By David Lake
If at least some of a rifle’s inherent value is commensurate with its ability to hit a target then it may be said that a bipod is among the most important accessories for that rifle. The bipod offers better stability than shooting sticks or monopods, and the fact that it is small enough and light enough to be hard-mounted to a rifle makes it more practical and useful than a free-standing rifle rest or sandbag.
Magpul has just released their long-awaited entry into the bipod market. Like all things Magpul, it is crafted of high-impact, reinforced polymer. The particular “plastic” used in all Magpul products exhibits strength very near that of aluminum. Resilience and resistance to impact and deformation are greater than that of aluminum. And this miracle polymer also weighs about 60% less than aluminum.
The overall design is well thought-out. It’s very streamlined to resist snagging and interfering with the shooter’s movement or manipulation of the weapon. There are no exposed springs, hooks or protrusions to speak of. The legs can be deployed from their upright folded position very quickly with one hand just by pulling them down and away from the weapon. The legs are extended simply by depressing the lock button and sliding the leg out to its desired position. A shooter can choose to deploy and extend silently if he carefully maintains pressure on the lock buttons throughout these motions. Some more established bipod brands featuring spring-loaded or self-extending legs cannot make this claim. It’s an important consideration for a hunter who prefers to not startle his quarry. The only design feature that might prove a detriment to some shooters is that the legs do not lock in the folded upright position—it’s foreseeable that a random encounter with a tree branch could cause a leg to deploy. This event would be accompanied by a loud “crack” while the locking button snaps into position.
The pan and tilt feature of the Magpul Bipod is excellent. A single (and easily accessible) knurled locking knob is located between the legs and directly below the mounting platform. The knob turns easily to free up the pan and tilt and then locks down easily to establish a firmly fixed position. However simple the mechanism appears, Magpul has been able to deliver more articulation from the pan and tilt head than most other bipod brands—a total of 50 degrees of pan and 40 degrees of tilt.
The legs only fold in one direction, but if the bipod is attached to a rifle so the legs fold forward and it becomes necessary or convenient that they fold rearward, the bipod can be reversed. The locking knob is loosened to its limit (it won’t come all the way off) to allow the lower “knuckle” to spin 180 degrees. Thereby the bipod’s orientation on the weapon can be reversed without removing it from the weapon mount. This feature is likely just a coincidence of another design exclusive; the pan can be disabled to add more rigidity to the unit. There is a disk marked “pan” and “lock” just below the tilting hinge. This disk can be spun 180 degrees to position either setting next to an indicator arrow. Once set to the “lock” position, the pan feature is totally locked out, and the bipod takes on an extra degree of stability.
The supplied “feet” are durable hard rubber and can be replaced with any off-the-shelf accessory foot intended for Atlas brand bipods. Another convenient and related feature is a rubber disk affixed to the locking knob between the legs. The shooter is given the ability to rest the bipod on any hard or slippery surface while the legs are stowed in their folded upright position.
At first use one might find the Magpul bipod to be more “wobbly” than other brand bipods. Yes, at first impression it is. One might even notice an audible rattle when manipulating the bipod. This is more noticeable while using a lightweight rifle. When attached to a relatively heavier rifle the bipod seems to settle down and offer the same stability as all metal bipods costing 3x more. Even when used with a light rifle, we found it beneficial to “load” the rifle forward while forcibly splaying the legs open to their extreme limit. As it is common practice among precision rifle shooters to “load” their bipods in a similar manner, there is no real argument to be made against the stability of Magpul’s version.
How the Bipod Stacks Up
The following is a performance comparison of the Magpul bipod against common bipods of similar cost, size or feature.
Cost should never be counted on to determine quality or utility of an item. In the case of rifle marksmanship, if a shooter can save a little on his bipod in order to afford a better scope or more ammunition, he is points ahead, if and only if the cost savings can be had without a compromise to function.
