A rifle bipod is an excellent accessory for a rifle both at the range or in the field. It adds convenience by allowing you to attain a stable shooting rest almost anywhere and with very little effort. Since it is attached to the rifle it is always ready and available.
There is however a right and a wrong way to utilize this tool. A bipod can actually hurt accuracy if not used correctly. It is entirely possible to go from 1 moa to 1.5 moa or worse, simply because of what you are doing with the bipod.
As we have discussed before, variability is the enemy of accuracy. Our job as long range shooters is to remove as much variability from our methods as possible. If your goal is to hit full man size targets at 300 yards, we all know that almost any rifle can do this easily.
If you have a much tighter goal, which we as precision shooters do, like 1 moa or less you must focus on the minor causes of variability to make that happen. Variability caused by the bipod is just one of these variables.
Variables that can affect accuracy with a bipod
Flexibility of the bipod
All bipods move. The are not designed to be completely rigid and all of them flex from front to rear to allow loading. This actually helps accuracy. Undesirable flex is side to side or up and down.
If your bipod flexes in these directions, to optimize accuracy you must correct the problem on the bipod or trash it and get a good one. A bipod that flexes in the wrong direction hurts accuracy more than it helps. You would be better off without it.
Believe it or not there can be a difference in bullet velocity just when you are shooting from a bench, or in the prone position. The difference is very small but is caused simply by how much the rifle is allowed to move backwards during recoil.
The difference in your body position and build allows this to happen. Not much you can do to control it but just be aware that it does play a small role in accuracy.
Bouncing of the bipod feet during the shot
This situation is the largest detriment to accuracy when shooting with a bipod. This is the secret to making a bipod work. Most bipods come with rubber feet which are thought to accomodate most any shooting surface.
The fact is, the loading of the bipod means more to accuracy than the type of feet used. The bipod must be loaded (pushed forward using the shoulder) with enough pressure to allow the rifle to be supported entirely by the bipod and the shoulder with no hands.
This allows maximum stability during the shot and reduces / eliminates the affect of recoil on accuracy. The trigger hand is only used to squeeze the trigger straight back. It is not used to support the rifle at all. The left hand can be used to squeeze the rear bag for minor sight movement if you are using one.
If the surface the bipod is sitting on, and the bipod feet won’t allow this much pressure without sliding, you won’t be able to get to the optimum level of accuracy. Learn more by reading this article.
You can overcome this situation by placing the bipod feet against something like a rock, a board nailed to the shooting table, or anything that will prevent sliding of the feet when you put the proper amount of pressure on the rifle with your shoulder.
What you are looking for is a push straight back when the shot is fired, due to recoil, without the bipod feet leaving the surface of what they are resting on. The affect of bipod bounce is more pronounced of course on big bore rifles but it still occurs to a smaller degree with rimfires and can still eat your accuracy.
What is the solution?
If you are shooting a rifle and the groups are larger than they should be, greater than 1 moa, the first thing you should do is make sure you are shooting a good lot of ammo. One that has shot well through your rifle before. Next insure that all scope screws are tight and the scope is functioning correctly.
Then make sure the action screws are acceptably tight. Use a torque meter for this. We are normally looking for around 30-40 inch lbs. If you are using a bipod, and are shooting from a hard surface like concrete, metal, etc. where the bipod feet can’t get enough traction to allow you to load the bipod properly, look for something heavy that you can brace the bipod feet against.
If there is nothing like that available you can actually use the rifle sling or another strap by routing it around the bipod feet and then securing it to your body or the shooting bench. All you are really after is being able to apply enough forward pressure to the bipod so that you your shoulder and the bipod are the only things supporting the rifle. Some shooting mats come with a strap designed for this very purpose.
If you know you will be shooting from a hard surface bipod spikes are not the best choice. Use the rubber feet. Bipod spikes work really well when shooting prone from the ground. They allow you to really dig them in and load the rifle correctly which completely eliminates bounce.