A full-size rifle today rarely has a barrel longer than 24”. The extra length is just not necessary as modern powders and case designs make them more efficient.
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This week we are taking a look at bipods. Yes, those things that the media somehow thinks transforms a garden variety hunting rifle into a sniper rifle. They actually think this. Reader and TTAG poster ‘Manse Jolly’ asked this:

“Ok, I have a long range shooting question. Is an Atlas bipod really worth the cost or is a Harris just as good? Setting up a Tikka 6.5 Varmint HB.” 

What I’m not going to do here is go for the throat and come out swinging at the Atlas product. That’s not fair and is a narrow comparison so I’m instead going to talk about what bipods are supposed to do and just what you’re getting for your money when you buy one.

My real and practical opinion is that there is pretty much only one way to look at this: Harris vs. Everyone. The Harris, in particular the S-BRM model (that’s the short one that is probably the most useful) is really the brand to beat because it’s so popular and is usually the one that people start with. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that most of the theory of bipod use is centered around the limits and strengths of the Harris.

New readers and even new shooters will be surprised to learn that even ten years ago there were probably only 1/100th the number of offerings available today to precision shooters. Bipods weren’t even featured on sniper rifles until fairly recently in our history.

The 1980’s saw what amounted to the first real widespread use in military and police circles, but even then there wasn’t an emphasis on them other than as an alternative to the common methods of the day, such as shooting from a pack.

The Magpul bipod is great for the money and offers the same features as bipods three times as costly.

Heavy guns and machine guns are typically what used bipods and they were often integrated into the gun. That had much more to do with controlling weight and recoil than providing stability for precision shooting.

The era that we live in right now is the largest commercial market for bipods. There are more models out now with more features than ever before. This has led, of course, to people like ‘Manse Jolly’ wondering just what they are getting for hundreds of dollars more in some instances.

Field stability was the original concern for the early commercial bipods, and there were very few that were designed just for competition. The bench rest shooters of the world had been using huge, wide-legged bipods that didn’t fold. These bipods would feature screw-adjustable feet to level a rifle on a bench, but these had very little suitability in the field, if any.

The crossover between field and competition line is what began to produce items like the Atlas. The Harris served in just about every police station, military branch, and on virtually all competition lines for decades, and it never really lost utility. The tilt models were of course the best, but some shooters began looking for a leg up (no pun intended) or added functions like pan and tilt to stabilize tricky shots not found in stationary bench shooting.

When I first shot an Atlas, I didn’t like it. It felt strange and I didn’t like that the legs were slower to deploy. I’ve probably fired a quarter million rounds off of Harris bipods and the Atlas just felt unnatural. I was used to how the Harris worked and shot and I knew ways to make it load consistently, although it was tricky in lots of field positions.

The swiveling, panning, and tilting features like those in the Atlas began to really take off as PRS sports grew and positions became more difficult. This of course led to more market options and bipods began to become more than just a pair of spring-loaded legs.

The next generation of bipods would begin to incorporate features demanded by these non-military precision shooters who are extremely picky about their gear. To say that there’s a market for $500 bipods is not to say that those $500 models are inherently better than a Harris for 99% of shooters, but the 1% who will pay for them can usually squeeze that extra bit of performance out of them.

I shoot with two brands for all my work guns and those are Harris and Magpul. I have access to and have shot with pretty much all the other versions out there, but I really don’t end up using a bipod as much as you would think, even in hunting and competition.

It is nice to have the support ready to go, but in the field I end up locating a spot that allows me to have a wide area to move in, so I usually end up using a sling or a pack. Bipods tend to get caught or snagged in brush, so they’re usually in my hunting pack in case if I have a long shot I can prepare for.

I use the Harris models for easy on/off on my hunting and on guns I shoot on barricades in matches. My Magpul is attached directly to one of my 6.5 CM rifles with MLOK, so it stays in place. I like it, but what I don’t like about it or the Atlas bipod is that they can be easily swiveled off center and the legs can’t be smacked back up into position on the fly because they aren’t spring-loaded.

The Magpul model is great for angular shooting or if you are using a heavy rifle that likes to be loaded into in stationary shooting.

