt was loosened, the mechanism was free to rotate about the base. This makes squaring up the mechanism difficult while tightening the bolt. I would suggest a machined keyway in the base with a lug on the adjustment rack to mechanically lock the adjustment mechanism at the correct angle relative to the base. One last drawback, though minor, is that the control arm itself is able to rotate freely about its own axis. I did not disassemble the internals to investigate a solution, but I wonder if there couldn’t be some sort of lock rib or key that could be incorporated to prevent the rotation of the control arm without hindering the movement of the adjustment mechanism.
III. Aesthetics/Ergonomics — Sufficient
Review: I have to say that this is a very modern looking piece of shooting equipment. It has very nice lines with some high tech gadgetry. The finish appears to be a durable powder coat in the typical Caldwell colors. It is a treat for the eyes after seeing some other rests on the market that bear a striking resemblance to some of the contraptions that I have built in my garage with a wire welder, sawzall, and hand grinder. However, just because something looks good doesn’t automatically make it work well. I am used to using bags that are relatively low to the bench. It was a little bit of an adjustment to get used to the higher stance of this rest. Even with the adjustment feet screwed all the way in, it was still a little too high for me. After making some slight adjustments in my seating position and pulling the rifle back on the rest, I did manage to get the rear of the stock to pocket into my shoulder correctly. Although not terribly important, with a shorter rifle this left the end of the fore-end well away from the stop stud. Once I had myself adjusted properly, I was able to get settled with a good hold on the rifle, head up, and was able to squeeze the trigger comfortably. Now that I have developed a comfortable stance with the rest, all of my rifles seem to catch the front bag right on the swivel stud. I like to have my front bag back farther than that. There are three reasons that I do this: 1. I like to get the bag back farther to rest on a little thicker portion of the stock; 2. I think the farther back the bag is on the stock (within reason), the better weight balance and stability there is; 3. I like to keep the swivel stud away from the front bag so I don’t tear up the bag during recoil.