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Shooting Bags – What The Pros Use

A flood of shooting bags have enter the market over the past 5 years. Honestly, this could be one of the fastest changing aspects in the sport of precision rifles. We’ve clearly departed from sand-filled tube socks! These are no longer just squeeze bags under the butt of the rifle, they’re now helping shooters build more stable shooting positions. It’s clear how dramatically they’ve impacted the sport when you watch several guys struggle on a stage, only to see the last shooter clean it and make it look EASY, all because they’ve mastered the art of using bags.

I recently surveyed the top 100 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and this post reviews the shooting bags those élite shooters were using in 2015. The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically from 300 to 1200 yards. These world-class shooters represent the best of the best in terms of long-range shooting in field conditions. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are, or to view what other gear they’re running scroll to the bottom of this article.

This is one of several posts based on that gear survey of the top PRS shooters. Want to be the first to know when the next set of results is posted? Sign-up to receive new posts via email.

The Evolving Art of Shooting Bags

First, you should understand virtually all of these guys carry multiple shooting bags. There is no hard and fast rule on what size and style of bags the top shooters are using. The use of bags is a rapidly evolving art, so it changes every year. It wasn’t that long ago when everyone was just using an old sock filled with sand! In fact, very few of the top bags even existed 5 years ago, and new designs are coming out constantly as shooters dream up new ways to use them.

In general, it’s common to see competitors carry 2-3 different size bags. That may seem excessive, but having the right bag can make the difference between a rock-solid position where you clean a stage … or one where you’re wobbly/uncomfortable and miss a few targets. Each person may carry a different mix of sizes, but the more versatile the bag the better. Here are a few sizes and types of bags that are common in these types of competitions:

  • Small/medium handheld squeeze bag that is ideal to use under the butt of the rifle when shooting prone. You squeeze the bag or release your grip to make minor vertical adjustments to your point of aim. This bag may be attached to the sling or a flush cup on the butt of the rifle to keep it handy.
  • Medium barricade bag that can be attached to the rifle and used as a rest on top of barricades (sometimes attached with a strap around the scope or bipod, or attached with Velcro under the forend)
  • Large/XL pillow-type bag to help build a stable shooting position by filling large voids and increasing points of contact. Some feature elastic bands which allow the shooter to wear them for quick hands-free use.

Shooting Bags

The bags above just represent a few options. You’ll see a full array of sizes and uses at a match, with new bags coming out every month. But hopefully this helps you see the wide range of ways guys are employing bags out in the field.

Many guys also stack/combine bags in creative ways to build a shooting position, or even mix in their backpack as an XXL bag. I’ve watched a few of these top shooters make a tough stage look surprisingly simple. They’re masters at building stable shooting positions, and much of that comes down to the effective use of shooting bags.

Most Popular Shooting Bags

I asked the top 100 shooters “What brand is your favorite shooting bag?” The results are shown below. The different colors on the chart indicate where the shooters finished. A black bar represents shooters who finished in the top 10, the dark blue is shooters who finished 11-20, and so on. Darker colors represent shooters that finished closer to the top, where lighter colors are farther from the top … but all of them finished in the top 100, so they’re all outstanding shooters.

Best Shooting Bags

Wiebad shooting bags were on top again this year, with almost half of the shooters claiming them as their favorite shooting bag! Wiebad is a pioneer and innovator in this space, offering a range of bags to choose from. They’ve also worked closely with top competitors to make bags designed to their specs. Robert Badgett at Wiebad said these are their bestselling bags:

Wiebad Shooting Bags

I asked Robert if they were working on any new shooting bags, and he mentioned a couple of things. First, they’re working on new modular versions of their popular Tac Pad and Pump Pillow. This design allows the shooter to adjust the inner fill based on shooting positions and/or personal preference of tightness of the bag. Second, they’re developing a waterproof version of the Tac Pad and Pump Pillow that will also allow you to stuff it with clothes or other items you’d like to keep dry as a fill replacement.

Wiebad Modular Shooting Bag MTP

TAB Gear was the next most popular brand of shooting bag. This year TAB Gear took over production of the Str8 Laced Bag. Thank you, TAB Gear! That Str8 Laced bag is a great design, but before they were impossible to find in stock. TAB Gear has fixed that problem, and they’re now in stock all over. 10 shooters said their favorite bag was a TAB Gear bag, and 9 said it was the Str8 Laced Bag. When I saw they were now both under the TAB Gear brand, I decided to combine the results on the chart. Honestly, I’ve personally purchased most of the bags in this post, and the Str8 Laced Bag is definitely my favorite rear bag.