I have to say that this really comes down to user bias and perceived end use. I use the Harris more because I am more of a field shooter and competitor and I just don’t need the extra weight or all the panning functions. Even when attached, I only use a bipod about 1/10th of the time in the field. Most of my shooting doesn’t involve me stuck facing one way, so I don’t like to be invested in the pan/tilt range of whatever bipod I’m using.

Only you can decide if something like an Atlas is worth it to you, but even more important than a bipod is a good bubble level. Being level is what a bipod really helps with when you have the option to find a place to level out. But often times you just don’t get that hunting or in matches.

It really doesn’t matter what bipod you have if you don’t know where your shot is going to be. Deer can disappear with just a four foot elevation difference in a field and any experienced hunter will tell you that game is rarely just hanging out in a flat enough area to go prone with a bipod as you would at a range.

My advise would be to start with a Harris…you really can’t go wrong. If you decide you’re not getting the flexibility you need in the situations in which you shoot, then look into adding something with more features. And keep in mind that there are a lot of good options out there these days in addition to Harris, Magpul, and Atlas.

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44 COMMENTS

  1. For the average shooter, a Harris will do. For the PRS/nrl/cd competitor, a Harris will also work. A lot of podium shooters use both. I personally use both with arca rail clamps. I bring both to matches because it depends on how I will shoot a stage. Quick deployment from a barricade or rooftop position to prone/modified prone? Harris. I need a stable position and can build it… I’ll use my Atlas CAL with Hawk Hill feet.

    Both bipods have no issues allowing me to hit targets at 1000-1200 yards. Fundamentals are always the key.

  2. Add Versa-Pod to the list. Once you learn proper use they are very versatile, and accurate. Can be removed or put on quickly and easily switched between rifles. That said – being able to shoot from various positions and braces all are needed. As are tall Tripods with a ball mount also useful. Big trend with predator hunters.

  3. Used nothing but the Harris 6-9 swivel model then started using import clones. Simply remove the flimsy attachment hardware and install a 1/4″ -20 screw from inside the hand guard or float tube to form a threaded stud, make an appropriate filler for the bipod squared opening and secure the bipod with a 1/4″- 20 locknut. Also replace the import bipod sling attachment stud and don’t use flimsy wire type sling swivels. Use the beefy type from Uncle Mikes, etc.

    • THERE’S A BUTTON ON THE LEFT SIDE OF YOUR KEYBOARD THAT YOU SHOULD PRESS. IT SAYS “CAPS LOCK” AND MIGHT EVEN HAVE A LITTLE LIGHT ON IT. WHEN YOUR TYPING STOPS LOOKING LIKE THE TRANSCRIPT OF A NWS ADVISORY, YOU HAVE IT ON THE RIGHT SETTING.

      • How long before Karen Mercury goes full ‘I Haz A Question’ and writes a sternly worded letter to TTAG Managment? Seriously 🤡 get a life.

        • “Oh, the irony……”

          Flat nailed it!

          The never-ending stream of hilarity from the little fvckwit troll who’s mother dropped him on his pointed head repeatedly as a baby (most likely trying to shut him up) just keeps the laughter coming! 😉

    • YOU MAKE GRATE BENEFIT FOR TAAG COMMENTS SECTION POD!!! BUT DOUBTT YOU FRM NTEXAS. GOD BLES GUN OWNR AND OUR DEMOCRACIE!

  4. Out in the field I would prefer a Harris bipod but on the range I’ve found Champion bipod an acceptable alternative. Especially the one with the cant lock as it is easier to adjust for uneven surface than adjusting the bipod legs.

    To set the leg height, I set the bipod with the legs folded down but at the minimum length. I hold the rifle in a prone off-hand hold and note how much tge legs are off the ground. Extend and lock the legs at that length and all done.

  5. Never owned one of any brand. But then this super-precise long range shooting has never been my sport. Back in the more youthful years a Williams peep sight on my mid-1950’s era Winchester 1894 in .30-30 was adequate for deer and coyote out to 100 yards or so. You eyeballs are just that way, only with a deep familiarity of your gun’s ballistics with a selected load.

    Add multiples of those distances and other cartridges on bolt action rifles and we’d be talking a different tale here.

