Are bipods worth the weight of mountain hunts?

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Shooting aids like bipods undeniably help a hunter build a stronger shooting position when they can be used, but are they really worth the weight in the mountains? I’ve hunted Dall’s Sheep for many years, and there’s a dichotomy that every mountain hunter must constantly balance – between useful gear and the weight of that gear. A hunter should choose gear that will help them be effective in the field, but also keep their backpack from becoming too heavy.

Weight vs performance

If there’s one word or theme that represents the whole genre of mountain hunting – think sheep and goats – it’s “ultralight”. Highland hunters often have to carry everything on their backs for miles over rough terrain. Even then, this is usually only the beginning. On many sheep hunts, I had to walk for two whole days just to get to where I wanted to start hunting. Everything you need must come with you. Your rifle and hunting gear, as well as camping gear and food. If you’re lucky, you’ll need to add even more weight for the trip. Do that and you’ll quickly find out why hunters talk about cutting off their toothbrush handles.

There are certain pieces of gear that are non-tradable, and sometimes those aren’t the lightest items. Things like spotting scopes, tripods, shelters, sleep systems, and guns eat up a lot of your weight allowance. With something like a tripod, you can choose an ultra-minimalist design like the Red Mountain Gear Vari-Leg Legs system – which is truly ultralight – but it won’t be as convenient or forgiving as a heavier tripod. For each piece of gear, you have to decide if it’s worth the weight.

A bipod gives you stability and confidence on long cross-canyon shots like this. Tyler Freel

The bipod compromise

A bipod is arguably optional for mountain hunting. Minimalist mountain hunters usually won’t bring this, but does the weight penalty of the bipod really outweigh the benefits? Traditional wisdom holds that a hunter of sheep or goats simply uses his bag or bag frame for a shooting rest. This often works well enough, but is “good enough” the best we can do? Usually, no.

The biggest downside to bringing a bipod or other dedicated shooting aid is that you can carry it all over the map, never to use it. It can certainly happen, but when you get the chance to deploy it, you’ll have a more stable and confident rest than a backpack. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of situations where resting your rifle on a backpack will still result in a successful shot. But stability and confidence are priceless in the mountains.

How likely are you to use a bipod in the mountains? Well, in almost 20 years of sheep hunting, I’ve killed 14 rams, seven of them with a bipod. I also killed my three mountain goats using a bipod. Additionally, I killed three rams by laying my rifle directly on a rock, two in improvised positions (sitting), one using a tripod as a rest, and only one while resting on a backpack. In alpine country, chances are you can use a bipod when a shot comes your way.

Mountain hunting bipods

Like all other facets of mountain hunting equipment, there is an array of good bipods on the market. Each design has its own advantages and disadvantages. A bipod is a specialized piece of equipment, meant to shine in a single moment of the hunt. Look for a bipod that balances weight, stability, and ease of use.

Spartan Precision Pro Hunt TAC

The Pro Hunt TAC Bipod from Spartan Precision Equipment leads the pack in ultralight, mountain-oriented bipods. The Pro Hunt Tac has adjustable and interchangeable spring-loaded carbon fiber legs. It features cant and traverse functions, which add to its versatility. Even better, mine weighs only 7.6 ounces. More minimalist versions like the Javelin Lite or standard Javelin bipods are similar, great options.

Spartan Precision Pro Hunt TAC Bipod
Spartan Precision Bipods are lightweight, versatile and pair well with ultralight rifles like this Christensen Arms Ridgeline Titanium in .308 Win. Tyler Freel

Spartan Precision Equipment brought them to the scene a few years ago and instantly found favor with mountain hunters. The bipods are simple and feature carbon fiber legs, carbide studs on the end, and a magnetic mounting system that allows the user to carry the bipod in a pocket or pouch and then snap it into place instantly in the receiver on the butt of the rifle. Standard bipod receivers are mounted externally and permanent sockets can be installed by a gunsmith.