Str8 Laced Bag

Tab Gear Bag

Short Action Precision had the next most popular line of shooting bags. They make the SAP Run n’ Gun bag, which I’ve seen many shooters running this year. It is 7” x 4.5” x 3” and weighs just 6.5 ounces! It can be used as a rear bag or strapped on as a barricade bag. One side has a non-slip surface, and it also features a flush cup attachment. I bought the Run n’ Gun bag earlier this year … and it’s one I rarely leave at home. It’s a very versatile bag with just the right features. Well done on this one, SAP!

SAP Shooting Bag

5 shooters claimed Armageddon Gear as their favorite bag. Armageddon Gear offers a few different sizes of bags: The Brick Grippy Rear Bag, X-Wing Enhanced Rear Bag and Fat Bags.

Armageddon Gear Bag

Rifles Only’s FTW bag was also popular among this group of shooters.

FTW Bag

The Sage Flats Rear Bag was another popular shooting bag, with a few shooters claiming it as their favorite.

Sage Flats Bag

3 Gun Gear is the maker of the Tactical Shmooshie bag. Yes, that’s the real name of it. It’s a large pillow-type bag that is helpful for positional shooting.

3 Gun Gear Bag

Red Tac Gear was listed as another favorite. They offer the classic cylindrical squeeze bags.

Red Tac Bag

ESC Dynamic Gear is a new brand that just popped up on the radar, and while they weren’t represented in huge numbers … one of the top 5 shooters was using them. I went and checked them out and they’re offering some pretty cool bags. They actually have 3 sizes, which perfectly align with the 3 examples I gave at the start of this article: The Leech Rear bag, Bentham Barricade bag, and Large Shooting bag.

ESC Dynamic Bag

Finally, one shooter claimed the Shoot Zero Money Bags as their favorite. I saw these at a match earlier this year, and they seemed like great designs. They have 2 popular: Missionary (8”x6”x4”), and Big Bag (12”x10”x8”).

Shoot Zero Money Bag

Shoot Zero Money Big Bag

Other “What The Pros Use” Articles

This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:

Meet The Pros

You know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.

Watch PRS In ActionThe PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. These matches aren’t shot from a bench or even on a square range. They feature practical, real-world field conditions, and even some improvised barricades and obstacles to increase the difficulty from hard to you-have-to-be-kidding-me. You won’t be able to take all shots from a prone position, and time stressors keep you from getting to comfortable. Typical target ranges are from 300 to 1200 yards, but each PRS match has a unique personality with creative stages that challenge different aspects of precision shooting. You might start off the day with a single cold bore shot on a small target at 400 yards, then at the next stage make a 1400 yard shot through 3 distinct winds across a canyon, then try to hit a golf ball on a string at 164 yards with no backstop to help you spot misses (can’t make that up), then see how many times you can ring a small 6” target at 1000 yards in 30 seconds, next shoot off a roof top at 10”, 8”, and 6” targets at 600 yards, followed by a speed drill on 1” targets at 200 yards and repeated at 7 yards … plus 10 other stages, and then come back tomorrow and do some more! Many stages involve some type of gaming strategy, and physical fitness can also come into play. For a shooter to place well in multiple matches, they must be an extremely well-rounded shooter who is capable of getting rounds on target in virtually any circumstance.

There are about 15 national-level PRS matches each year. At the end of the year the match scores are evaluated and the top ranked shooters are invited to compete head-to-head in the PRS Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the championship, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 100 shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Wade Stuteville of Stuteville Precision, Jim See of Center Shot Rifles, Matt Parry of Parry Custom Gun, Aaron Roberts of Roberts Precision Rifles, shooters from the US Army Marksmanship Unit, and many other world-class shooters.

Think of the best shooter you know … it’s actually very unlikely that person is good enough to break into the top 100. I know I’m not! I competed against a few of these guys for the first time earlier this year, and I was humbled. It’s incredible what these guys can do with a rifle. For example, the match in Oklahoma I was in had a station that required you to engage 4 steel targets scattered at random distances from 300 to 800 yards, and you only had 15 seconds! I think I hit 2, and rushed my 3rd shot. I didn’t even get the 4th shot off! But, one of these guys cleaned that stage with 4 seconds to spare! Yep, he got 4 rounds on target at distance in 11 seconds. That’s the caliber of shooter we’re talking about. It’s very different from benchrest or F-class competitions, but make no mistake … these guys are serious marksmen.

