I am working with a prototype shooting tripod from Nightforce that is very interesting. The small tripod is made expressely for this purpose, it is not a re-hashed camera tripod. Quality, design and construction are what you would expect from Nighforce - first rate. The tripod is intended for tactical shooters (as in snipers) and for serious long range hunters (as in us guys).
The steel tripod is very light, probably a couple of pounds and it is very quick to deploy in the field. It is fully adjustable, including a rotating ball-head complete with extremely sensitive vertical adjustments.
The legs are adjustable for spread angle and also length. Circular steel pads that pivot almost 360 degrees are on the end of each leg so they will sit flat on virtually any shaped surface. Three hardened steel tips protrude from the pads so that they will not slide.
The cradle is a simple three-piece hard rubber setup that is composed of a basepiece and two sidepieces. The sides are fully adjustable to fit the forend of the rifle. The rubber is very hard and it is bolted to the head, it is not going to shoot loose. The entire head is simple and very strong.
Main features are:
..the fully rotating ball head
..the fact that the ball head also adjusts upward with great precision
..the excellent versatility of the three-piece head that will accomodate virtually any rifle forend
..the ease with which the legs can be opened and spread adjusted
..the fact that each leg will sit flat, regardless of where it happens to sit
..the beautiful, rugged construction
So far I have been able to shoot 3/4" - 1 1/4" inch groups at 100 yards from sitting using a rifle that will shoot 1/2" from the bench. From prone I shot a little better but not as good as I shot with a Harris as the Harris enabled me to get down into the extremely low prone position being taught at the tactical schools. The tripod is a little higher, necessitating my elbows being closer together and the position was not as solid.
I am confident that there is a learning curve that must take place so I intend to track the improvement in my groups as I become more familiar with the tripod. Most shooting will be from sitting, at distances to be determined.
I also have a lot of shooting to do to determine where best to place the forend (ballance point or farther forward?) and to try different shooting positions including elbows on knees and even the use of a second forked rest under the toe of the butt.
I can see this tripod being great for varminting, particularly if the grass is up a bit and one cannot shoot from prone. I would also consider carrying it on a big game hunt if I was hunched in a location and waiting for the critter to show. - although it is not very heavy it would probably be a pain to carry much. I might use it on an upcoming Quebec caribou hunt where long shots are going to be the order of the day.
Like Nightforce scopes, this tripod is not for everybody - it is not cheap. It is built as well as any photo tripod on the market. I have some top quality French and Swiss photo gear and this tripod is as well built and sturdy. You generally get what you pay for and this tripod is no exception - it is very well thoughtout and superbly built.
I intend to let some tactical guys (SWAT snipers) shoot it to get their opinions as their use will be much different than my gopher popping.
Anyone interested in more info can contact Nightforce. I will also try to answer any questions if there are any.
I am interested in this topic. Over the last couple years I have tried to either purchase or build a rest for such a purpose. I'll email you a picture of what I have tried as a support for the rear of the stock when such a tripod rest is used. It is made of a lightened photo tripod with a small "V" shaped rest cannibalized from a Stoney Point thingy.
I also bought one of Hart's "Ultimate Tripod's". Very high quality but heavy at 14 pounds. I lightened it some by changing to a surveyor's aluminum tripod.
I also built a simple yoke to atttach to a high quality $250 Arca Swiss photo ballhead and a Leonard Rue Groofwin. This I have used from my 25 foot-high whitetail stand with its plywood shooting bench surface. Since then I have switched to sand bags, front and rear. Shot my doe at 513 yards last fall from there with the bag setup.
Dave King has encouraged me to find ways in the field to somehow get down into prone-Harris position so I have shifted my focus somewhat since my attempts to find the ultimate sitting-position field rest.
This week I am shooting my newly remodeled rifle, 7 Dakota, from prone-Harris. I put a new carbon barrel on it from Christensen Arms and had John Geiges then accurize it including a new McMillan stock. I find I can hold almost my own personal benchrest numbers in vertical group size this way. About 1/2 moa or so, vertical, out to 800 yards. I use a sand sock as he suggested.
I mentioned the height situation to Nightforce and they are interested in considering a modification to enable shooting from a lower prone position. Of course the Harris is the primary tool for low-prone but there are some advantages to the Nightforce design also. I am just starting to photograph the rig, I will send you a scan or two as I have no idea how to post it to this site.
I always place a piece of rubber-backed carpet under my Harris legs when I shoot from our concrete benches, some rifles just do not like to shoot from Harris's and hard surfaces. We have a .257 WMag that sprays from the bench/Harris but shoots well over sandbags.
I fill my sandbags with plastic beads that I obtain from a hobby/craft shop. Since beanie-babies became such a big thing the beads are very common in such shops. Same goes for the sandsocks. No dust and they don't hold any moisture, plus they are a nice consistency to shoot from. Total pain in the butt to get into the bags but you only do it once.
We are going to test a couple of rear rests, the thing must be field-portable so I expect that my trusty Underwood shooting sticks will do the job. I don't go on any hunt without my Underwood shooting sticks - they have worked perfectly on many trips from the sub-arctic to south Texas.
Shooting from this type of field rest has an interesting learning curve - most guys do not shoot well from field positions with a Harris, Snipe-pod, Underwoods or Stoney Points until the third or fourth groups are fired. One would think that the Harris is the easiest but not so from the shooting tests that I did last summer with a bunch of guys. Like you, I prefer to have something supporting the toe as well as the fore-end.
By the way, we also shoot a lot over backpacks, depending on the hunt. I have an old fleece pack from Cabela's that makes a great field rest.
IanM,I have a suggestion for you.I use the Underwood shooting sticks with a seat that I bought at Eastern Mountain Sports called a TRAVEL Chair.Its like a ground seat that supports your back.You can actually lean back into it while your butt is on the ground.You can hunker down into this seat with your gun on the sticks and get very steady while having a line of sight over the weeds.Kind of like a shooting coat for your backside.Ive had pretty good luck with it on chucks.besafe
Only accurate rifles are interesting.
Thanks for the suggestion, I will try to locate one of those seats. I believe that I know what you are using, just haven't used one.
The shooting tripod is MUCH more stable when you have support under the rear of the rifle butt, so I have been placing two sections of my Underwood vertically just in front of your shoulder on the underside of the stock. I also found a neat monopod from Stoney Point that has a "Y" shaped yoke on top that works well.
Like you I am a user of Underwoods - wouldn't hunt without them.