The HOG Saddle represents a new kind of shooting rest that has entered the market, made for extreme precision. It was designed by Josh Stabler, a Marine Scout Sniper and Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, who knows a thing or two about demanding field conditions and surgically precise shooting. When Josh was a scout sniper in Iraq, they came up with all kinds of homemade rifle rests to help them get a steady shot when the location didn’t allow them to layout prone (like the one shown below). In fact, Josh said in his experience the majority of shots can’t be taken from prone in the real world.
Josh set out to design a rifle rest tailored to the special operations and law enforcement community, and provide his fellow snipers a better solution than the homemade contraptions they’ve had to resort to using in the past. His goal was to construct a shooting platform that was extremely rugged, lightweight, portable, and versatile enough to be used with just about any rifle and tripod … and made in the USA.
Josh made the first HOG Saddle in 2006, and he’s been relentlessly improving on his original design ever since. Like most great American businesses, the operation started in his garage but there are now HOG Saddles in use around the world. Apparently, the military loved the product, because this past year Josh’s company, Shadow Tech, was awarded a contract so the HOG Saddle is standard issue with every M40A5 sniper rifle. It is now used by elite shooters in virtually every branch of the military and most government agencies. Here are a few that I was able to jot down as Josh rattled them off:
The ¼” thick urethane pads are specifically engineered to absorb rifle recoil and reduce muzzle jump. These pads help stop the transfer of vibration to the tripod, and allow you to get back on target quicker than other types of mounts like those that mount via a picatinny rail. The picatinny rail mounts are also a hard-on-hard contact, while a hard-and-soft contact like that provided by the HOG Saddle is preferred. The pads are recessed in the body to be more compact, and are UV resistant for a long life.
The HOG Saddle opens up to 2.57” wide and can close to 1.55”, which can accommodate just about any rifle. It features retention button screw that prevents accidental disassembly in the field.
It works with most tripods using standard 1/4-20 threads, but it also provides 3/8-16 backup threads, which allows you to mount the HOG Saddle directly to many tripods without the need of a tripod head. That is designed as a backup feature, in case your tripod head malfunctions in the field, but running the HOG Saddle without a tripod head can reduce the overall weight of your kit and increase stability in some scenarios. Josh said some operators prefer to run the HOG Saddle directly mounted on a tripod, although it isn’t as easily maneuverable.
Remember one of the goals for the HOG Saddle was ruggedness, which is why it is extremely corrosion resistant. The aluminum body features a hard anodized finish, which is a tough surface that can also serve as an excellent base coat for custom camouflage paint. The stainless steel bolt and guide rods have a black oxide finish.
Honestly, it feels like the most demanding and OCD engineer designed this thing. As an engineer myself, I can appreciate that. You know that feeling you get when you pick up a Surgeon or GAP rifle, or maybe when you hold a pair of Vectronix or Leica rangefinders? You can instantly sense the quality of these products. The bolt function is almost too smooth, the optical quality seems better than reality. The HOG Saddle gives me that same feeling. It is really, really well thought out and flawlessly executed.
HOG Saddle vs. PIG Saddle
Shadow Tech recently started producing another model of tripod mounts called the PIG Saddle. Essentially the HOG Saddle is their flagship product, and the Pig Saddle is a more affordable alternative. Josh explained it to me like this:
When you open the door to your gun safe, you might see a few rifle designs. Maybe one is a custom bolt action rifle like those made by Surgeon or GAP, which was made to extremely tight tolerances with the most advanced machines. You also might have a factory Remington 700, which is one of the most popular and proven rifle designs every produced. The Remington 700 is still a very capable rifle, its durability is legendary, and because of the low production cost, the 700 is a great value. Neither is a bad product, they are just different products designed with different audiences in mind.
The HOG Saddle is essentially your CNC-machined precision instrument, and the PIG saddle is your Remington 700 that just works and doesn’t cost a fortune. Would you expect a factory Remington 700 rifle to outshoot a GAP or Surgeon precision rifle? Probably not. And likewise, the PIG Saddle isn’t as stable as the HOG Saddle either. But you pay for the extra machining and uncompromising design that makes the HOG Saddle more rigid. However, not everyone is in the market for a $330 tripod mount … so after many requests from the community, Josh came out with the PIG saddle. The PIG Saddle sells for $135, which is 60% less than the HOG Saddle.
