Choosing Sandbags | Top Rated Supplier of Firearm Reloading Equipment, Supplies, and Tools - Colt

Choosing Sandbags

Choosing the right sandbag to shoot off a bench isn’t as easy as it once was. Years ago if you wanted to upgrade from shooting off a bag of shot there were only a handful of different sandbags on the market. Today there are dozens of bags to choose from including high quality bags to copycats having lesser quality.

Of the two companies that make a variety of bags to choose from, Protektor and Edgewood offer the best quality and the best selection. Protektor has been in the business for decades and has a tremendous selection of both leather and Cordura bags.

Their entire focus is on making the best quality bags for the money. Edgewood is a company owned and operated by a shooter named Jack Snyder. Edgewood makes some very premium rear and front bags. The stitching, the choice of materials, and the functional design of the Protektor bags and the Edgewood bags are superb.

Choosing Bags – General

A question to answer before selecting sandbags is, “how am I going to use the bags”? If you are going to shoot off a shooting rest, you will need an owl ear front bag, rear bag, and possibly an elbow bag. If you are going to shoot off a bench without a rest you will need a large front bag and a rear bag. If you are going to use a bi-pod, either on the ground or on a bench, you only need a rear bag.

Material Choices

Choosing a material is a good way to thin the market offerings down a bit. There are good quality leather bags, Cordura bags, suede leather bags, vinyl bags, and various fabric bags. Your choice of material depends on your personal preference and your budget. I prefer and recommend the use of good quality leather or fine-grade Cordura nylon bags. If you are using the bags with a fine grade wood finish rifle or a composite stock with a high glossy paint then I would stick with a good quality leather bag. The Cordura material will sometimes cause very light, almost unnoticeable scratching to the wood or gloss paint. Cordura is an excellent choice for most color molded composite stocks. The Cordura material is very smooth and creates less friction with the rifle than the leather bags. It has become an increasingly popular choice among competitive shooters over the past 10 years.

While we are talking about different materials, I wanted to mention what to add to the bags to reduce friction. When using leather sandbags, we recommend using Sinclair Bag Wax on the ears. It really lets the rifle move freely and consistently on the bag. An acceptable substitute is baby powder but unlike the Bag Wax, the baby powder tends to clump up during high humidity or damp weather. On Cordura bags, we recommend using a silicone spray. It really reduces the friction between the stock and bag.

Some shooters like suede sandbags, but I don’t like them because I could never get the rifle to recoil consistently in them. I believed they affected my rifle’s accuracy. Vinyl bags are a lower-price substitute to leather bags and they will tear more easily. Other bags made from various fabrics (cotton, polyester, etc.) range from high-quality, heavy-duty bags such as the “Dog-Gone Good” brand of bags to cheap, thin material bags that rot or fall apart quickly.

Choosing a Front Bag

Front rest bags are designed to fit on the rest top or bag plate of rifle rests. They are available in several different sizes but the three standard sizes will fit 98% of the sporting rifles in the world. The bag style for most front rest bags is referred to as an “owl ear” style. The smallest owl ear size will fit most narrow hunting rifle forends, the medium size will fit most varmint rifles, High Power rifles, long-range rifles, and tactical rifles, while the largest size is designed to fit standard 3” wide benchrest rifle stocks with flat forends. There are some additional larger sizes that accommodate the extremely large forend designs of some 1000-yard benchrest rifle stocks. Most owl ear bags have integral tie straps with eyelets that are used for tying the bags to a flat rest top or when securing them to a more sophisticated rest top. Most rest tops use the tie straps as a means to hold the bag in place by securing them between a bar or metal strap and the bottom of the rest top. We usually remove any ends of the tie strap that protrude after securing the top. A sharp utility knife or razor blade works well for this task.

There are some front bags designed for use without a rest. These bags are larger than owl ear bags, and can be used in conjunction with or without a rear bag. They can be used on the ground or on a shooting bench. Companies like Dog-Gone Good, Uncle Buds, and Stoney Point make some large front bags with carry straps that are useful for field use. These field style bags support a larger area of the forend than a normal bag and can be used with or without a rearbag. Due to the larger size of these bags, it is usually best to fill these with a lighter media than sand. Corncob media, cat litter, and recycled plastic pellets (Dog-Gone Good uses these) make good bag filler for large field bags.

