As a hunter with a photography background, I can attest to the difference high-quality glass can make in the field. Seasoned outdoorsmen will invest a thousand dollars or more in a single pair of binoculars or a spotting scope to gain a better view of game. Long range and small-bore (non-hunting) shooters can relate.
Thing is, unless you stabilize the image, the optic is just extra weight (~2-5-pounds). While most binoculars are hand-stabilized, the majority of spotting scopes require a support system such as a tripod — especially with wind or strong mirage.
Oh, but the weight and size of a tripod! The balance between weight, maximum load, size, durability, and price has always been a struggle.
The compact tripod that came with my current spotting scope didn’t cut it this past season, so I turned to Vortex Optics for a solution. Their recently released (2017) High Country Tripod Kit strikes a balance of features designed to accommodate the needs of weight-sensitive hunters, shooters, photographers, and wildlife-watchers alike, making my choice an easy one.
Out of the box, the High Country is a compact 21-inches tall by 3.8-incles wide and tips the scales at a scant 2.2-pounds. A simple zippered nylon (un-padded) carrying case with strap accompanies the tripod, as does an Allen key to adjust the tripod’s head.
With a nice matte black finish across nearly all aspects of the tripod, it’s also visually stealthy. From an auditory perspective, there are no floppy parts to create unwanted clanking sounds.
The tripod’s center column also features a rubber gasket around the bottom, which prevents the legs from banging the column or each other.
The High Country Tripod comes equipped with a nice, all-metal, ball head assembly. The two-piece clamp with thumbscrew allows for very quick adjustments throughout a wide range of positions and secures even heavy optics (up to five pounds) without needing to wrench-down on the thumb screw.
The Vortex ball head also features excellent, extremely smooth panning of the head. The panning ring provides good resistance to keep you from over-shooting your subject when you pan to keep up with its movements.
There is a very slight amount of wiggle at the panning ring, but not enough to cause performance issues. Worth noting: the panning feature cannot be locked in place.
Connecting your optic to the ball head is fairly standard with the provided High Country Tripod Quick Release Plate (above, top). Simply screw the plate into your optic, and then slide the plate (with optic) into the plate platform.
A spring-loaded pin (below) secures the plate to the head and the rubberized tension knob sets the plate in place. To remove the optic, simply release the tension on the plate and depress the button on the side of the plate platform while sliding the plate out.
Additional plates are available for $14.99 each, allowing users to easily swap different optics on and off of a single tripod without the hassle of moving a plate between optics. And Vortex also offers the Binocular Tripod Adapter and Uni-Dapter for those that employ a tripod with their binoculars.
The tripod’s center column allows for 7.75-inches of height adjustment. The center column’s collar (below) allows for adjustable tension.
If you’re using a 4-pound spotting scope you’ll want more tension than if you’re using a 1-pound set of binoculars. Once at the desired height, use the thumbscrew (above) to lock the center column in place.
The bottom end of the center column sports a spring-loaded hook from which to hang a counterweight. Adding additional weight under the center column (above) can help further stabilize a tripod in windy or mirage conditions and uneven terrain. Should the hook not suit your needs, it can be removed.
Underneath the ball head is a bull’s eye spirit level. It is highly visible with a nice, small bubble.
The High Country Tripod’s telescoping, non-rotating legs have four sections apiece and are very lightweight. Flip up the Quick Lock polymer clamps (above) with a single finger to extend or retract leg sections, then flip them back down to secure legs in position.
With everything collapsed, beginning leg length is approximately sixteen inches from foot to hinge. The second and third sections provide an additional 9-inches of length each, while the fourth section extends 9.5-inches. Overall, the High Country can extend from 19.5-inches to 53-inches tall.
Each leg is capped with a lightly textured, rounded rubber foot. These feet aren’t the kind to fall off and they most certainly help keep the legs from slipping.
The coated metal leg hinges feature three rock-solid angle settings. Simply slide the leg release pin (above) to the position of your choice. Each position keeps the legs from further movement outwards, but does not lock them in place.
Its light weight and compact profile are largely noticeable benefits of the High Country. The three-angle position, extendable legs helped stabilize my optics, allowing me to take advantage of better vantage points. The ball head locks-up with little torque on the thumbscrew and panning is extremely smooth and controllable.
