By Michael Zimmers, 2007
Handgun shooting is usually fun, but when you find yourself needing to do a lot of shooting of high-recoil guns in a short period of time, it can become tedious and, eventually, painful. Such was the case for me on occasion over the past year when I was conducting ammunition tests for the Ruger Alaskan in .454 Casull and the scandium-framed S&W 329PD in .44 magnum. In each event, I found myself needing to shoot between 50-100 rounds in one sesson. After my first few tests, I came away with soreness in my arm and back, and occasionally, a headache to boot.
Fortunately for me, early in my testing procedure, I discovered the Master Series Rest from Ransom International. The Ransom rest is a combination shooting rest/gun vise in a portable package that makes it as convenient as it is effective.
Features of the Ransom Rest
At first glance, it’s readily apparent that the Ransom Rest is intended for serious business. It is heavy, beefy, well-built and well-appointed for serious shooting business. The first thing you notice about it (other than it’s size and weight) is the massive pair of jaws that grip the frame of whatever gun you’re shooting. (A pair of grip inserts, specific to the make and model of handgun, is placed between the gun’s grip and the jaws. This protects the gun’s frame as well as giving the most secure fit possible for firing.) The jaws are opened and closed by three large plastic knobs that make it easy to get the test gun into and out of the rest. When a gun is properly mounted within the jaws, the user can be confident that it’s not going anywhere!
The jaw mechanism is connected to the base of the rest via a spring-tensioned pivot point. Ransom has purposely located this pivot point to approximate the location of a shooter’s wrist. Ransom told me that the rest was design to emulate the anatomical reaction of a human shooter. (While I wouldn’t disagree with this, as I watched the rest easily digest round after round of full-house .454 Casull ammunition, I wondered what human shooter could perform so consistently.) This pivot point is heavily sprung, so that after a shot is fired, the gun pivots upward in reaction to the recoil force. To me, this seems to be an important feature, as it is the rest, not the gun itself, absorbing the force of the recoil. I don’t imagine that a gun rest that kept the gun totally immobile during firing would be good for the gun’s longevity.
Trigger pull is performed by a lever mounted to the vise part of the rest. The pin that contacts the trigger is fully adjustable for positioning, and I was able to fire guns both in single and double action, though I had fewer issues firing in single action. A heavy thumbscrew provides for elevation adjustment.
The Ransom Rest is intended to be screwed to an intermediate platform which is then clamped to the shooting table for use. While this is a viable method of operation, it does make windage adjustments a bit unwieldy. Ransom has anticipated this, and offers an optional windage base that fits between the rest and the portable platform. Everthing is generously screwed together for a solid feel that gives the operator confidence.
Performance at the Range
As I mentioned above, my purpose for this rest was the testing of very high-powered handgun cartridges. The Ransom Rest performed admirably and made my job a lot easier. The guns I tested shot much more accurately from the rest than they did from my hands. Loading and unloading my guns was also a breeze, as the engineers at Ransom saw to it that the vise doesn’t interfere with this process. The only difficulty I encountered was that my platform would shift a little on the shooting bench, no matter how hard I tried to clamp it down. I came to realize that this was because when I constructed my platform, I had used varnished wood on the bottom. My second attempt at a platform yielded better results. I also found that the rest may have been slightly under-sprung for the .454 Casull cartridge, as the pivoting portion of the rest would often go to full travel and get mildly stuck in that position. Other than these minor issues, the rest performed like a Swiss watch.
Anyone who intends to do any serious handgun or cartridge testing needs the repeatability that a shooting rest provides. Without such a rest, the test results are simply less scientific, in my opinion, and therefore less valuable. The Ransom Master Series Rest is as good as they come: built to last, ergonomic and simple to use. Are there cheaper alternatives out there? Undoubtably, but quality always comes at a price, and for what should be a once-in-a-lifetime investment, the Ransom Rest is well worth the cost.