Though many shooters still use the same practices that are generations old, rifle shooting has changed over the years. One of the many things born from the current precision rifle shooting craze is a wealth of new support devices. Bipods, in particular, are a popular option. They’re easily attached to the front of your rifle and extend to give a solid front shooting support.
You could use backpacks, shooting sticks, and other things, but it is hard to beat a good sturdy bipod. So let’s dive into some of the legs and feet that make up the modern bipod market.
Early Standard Setters
Bipods come at a variety of price points and build qualities. But it would be impossible to discuss this topic without mentioning the Harris bipod, which is probably the most well-known and widely used bipod in the U.S. market. It is also probably the most copied design, but do not waste your money on the knockoffs. Even the clones made cheaply by well-known U.S. companies are not as good as the original Harris.
The Harris became so popular because it did a couple of things well. It gave solid support to the front of your rifle and was easily attached to any firearm with a front sling stud. That made it pretty universal. It also folded neatly out of the way when you weren’t shooting. It did all these things for a fairly modest price – especially by today’s standards – so it flourished.
After Harris’ success in dominating the bipod market, it became apparent that there was more to be done. Not much has changed with those original bipods in the 20 years I have been buying them, so someone else was bound to pick up the torch and move it forward.
The Atlas bipod made by B&T brought bipods into the 21st century with a much better design and construction. The Atlas used machined aluminum and steel parts, bringing incredible strength and durability. Features like replaceable feet and spikes, 180-degree pivoting legs, and locking points at 45 and 90 degrees were just some of the improvements that tantalized marksmen. They also offered much better mounting solutions such as Pic rail clamps, but it came at a heftier price.
The Atlas bipod surely took the entire bipod market a step into the future and opened the door for a whole new world of innovation. This, of course, led to more cheap Chinese copies.
The current selection of Atlas bipods has grown significantly. While not cheap, they still offer an excellent value for American-made innovation. For years, the standard was the Atlas V8. It offers an assortment of mounts. I use either an ADM Pic rail QD clamp or an Area 419 Arca lock clamp to attach it to my rifle.
One of the features that made the Atlas so popular was the easy ability to deploy or stow the legs. They fold forward or back and lock in either position. They can also be locked at a 45-degree angle. For that matter, they can be locked individually to give you a solid shooting position regardless of the terrain or support.
The legs are easily extended to varying degrees by pulling down on the knurled collar on each leg. Hard rubber feet offer great traction on firm surfaces, but they can also be swapped out for spikes, skis, or cleats. The bipod rocks and pans left or right to allow leveling of the rifle on uneven terrain.
Tension is controlled by a knurled knob underneath. This is the only thing about the Atlas that I never really loved. At times, it seems like the bipod will tension up or not regardless of the way you turned the knob. This is not an issue with the popular CAL Atlas bipod, which uses a tension lever. The Atlas V8 does everything a bipod should do, and B&T Industries continues to keep the Atlas line at the cutting edge.
The Warne Skyline Bipod
Warne has long been well known in the industry for robust mounting solutions for optics, but they have also jumped into the bipod game with their Skyline bipod. The Skyline features a strong aluminum body and legs with a tensioning ball clutch to allow rocking and panning. There is a knurled knob under the pivot point that the shooter can adjust for tension. The legs are extendable and have a ratcheting catch to set leg length.
Much like the Atlas, the Skyline’s legs can be folded either to the front or the rear and locked at 45 or 90 degrees. They are different in that the detents for leg locking are only on one side of the pivot. So if you fold up the legs to the rear, they can be deployed without releasing the detent, and they will fold directly to the 90-degree detent. If you prefer them to be locked, you can fold them to the front. This could easily be reversed by rotating the mounting clamp.
The Skyline can be used with either a Pic rail clamp or an Arca clamp. I use the latter for my purposes. Another great feature on the Skyline is the ratchet catch on the leg extensions. The legs can be extended and catch on the ratchet teeth. You can then either push the ratchet lever in to drop a tooth, or you push it in and down to release the ratchet entirely to retract the legs. It also has a mechanical cam feature to lower the leg height from the shooting position. You will love this feature if you’ve ever tried to reach out and adjust your bipods from a shooting position.
In addition to these features, the Skyline has available adaptors to use Warne cleats and spikes. Or you can even use an Atlas foot adaptor to take advantage of the wide variety of feet options for Atlas bipods. You can also get 3-inch leg extensions that make the Skyline up to 12 inches tall. This is welcome for me because one of the only gripes is that I wish it was just a touch taller.
Shooting in the field with these two bipods quickly revealed the pros and cons. Both are very robust, which makes them a little heavy if you’re going to be hiking in the backcountry for a week. But the Atlas is a few ounces lighter. Both also provide stronger support than the old Harris thanks to the quality construction.
The quick change out of the rifle interface only takes seconds with the Skyline, and toolless removal of the Picatinny clamp to install the Arca clamp is easily done in the field. The Atlas definitely has fewer snagging points. While it is built like a tank, there are fewer places for gear and clothes to get hung up. The assorted levers and buttons on the Skyline can get caught up on some things. Though I love the ratchet lever of the leg extensions, I could see small debris getting into the small spaces.
These are both excellent bipods, and the only way I would force myself to choose between them would be on a lightweight backpacking hunt. I think either of them would work great in a competition like a PRS, though the Skyline might have an edge when it comes to quickly leveling the rifle. But if I’m going on a backcountry hunt where ounces are pounds, I might choose the Atlas over the Skyline due to its lighter weight. If you are looking for more support in your shooting, look at either of these bipods. You can’t go wrong.