Vortex Optics’ High Country Tripod Kit is compact, lightweight and tough enough to handle rugged outdoor endeavors. Whether you prefer to mount binoculars, spotting scope, or camera, this tripod and its quick release plate system will stabilize all while helping shed an extra pound or two off your pack. The ball head provides a very wide range of positions, clamps your optic securely in place, and also pans very smoothly. Additional features such as counterweight hook, multi-angle leg positions, rubber feet, and bubble level help make the High Country Tripod Kit a great mate for any optic up to five pounds.
Specifications: Vortex High Country Tripod Kit
Price as reviewed: $109.99 MSRP ($79.99 via Brownells)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Design: * * * *
The High Country tripod has an excellent balance of features, size, and weight. It covers all the major bases and gives you extras like leg angle positions and quick release optics mount.
Quality: * * * *
Vortex Optics uses high-quality metal components in the High Country; all of which are coated very nicely. The ball head with smooth, controllable panning and quick release optics mount system performs very well. The tripod does utilize several plastic parts.
Packability: * * * * *
This tripod weighs a mere 2.2-pounds and is only 21-inches when fully collapsed, making it an easy addition to your pack. The quick release optics mount system allows for easy optics/tripod connection or separation.
Overall: * * * * *
Compact, lightweight, and able to easily stabilize optics up to five pounds, Vortex Optics’ High Country Tripod Kit is a great choice for anyone looking to save some weight and a few dollars without sacrificing quality and features.
(Phoenix, AZ – Oct 26, 2015) As the 2016 Precision Rifle Series (PRS) season approaches, Team Surgeon took early notice by signing some of the best available shooters to their Pro Team. Just recently, Surgeon Rifles announced team sponsorships for 3 new members.
Relatively new to the circuit, 2015 PRS Champion shooter David Preston, from Pennsylvania, has competed in the PRS for only two seasons but has been in contention for the top trophy at nearly every match he has entered. David’s passion for accuracy and long range precision shooting led him to compete, and there has been no stopping him since. David has honed his talents as a precision shooter and is capable of cleaning a stage with amazing efficiency and accuracy. To follow David on the competition field follow him here https://www.facebook.com/DavidPrestonPRS.
Based out of Texas, Matthew Brousseau, who finished 7th overall at the PRS Season Championship match, is also a welcome addition of new fire to Team Surgeon. A former Sergeant in the USMC and now overseas contractor, Borusseau has found a new passion in rifles and loves the competitive environment. Brosseau states, “Near the end of 2013 I started hearing about this Precision Rifle Series and it piqued my interest. In the spring of 2014 I purchased my first precision rifle and headed to a match to see what it was all about. I didn’t finish very well but I was instantly hooked and was determined to learn my way to the top. 2015 has been a great 2nd year for me.”
Also residing in Texas, Bannon Eldridge, makes up the 3rd new member and sleeper pick for Team Surgeon. Eldridge has been competing since 2009, but on a limited basis. In 2014 he qualified for the PRS Championship with two top 15% performances, and has been busy off of the range as well. He has been staying sharp by winning a few Texas club matches against a strong field of PRS shooters. Rich Emmons from Team Surgeon says, “Bannon has put it all together and is shooting better than ever. He will definitely make a big splash for Team Surgeon in 2016.”
Returning for 2016, Iowa resident Jim See, led last year’s Team Surgeon performance with two PRS wins and 6 other top 15% place finishes. See is a dominant competitor who finished 6th overall last season in the Series and is pressing hard to take the Golden Bullet Award next season. Texas based shooters Rich Emmons and Kevin Elpers, also returning for another season with Team Surgeon, look to improve over last year’s season with a new spark from training with new teammates. Over the years, both shooters have proven they can compete with excellence and are excited to rise to the challenge.
In addition to new members, Team Surgeon Rifles will also be introducing a new partner this season, its sister company NEXUS Ammunition. Nexus is emerging as a top contender in the custom match ammunition scene, and the team has already worked to develop a 6.5×47 load that is sure to be seen in the winner’s circle. Nexus aims to deliver match grade factory ammunition with equivalent quality and precision of hand loading without the hassle. Current ammunition available from Nexus includes .223 Rem, .308 Win, .260 Rem, and .338 Lapua. Visit nexusammo.com for more information.
About Surgeon Rifles: Surgeon Rifles is a 10-year-old manufacturer of high-end precision bolt-action rifles, actions, and other accessories. Shooters who are highly ranked in industry competitive contests consistently utilize surgeon rifles and actions to be successful in such events. An indication of the quality and accuracy of the Surgeon rifle is demonstrated by the results of the Precision Rifle Series.