    Although a brother did take a mule deer at 425 yards with a bolt action .30-06 and a 4X scope, standing. The animal was walking across a slope and he put the bullet where the animal would be. No bipod, just good technique and practice.

    Now if anybody wants to spot me a free precision long range rig in .338 Labua or some such, feel free. I’m always happy to try new toys!!! 🙂

    • enuf…If a self serving nitwit like you can donate to Jim Crow Gun Control joe and now wants something for free then first ask your Gun Control democRat pals for your money back.
      Furthermore…If your sorry behind gets a stimulas check put your money where your slanderous libelous piehole is and return that money to the US Treasury because that $2000 is a POTUS DJT idea…otherwise freeloader gfy.

      • Think your life sucks? Well, imagine being the poor geezer what lays down with this miserable, hate filled harpy. You’re welcome!

        • yuck no need for you to imagine yourself lint licking enuf…you two lovebirds need to get a room.

        • “Think your life sucks?”

          Unlike a little fvckwit troll like you, she actually has a warm human who loves her and cares about her to sleep with on a cold winter’s night.

          Sure sucks to be you! *Snicker*… 😉

  6. Spot on Josh! One of the most practical-minded TTAG articles (among many.). As an “average” enthusiast with an above-average budget, I’ve got Atlas, Magpul, and Harris bipods. I have never been able to note a significant difference in my performance using them. People do comment on the Atlas though, so it’s got that going for it. I agree with Josh, buy Harris and upgrade to the magpul later if you need more features. Leave the Atlas until you’ve shot out a couple barrels in competition, by then you’ll know if you need it or not.

  7. “I use the Harris more because I am more of a field shooter and competitor and I just don’t need the extra weight or all the panning functions.”

    Isn’t the Harris the heaviest of the three?

  8. the media somehow thinks transforms a garden variety hunting rifle into a sniper rifle

    No, what the media doesn’t understand is that a garden variety hunting rifle *is* a sniper rifle.

    • They can at least claim ignorance, unlike the ATF who seem to think that a bipod transforms a braced handgun into a SBR.

  9. I have 2 atlas and several harris. I see the merits of the harris but the biild quality between the two is miles apart. The harris is a functional light weight bipod. The atlas is a fantastic pre planned position bipod. The atlas you can lean into and flex and it takes the abuse year after year. They aren’t comparable in my opinion

  10. Cheap or expensive, they are a waste of money. Buy a rest or a sled if you are a bench shooter. Other than that they get in the way and add unnecessary weight.

    But they are cool for the fat ass wannabes I see at most of the 2A rallies.

    • I go to 2A rallies and gun shows just to remind myself why I need to be armed to the teeth. If things go sideways I don’t then skeeters best waffle right up on down the road!

    • If you still got the OD canvas eyelet hook carrier for it then it’s probably worth what these others are lol

    • Bloke on the range tested one with a AR15 with A1spec barrel. The bipod caused the gun to shoot about 8″ high at 300 meters.

      Lesson. The bipod should support the stock, not the barrel.

      • If you’re serious about shooting past 100 yards you should of floated the barrel by now anyhow.
        The bipod should be attached to the rail system and not the barrel or gas block.
        Pressure on the barrel will defiantly affect poi.

  11. If you use a rifle a few times a year, any cheapo bipod will work. You can get ten outright disposable bipods for the price of one mid-range one. I can be as rough as I like with my cheapo bipod because it was like $12 and if I eventually break it I break it, I won’t shed any tears over it. So far it hasn’t complain about me leaning into it.

    If you are a mercenary, competitive shooter, etc, get something expensive that will hold up and not need to be replaced in the middle of the field.

    I recall the Harris are attached to the IARs and they are fairly good, could beat the life out of them, flex them, use them to pound on stuff, etc. Although the legs and buttons don’t like dirt and would often seize up, stop extending, etc. I can’t comment on the Atlas, never owned one, never used one, and I don’t intend to. I got too many other frivolous things to spend several hundred dollars on before a bipod.

