This post reviews the bipods the best precision rifle shooters are using. This data is based on a survey of the top 50 shooters in the 2014 Precision Rifle Series (PRS). 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 in the 300-1000 yard range. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are, or to view the data for other pieces of gear scroll to the bottom of this article.
Although we’ve been surveying the top shooters in the PRS for a couple years, this is the first year we asked them what bipod they use. Here’s what they said:
Over 75% of the shooters were using a Harris Bipod, with the overwhelming majority of those being the Harris S-BRM 6-9” Notched Bipod (HBRMS). The official product name according to Harris is HBRMS. While that may seem cryptic, the diargram below breaks down what the letters mean and lets you see the features on the Harris S-BRM bipod compared to the standard Harris HBR model.
The Harris HBRMS is their shortest bipod with legs that extend 6 to 9 inches, and Harris refers to it as their “benchrest” model. PRS matches are clearly not shot from a bench, but many shots are taken from prone positions and the height range of this bipod is ideal for most prone scenarios.
The M in the model name indicates the bipod has notched legs. The notches provide a few preset height reference points to make it easier to adjust both legs to the same height. Virtually all of the top 50 shooters were using a bipod with these notched legs.
The S in the model name indicates the bipod can swivel, which allows you to tilt the rifle from side to side. This makes it easy to get the rifle perfectly level on uneven terrain without fiddling with the leg heights. Even a small amount of rifle cant can result in a miss at long-range, and this feature can help a shooter effectively manage that.
While most guys were running the 6-9 inch HBRMS model, there were a couple guys running the medium height Harris HBLMS model, which Harris advertises to have legs that extend 9 to 13 inches. In my measurements, it looks like the Harris HBLMS measures closer to 8 to 12 inches.
There was also one shooter in the top 50, Matt Gervais, who ran a custom Harris bipod he modified to extend from 7 to 12 inches. I have to admit, I was intrigued by the idea because it sounds like the ideal range. So I followed up with Matt and he graciously provided more detail with permission to share with fellow shooters. He found that when he used the 6-9” bipod, he never used the lowest setting, and when he used the 9-13” bipod, he never used the highest setting. Sounds familiar! As an auto mechanic by trade and tinkerer by heart, Matt’s curiosity drove him to sit down one day and take apart both bipods to compare them. After a little time, machining, and troubleshooting … viola! The ideal 7-12” Harris bipod was born. It was primarily derived from a modified 9-13” model, but there were a few donor parts taken from a Harris 6-9” bipod. Here’s a comparison of the custom Harris 7-12” bipod with a standard Harris 6-9” bipod. Note: Springs were removed from the 6-9″ bipod, and used on the 7-12″.
Virtually all of the shooters had added an after-market swivel lock to their Harris bipod (only applicable to the S series). These allow you to quickly adjust the amount of tension it takes to tilt the bipod side-to-side. The stock Harris swivel models have a fixed amount of tension that isn’t adjustable in the field, but these aftermarket levers and knobs allow you to reach up and torque down the swivel with one hand from behind the rifle. There are a few products out there that do this, such as the KMW Pod-Loc Kit, Alpha-Bravo Bipod Lock, and recently Harris introduced their own Harris lever. (Why not offer a model with the lever preinstalled?!) These handles are easy to install (watch video), and make it easier to operate the bipod swivel and ensure your rifle is cant-free before sending a round down range.
LaRue also makes an improved version of the Harris bipod. They integrated their popular, low-profile, quick-detach, picatinny mount. LaRue explains: “We have replaced the Harris OEM stud attachment base with a custom chassis … ruling-out the risk of the stud screw and grabber becoming loose. By doing so, we were able to lower the profile by roughly .25″. A large knob on the rear provides easy leverage when adjusting swivel tension.”
Note: The LaRue bipod in the photo has spikes installed. That is not part of the LaRue improved package. Those are JEC JPEGs Harris Bipod Spikes made by JEC Customs that I installed myself later. They help ensure you’re dug in and able to consistently load your bipod on any surface (sand, mud, stone, concrete, gravel, dining room table, car hood, etc.).
The second most popular bipod was the Accu-Shot Atlas Bipod. 11 of shooters who placed in the top 50 were running an Atlas bipod.
While most are familiar with a standard bipod like the Harris, the Atlas bipod is very different. The popular standard height PSR Atlas Bipod includes a lot of unique features that aren’t available on other bipods. Here’s a few of the notable features:
- Bipod can be loaded with legs straight down (90°) or 45° forward. This provides a height adjustment from 4.75-9”, which is huge compared to similar bipods.
