Rifle Saddle For Tripod

Followers of Sniper Country’s Duty Roster are very familiar with Mr. Kent Gooch and some of his wisdom gathered over many years both as a sniper and sniper instructor in the US military. Kent is also without any doubt Sniper Country’s greatest proponent of the use of a camera tripod for rifle support in the field by both sharpshooters and snipers. When he speaks of such gear, tactics, and techniques all present should seriously listen and take heed of Mister Gooch’s advice.

The tripod provides any number of benefits over the folding bipod or cross sticks worthy of merit. Properly camouflaged and equipped with an adapter to correctly fit the rifle’s forearm, the tripod is real hard to beat. Height adjustments can be made quickly for levels above those of the folding bipods, terrain inclines can be compensated for, and the three legs provide a far greater support platform, plus panning the rifle on a moving target can be done quickly, smoothly, and effectively.

The tripod can be placed horizontally on the ground with an adapter providing a stable base to create an even lower signature than even a Harris BR-5 series rest. Its used in a manner similar to the British “Hawkins” position which calls for resting the stock toe on the ground and using the support fist as a rest under the rifle’s forearm.
Sniper Saddle Basic Components
Sniper Saddle Basic Components

When mention was made by Mister Gooch of a tripod adapter constructed from a piece of PVC pipe lined with carpet, I figured there might be a better mousetrap and began to cogitate on the subject while rummaging through my pile of scraps from other little Nutty Professor type projects. In a matter of an hour I had assembled all the necessary bits and pieces to begin fabrication.

So we will give the camera tripod equipped with the adapter bracket for the rifle’s forearm a trendy new name hereby dubbing it the “Sniper-Saddle” and also give up some manufacturing tips should you want to make one, and be the very first on your block to have one and spread the word. And by all means feel Totally Free to make any modifications or revisions to the ones supplied here – your creativity is the limit.

Tripods are variable in quality and price. The version shown in the photos is a Ritz Camera Quantaray Sale of the Month bought for about $20.00 if memory serves me. It also serves additional duty as a stand for my Oehler 35P chronograph during test and evaluation periods. I gave it a coat of 99 cent Wal-Mart Camoflage paint to give it the desired flat look.

Get whatever brand you want, just make sure it seems sturdy enough for your use. My tripod expands to 48″ maximum height, and collapses down to between 17-18 inches. Brand isn’t real important unless you simply “Have to have the very best” at which point a phone call to a couple of photo stores will give you an idea how pricey brands at the top of the line like Bogen can become.

The key for us is the package must be small, portable, and readily packable in either a drag bag or discretely “wrapped and strapped” to a pack.
Tripod/Saddle ready for attachment to Eagle Drag Bag
Tripod/Saddle ready for attachment to Eagle Drag Bag

The original prototype “Sniper Saddle-1″ was fabricated from a piece of 4″ wide, 1 1/4” deep aluminum “U” channel cut to a length of 2″ long. Once cut to size and the edges deburred, an “X” was lightly scribed across the base and a #30 bit used to drill a pilot hole. The hole was then tapped with a standard 1/4″-20 thread. This thread pitch was selected as it is pretty much the Universal standard for photographic equipment.

A couple of 1/4-20 stainless steel knurled thumb nuts was purchased from Reid Tools to secure the Sniper Saddle and tripod components together. I suppose Hook and Pile, Dzus fasteners, detent type pull pins or whatever could be used for attachment.

The decision for a 2″ length had to do with portability and bulk reduction in the field.

All of the second generation prototypes Sniper Saddle 2 were cut to a 4″ x 4″ square to give a larger surface area for the forearm. This was based on a recomendation by Mike Miller after trying the first version.
Rear oblique view of Sniper Saddle
Rear oblique view of Sniper Saddle

The first step is to cut the aluminum channel to length and then draw file or sand the edges smooth. The interior surfaces are then lightly scuffed with sandpaper to give the adhesive a good bond. This breaks through any clear coat finish that may have been applied.

The neoprene foam rubber for the liner came from a scrap source and the sheet was approximately 48″ wide by 72″ long. If you cannot find sheet neoprene rubber, pieces of 3/8″ thick GI sleeping mat pads can be used. The rubber is cut into pieces approximately 5″ x 7″ and pre-fitted to the channel.

I then grabbed a tube of Permatex #80B Super Weatherstrip Adhesive and coated the entire interior surface of the channel and the piece of 3/8″ thick closed cell neoprene rubber was then carefully pressed into place. The later models used a industrial grade of Contact Cement for better economy. Allow the cement to dry for about fifteen to twenty minutes to give it some tack and then press the foam into place.

A wood block cut to 2 3/4″ long x 3″ wide by 1″ thick was C-clamped to hold the rubber liner in place until the adhesive had completely dried (approx. 24 hrs). I then swiped a “Ginsu” type knife from the kitchen and trimmed off the excess neoprene starting with the vertical ends (cutting from the base to the top using the channel edge as a guide) and then paring away the top from the center with two center to end cuts.

Later versions were placed in a Black and Decker WorkMate and clamped to spread the adhesive and provide more uniform pressure during the drying process.

