If you are serious about the performance of your rifles and pistols and want to take your accuracy to the next level, you are probably already custom-loading your ammunition.
This naturally requires you to test that ammunition to find the best load for every particular rifle or pistol in your collection. Long-range precision shooters know the importance of testing, data collection, and consistency.
A vital part of this process is a shooting rest to ensure a stable platform for your rifle or pistol that removes as many variables as possible from your test shots.
I have chosen what I consider some of the best shooting rests on the market in several categories. I hope that this list helps you make the best decision possible for your precision shooting activities.
In the end, the best product for you is the one that fulfills your expectation and needs.
Best Shooting Rests for the Money:
Why Should You Use a Shooting Rest?
Shooting rests are intended to support your rifle or pistol while test firing on the range. A shooting rest eliminates many of the factors that affect accuracy when a rifle or pistol is held by the shooter.
Using a shooting rest virtually eliminates those tiny movements imparted by breathing, heartbeat, and muscle fatigue. This imparts a high level of consistency to every shot if the shooting rest is of high quality and used properly.
Unfortunately, the human element in shooting causes most of the problems.
Shooting Rest Types and Styles
The type and style of shooting rest is best determined by the shooting you want to perform. Shooting rests can be broken down into several types based on these criteria.
Pistol Only Shooting Rests
If you are a dedicated pistol shooter, you may find a dedicated pistol shooting rest to be all that you need. Most pistol shooting rests feature a cradle or support for the barrel of your pistol and butt support on which the pistol grip rests.
You are still required to grasp the pistol and operate the trigger normally.
Lightweight Rifle Shooting Rests
If you prefer to shoot some of the smaller caliber rifles, such as a .22 rimfire or .17 HMR, you may find one of the lighter shooting rests better suited for your needs.
These rests typically feature adjustments to handle any rifle style and are handy for sighting in scopes. Some lightweight shooting rests are sturdy enough to use with AR15-style rifles firing the .223 or 5.56 cartridges.
Rifle Sleds or Windage Cradles
If you shoot heavier rifles or larger calibers, you probably need a rifle sled. These devices typically allow you to clamp your file securely into the shooting rest, where the buttstock is supported. This style of shooting rest is intended to absorb most of the recoil without moving. This means these devices are heavy or have the means to clamp to the bench rest.
Windage cradles are much more sophisticated versions of rifle sleds. These cradles not only support the rifle completely, but they also feature adjustments that allow you to adjust the rifle’s position in the cradle to compensate for windage and elevation without changing your scope settings.
What Should You Look for in a Shooting Rest?
I advise you to look for features that meet your needs and a price that fits your budget. That may sound a little trite, but it gets to the foundation of choosing a shooting rest that you can and will use.
There are some features that you should consider in any decision you make about a shooting rest.
Size and Weight
Size and weight are always a factor. You need enough weight to handle the calibers that you routinely shoot adequately. Your shooting rest should also fit your rifle, so the size is also important. If your rest is too light for the caliber you shoot, it won’t remain steady, and your accuracy will suffer. Larger calibers can also damage lightweight shooting rests not designed for heavier recoil.
You should also consider that you must transport and carry your shooting rest to and from the range. This often means a trade-off between weight for stability and ease of transportation.
A good shooting rest can represent a significant investment, and you want the most durable product you can afford to ensure a long life.
Unfortunately, durability is often a product of material and design. In some cases, durability is associated with higher-end products that cost more initially.
If you factor in size, weight, and durability, it becomes apparent that the best shooting rests are primarily built of metal. Aluminum, cast iron, and steel are the most common materials used in the best shooting rests. Aluminum is light and strong but may suffer from stress cracking due to the shock of repeated recoil.
Cast iron is extremely durable and strong but is heavy. Steel is a prime choice that is heavier than aluminum and requires some coating or finish to resist rust.
Ease of Use
The more adjustments that are available on a shooting rest, the more complicated it is to use. I don’t want to spend an afternoon fiddling with my shooting rest at the range.
I like things as simple as possible, which translates into a shooting rest system that sets up quickly, holds its settings consistently and doesn’t require constant attention while I am shooting.
A shooting rest, like any other piece of equipment or tools, requires regular maintenance to continue to perform to its potential. The parts must be cleaned, lubricated, and routinely checked for normal wear and tear.
Shooting rests used with heavier caliber rifles are subject to high recoil levels and need extra care to ensure they operate up to their potential.
What I Look for in a Shooting Rest
I try to consider all of the above features when shopping for a rifle shooting rest. Every decision becomes a compromise. This compromise situation typically means that no one shooting rest is a perfect solution for every shooter.
You must consider your needs and expectations. I have categorized my choices in this list to reflect what I consider each shooting rest’s best application.
In general, this represents choices of cost, material, durability, consistency, and the type of shooting where the shooting rest performs best.
The Top 4 Best Shooting Rests in 2023:
Best Overall Shooting Rest – Caldwell Lead Sled 3 Adjustable Shooting Rest
- VERSATILITY: Ideal for sighting in and reducing recoil from magnum rifles and shotguns
- EASE OF USE: Holds up to two 25 lb. barbell weights or up 100lbs of lead shot
- ACCURACY: Fingertip elevation adjustment along with rear adjustable elevation
My pick for the best overall shooting rest, and the sled I use personally, is the Caldwell Lead Sled Adjustable Shooting Rest.
In my opinion, for the money, this is the best option for most shooting enthusiasts who want the benefits of a bench rest for their rifles.
The Caldwell Led Sled is easily portable yet strong enough for most rifle calibers used by average hunters. I routinely fire my Savage .270 from this rest without any problems.