- Provides 15° of pan and 15° of tilt
- Legs can be stowed forwards or backwards
- Can be mounted directly to a picatinny rail
- Notched legs (similar to Harris)
Since the Atlas bipod only introduced in 2010, you might not expect it to have the accessories that the community has developed around the well-established Harris bipod … like the LaRue quick detach mount, or the variety of aftermarket feet and spikes. But, B&T Industries, makers of the Atlas, seems to have thought this through as well, and they offer a wide selection. It includes adapters to connect the Atlas bipod to just about any rifle, and accessories to adapt it to any terrain or scenario. Here’s just a few of the accessories offered for the Atlas:
The quick-change feet and leg extensions can be “easily installed with the press of a stainless steel plunger,” according to the manufacturer. Having personally installed spikes on a Harris bipod … I can say almost anything would be easier. Having the ability to easily extend the legs by 3 inches seems to allow you to use one bipod for many scenarios, especially with the huge range of height adjustability the Atlas bipod already offers.
One of the attractive features of the Atlas bipod is the option for multiple leg positions (45 and 90 degrees), but could be a downside to that flexibility. The added adjustability can potentially make the bipod slower to deploy and get in position. At least during competitions, seconds count, and it’d be near impossible to top the quick and simple Harris deployment.
There are certainly other bipods out there, like the Versa-Pod bipod, the Long-Range Accuracy bipod, and the new Accu-Tac bipod … but none of those were represented among these top precision riflemen. It was a short list, with just two brands … but some of the most solid gear you can find.
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.
The 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. At the end of each year, the scores from around 15 different national matches are evaluated and the top shooters are invited to compete head to head in the PRS Season Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the finale, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 50+ shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are also considered experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Francis Kuehl, Wade Stuteville, the GAP Team, the Surgeon Rifles Team, shooters from the US Army Marksmenship Unit, and many other world-class shooters. 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?
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:
- Calibers & Cartridges
- Tactical Scopes
- Scope Mount
- Rifle Actions
- Rifle Barrels
- Custom Rifle Stocks
- Reloading Components (Bullets, Powders & Brass)
- Muzzle Brake & Suppressor
- Shooting Bags
- Rifle Sling
I think you missed two key points in your comments. Firstly cost. Harris are a lot cheaper than Atlas. Second point relates to recoil response. The Atlas does not torque or jump off target after each shot – something the Harris does even with the smaller calibres.
As to deployment time, the two Atlas legs swing into place as fast as a Harris and the swivel point removes cant in the same way as an S model. It is heavier though. Horses for courses.
I think the missing part of this blog post is the “why”. Will it boil down to the fact the shooters are mounting on a sling stud?
Great points. Thanks for the comments. As for why … I obviously didn’t interview all 50 shooters, so I don’t want to guess at why. I’m just trying to report the data and provide a little summary information on each of the products. Everyone always wants to know more, and I get that … but this is all I’ve got.
“Atlas … Notched legs (similar to Harris)”
Hey Cal, I almost hate to make a comment so long after the article, but as I’ve read it the people at Atlas used to be engineers for Harris who brought all of their new ideas to Harris, and Harris blew them off as ridiculous or unnecessary, [‘we’re Harris, newbies, who are you?’] so the engineers left and started their own company to produce the Atlas designs themselves.
If this is (no pun) accurate, then pretty much every change Harris has instituted since the launch of the Atlas (notched legs, swiveling probably, etc) has been an effort to glom onto the innovations of the Atlas engineers whom they had originally dismissed, and the article sentence should very much read “Harris .. notched legs similar to the Atlas”, etc, if not worded even more harshly..
Westin, I appreciate your input. I didn’t know all that history. I didn’t mean to imply that Atlas copied it from Harris. I just know far more people are familiar with Harris bipods, so more people would recognize the notched leg feature from Harris and know what I was talking about on the Atlas.
While I can’t verify the history you mentioned, it does have “the ring of truth.” By that I just mean that it seems to really fit my personal experience with Harris, even though that is limited. When I was writing this article, I called them to see if they had ever heard of anyone customizing their bipods like what Matt had done. They essentially said nobody had ever done that, and thought I was making it all up. I asked if they’d ever consider making a 7-12″ bipod, because I thought there would be a market for it … and they dismissed the idea, in a way that came off as arrogant. After that call, I got the sense that they weren’t interested in improving their product in any way. They make what they make, and you can either buy it or not. They have been hugely successful, and have reached legend status in the bipod world. But in my experience, companies who refuse to adapt to the market eventually go under … and I doubt Harris is immune to that. Think how big of a company Kodak was back in the film days … they filed bankruptcy just a couple years ago. Nobody is immune. The market is changing faster than ever … technology makes it possible for new to come online and be known and make a ton of direct sales in a couple months, where that used to take years and a ton of capital to get product in stores across the country. I can’t say for sure this is the way Harris is, but if they are … I would’ve left too.
