Many rifle shooters collect a variety of rear support bags over the years because different bag designs are more useful than others given specific shooting scenarios. The 6.5 Guys have experimented with a number of different rear bags that they have either purchased or created. Our move from butt hook type stocks (AICS and AX chassis) to the more traditionally shaped stocks (Manners T2A) caused us to re-examine our choice of support bags. While rear support is one of the most common uses for a bag, the same bag can also be used to support the rifle on a barricade or in lieu of a bipod.
Here are some of the attributes we look for in a rear bag:
- Easy and consistent elevation control
- Usefulness across a wide range of shooting situations
- Light weight
- Durability to hold up in extreme weather and hard use
- Quality of construction and materials
- Value for the price
The behavior of a rear bag is dictated in large part to the type of fill that is used. We’ve all heard the term “sand sock” because that is exactly what it is – a sock filled with sand. While usable and a great place for a beginner to start, sand is heavy and often leaks. Other fills such as cat litter, rice, beans etc. attract water and would only withstand one use in the Pacific Northwest. Modern bags utilize various plastic, nylon or polystyrene fills which allow for light weight designs and hold up quite well in the weather. These fills can be purchased at hobby shops and fabric stores allowing a shooter to create their own bag as Steve illustrates in the video.
A common bag encountered in the sport today are the square or rectangular bags made by companies such as Sage Flats, TAB, Accuracy First and Weibad. Armageddon Gear has an interesting design variation worth considering. These bags provide good elevation control as they can be used flat or turned on end. They can also be used as frontsupport on barricades. While most manufacturers tend to utilize heavier fill, the small size of the bags keep the overall weight down.
Another popular design are the tapered or wedge type bags made by Triad Tactical. When stood upright to provide maximum elevation, they are more stable than a rectangular type bag stood on end. When laid flat, the wedge shape provides good elevation control with excellent stability. As demonstrated in the video, they provide the stability of a traditional bench rest bag without all the weight. Triad offers two sizes with the smaller bag being the most useful in our opinion.
Cylindrical type bags as offered by Red Tac Gear and Crosstac are another popular choice. When used on their side, they provide excellent stability and isolate the shooter’spulse. Like other designs they can be turned on end for maximum elevation control but at the cost of some stability. The Red Tac half-pint bag is an exception and provides excellent stability when turned on end.
A number of bags have come on the scene that utilize Micro Bead fill and shooters seem to be adopting them. These bags are extremely light weight for their size and go from fluffy to firm with a squeeze. Examples include the Wiebad, Str8 Laced and Short Action Precision rear bags. Short Action Precision sent us an evaluation unit of their Run-N-Gun bag and we liked it so much that we purchased two of them. They provide excellent elevation control in addition to being very light weight. When squeezed they are firm and not mushy.
The Wiebad Pump Pillow is another design utilizing Micro Bead fill. We have found this bag to be one of the most useful items in our kit. It can stabilize your position and also be used as a front or rear rifle support. You can also kneel, lie or sit on it for extra elevation. If we could only take one bag to a match, this would be it. Yes it’s expensive but it’s worth the money.
Steve has constructed a working prototype for support bag that he is calling the “Steve Back Pod.” The bag is essentially a simple backpack that is completely filled with a pillow case that is stuffed with bean bag filler and then sewn shut. So far it has proven useful and has netted him the high score by a wide margin on a couple of stages at a recent match. You can see Steve’s creation beginning at 14:50 on the video.
Update (August 2015)
ESC Dynamics Large Shooting Bag (Center) flanked by two Bentham Barricade Bags.
Since we published this article we’ve had the opportunity to use a couple of bags from ESC Dynamic Gear – the Large Shooting Bag and the Bentham Barricade Bag. The Large Shooting Bag is 10-15% larger than the Wiebad Pump Pillow and we find this beneficial in both sitting and kneeling positions. The Bentham Barricade Bag also makes an excellent rear bag – it’s a little bigger than most rear bags, but the extra size allows for a very steady hold. The Large Shooting Bag and Bentham Barricade Bag can also be stacked as the situation may dictate.