You may find that placing the Sniper Saddle into the freezer and then using the serrated blade will make the rubber or foam far easier to trim evenly. The exposed neoprene was then coated with some black Tandy Leather “Edge Dressing” to seal up the open cells after it returned to room temperature, which was probably overkill on my part.

After drying, the foam was masking taped off ( to avoid spray paint solvent carriers) and given two base coats of either Olive Drab or indoor/outdoor flat black enamel paint.

“Mister” Gooch was then sent a second generation prototype version made from a slightly larger 4″x 4″ piece of the same stock for him to evaluate and give me his thoughts. Kent and gunsmith pal “Kudu” looked over the prototype design and came up with some slight modifications to the attachment system, allowing it to work with a QD tripod shoe adapter.

In fact, Kent even requested an additional pair after I gave him the 3rd generation version at The Carlos N Hathcock II Memorial Sniper Match and one was promptly liberated by Rod Ryan for his use.

The versions have been extensively tested by Mr Gooch. Additional prototypes have been sent to three other familiar names on The Duty Roster; Mr. Rick Boucher at Ft. Bragg, NC., Mike Miller of Tactical Intervention Specialists, and Bruce Robinson of Mil Dot Master fame, were also sent, or personally hand delivered, one each to wring out during sniper training classes for test and evaluation.

I have included some of their E-mails (with permission) on the prototype Sniper Saddles. The one thing found lacking by all the Beta Testers is some type of cordura cover to prevent deterioration of the neoprene.

Subj: Re: sniper saddle
Date: 5/27/99 12:01:14 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: RBowcher
To: Pngreiff

Sorry this took so long to get back to you but my brain is trying to function on multiple planes of late and it is not working well. Used the saddle under quite a number of circumstances with monopod, window mount, and tripod of various lengths. The saddle could probably be cut in half as far as length goes. Had trouble with it trapping the forestock during tracking of a target. The neoprene definitely needs to be covered with something such as cordura or the like. It began deteriorating on the range due to the abrasive effects of sand in this area.

I like the ability to support the weapon on the forestock point of your choice allowing for stability on the end or movement for tracking near the floor plate. Problems would arise on the width since there is such a variety of widths on the forestock from weapon type to weapon type.

The concept is a sound one, but I am worried that you would have problems selling a lot of them due to the limited applications and the ability of the sniper to make his own to his requirements.

Re: Rifle Tripods

Contact and ask him about his adapter that turns a camera tripod into a neat rifle rest. He gave me a sample at Hathcock II and it works great! Waiting for my friend on the ABQ PD to get back so’s he can evaluate it also.

Sorry it took so long to comment on this fine piece of gear, Pete. Only got back to NM a few weeks ago and it took this long to get to the range.

I’m interested in the FAL Postal Match, if we can shoot for smallest 10 shot groups! Send rules to my e-mail. I’ll pass them on to Jarrett and other interested parties!

Best Regards….
Bruce Robinson
Los Lunas, NM, USA – Friday, November 19, 1999 at 06:35:17

Got Pete’s Tripod Mount and like the thing. I will say that this is perfect for Urban L.E. work. Get one and you will be happy.

Mike M.
Calif, USA – Friday, January 22, 1999 at 16:34:04 (ZULU)

The next version, 3rd Generation was made from a piece of 4″ black PVC pipe coupling sawn in half lengthwise. The annular ring in the center of the coupling had to be ground out with a Moto-Tool, this also served to roughen up the interior for the adhesive to bond the components together.
PVC Sniper Saddle on tripod
PVC Sniper Saddle on tripod

The next problem to be tackled dealt with how to secure the saddle to the tripod as PVC is fairly soft plastic. The perceived problem with threads stripping out from the plastic was resolved before I even left the store to begin prototype fabrication with the purchase of some “Tee” nut inserts found in the Fastener-Nuts & Bolts section of the hardware store.

The spikes (for affixing in the Tee Nut in wood objects) were hammered flat in a jig made from bar stock with a hole bored in the center.

A 5/16″ diameter hole was bored approximately TDC in the PVC casing, and the modified Tee Nut flange glued from the inside with a gob of J-B Weld. The epoxy was carefully smeared around it and then left to dry.

Once hardened the J-B epoxy and the slight the protrusion of the “Tee” nut was feathered down flush with the body using a Moto tool to prevent a bump from showing through the foam. The tip was also draw filed even with the outside edge of the coupler.

A piece of 3/8″ neoprene foam was then glued to the inside of the housing with contact cement and after drying pared down with the Ginsu knife. The edges were then carefully rounded off with a combination Belt/Disc sander, and then the entire unit given a couple coats of primer and OD camoflage paint purchased at Wal-Mart.
What now?

This is still an ongoing project, and changes and updates will probably occur and then be incorporated into the original design.

From here all you need to do is camo the Sniper-Saddle to taste with “fake-rock” paint , Burlap, or the color du-jour and you’re done. Now take it in the field and Practice, Practice, Practice.
You will not be sorry.

Sniper Country Team
Written by Sniper Country Team

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