I mentioned Kodak … here is a parting thought: It’s painfully ironic that Kodak couldn’t make the transition from film to the digital age. One of their young engineers invented digital photography in 1975! It’s an amazing story, which was recently featured in the NY Times article. The article said “But Kodak’s marketing department was not interested in it. Mr. Sasson [the young engineer/inventor] was told they could sell the cameras, but wouldn’t – because it would eat away at the company’s film sales.” Brilliant business move! Nobody was better positioned to usher in innovation … but instead, Kodak held onto the past … and went backrupt in 2012.
Thanks for the input! Probably far more than you wanted to know … but I hope this can serve as a wake-up call for Harris. I don’t have any hard feelings against them. I just see the writing on the wall for companies that refuse to adapt, and don’t listen to their customers. Eventually a set of ambitious engineers will start another company, and may even eventually be the ones that put them out of business.
I just shot off a Larue Harris and an Atlas PSR … I sent the Atlas back. It is, in my humble opinion, overly slow and complicated with too many areas that dirt could jam up and create problems. Both bipods serve their function just fine for precision shooting and it really boils down to personal preference.
Well said, Ken. Couldn’t agree more!
Subject: School me on rifle bi-pods (Excerpts from AR15.com Forum)
I bought a $50 heavy duty UTG bipod last week and its pretty nice for the money.
There are $20 UTG models that are well reviewed on Amazon. Worth a try before you drop $100 on a Harris.
buy once cry once or whatever you kids call it.
From what I’ve seen, the winning combo is an inexpensive bipod + loctite + Larue QD mount.
I want to check out an Atlas ……maybe try my hand at copying one.
I’ve two Harris pods , a Versa-Pod rig and a B-Square. The VersaPod is a cool rig,and I like the set up ,except for the sloppiness on it’s mounting stud.
Friends don’t let friends buy UTG.
I really like my Atlas.
Atlas or a Harris with a pod lock.
Atlas> GG&G> Harris
I’ve got an Atlas on my AICS – Well made, superbly engineered.
It out operates me… I just don’t do the type of shooting where it excels. Next bi-pod will be something cheaper from CDNN.
here is a good breakdown of what the ‘big boys’ use when they are trying to impress each other.
I have found from my limited experience, that the les expensive bi pods (shooters ridge, Caldwell, utg, ETC) all preform about the same. they hold up great for my .22 and .223 bench shooting but putting any recoil at all on them makes them wobbley…
there is a reason why the pros go there.
Another source for swivel locking levers is T-nuts.com. Very reasonable pricing considering that the most expensive model is $9.99. I have purchased one and it is an easy install and it actually locks the bipod up.
Wow, Lloyd. Very cool. That place looks like it sells all kinds of handles wholesale … including ones for bipods. Nice resource. Thanks for sharing!
I am wondering about the harris conversion to make the 7-12″ so all that was done was switch the springs from the 6-9 to the 9-13″ ?
Sorry, Jesse. After re-reading my post, I can see your confusion. Here are the full details I got from Matt on how he modified/combined the Harris bipods: “As it turns out, Harris designed the 9-13 notched leg bipod with a fairly short center leg shaft with 0.92″ clearance up top inside the leg tube before it would hit the bushing that the leg attachment screw goes through. I just chopped the tube down and redrilled the holes. I did not have to modify or even remove the center notched leg shafts. However their was one problem… The tension springs require the spring perches up top to clear the legs as they deploy and the spring to be shortened so the tension remains. I took the springs and perches from the donor 6-9 BRM-S and transfered them to the hybrid and used the short 6-9 springs and notched the existing 9-13 leg tubes for the higher spring attachment. From the picture you can see how short the springs appear to be in relation to the legs themselves. At first I was concerned the shorter spring would not have enough tension to hold the longer legs in place so I carried an extra bipod as a back up for a year. after almost 2 years and 30 competitions I have not had a single issue.”
I should’ve included more of those details in the original post. It certainly wasn’t as clear as I thought it was at the time I wrote it. Sorry about that! Hope this gives you a little more direction. Matt’s idea seems like a really good one, although I’ve yet to try it myself. I’m sure I will one day! If you try it, I’d love to hear what you think.