• Magpul $109
• Harris BRMS $105 (with Pod-Loc and G&G Picatinny adapter totals $160)
• Atlas BT-10 $220
• Accu-Tac SR-5 $235
• Magpul just under 12oz
• Atlas BT-10 12.8oz
• Harris BRMS 13.5oz with (Picatinny adapter and Pod-Loc)
• Accu-Tac SR-5 19.5oz
Height adjustment was measured from rest surface to the mounting surface. The all-aluminum premium brands (Atlas and Accu-Tac) win this one argument due to their ability to deploy their legs at 45 and 90 degrees, which gives a much greater height range.
• Atlas BT-10 90% extension with range of 5.25in to 10in
• Accu-Tac SR-5 56% extension with range of 6.25in to 9.75in
• Magpul 40% extension with range of 7.375in to 10.375in
• Harris BRMS 37% extension with range of 6.4in to 8.8in
A wider stance makes for better stability and thus, better shooting. To keep results consistent, we set all the bipods up at 8 inches from bench top to Picatinny rail.
Leg Stance Width:
• Accu-Tac 10.6
• Atlas 8.65in
• Harris 8in
• Magpul 7.8in
Mounting footprint (the real estate occupied by the bipod’s rail-grabbing structure):
• Magpul requires 1.2in of Picatinny rail.
• Atlas asks for 1.6in of rail surface.
• Accu-Tac requires 3in of Picatinny rail due to its offset tilt hinge.
• Harris will need between 2 and 3 inches of handguard depending on your mounting adapter. Add the Pod-Loc, and you’ll need to reserve almost 5in of mounting space.
Pan and Tilt:
• Magpul wins with 50 degs of pan and 40 degs of tilt with an easy-to-reach-and-operate locking knob.
• Harris only has a tilt feature, and the lock is hard to operate unless you’ve bought some aftermarket upgrades (Pod-Loc).
• Accu-Tac allows for some tilt, but the lock is placed in a cramped location that does not allow for easy access. Accu-Tac does offer a bipod with an improved locking lever (similar to the Pod-Loc) for a higher price. For the sake of even comparison, we chose the SR-5 as it is the lowest price Accu-Tac with extendable legs.
• Atlas offers a pan and tilt. It’s mounted on a ball gimbal- clever, but the range of motion is very limited and the locking nut is confusing and ineffective. Atlas also offers an improved locking system, but at an additional cost. Again, we chose this bipod as it is the lowest-priced Atlas with similar functions to the Magpul.
Operation—Deployment and extension:
• Magpul: One hand can deploy, extend, collapse, stow and lock the pan and tilt in silence.
• Atlas: Like the Magpul, one hand can execute all functions quietly. Only downside is the locking ring for pan and tilt. It just does not work as quickly and decisively as the lock on the Magpul.
• Harris: One hand can deploy and extend (and lock if equipped with Pod-Loc) and stow. Collapsing the legs requires two hands. Some Harris bipods offer a spring-loaded automatic stow feature. Others offer an automatic-extend feature; both are noisy unless controlled with a second hand.
• Accu-Tac: One hand can execute all operations; however, extending the legs with one hand results in audible snaps as the legs snap across a locking pawl. The legs can be subsequently retracted automatically by depressing this pawl but at the expense of some noise. Two hands are required for quiet operation.
The Magpul bipod was tested on the firing line at the GNAT Warfare Tactical Innovation range day. The Magpul pod was mounted to various high-powered, long-range instruments. Calibers tested were from .223 up to 6.5 Creedmoor. Military and law-enforcement snipers from all walks fired the weapon and gave their impression of the bipod. At first, as was mentioned above, the wobble gave some pause. All that was required to remedy the issue was a simple suggestion to force the legs apart almost into tension and lean forward on the bipod. So, with only a bit of practice, this bipod can offer perfect stability. And it does it with less weight, less cost and faster, easier operation.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N4 (April 2019)|