Earlier this year I attended ATX Precision’s Precision Rifle I course. As a hunter, I used that course to focus on long-range shooting positions other than the prone. Specifically, I wanted to get above the grass and brush and stills steady enough to take more difficult shots at farther distances.
In the past, I’ve always used whatever was available. Brush, a truck door or tailgate, a backpack or a buddy. For this course, Clayton Hergert showed me multiple ways to use a lightweight tripod instead.
I learned a great deal about the versatility of the tripod as well as the big difference in quality of tripods. That variation in quality made a huge difference once I got out to the 800 yard line. The Manfrotto tripod was rock steady, the Bog-pod, not so much. Of course, there was a $400 difference between the two.
I left the course determined to find a decent rifle mount and tripod to incorporate into my hunting gear and asked a few professional and highly competitive amateur shooters for some gear advice.
It was John Stewart of Kiote Rifles who first suggested the PIG Saddle and PIG0311 tripod from Shadow Tech for my needs. Every other shooter I asked agreed with him. Most of the shooters I know, and all the ones I talked to for recommendations, had never heard of Shadow Tech. But they had all heard of Hog Saddle.
Although people have been shooting from camera tripods with rigged-up rests for decades, it was Shadow Tech that invented the Hog Saddle, “The Original Tripod Saddle.”
There are two major versions of the Saddle, but they are basically the same thing. “Saddle” really is the best way to describe the device, as your rifle rests inside a set of urethane pads that grip the gun as you tighten a large CNC machined aluminum knob. The whole things mounts on any tripod with common ¼-20 or 3/8-16 threads.
The HOG Saddle is their premier product, originally designed by a Marine scout sniper and is currently issued to some Marines and other Special Operations teams. (NSN 1005-01-616-2719). It’s machined out of aluminum and stainless steel and weighs just under one pound. The MSRP is $309.
Whereas the HOG Saddle is the “military grade” version, the PIG Saddle is by far the most popular version, aimed more at the civilian hunter and competitive shooter. They both function the same, both are made in America, and are both made of the same materials.
So what are the big differences? Whereas the HOG Saddle is machined, the PIG is stamped. The PIG is also a bit heavier than the HOG, weighing about half a pound more. The PIG also less than half the cost, at $135.
Everyone encouraged me to go with the PIG Saddle, so I picked up the used demo model Kiote Rifles had on hand. I’m glad I did.
I’m sure the HOG Saddle is great, but I can’t imagine it needing to be tougher. I’ve had the PIG Saddle and tripod a few months now and it’s been on a lot of hunts. It’s been banging around in the back of my truck, knocked over with a 20lb gun mounted on it, dropped off an elevated blind (without the gun in it) and just plain old used a bunch. I’ve used it in the east Texas swamps and the west Texas desert. It’s gotten rained on and it’s gotten muddy.
So far, it shows absolutely no significant wear or corrosion. And I got it second hand! Of course, when you look at the materials, there’s really nothing that would succumb to much corrosion. The materials include aluminum, stainless steel, and urethane. The metals have a melonite finish. The specific urethane pads used are UV resistant, so even a quick spray off and occasional spray with some RemOil or other lubricant will likely keep the PIG Saddle going for a lifetime.
In looking at the device, I was doubtful that it would hold my night-time pig hunting rig in place. My preferred equipment is a suppressed Underground Tactical 6.8SPC rifle with a 6X M646 Raptor Night Vision scope and a Torch Pro IR Illuminator. It’s a great set-up, allowing me to take pigs and predators well past the 300-yard mark, in total darkness. But man, it’s heavy, and I doubted the PIG Saddle would hold it well.
My concerns were completely unfounded. Setting my rig into the PIG Saddle just forward of the magazine well, I turned the knob until the textured urethane pads had a secure purchase on the fore grip of the gun. Then I let go. Rock steady. Since then, I’ve tried the PIG Saddle out with many different firearms, from traditional wood stocked hunting rifles like my 1956 Savage 110, to my polymer stocked PTR91. It held them all equally well.
The mount is ideal, but I also needed a tripod. After having felt the difference between the cheap tripod and the expensive tripod, I was warry of going the budget route. I was, however, even more warry of going the $400+ tripod route. After all, this was a “nice to have” equipment set, not a “has to have” one.
Again, I got great advice in the Shadow Tech PIG0311-G tripod. At a cost of $138, this thing is a fantastic value. According to the Shadow Tech website, they spent 8 months of development and testing with the SLK DX700PRO tripod and came up with this specific “do it all on a budget” tripod. It works.
There are two warnings people gave me about “budget” tripods. First was that they were delicate. The PIG0311-G is made with a magnesium body and aluminum legs, and has a 26lb rating. It can take a hell of a lot more than 26lbs. I’ve put 20bs of gun on the tripod, while hanging a 20lb bag off the bottom, while holding on to it and leaning forward. It didn’t move an inch in recoil. Nothing broke, the legs didn’t bend, and they didn’t slide forward and collapse. Now, if I lean in and put all my weight on just one leg, it will slowly slide back inside itself until it hits the other legs. I weight about 200lbs.