    • I used to use a stack of sandbags under the fore stock, but I got tired to having to re-adjust the bags after every 3 shots. The cheapo ($17) bipod works well. However, when attaching to the sling stud there is a lot of room for misalignment. So I try to level the rifle every time I mount the pod.

  12. I get hits at 800 and 1000 with a Harris and with a Harris knock off. What I would never buy again is one that tilts. Sold that with a PRS 6.5CM that I never should have built. Too old for that crap.

  13. I like the inexpensive Caldwell I have. It’s very similar to the Magpul. Costs less, too. I can’t abide the external springs. Aside from the appearance, they’re what seems to be most prone to catching and snagging. And they’re ugly. Appearance doesn’t really matter, but they just look “over-engineered.” I’ve been using my Caldwell for more than two years, and not gently. Internal springs save space, are just as good, and are neater and cleaner in appearance. And face it, looks DO count, or we wouldn’t obsess over the things we do.

    I just bought a no-name QD spring loaded bipod that I’ve been really pleased with. From Amazon. For $50! Very surprised at how good it is so far. It’s also much like the Magpul, but with tapered legs and nice feet. I haven’t seen a Harris yet that I’d pay what they’re asking, and won’t as long as more affordable ones are just as good. And I can apply the savings to more ammo!

  14. I use both Harris and Atlas bipods. Out hunting, the Harris is certainly serviceable and I don’t care if it gets beaten up. The Atlas is attached to my long range gas gun, where it works just fine. Either on will do the job, but the Atlas is just a better quality, more refined product.

  15. so about 5 years ago i built a “budget mk 12 spr clone” for about $900 all in:
    bear creek arsenal 18 in mid length gas fluted upper 1/8 twist with 223 wylde chamber
    anderson manufacturing lower
    vortex diamondback 4-16x scope
    rock river arms two stage match trigger
    ive shot sub moa groups with it to 300 yards with factory match ammo
    and did so while it was sitting on top of a $35 utg bipod
    i also built a budget 16 inch “recce rifle” for about $800 that shoots similar groups with the same exact bipod
    just sayin…

  16. I feel like this article put my exact thoughts into writing. I bought and sold the Atlas – didn’t like how slow it was to deploy/adjust. I’ve noticed that voicing this opinion in a public forum will cause all Atlas owners to violently defend their purchase.

    The Harris S-BRM w/ KMW POD-LOK (and Tank’s Speedy Knob, but that’s not too important) attached to an ARMS rail adapter occupies a front-and-center spot on the top shelf of my gun safe for range trips. I’ve been meaning to try the Magpul bipod but certainly haven’t been in a rush since the Harris does everything I need on every relevant gun I own. For zeroing rifles without bottom rails, I just use sandbags.

    Versa-pod bipods are excellent… but I just don’t own one anymore. The only other bipod I’ve tried is the Tangodown ACB-4 and it was just ‘okay’ but certainly not worth the price.

  17. As memory serves, the 1907 type leather slings used by the U.S. Military and civilian shooters for many years worked very well indeed. With a bit of wood work, rifles could be fitted with a sliding hand stop also. That combination worked very well indeed.

  18. I had a Harris bi-pod. No longer. Quit using bi-pods totally. Off the bench, every time I shot with the Harris, the vibration from the springs screwed up my shots. The rifle was a Remington 788. Shoots one-holers off bags and other improvised rest. I understand others have good luck using bi-pods, but I tried many ways to use that bi-pod, and just gave up.

  19. I don’t have a lot of bipod experience and don’t shoot off one often enough to invest in a high end model. A few years ago I bought a Magpul for my 6.5 Grendel because I getting into semi-precision shooting just for fun. I can’t compare it to higher end bipods but I can say I’ve been extremely happy with it. I’ll probably get another one down the road for my .30-06 hunting rifle. I’ve had a few instances where I wish I had had one at the time. The Magpul is affordable, lightweight and made well enough to be a no brainer in this case.

  20. I’ve shot Harris, Magpul, Gripod (?), and Atlas. When it comes to shooting tight groups, the Atlas is just far better. I’ve worn out guns and burned out barrels, but certainly not as many rounds as many of the other shooters here claim. I agree that Harris works in many applications, but they feel like cheap garbage compared to the premium bipods.

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