Thanks to Rich Emmons for allowing me to share this info. To find out more about the PRS, check out What Is The Precision Rifle Series? or watch this video to see it in action.

About Cal

Cal Zant is the shooter/author behind PrecisionRifleBlog.com. Cal is a life-long learner, and loves to help others get into this sport he's so passionate about. Cal has an engineering background, unique data-driven approach, and the ability to present technical information in an unbiased and straight-forward fashion. For more info, check out PrecisionRifleBlog.com/About.

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16 comments

  1. I am new to the sport of long range precision shooting and have learned alot from reading your posts. Keep them coming! Any plans to share with us what DBMs the pros are using?

    • Hey, thanks CL! Good to know they’re helping. I didn’t ask about DBM’s on this year’s survey, but that may be something I ask if we do this again next year.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  2. Hi Carl
    What would you say is the wobble these shooters experience?

    • Great question, Nick. I’d just say it varies dramatically based on the stage and obstacles. If they’re standing offhand, I’d bet their wobble could be as much as 3-5 MOA. If they’re braced on a barricade, it would be better … and if they’re able to get prone it would be really solid. Here is a video where one of the top shooters, Chase “Pump” Stroud, talks through the use of bags in a couple shooting situations and he talks through the amount of wobble he is getting. Chase is the guy who came up with the Pump Pillow that Wiebad sells (see the connection now, “Pump” Pillow 😉 ), so he’s an expert is using it in the field. I think it’ll give you a better idea of what they’re seeing.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  3. I suppose this is where I really question the rules of the PRS and the nature of what constitutes “practical”. One thing you have not mentioned is the weight of the bags being carried but in Australia we have a simple rule – if you want to use it you have to carry it for the whole course of fire. This is stripping back gear being carried and causing competitors to review what is functional and what is the product of advertising.

    The example I would offer as an alternative to massed bags is our Sitting Supported and Bipod applications benefit more from a 3/4 inch dowel and hand on the butt (makes the tripod into a quad pod) and a hand and a shooting glove for bipod. Having an AI stock with an Accu-shot monopod helps a lot too.

    Long story short, many ways to skin a cat but not convinced the bags offer the best/quickest/most practical shooting solution.

    • Hey, Richard. I think our rules here sound about the same. These guys carry the bags all day … but they only weigh a few ounces each. Most of these are made from super-lightweight fill. Some are so light that they seem to defy physics. It’s like they’re filled with helium! 😉 My Str8 Laced bag weighs 6 ounces, and my Wiebad Tac Pad weighs 8 ounces. I typically carry both of those at matches, and just hang them off my backpack. Both combined would be less than 1 pound (less than 1/2 kg) … so it’s not like they’re heavy to lug around. They aren’t filled with sand like the old days! You don’t even notice they’re there, until you need to use them.

      I’m not saying your setup isn’t working. It sounds like it is. And these guys use bipod and tripod setups too. But shooting bags are just another set of tools to help them get rounds on target. They do carry their equipment all day … and this seems to be working rather well for them. You should give it a shot, or watch some of the videos of these guys in the field to see if there is anything you could pick up. It might compliment what you’ve already got going.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  4. Hi Cal,

    have you checked if anyone uses the most popular combo?

    6 mm Creedmoor
    Defiance Action
    26 inch Heavy Palma
    Jewel HVR Trigger
    Manners T6A
    APA Break
    Topped with a Vortex Razor HD Gen II

    Supported by a Weibad bag?

    • That’s a interesting question, Chris. I went and looked it up, and believe it or not there wasn’t. I didn’t even have to go very far down the list before it filtered everyone out. I thought about building a rifle like that though, just to show the stereotypical PRS rig. But I guess it might not be very common after all. Great question though.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  5. Hey Cal,

    Have semi autos all but disappeared from competition? Are the rules biased towards bolt action?, that is to say, removing your magazine and live round in the chamber. Understand that I am new and trying to learn the game, so I do not know all of the rules. Also, do people in the lower rankings use 5.56? So many questions! Your information is like a drug to an addict, I literally can not get enough! PLEASE keep up with this TOP TEN-ish format!!!!! Also, could you describe the “feel” of the fill material? That is to say, large bead, medium bead, I think you know what I mean.