Choosing a Rear Bag

A decade ago there were only a couple styles of rear bags available; bunny ear and rabbit ear rear bags. Then, if my memory serves me correctly, Bill Gephardt of Bald Eagle Machine began to put an extra row of stitching between the ears creating more separation which allowed large benchrest and prone stocks to sit further down between the ears. This increased the stability of the rifle. Soon many bags began to come out of the shops of other manufacturers that focused on different ear designs. Today, the Sinclair catalog has over 16 different rear bags ranging from the original bags (all leather) to leather bags with Cordura ears having triple layers of leather on the bottom for additional stiffness and support.

The choice of a rear bag depends entirely on what type of rifles you’ll be using it in and what you want to spend. First decide whether you want a bunny ear bag or a rabbit ear design. Bunny ear bags have shorter ears, which are great if you have rifles with cheek pieces; the cheek piece will slide past the bunny ear with no interference. Rabbit ear bags have taller ears (about twice as tall), which provide more contact area and also give you a little more movement if you are squeezing the ears for elevation and lateral movement. There are some bags introduced by Protektor that have a mid-ear design (what we call it). These bags have ears that are halfway in height between a bunny and a rabbit.

Rear bags are available with one line of stitching running between the ears or with multiple lines of stitching. The additional lines of stitching allow stocks having a flat along the bottom of the comb to sit further down into the ears.

Your decision on Cordura versus leather, bunny, rabbit, or mid-height ears, and the amount of space between the bag ears will cut your choices down to 3 to 5 different bags.

Another factor in choosing a rear bag is the design of your stock. Traditional stock designs will work fine in most standard height rear bags. But some of the newer benchrest, varmint, and F-Class stocks have buttstocks that are almost flat from the toe of the butt up to the pistol grip. If you use one of these stocks with a traditional height rear bag, you will have trouble getting your front rest low enough to get on target as the muzzle is elevated because of the lack of drop in the stock design. There are rear bags available that have more height in the body that will elevate the butt of these stocks sufficiently. This is a good question to ask a salesperson about before deciding on a rear bag.

Lower priced bags will usually have thinner leather making up the sidewalls and only one or two layers of leather on the base. Thicker leather sidewalls and additional layers of leather on the bottom add to the expense. Thinner sidewalls eventually lead to a ballooning effect as the weight of the sand stretches out the leather and gives you a rounder and shorter bag. Less leather on the bottom of the bag will cause the bag to curl a little and the bag won’t sit as square on the bench top as we would prefer. These attributes may not be noticeable to the casual shooter but they are factors that have led to the development of better designed and fabricated bags.

The thickness of the base is a factor of stability and budget. The premium bags made by Protektor and Edgewood feature as many as five (5) layers of leather on the base. These premium bags feature an integral doughnut, which is a bottom design feature consisting of thinner leather in the middle and more layers of leather toward the outside of the bottom. This design allows the bottom outer edges to sit square on the bench. Prior to this design, many shooters used a separate doughnut shaped bag between their rear bag and the bench top to raise the center of the bag so it wouldn’t rock. Additional layers of leather on the base increase the cost.

Summary

Choosing a front bag is relatively easy once you have decided on Cordura or leather. The choice is then based on simply the width of your forend.

The choice of a rear bag is not as easy to make but it is easier if you break it down by the variables; 1) leather or Cordura ears, 2) ear height, 3) thickness of base, and 4) height of the base of the ears from the bench top.

If your budget is a little tight and you are just using your bags to load test or sight-in rifles, then the Protektor Standard Rear Bag available in bunny ears or rabbit ears will work just fine. A Protektor leather front owl ear bag will be great to accompany the rear bag.

If you are going to shoot competitively off a bench and your budget is a little bigger, then you may wish to consider one of the Protektor Deluxe Rear Bags (#BAG40, BAG41, BAG42, and BAG43). Again, these bags pair up well with either the Protektor Owl Ear Front Bags, either in leather or Cordura.

When budget isn’t an issue, I recommend getting one of the Edgewood Rear Bags and pair it up with an Edgewood Front Bag. My favorite rear bag is the Minigater because it has a large footprint without being too big.

Give the technicians at Sinclair a call at 1-800-717-8211 if you need help when choosing a sandbag or talk to a buddy who shoots off a bench.