These bipods have been rolling around in my cargo pocket for a few years now, and I have no intention of changing. They strike a good balance between minimalism and performance.

Harris HBRM1A2

If a bipod is a control group or reference point, it’s a Harris. Simple, proven and effective, the Harris HBRM1A2 and similar models set the standard for affordable and reliable bipods. I have used a Harris bipod on my sheep gun for many years. I initially wore the bipod on the rifle the entire hunt, but started carrying it around in my backpack, only setting it up when I was on a rod, which worked well.

The Harris I’ve worn on many sheep hunts weighs 11.3 ounces and has legs that adjust from 6 to 12 inches. The legs are smooth, independently adjustable and lockable by extending and tightening an adjustment screw knob which is on each leg. Harris bipods are sturdy and reliable, but you’ll probably want to hose them down with WD-40 if you don’t like rusty patinas.

Harris Bipod on a Winchester Model 70 Featherweight
The venerable Harris bipod on a featherweight Winchester M70 in .270 Win. Tyler Freel

Magpul Bipods

Magpul introduced its own bipod not so long ago, and the Magpul bipod is sturdy and easy to use. It is an injection molded aluminum and polymer profiled bipod. There are two different models that allow for either sling swivel stud or rail mounting. They are also compatible with most Atlas Bipod feet.

Magpul’s bipod is sturdy and simple to attach to the rifle and use. It’s easy to open the legs in the locked position and a push button allows you to fold them down. Both legs are adjustable in length from 7 1/4 to 10 ½ inches. The legs are notched and adjustable in length by pressing a button and pulling the leg into the desired position, where it will securely click into the desired notch. It is very comfortable to load and shoot.

Magpul Bipod on Remington M700 Custom Mountain Rifle
The Magpul bipod is sturdy and fits well on this custom Remington M700 in the Wildcat “.27 O’Connor” cartridge. Tyler Freel

My Magpul bipod weighs 13.1 ounces, but I would trust it even on a heavy rifle. Magpul’s new polymer MOE Bipod forgoes aluminum and weighs just over 8 ounces. The Magpul website claims this is the strongest bipod in their line and is very affordable at $72. I haven’t used one yet (my experience is with aluminum/polymer models), but at this price it’s definitely worth it, even for the skeptical mountain hunter.

Shooting bags

Under certain circumstances, a small shooting bag like the Pint-sized game changer filled with Git-Lite could be a realistic and useful shooting aid to take into the mountains, even in place of a bipod. Full disclosure – I haven’t packed one for a sheep hunt yet, but I’m sold on its merits.

Outdoor Life Shooting editor John B. Snow has extensive field shooting experience with game-changing bags and lists them as his favorite field accuracy aid. They can be installed on tripods or any other surface to improve the stability of your position. It’s something else you have to wear, but what does a strong, confident stance mean to you? You can reduce the weight of these bags with the Git-Lite filler, and maybe it can serve as a support under the coat you’re using for a pillow, which is one more use than a bipod will provide.

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When considering a shooting bag, many hunters will likely revert to the default “backpack rest”. However, a small bag would be much more versatile as a shooting aid. Looking at my own stats over the years, I’ve shot three rams by setting my rifle directly on a rock and another on a tripod – all four shooting positions would have been vastly improved using a small shooting bag. As I mentioned earlier, in almost 20 years of practice I have only killed one ram using a backpack as a rest.

Bipod or bag – Bring something

Ultimately each hunter has to decide what is best for them, but I think bringing a bipod, bag or other specific shooting support and the stability and confidence it brings , worth it. It’s up to you to draw the line between useful and excessive and decide which tools will be most useful to you.

The timing of the shot is just a sliver of everything that goes into a mountain hunt, but on which all your efforts rest. When you’ve done all the work to get in position for a shot, you owe it to yourself and your career to bring what you need to confidently take that shot.

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