In 2011, Strategic Armory Corps acquired Surgeon Rifles. The Phoenix based parent company also owns Armalite, AWC Suppressors, McMillan Firearms, and NEXUS Ammo. All of the manufacturing of Surgeon Rifles parts still takes place in Prague, OK, with many of the original employees and equipment. SAC continues to work to ensure that the Surgeon Rifles legacy of precision, quality, and durability grows even stronger. www.surgeonrifles.com
About Nexus Ammo: Nexus Ammunition provides discerning shooters high impact solutions through unparalleled, patented automation processes. The “Nexus Method” meticulously produces ammunition to exacting tolerances equal to the attention of hand loading. Our unique machinery and automation allows us to build ammunition to exact specifications, starting with the raw materials. This method is proven to provide a consistency in weight in every cartridge, delivering the quality and ballistic performance you can rely upon.
You can depend on Nexus Ammo to deliver a full ballistic spectrum of ammunition performance for your tactical, defense, or hunting needs. When you require consistency, accuracy, and repeatability… Nexus is your solution.
About Strategic Armory Corps: Strategic Armory Corps was formed with the goal of acquiring and combining market-leading companies within the firearms industry. Each company that is brought into the SAC family fulfills a consumer need with their brand of niche products. To date, four highly respected manufacturing companies have been acquired with a fifth in the start-up phase. These companies strategically fit together to form a strong base of products and services that are designed to meet the expectations of military, law enforcement, commercial groups, and individual users around the world.
Posted in Long Range Tagged with: Armalite, AWC Supressors, Bannon Eldridge, David Preston, Hawk Hill Barrels, Jim See, Kevin Elpers, Matthew Brousseau, McMillan Firearms, Media Release, Nexus ammunition, PRS, Rich Emmons, Short Action Precision, Strategic Armory Corps, Surgeon Rifles, Vortex Optics, www.nexusammo.com
Looking down from atop a three-story shooting tower, 12 steel targets stand out along a green hillside, each one further away than the last. They’re all challenging, and the furthest sits at 936 yards.
When the buzzer sounds, you’ll have three minutes to shoot all 12. The problem is, you can’t actually see the targets yet. You’re starting at the bottom of the tower’s stairwell, carrying 200 rounds of ammunition, a coat, a gear bag, a sling, sunscreen, elbow pads, bipod, and a heavy sniper rifle. By the time you get to the top of those stairs and see the targets for the first time, a minute will have disappeared. You’ll be breathing hard, and shooting fast.
“It started out as a way to test the practical use of a precision rifle in a military or law enforcement environment”
This is a Precision Rifle Series match, where extreme accuracy, speed, and physical toughness come together. Sniper matches have been around for a long time, but the PRS is gluing them together into a cohesive, Winston Cup-like string. There’s a $5,000 check at the end for the season points winner, and if you’re the top gun at the PRS National Finale, you could take home a $20,000 purse and prize package, just like last year’s winner, Ryan Kerr of California.
Unlike classic long-range events, PRS has a hard edge – like maybe a 3-Gun competition for sniper rifles. The organizers (notably Rich Emmons) drew ideas from 3-Gun Nation, USPSA/IPSC, and the Bianchi Cup. The result appeals to practical riflemen everywhere.
“It started out as a way to test the practical use of a precision rifle in a military or law enforcement environment,” says Chris Reid at Benchmark Barrels. “From there it’s morphed into a kind of timed field shooting.”
At every match the courses change. The distances aren’t marked, and some of the targets move. Virtually everyone uses a detachable box magazine or DBM in a bolt-action rifle. Mounted to a fiberglass stock or a chassis system, the DBM allows for fast reloading of 10-round magazines. Although shooting a semi auto sounds tempting, experts say the bolt-action rifles with DBMs are more stable in recoil. This platform helps the shooter watch bullet trace and impacts. Seeing the hit or miss guides the shooter to the proper aim for the next shot. Most of the top shooters use 6mm to 6.5mm cartridges, which aid in viewing impacts. The 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5×47 Lapua, and the 6.5 Creedmoor are popular choices, but cartridges up to the .300 Winchester Magnum can be used. Most guns are heavy, but remember, you’ve got to carry it all day – up to 12 hours at a pop. You also carry everything else you’ll need to complete the event, just like you would if you were going afield. There is no going back to the car to resupply – it’s just you and your kit, dealing with changing weather, wind, and lighting conditions.
