Not many people realize that snipers often times do not have the luxury of shooting from the perfectly setup prone position. Many times there is brush, rubble, windows, and other things that we have to shoot over, through, or around which prevents us from assuming that most desired prone supported firing position. This became apparent all the way back in sniper school at Ft. Benning, GA where they taught us to use camera tripods to support our weapons, a heavy M24 in my case, when we needed to fire from the sitting or standing position. We would made “U” shaped cradles that we would attach to our tripods to rest our rifles in. On one occasion I even used poles from a shelter half lashed together to make an adhoc bipod that I could attach more, or less, pole lengths to, it was crude, but worked. Of course, where there is a need, typically a smart young lad, or maybe a grizzled old jar head, will come up with a solution to fill the need. This is where the Hog Saddle came in.
The concept of the Hog Saddle, and its lower cost and simpler Pig Saddle, is to provide a durable and highly effective rifle clamping system that attaches to any standard tripod with mounting screw. Of course, there are other features that make it desirable, but the crux of the solution is to make a combat ready rifle support system. The unit comes in a small box and at first glance it appears that there is not much there for your $300 hard earned dollars, but then as you start to look closer the details come into view.
This is the Mod7 version of the Hog Saddle and they continue to make improvements as needed when reports come back from the field. Since they have become standard issue to USMC snipers and some Special Operations units, those reports are real-time up to date.
The Saddle itself is milled from a solid block of aluminum and then hard anodized finished in an OD Green finish. The hardware, such as the screws and bolts, are all stainless steel and anodized black to maintain tactical discipline. The large retention knob is also milled from aluminum like the main unit. Between the aluminum, anodizing, and use of stainless steel, these saddles are properly configured to be durable and hold up to prolonged field use.
They are setup to mount to any tripod, or even mono-pod, that uses the standard 1/4-20 or 3/8-16 attachment screws. These are the standard sizes for camera tripos, spotting scope tripods and just about any support that attaches to devices. If the tripod has a quick detach plate with a rotation pin, the Hog Saddle is setup to work with those as well. With all of the mounting options covered, it becomes routine and easy to attach the saddle to any modern tripod.
The cradle area has FDE Tan colored urethane pads that are a 1/4″ thick and are recessed down in the saddle and designed to absorb recoil when firing the rifle. The urethane also will not harm the finish on your rifle and provides a good gripping surface when the tension is tightened down onto the stock of your rifle.
We tested several rifles with the saddle to be sure it would fit a wide variety of stock designs and all of our tactical rifles we had on hand worked without a problem. The rifle used in the picture above has a McMillan Winchester Marksman stock on it that features a wide beavertail forearm and it fit into the saddle without any problems. It is best to position the rifle as close as you can to the center balance point of the rifle as it helps make a stable platform that can be left hands free without worry. If your rifle has a DBM, that balance point typically is still ahead of the magazine and should not hinder accessing those mags. It will depend on how long and heavy your barrel is, but we had no issues. The size and strength of the tripod will also be a factor on how stable the setup is. There may be some oddball chassis rifles out there with accessories attached that may make it difficult, but chances are it’ll still work.
Once the rifle is in place the tripod head can be loosened and pivoted just like if a camera were attached. Of course, there will be limitations on the range of motion the head can swivel, but that is a limitation of the tripod and not the Hog Saddle itself. We like the way that this setup uses the clamping system and does not directly connect the tripod to the rifle like some of the MLok and other tripod adapter systems work. With the Hog Saddle it is a quick few turns of the side knob and then remove the rifle.
The use of a durable and stable tripod is suggested and ShawdowTech has several recommended models they will sell you with the Hog Saddle and yes, they can be expensive as well. We used one of their PIG0311-G tripods for our test here which is a large and stable tripod. This brings up the downside for these tripods, they are quite large, heavy, and cumbersome, which is a problem in the field. It becomes a hassle to transport them around with you and so a good compromise sized tripod may take some time to find. The tripod we used, with the Hog attached and completely collapsed as small as it could go, was almost 34″ (864mm) long and weighed 8.7 lbs (3.95 kg). When you are looking, you may not need one that extends quite so high as this one and they obviously do not go with you on every mission, but it is still another piece of bulky equipment.
How does it actually perform while firing? First and foremost we need to let everyone know that even when the rifle is on a camera tripod like this, you as a shooter will be no where near as accurate as compared to firing from the prone position. In fact, I would say even a prone unsupported position without a rest is going to be about as accurate. The rifle in the Hog Saddle and on the tripod is actually quite solid and stays in place, but the human body is not. If you don’t touch the rifle, and there is no wind, it will be solid and not move, but as soon as any part of your body touches the rifle, even when its tightened down, it moves a considerable amount and this is not the most precise way to shoot. But you can get better with practice and with the aid of a sling and good technique.
As we have mentioned, the PIG0311-G tripod is a big unit and unfortunately for me being a fairly small guy, even on its lowest setting, it was a bit too tall to use from the sitting position. But we did fire from the kneeling and standing positions using a .308 rifle without a muzzlebrake. Without your off hand stabilizing the tripod it will rock back slightly during recoil, especially when sitting/kneeling and not leaning into the rifle. From the standing position using your off hand to stablize the tripod and leaning into the rifle, the platform was solid and planted.
The Hog Saddle itself did everything it needed to and it holds the rifle very well. You can lift the rifle and the tripod will stay attached. Yes, it is all a big unit and not something you can be very mobile with and as such, it’ll likely best be used from static positions where you will remain for hours.
Because you as a shooter are not nearly as accurate using this setup from a sitting or standing position, it may best be used as a rifle support for long duration at close to mid ranges. For military style engagements on torso sized targets, you can likely be effective from 400-600 yards, but much beyond that will be difficult. I certainly would not trust it for LE shots on the brain stem as 1.5-2 MOA might be about the best you can get. There is just a lot of rifle movement. Techniques such as crossing the off hand over to the opposite side of the tripod to brace it and the use of a sling does help some, but not enough to be as effective as if from the supported prone position. This is not a limitation of the Hog Saddle, but one of this method of shooting. Of course there are other devices that can help stabilize the rifle and shooter, but each of them makes it less practical for combat or LE duty use. The sling seems to be the best aid and it is normally already included in your kit.
The Hog Saddle itself is very well made and works very effectively for its intended purpose. It is made in the USA and is very durable and high quality. These units are now standard issue to USMC snipers and for good reason. Of course, the tripod and technique of use will be a limiting factor, but for what they are designed to do, the are very good and we give them our SC Endorsed approval. Oh, and if it wasn’t obvious, the Hog Saddle was thought of and designed by a Marine, hence the naming and the clever USMC related model numbers. We love it!