From a features standpoint, you will find everything you need to produce accurate and repeatable shots.
- Fingertip elevation adjustments
- Rear cradle with shock eliminator pad
- Up to four inches of elevation adjustment
- Rubber feet for good grip on bench surfaces
- Weight tray allows you to use up to 100 pounds of lead shot to keep your Lead Sled stationary.
What Users Say About the Caldwell Lead Sled
- Sturdy, well-built, and stable
- Easy to transport
- Versatile enough to use with large heavier caliber rifles or lightweight .22 rifles
- You must add enough weight to the tray to stabilize the sled, or it will move easily. This means transporting bags of lead shot or barbell weights.
- The rubber feet may slide on some bench rest surfaces. Adding a mat under the sled seems to mitigate this problem.
Best Budget Shooting Rest – Birchwood Casey Foxtrot Shooting Rest
For convenience in a budget package, you can’t do much better than the Birchwood Casey Foxtrot Shooting Rest.
If you aren’t on the range with your shooting rest more than a few times a year, this is a great choice.
The design is convenient and flexible, which gives you more options than many other types and styles of shooting rest in this price range.
This shooting rest is molded of high-strength reinforced materials that provide lightweight with good stability. The unique design allows this shooting rest to be taken apart for easy storage and transportation.
In addition, you can use this shooting rest for both rifles and pistols. Among the features that make this a great budget buy, you will find the following.
- Padded front and rear rifle rests that adjust to fit almost any size weapon
- The front and rear rests are made of non-marring materials to protect your firearms
- Large elevation adjustment wheel is one of the easiest to use that I tested.
- Can be used for both rifles and pistols
- Break down design allows easy storage and portability
What Users Say About the Birchwood Casey Foxtrot Shooting Rest
- Lightweight and easy to assemble
- Convenient for both rifle and pistol shooters
- Durable materials that don’t require much maintenance
- Not suitable for large or heavy caliber rifles.
- Needs more surface area to put shot bags or weights to control recoil
The Ultimate Shooting Rest – Caldwell Lead Sled FCX
- SPECS: 4" course elevation adjustment at the rest
- EASE OF USE: Adjust windage and elevation with a single movement
- NON-DESTRUCTIVE: Contoured rear support protects your firearm's finish
At the top of the heap, I put the Caldwell Lead Sled FCX.
This shooting rest is designed for shooters who want maximum accuracy and aren’t too concerned with cost, weight, or transportability.
This shooting rest is a beast and is built to take the heaviest recoil without flinching.
When you decide on the Caldwell Lead Sled FCX, you can be confident that you get everything you need to go directly to the range and begin sighting in your rifle.
Each FCX unit comes with a custom-fit weight bag and a weighted rifle rest. The padded butt pocket absorbs as much as 95 percent of the recoil from your rifle.
In addition, you will find these features built into these shooting sleds.
- Adjustable windage and elevation with a single movement and control
- At 100 yards, this shooting rest allows almost 5 feet of adjustment
- Adjustable shooting rest length to accommodate any rifle
- Solid all-metal construction for reliability and durability.
- A complete ready-to-use package out of the box.
What Users Say About the Caldwell FCX Shooting Rest
- Easy-to-use controls that are responsive and precise
- Very little felt recoil, even when shooting the largest calibers
- Quick adjustable features make firing different rifles much quicker than other sleds
- The one-hand elevation and windage adjustment arm is a great feature
- The supplied weight bag doesn’t hold enough shot for big calibers. You need to add additional weight to the sled
- The design doesn’t work well with rifles with large magazines like an AR. The frame tube tends to get in the way of the magazine.
Best Front Only Shooting Rest – Caldwell The Rock Deluxe Front Rest
- SPECS: 1-in diameter steel center post with large elevation wheel
- EASE OF USE: Quick height adjustments from 4-1/2 in to 7-1/4 in
- NON-DESTRUCTIVE: With smooth surfaces, you can confidently sight in your firearm without worry of...
Some shooters prefer a simpler approach to sighting in their rifles and pistols.
In these cases, a front rest may be all that is needed to provide the support and consistency to meet these needs. Caldwell’s The Rock Deluxe Front Rest is a proven performer in this category of gun rests.
The Deluxe front rest provides rock steady support with simplicity and easy transportability to and from the range.
You won’t be lacking any features when using this shooting rest. Caldwell packs this shooting rest with features that any level of shooter will find convenient and easy to use.
For the price, this is one of the best values in a front only shooting rest on the market today.
- One inch diameter threaded steel support post with large easy to adjust elevation wheel
- Adjusts from 4.5 inches to 7.25 inches
- All cast aluminum base with steel support structures provides plenty of mass to stabilize the rest
- Wide tripod base with individual adjustment screw legs
- Fore end stop for reliable and repeatable rifle placement for each shot.
What Users Say about the Caldwell the Rock Deluxe Front Rest
- The easiest elevation adjustments I have ever used on a front rest
- The wide base and metal construction provide a stable platform
- Easy to assemble and use
- Great for target shooting especially with .22 rimfire rifles
- May move when shooting large caliber rifles
- The rest bag may not fit well on large caliber rifles with big fore ends on the stocks
- If you are shooting a big hunting rifle, bring and extra sandbag to stabilize this rest
My Final Thoughts
Every hunter, target shooter, or plinker needs some sort of shooting rest in their gear. Once you shoot from a rest, you will wonder how you ever got along without one.
I use my Caldwell rest regularly to test new loads in my rifles, to sight in scopes, and to prepare dope cards on my rifles with different loads.
My best shooting rest is an essential part of my range kit.
Last update on 2022-12-07