Reid helps run matches in the state of Washington. The hikes from position to position are arduous enough that out-of-shape shooters won’t finish.
“I’ve seen guys hang it up halfway through,” says Reid.
Short sprints are common in PRS, forcing you to balance the speed advantage of running against how out-of-breath you’ll be when you get there.
Like the original 3-Gun Nation series, PRS grouped together existing freelance events to make a larger contest. Each event has its own history and traditions, and a different local crew gives each its own special flavor; for example, some require pistol shooting. Scoring varies slightly, but course design varies a lot.
Pay close attention to the course descriptions, because sometimes you can make up a miss for partial credit, and other times, missing wipes out your entire score. If you’ve shot a little long-range, or you’re into long-range hunting, you’ve already got most of the gear.
Jim See, who currently shoots for Team Surgeon Rifles, was building custom rifles in his own shop, Center Shot Rifles, when he first heard about the PRS series. He was “a rifle guy” but didn’t have much experience with practical long-range rifle. The PRS series had just started the year before. “In 2012 I was busy raising kids and stuff, but I managed to place fourth at my first match,” he says. “That’s not the norm, but it shows you that it’s actually pretty easy to get oriented once you get started … I was hooked!”
“I’ve seen guys hang it up halfway through”
Thanks to his day job, See rolled up to the line with an unusually good kit – a Surgeon Rifles action on a McMillan A3-5 stock, in 6mmXC.
“That was a gun I had in the shop,” he says.
See’s friends pushed him to try to make the national PRS Finale, so he went for it, eventually placing 13th in the 2012 series. See won the 2015 Bushnell Brawl this year, making him one of the top guns in the sport. “I was 41 when I started, but I had a lot of experience in various kinds of shooting. If you’ve got some experience in long range, you’ll transition pretty easy.”
Unlike the classic long-range events, PRS is 100 percent field based. Common firing positions include uneven rock piles, mock rooftops, kneeling in tall grass – nothing is easy.
“If you take a guy who’s a hunter and have him shoot PRS matches all year, he’ll be able to kill game out to 1,000 yards the following year,” says Reid. “The knowledge and the practicality of it is huge.” If you’re thinking “this isn’t for me,” you might be surprised. Hunters and 3-Gunners deal with unusual firing positions all the time. NRA Bullseye guys have the long-range part down, but often lack the flexibility that practical shooters take for granted.
“An F-class high-master will do great until they have to get into an unusual, nonstandard position,” says Reid. “Without the ability to go prone, they struggle.” People like Shawn Carlock, owner of Defensive Edge, teach long-range hunting classes all over the country, passing on techniques that PRS’ers use. You’ll face the same challenges and more at each and every PRS regional. For someone interested in practical-rifle work, I can’t think of a better training lab than what John Gangl at JP Rifles calls “the anvil of competition.”
“You’re shooting strong-side, weak-side, doing dot drills, moving into and out of positions, and every shot counts,” says Reid.
In four years PRS has shot up from nothing to approximately 700 shooters nationwide. That’s a lot of new blood for this relatively close-knit world – enough to attract major sponsors. JC Targets, Bushnell, JP Rifles, Surgeon Rifles, GA Precision, Vortex Optics, and Euro Optics LTD (among many) are throwing support behind each new series event.
“This year we have 400-plus guys actively participating in the Precision Rifle Series as competitors,” says See. “These matches cannot be run effectively without dedicated range officers.” ROs set the pace of the match and ensure all participants are safe and receive the points they earned with hits. “It’s nice to travel the country and have fellow competitors volunteer to be range officers on their home ranges. Quality ROs are critical for a successful match,” added See.
A slick member website lays out everything you’ll really need to know, including the dates and locations of all the regional shoots. You can visit them at precisionrifleseries.com. ASJ
Posted in Competitions, Long Range Tagged with: 3 Gun Nation, Benchmark Barrels, Bushnell, Chris Reid, CORE Training Center, Defensive Edge, Euro Optics LTD, GA Precision, JC Targets, Jim See, JP Rifles, Michael Cage Photography, NRA, Precision Rifle Series, Robin Taylor, Ryan Kerr, Surgeon Rifles, Vortex Optics