So if the HOG Saddle has an “uncompromising design,” where did they compromise on the PIG Saddle? Most of the answer is in the fundamental design. There are a lot of elements of the HOG Saddle that are difficult to manufacturer. Shadow Tech simply designed the PIG Saddle to have less of those elements, which reduces the production cost. Here are a few of the major differences:
|Feature||PIG Saddle||HOG Saddle|
|Material||Stamped Steel||CNC’ed from solid block of aluminum|
|Max Open Width (inches)||3.00||2.57|
|Min Closed Width (inches)||1.41||1.55|
|Rigidity||Some deflection (shown in photo later)||Very solid, no deflection during testing|
|Torque Knob||Heavy duty polymer||CNC’ed, includes retention button screw to prevent accidental disassembly|
|Primary Finish||Powder coated||Hard anodized|
|Bolt & Rod||Mild steel||Stainless steel with black oxide finish|
|Pads||1/4″ urethane||1/4″ urethane|
|Threads||1/4-20 & 3/8-16||1/4-20 & 3/8-16|
|Made in USA||Yes||Yes|
The PIG Saddle can open wider and close tighter than HOG Saddle. The PIG Saddle’s range is 1.41 to 3.0 inches, while the HOG Saddle’s range is 1.55 to 2.57 inches. One reason some guys opt for the PIG Saddle is that it can work with a wider variety of stocks. There are a few skinnier stocks that may work using a PIG Saddle, but the HOG Saddle wouldn’t be able to clamp down tight enough on them. Likewise, there may be some stocks where the forend is wider than 2.57 inches, so they wouldn’t work with the HOG Saddle, but might with the PIG Saddle if they’re less than 3 inches. Josh said he considered modifying the design of the HOG Saddle to accommodate this larger range of stock widths, but it would force him to make some concessions on the rigidity of the mount. He thought that wasn’t a good trade-off just to be able to support these edge cases. Most tactical rifles work great with the HOG Saddle, but this is something to consider when choosing between the two designs.
Just How Stable Is It?
Some Navy SEAL’s have reported confirmed hits out to 800 meters standing while using the HOG Saddle. Also a few Marine Corp Scout Snipers have reported hits out to 1200 meters, both sitting and standing. But is it as steady as prone? If you’re standing … no. But if you’re sitting or kneeling and use good positional shooting techniques, you may get pretty close. But remember the HOG Saddle tagline: “A shot is rarely taken from the prone.”
I wanted to try to objectively quantify how stable the HOG Saddle and PIG Saddle were compared other setups. I had to be a little creative here, because I wanted to ensure the EXACT amount of torque was applied in the EXACT same way on every rifle setup. What I came up with a rough “field test” that essentially applies a fixed amount of torque to a rifle in a precise way, and then I recorded exactly how much it caused the rifle’s point of impact to move for each setup. Make sense? It really isn’t any more complicated than that.
Keep in mind that the amount of torque applied in the tests was extreme, and was selected to see how far these rifle rests could be pushed.I recorded the effect of applying both 1 and 2 pounds of force straight down from the butt of the rifle (23.5 and 47 inch-pounds of torque respectively). This is likely more than a shooter would naturally apply in most scenarios. Testing these extreme values made it easier to more precisely measure the effective displacements, which would still be present to the same degree at a more moderate amount of force.
I tested several different configurations, to see how the HOG Saddle & PIG Saddle performed. I also wanted to see how they compared to the popular Bog-Pod tripod with their Xtreme Shooting Rest. Here are the setups I tested:
- HOG Saddle on Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod with Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head
- HOG Saddle directly attached to Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod without a head
- PIG Saddle on Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod with Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball Head
- PIG Saddle directly attached to Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod without a head
- Bog-Pod CLD Tall Tripod with their XSR Xtreme Shooting Rest
- HOG Saddle on lightweight tripod (Nikon Compact Camo Tripod)
Before we get to the results, I have a confession. Honestly, after testing all these different configurations … I was disappointed, because none of these setups were as solid as I’d hoped. But, I remembered Josh had shown me a couple sling techniques at SHOT Show. The sling can provide another point of tension, and make the rifle even more solid. Here are some photos I snapped of Josh demonstrating the two techniques.
When I tried the sling technique, I was amazed. That small tweak completely stiffened up the whole setup, and alleviated the tiny amount of play that remained.
The tests showed an average of 55% more stability when using the sling technique over the same exact setup without it.
The tests showed that the sling techniques increased stability by 36% on average when the HOG Saddle was directly mounted to the tripod without a head, and an amazing 75% on average when using a HOG Saddle with a ball head. Because the ball head setup has more moving parts (connection between the tripod and head, plus the Manfrotto Quick Release System), the sling had more things to tighten up in that scenario than the direct mount … so there was twice the benefit.