Just like the PIG Saddle itself, this tripod has been through a few rough months. The spring is prime pig hunting season, and this thing has been tossed in a lot of trucks, thrown over fences, knocked over in the dark and dropped. It shows no significant signs of wear.
The other warning is that less expensive tripods are heavy. This one weighs 5.6lbs, so I guess that’s heavy? I don’t know, because it’s easy to carry in its case or with strap hooked around it. It actually makes my night hunting rig easier to carry. I just leave it in the Saddle and carry the whole thing all hooked up like a hobo stick.
Not only is the PIG0311-G durable, it is feature packed.
The tripod is widely variable. I’m just over 6’ tall, and the tripod can get taller than I can comfortably shoot from, with the feet fully widened.
It can also, in the words of Little John, get low, all the way down to 11 1/2′ with the PIG Saddle attached. That’s important, as I’d rather not shoot fully standing if I don’t have to. The lower you go, even with a rest, the more stable you are. The extremely wide range of heights means that I can actually shoot from a “just above the grass” high prone, all the way to fully standing and on an angle with this tripod.
The tripod comes with rubber feet attached, but it also includes metal spiked feet in the package, along with a carrying case. Sitting in the back of the truck or on rocks, the rubber feat are awesome. But in the sand or grass, those metal feet were perfect. Just unscrew one set and put the others in.
There are also two hook attachments on the tripod. The first is pretty obvious. Directly under the center column is a hook attachment, with the hook provided. You can hang a heavy bag other weighty object there to pull the center of the tripod down into the ground, dramatically improving the stability of the tripod.
The second is one that I wouldn’t have figured out if Clayton Hergert hadn’t shown me. It’s another place to put a hook on the side of the column. You can set a cord onto that hook, and then set the other end into your belt. Leaning down or back, you can load up the tripod and improve stability that way as well. Of course, if you have time to do that, you might have time to move closer.
The PIG Saddle will directly mount to the PIG0311-G tripod. Because the tripod’s center column can rotate completely around, and because you can adjust the cant of the rifle in the Saddle as well as the height of each leg of the tripod, the direct mount option allows you to get very stable platform at any angle of shooting. The direct mount method is actually the most stable way to mount the saddle to the tripod, and according to Shadow Tech, it’s how their military customers do it. I’ve been very happy with this method.
However, it takes a little time to set up like that. If you are willing to give up just a bit of stability for rapid acquisition, you can also buy a ball head that sits between the Saddle and the tripod. That will allow you to fully rotate the gun in any position, and then lock it down in that position. Shadow Tech sells a few versions, and recommends the GNN FB-52 ball head for use with the PIG0311-G tripod.
I knew I’d have some use for the Saddle and tripod, but I had no idea how much I’d end up using it. From now on, I’ll likely take this on every hunt I go on, unless it is purely brush hunting. It’s totally worth the weight.
I can get up so much higher and still be stable than ever before. It’s allowed me to better visualize the hunting fields, as well as to increase my available shots. If you can be stable and still get higher, you can see more. If you can see more, you can shoot more.
What I hadn’t counted on was how I’ve come to use it as a modern redneck nighttime “technical”. I’ve been mounting this set up in the bed of a truck and then driving around pig hunting on the ranch. I can sit on the tool box or on the rails and shoot 270 degrees with great stability. If the pigs are in front of the truck, I just pop the whole thing up and put it on the toolbox, and shoot forward. Like this, I’ve been able to shoot pigs at the 200+ yard line, out of the truck, in the dark. Set up like this, I’ve turned my truck into a nighttime mobile precision pig killing machine.
As I said in the opening, this has been one of the best pieces of gear I’ve bought in decades. I know I’m late to the game on this one, but I also know I’m not alone. For under $300 I’ve given myself a whole lot more options for all types of hunting and shooting. I’m not leaving for the hunt without this one.
Weight: 1.4 lbs
Steel construction- to facilitate years of dependability
Melonite finish provides superior corrosion resistance and added rigidity
CNC machined aluminum knob, OD Green anodized
UV resistant pads- specifically engineered to absorb rifle recoil and reduce muzzle jump
Steel 1/4-20 mounting threads and 3/8-16 back up threads
One handed operation
Manufactured in the USA
MAX. OPERATING HEIGHT: 61 IN
MIN. OPERATING HEIGHT: 10.8 IN
MAX. CENTER COLUMN EXT: 5 IN
CENTER COLUMN TYPE: 365 Degree Rotation
FOLDED LENGTH: 27.6 IN
WEIGHT: 5.6 LBS
NUMBER OF LEG SECTIONS: 3, with locking cam levers
MAX. LOAD: 26 LBS
LEG TIP: Interchangeable rubber or metal spikes
TRIPOD MOUNT THREAD: 3/8
Made in Thailand
Rating (out of five stars):
Shadow Tech PIG Saddle and PIG0311-G Tripod * * * * *
According to the internet, it’s possible to get a better setup, just for a whole lot more money. With this set-up as it is, I’m hitting 8-inch plates at 800 yards standing fully upright. It keeps a variety of rifles and equipment tightly held in a stable platform. It lets me take shots I couldn’t take before. It stands up to hard use. Considering the fairly low price, I should have done this years ago.