Modifying the Versa-Pod into an Effective Bipod for Sniper Operations

< 1999
By Scott Powers

Read all of this before starting the job! You may not have the necessary tools!

One of the biggest complaints we have had with the Versa-Pod has been the ease with which it allows the rifle to flop around. This can destroy accuracy and even dump the rifle on its side if you are not attentive. Also, if you do not apply a sufficient amount of forward pressure against the bipod when in a firing position, the swiveling mechanism will not "lock up" and you might allow cant to creep into your hold. There is a relatively simple fix for this, particularly if you have a modicum of skill with tools.

The object is to add a tensioning screw to the canting unit where the attaching spigot goes. This is the circular part above the Versa-Pod name plate. First, you must find a suitable bolt with about a 1/4 inch diameter shaft. An Uncle Mike's sling swivel stud is about right but I used an extra attaching nut (see photo) from the other Versa-Pod I own. Ideally, you will use something that you can get a grip on when tightening the tension of the canting unit.

You must drill a hole into the side of the drum, above the name plate, centered on the axis of the spigot hole. Make it about two sizes smaller then the thread or your tensioning screw. Tap out the hole very carefully as the metal in the Versa-Pod is aluminum and easily stripped. Next, insert the bolt and you are done. Now all you have to do is install the bipod on your rifle, level the weapon and finger tighten the bolt. Canting the system will be harder and require you to be more deliberate. This eliminates the annoying habit of your rifle tipping over and falling on its side and also gives you a steadier platform from which to fire.

The second fix, and one I only recommend to those with access to specialized tools, is to shorten the legs. In its unmodified form, the Versa-Pod extends from 7.5" to 10.25". This is measured from the center of the attachment's spigot hole to the ground. The overall height is much higher as the unit snaps onto a spigot attachment which itself is mounted on the bottom of your rifle. The end result is a very high mount that places your leveled muzzle about 9" to 12" above the ground. This is fine for general plinking, but for tactical use you are most likely going to be using a rear rest such as a bean bag, sand-filled sock, or sandbag. Try adjusting your elevation with such a devise when your bipod has the rifle sitting high, particularly if you are shooting down hill. Simply put, you will not be using the rear rest. The butt will be so high that you'll never be able to settle the rifle into the bag.

To rectify this situation you must shorten the legs of the bipod which, by the way, is something to consider if you are purchasing a Harris bipod for tactical use. Get the BR model, not the standard length model. If you need to be higher you can always use field expedient means such as tripods or shooting sticks made from local vegetation. Or carry three aluminum arrows tied together at one end to form a tripod. They store in your drag bag and are far more useful then a long wobbly bipod. The longer the bipod, the less steady your shooting platform will be. Keep it short.

To shorten the legs of the Versa-Pod, first remove the legs from the unit by unscrewing the center pin. Carefully measure the distance from the bottom of the leg tube to the bottom of the band that holds the leg locking lever. Write this figure down. You must then drive out the drift pins that retain the leg-locking lever. Be careful that you do not lose the springs that are behind these levers! Now, you must remove the small spring pin guide that the spring sits on. This pin also serves to hold the leg extensions in place. Remove the pin with a twisting motion, then remove the leg extensions.

Now you must take accurate measurements of the distance from the bottom of the leg tube to the hole that the locking lever goes into. Measure to the bottom of the hole, and then to the top. Write this figure down. Next, measure from the bottom of the leg tube to the center of the small hole that the spring pin guide went in. Also measure the diameter of the spring pin guide.

Now you are ready for the real work. Mark the leg tubes three inches down from where the tubes enter the upper unit. You should have a mark which leaves you three inches of tube. With a pipe cutter (or hack saw) cut the leg tubes off at this mark. Apply the measurements you took at the start of this exercise to the new shorter leg, measuring from the bottom of the tube. With a Dremel tool and cutting wheel, cut out the slotted notch for the leg locks. You will need a rat tail file to square the hole into a rectangle. Drill out a new spring pin guide hole. Check your positioning frequently against the original piece of pipe you removed. You can use the original holes as a reference as you go.

Now for the tough part. You must remove the band that held the locking levers from the discarded piece of tube. The easiest way to do this is to cut the tube flush with one side of the band, and drill out the tube material from inside the bands. I tried using a torch to soften the solder but I think these things are brazed on. Flame just didn't do a thing. Drilling is the easiest method. Put the tube in a vise and drill carefully down through the band. The drill bit should be just a bit smaller then each band's inside diameter. Once this is done, the bands can be removed and slipped onto the modified leg tube. You will need to clean up any ragged edges with a Dremel tool and grinding disk or drum.

Now you must shorten the leg extensions. Cut them in such a manner that when they are inserted into the leg tubes, the extensions sit flush with the bottom of the tubes. Doing this removes the small section that stops the extension from falling free from the leg tube, so you must make a new stop. Drill out a small hole through the leg extension inside the groove, near the end that you just cut. Make the hole just a little smaller than a finishing nail. Drive the nail into the hole so that the nail head sits inside the grove in the leg extension. Cut the excess nail off the back side and file it flush with the leg surface. Reinstalled the extension into the leg tube and insert the spring pin guide. The extension should now remain in the tube and not fall free.

Next, you will place the spring onto the pin guide and center the locking lever over the guide so as to line up the hole for the retaining drift pin. (Try saying this five times as fast as you can!)

Drive the drift pin into the band and through the locking lever. The lever should now function as before, catching the notches cut in each leg extension and staying in place by spring tension.

You should now have a fully functional leg. The only thing left to do is to permanently fix the band to the tube. This can be done by soldering, Mig welding, or brazing.

In modified form, the leg now extends from 6" to 8" measured from the ground to the spigot attachment hole.

This modification does take some work but if you have already invested in a Versa-Pod, doing the above will optimize the unit for tactical purposes. In some situations you may find the original length of the legs to be fine, but in my own experience I have found that this particular brand of bipod gives the weapon a high center of gravity and, due to its sloppy swivel, makes for a less than perfect bracing system. You must always remember to put forward pressure on the unit in the prone for it to lock up. Going to a shorter leg and adding the tension screw makes the unit far more sniper friendly. I went one step further and cut the palm stop apart and removed the mounting spigot. I then installed the spigot into the end of my rifle stock by drilling a hole and filling it with epoxy. This is the way the original Parker Hale bipod was meant to be mounted and it keeps the rifle lower to the ground by eliminating the palm stop under the rifle. You shave another inch or so off the total height. Height means instability -- always remember this!

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