    • Hey, Jeremy. While the rules vary match-to-match, I’ve never shot in a match that didn’t allow semi-autos. I occasionally see a guy running one, but it’s far from the norm. There are certainly benefits to semi-autos in fast-paced matches like this, but I’ve yet to see one that could compete in terms of precision with a custom bolt rifle. When you’re shooting tiny targets way off, having that little extra precision can be more important than a rapid rate of fire.

      I actually used a 5.56 AR-15 in my first couple of regional matches, as I was waiting on my first custom rifle to be built. But it’s a major handicap. I’ve never seen a guy run a 5.56 in a PRS match, although someone probably has. I’ve shot my AR-15 out to 1123 yards, so I know first-hand you can push it to distance. But, it is ballistically handicapped compared to the 6mm and 6.5mm cartridges that are popular in this game.

      And the feel of the fill in all the bags I use is small bead. I don’t know exactly what size, but it feels like less than 1/8″ balls of styrofoam or something.

      Thanks for the kind words about the content. I’m glad you appreciate my approach. Knowledge is power, right?! This stuff certainly seems to help people make more informed decisions, which I hope is helping people.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  6. Cal:
    Your research has influenced a lot of my buying decisions & in one case in particular I felt it was worthwhile to pass on an undocumented positive about a supplier featured in this review.

    I have purchased from 4 suppliers featured in PRB but most frequented has been T.A.B. From one of your earlier reviews I had purchased a TAB SAS R & from this review here ordered & I just received a TAB Str8Laced Rear Bag (really wanted a larger rear bag for my DTA SRS-A1 to use in conjunction with the built-in Bi-pod & the my new Atlas 5-H up front. This IS the ticket) & a TAB SAC. The unusual in my heretofore buying experience with any supplier was an unsolicited & unexpected $5 refund in cash for shipping (& a Happy New Year) with my order because they treated the 2 items as one shipment. Obviously not a windfall to change my life but it says volumes about the T.A.B. culture of integrity & service.

    Happy New Year to you to Cal, I efforts are appreciated,
    Ranger

    • That’s pretty amazing, Ranger. Not many companies would give back the $5. I mean, they already got it from you and you were obviously okay with it … so they think what’s the harm in keeping it. That actually shows a lot of integrity. Thanks for sharing.

      … and that bag is awesome. It’s by far my favorite. I didn’t want to overstate my opinion in the post, but it’s the one I reach for 99% of the time. Ultimately it’s just my personal preference, but I never leave home without it.

      Thanks,
      Cal

  7. Wow. Before reading the article I always though about shooting bags as very specific “niche” product that general shooters do not benefit from that much, but I gotta say now my mind is changed. Gotta keep eye on discounts and get myself one of these too!

    Thanks for all the information!

    • Yes sir! It was certainly eye-opening when I first saw guys using shooting bags in so many ways. That’s why I wanted to take time in this post to try to explain that stuff. It’s way more than a squeeze bag under the butt of the rifle! Glad you found it helpful.

      Thanks,
      Cal

    • I was in my first PRS match last year. I bought a spot in a sold out match a day before it started. I was totally unprepared equipment-wise, especially when it came to shooting bags. Purchased a TAB gear rear bag on demo day and luckily members of my squad let me use their larger bags when they were needed.

      The light-weight and utility of the Weibad ‘Pump Pillow’ & ‘Tac Pad’ was amazing. First thing I did when I got home was order one of each and start learning to use them. Naturally, I began packing them with me on my many hunting excursions (many since I drew some special tags last season). They worked very well in the field and were decisive on building a stable position & executing some challenging shots.

      • There you go! That’s why I tried to explain all this stuff in a little more detail in this year’s post. Lots of guys have to go to a match to learn that lesson the hard way, like you did. I was the same way. It’s hard to underestimate how much the right bag can help in making a long-range shot. If every shot was from a prone position on a perfectly flat surface, that would be one thing … but in the real world, they rarely are. Josh Stabler is a retired Marine Field Sniper and designer of the Hog Saddle. His tag line for that product is “very few shots are taken from prone.” As a field sniper, he knows. I carry bags with me when I go hunting too. With the lightweight Weibad bags that weigh in at just a few ounces, why not?!

        Hopefully this content will help some other guys learn the lesson without having to go to a match before they figure it out. This whole website is about trying to make it easier on the next guy, so they don’t have to learn everything the hard way like I have!

        Thanks,
        Cal