Tripods have taken over the precision-shooting world for good reason. Possession of a good tripod means the shooter always has a workable field shooting support regardless of the terrain.
Of the many tripods available today, a good portion of the precision rifle community has embraced the tripods from Really Right Stuff (RRS). Known for high-quality camera mounts, carbon-fiber tripods and other accessories designed for photographers, RRS offers a number of quality tripods from their Sport Optics and Rifle (S.O.A.R.) Division.
RRS’s S.O.A.R. Division has been in operation for three years now, focusing their efforts on turning out premium products for rifle shooters. Their first releases included the TVC-33 tripod with the BH-55 LR ball head. This combination used the very fast ARCA-Swiss attachment system to mount the rifle to the tripod. An adjustment screw or knob controlled tension on the ball head allowed the rifle to orient in just about any direction.
The Right Stuff
The TVC-33 with the BH-55 LR ball head were the first RRS products I used, and I still love both. However, this combo is fairly bulky and takes up some space when carried afield in a backpack. They more than often ended up strapped to the outside of the pack.
The reason for the bulk is the original TVC-33 tripod was designed for camera use, and the large-diameter tripod legs have thin carbon-fiber walls to offer maximum vibration dampening. Photographers put cameras on tripods to immobilize them, and one of the implied tasks is to minimize vibration that occurs when the wind blows. The best way to do that is to use thin-walled, large-diameter tripod legs.
Rifle shooters don’t need vibration dampening as much as they just need a stable tripod that can support the weight of the rifle. Once a tripod offers the desired level of stability, the next order of business is to make it as small and light as possible. That’s what RRS did with the TFCT-34 and Anvil 30 ball head.
Think of them as the second-generation tripod and ball head.
The TFCT-34 and Anvil 30 were both designed explicitly for precision rifle shooters. The TFCT-34 tripod legs have a slightly smaller diameter than the TVC-33 that I first sampled. The smaller diameter legs mean the tripod collapses down to a more compact package that is easier to stuff in a ruck.
The tripod’s apex also got a lot smaller on the TFCT-34. It’s about half as big as its predecessor. The TFCT-34 is small enough to fit inside a carry-on bag with its head and feet removed. It is super compact and still supports 50 pounds of rifle, scope and accessories when deployed.
Additional improvements to the TFCT-34 include ¼-20 attachment points on the tripod’s apex that allow for easy mounting of a sling or other accessories. Being able to easily mount a sling on a tripod is hugely important and handy during those times you need to move without a backpack. If there is no sling on the tripod, and the shooter has no pack, the tripod must be hand-carried, and that gets old quickly.
RRS also added some air vents to the tripod legs on the TFCT-34. This lets the legs move more freely when the user loosens the twist-lock mechanisms. The older TVC-33 model takes a moment to collapse or extend because the air gets trapped inside the legs.
While I appreciate RRS’s efforts in making the tripod smaller while still retaining the load capacity, the biggest improvements come in the form of the Anvil 30 ball head.
The BH-55 LR ball head was much larger and used a single large tensioning knob that allowed the shooter to orient the rifle on target when twisted loose. It also used a large throw-lever to open the mechanism that locked onto the rifle’s mounting plate. While fairly fast, the BH-55 LR was cumbersome.
The Anvil 30 ball head instead is about half the size of the BH-55 LR and not only accepts the ARCA-Swiss mounting plates but standard Picatinny rails as well. The Anvil 30 uses one throw lever to lock onto either Picatinny rail or an ARCA-Swiss rail and a second throw lever that unlocks the head and allows it to rotate and tilt. The second throw lever is much faster than the BH-55 LR’s knob.
All the Anvil 30 requires to orient the rifle on target is opening the tensioning lever halfway. This unlocks the ball head for complete rotation and tilt but retains enough resistance that the rifle remains oriented in the direction the shooter leaves it should one release the rifle. Opening the tensioning lever all the way unlocks all tension, and the rifle’s heaviest end will quickly drop towards the ground when released.
RRS continues to dominate the precision rifle market with the TFCT-34 and Anvil 30. These second-generation products improve upon the performance of previous models while simultaneously becoming smaller and lighter. While the tripod/ball head combination is expensive and retails for $1,425, it guarantees the shooter will always have a stable shooting position, regardless of the terrain in which one shoots.