So here are the results of all the different setups I tested. Once again, keep in mind that I used an extreme amount of torque in my tests to really push the mounts to their limits. However, you could reasonably expect the same relative degree of displacement among the mounts at smaller values.
You can see the HOG Saddle definitely outperformed the rest of the pack, but the PIG Saddle is no slouch either. If you are looking for the ultimate in precision, the HOG Saddle is clearly your ticket.
Grading the Bog-Pod setup was tricky, because it had just over 1.5° of “free play,” which is a lot (equates to 8 foot of displacement at 100 yards). You can see what I’m referring to in the video below. But when the mounted rifle was at rest, the butt of the rifle was at the bottom of that “free play,” so when I added the additional weight it was only moved the rifle a little more from that point. You could make an argument that it should have scored far worse, which is why I added a disclaimer on the chart. But from a completely scientific approach, the results shown reflect what really happened in the test.
When running the tests, I did notice that the PIG Saddle showed some signs of deflection when it was torqued down tight on the rifle (pictured below). This is because the design of the PIG Saddle isn’t as rigid as the HOG Saddle.
Importance of the Tripod
When I talked to Josh about testing the HOG Saddle, one of his first questions was about the tripod I was planning to be use. In the past, he had a few guys try to use them on cheap or lightweight tripods and they didn’t get the results he knew the HOG Saddle was capable of.
Based on his recommendation, I bought a Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod with a Manfrotto 054 Magnesium Ball head. This is certainly a solid setup, and what many Special Forces teams are using. But I wanted to see just how much the tripod played into the equation, so I also mounted the HOG Saddle on my leightweight Nikon Compact tripod. That actually turned out to be the poorest performer out of every setup. In fact, when I tried to apply the 2 pound weight to the rifle the whole head pivoted and would’ve dropped the rifle if I wouldn’t have caught it.
One downside to the Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod is it is very heavy, weighing in at 6.7 pounds with the 054 ball head (5.4 lbs. without a head). Luckily, the HOG Saddle only adds 15.8 ounces to that, but a 7.7 pound tripod setup may be more weight than may be practical for some applications. If you already are carrying a tripod in your kit, then adding less than a pound more to it for the HOG Saddle is an easy decision. Also, Manfrotto does make a carbon fiber version of that tripod, which will lighten it by 1.8 pounds over the Aluminum version I used. However, Josh said in his experience the carbon fiber tripods aren’t quite as durable, and may get hairline fractures in them that you don’t notice until the pivotal moment comes that you’re needing to take a shot.
My Experience in the Field
I fired several groups at 100 yards using the HOG Saddle while standing. I was using a custom rifle capable of ½ MOA accuracy. These were all done with one of the sling technique that Josh demonstrated, and the Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod. Honest to God, the first bullet I fired off the HOG Saddle drilled the X ring on a small 4” target (see photo below), but that may have been luck. For the entire day, my average group size for shots fired standing was 2.6 MOA. I was much more stable knelling or sitting. Shooting from a solid standing position was a completely new experience for me, and I’m sure you could tighten that up considerably with practice.
As I mentioned before, some USMC Scout Snipers have reported confirmed hits out to 1200 meters standing while using the HOG Saddle … so you can get really accurate with this same exact setup with practice.
Other Shooting Positions
The HOG Saddle opens up a whole new variety of viable shooting positions for long-range shots. A lot of times, standing is what is demonstrated, because it is the extreme case and a somewhat foreign idea before the HOG Saddle. But, Josh says most shots are fired off the HOG Saddle are usually made sitting or kneeling. Here are a few other photos showing the HOG Saddle in use. The first is a very solid sitting position, with the elbow supported on the knee. You can also add a backpack between your stomach and your thighs, which allows you to lay your torso over it and relax your muscles. You can fire some bug hole groups from that position.
If you’re looking for a very solid rifle rest that is still portable … the HOG Saddle is the best I’ve seen on the market. You can quickly tell that every detail of the HOG Saddle has been carefully thought out, and no expense was spared in its design and production.
The PIG Saddle is also a great option for those on a budget, and it provides a lot of the same benefits that you’d get from the HOG Saddle like the ¼” thick urethane pads, and similar one-handed operation. But after using both side-by-side, I’d personally recommend saving up a little longer and purchasing a HOG Saddle. The HOG Saddle is just a remarkable piece of engineering. “Buy once, cry once” … right?
Here is a cool video I thought I’d share showing a MARSOC Scout Sniper doing an ammo dump with full-auto SCAR 5.56 from a HOG Saddle:
To learn more or purchase a HOG Saddle or a PIG Saddle, visit HOGSaddle.com.