Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review - Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack bi-pod

Opening day of squirrel season last year found me in the woods with my beloved .22 Magnum rifle. My .22 Magnum is a tack driver. I can hit a dime at 50 yards every time....with a good rest. Free hand... well, I could probably hit a coke can. I'm not a great shot with a rifle.

Anyway, I was slowly stalking what I though was the sound of a squirrel running through the fallen trees, when I saw movement to my right. About 50 yards out, a squirrel was burring an acorn. I knew I didn't have a chance at a clean kill freehand. So, I slowly extended my bi-pod, sat down, and carefully took my shot. I placed the bullet exactly where I wanted and added a squirrel to my bag.

I always have a bi-pod attached to my rifle. Whether it is my .22, .308, or even my muzzle loader, a bi-pod is always attached. I have missed many game animals while shooting free hand, but I have never missed when using a bi-pod.

I recently won a contest over at the Outdoor Blogger Network for the opportunity to review a Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack bi-pod. I was excited at this opportunity because I feel that I am especially suited to review it. I own a wide range of bi-pods, from cheapo's to some of the very best.  I have used them for years and know the good from the bad.

After several weeks of impatiently waiting, I received a Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack bi-pod in their 13" - 23" size. This is their top of the line model and my favorite size. It sells at Cabela's for $74.99.

A bi-pod tip: Unlike lots of hunting gear, with bi-pods, price usually does indicate value. Expect to spend this much or much more for a good bi-pod.

The Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack bi-pod I received is infinitely adjustable from 13" to 23" with spring return legs. This is perfect for a comfortable sitting position. This is the position I use most when hunting. When fully extended to 23" it is possible to sit in a low chair and still use it comfortably.

It allows both horizontal traversing (used for tracking moving game) and pivoting (used for leveling the scope on uneven terrain.)

It uses all metal construction and attaches to your rifle via the front swivel stud.

I attached the Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack to my .22 magnum with ease. A small thumb screw opens some jaws that clamp around the swivel stud and tighten to the stock. This system is very common with bi-pods, including the Harris bi-pod I normally have attached to this rifle. I don't like it. The screw has a tendency to unscrew itself, literally dropping the bi-pod off your gun as you carry it. A better system would be to permanently mount the bi-pod to the rifles forearm. This is much less convenient, but much more secure. While the Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack's mounting system is not ideal, it is the industry standard.

The legs pull down and are positioned easily, but not so easily that brush or sticks will accidentally do it. Even better, they extend silently. There is no noticeable "spring" noise. This is a big plus and few bi-pods manage to do it.

It is just as easy and quiet to extend the legs and position them. A thumb screw on each leg allows you to choose whatever height you want, from 13" to 23" on my model. With practice this can be done in the dark in just a few seconds.

I was concerned about the horizontal traversing. Often, on cheaper bi-pods, this can either be so loose it is hard to achieve a steady aim, or so tight that it jerks along while you are trying to track. This is not the case with the Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack. It traverses as smooth as silk, but is firm enough to allow a rock steady aim. I found this to be most impressive.

Its pivoting action also works well. There is an easily accessible lever that allows you to release and lock the pivot head. It could be done in less than a second in a hunting scenario.

I did not weigh the the Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack I received, but it is light. This is both good and bad. A light bi-pod is obviously very important to someone who hikes long distances. However, this lightness also makes it feel delicate. It did hold up without a scratch to my field testing and it withstood the recoil of a .308, but I can't help but wonder how many seasons it will withstand. Bi-pods are inherently delicate. They have a lot of moving parts and cannot be heavy. I worry that dirt will foul its horizontal traverse and pivot. I can say that this did not happen at the range, but every hunter knows that a desert or corn field is a lot harder on equipment than the range.

Over all I liked the the Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack. It functions flawlessly, allows for rock solid aiming, and is quiet. I don't like its mounting method and am concerned about its durability. It is priced low for its features. I will be using it for squirrels this season.

As with all reviews on The Unlucky Hunter, this review is my honest opinion, I received the Blackhawk Sportster Traversetrack bipod free of charge and agreed to provide a review in exchange. The Unlucky Hunter is not sponsored by or associated with Blackhawk and is accepting no other compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this review. My independent status may change in the future but, as of the date of publication, no relationship other than described above has been pursued or established.

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