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Thursday, April 8, 2010

X7 Bulls Bag Review

X7 Review, X7 Bulls Bag Review, Shooting Rest Review, Sand Bag Review
Well I have gotten my hands on the X7 Bulls Bag system and I'm really excited to see if this system can solve some of the issues I was having with a mechanical rest that I tried out during my last FNAR range test. I'm not going to go into all the issues I had with that rest, but it was clear to me that I wanted to get back to shooting my rifle against my shoulder (not a the rear end of a rest against my shoulder) and back to a sand bag system. Also, a couple of posts ago, I performed a review of the Bulls Bag Bench 15" Shooting Rest. I really liked this bag and the range results, but this bag wasn't the correct bag for shooting a rifle with a pistol grip and high capacity magazines due to it's low height. This new X7 Bulls Bag should solve that issue plus give me the versatility of reconfiguring the bag system to suit any of my shooting needs. I would like to point out that even though I'm going to give some great information during this review, you need to check out the Bulls Bag website. Don't worry, I'm not on their payroll. It is just that I learned during my review of their Bench 15" model that they do a great job of marketing their products. What about price? I just did a search at and you can get the X7 Bulls Bag unfilled for about $100 including shipping.

The photo below shows what you get in the box (remember that if you click on a photo, it will bring up a higher resolution photo). Since there are so many pieces to this system, I know terminology is going to be an issue, so I'm going to stick with Bulls Bag terminology so it will match their instructions. The box contained:
  • 2 Hi-Front Rests Bags (largest two bags in the top middle)
  • 2 Low Owl-Ear Bags (two in the upper right corner)
  • 2 Rectangular Bags (two in the lower right corner)
  • 1 Vise-Grip Bag (lower middle)
  • Carry Strap
  • Instructions
  • Brochure
  • Marketing Business Card

These next two photos are the front and back of the box.

I thought is was worth putting their brochure in since it was in the box and it does have a bunch of information on the bag system. Like I said earlier, they really go out of their way to provide marketing information and promote their products.

The next 3 photos are two pages of instructions and one page of more marketing data. There was a fourth page full of warnings that I didn't think were worth showing. The warnings are all pretty standard and the kind of stuff you would get in a gun safety course.

Now it is time to follow their instructions and fill the bags. Steps 1, 2 and 3 are basically remove the stuff from the box, inspect all parts, and find fill location. The photo below shows the fill port on a rectangular bag. The low owl-ear bags are basically the same. I started out trying to work my finger down between the Velcro hook and loop to open the fill port. Then I figured out if you take a pen or pencil, you can work it between the Velcro to get you started and then use your finger to open the Velcro all the way.

Once I got each of the fill ports open, I stuck a rolled up 4x6 index card in each port to keep it open and I thought it might also help out in filling process.

Step 4 is the filling process. Their instructions recommended that the rectangular and owl-ear bags be filled with something other than sand to reduce overall weight, and they say it will not affect performance. Since I had the sand and since I make every attempt possible to be a Real Man, I decided to deviate and fill each bag with sand. But really, this would give me an idea of the maximum weight of the bag system and in my mind may give me the maximum possible reduction in felt recoil.

For Step 5, I started out with the index card stuck half way in the bag and then used the funnel to pour sand through the card tube and into the bag. Their instructions talked about using a 1/2" piece of PVC pipe. I didn't have any pipe in the basement, and the card tube worked pretty good until the bag was nearly full.

Once the bag was nearly full, I removed the index card tube and put the funnel spout into the fill port and poured in sand and would then work the funnel to get the sand to drop into the unfilled areas at the end of the bag. It wasn't until my second bag before I really got the technique down.

In Step 6, just like their instructions said, after you get the sand in, if you thump/flick the outside of the bag in the area of the Velcro, the sand will fall off. I think it is pretty critical that you make every effort to remove as much stuff off the Velcro before you close the bag. This will help to maintain the integrity of the seal on the fill port.

You can see below the rectangular and owl-ear bag are full of sand.

I wasn't sure if you could over fill the bags so that they would not fit in the Hi-Front Rest bag, but that was not a problem. Basically you can get as much sand in the bag as possible and the two bags will fit in the Hi-front rest bag. For Step 7, if you pay attention to the shapes of the bag, you will see that the owl-ear bag goes in the bottom (ears down) and a rectangular bag goes on top with the angled side matching that of the Hi-Front rest bag.

When you pull the cover over and zip it up, you will need to message the bags into place so that you don't force the zipper closed. Don't worry, I filled my bags to the max possible and I was able to zip it up with no problem.

The last bag I filled was the Vise-Grip bag. I really tried to get as much sand in as possible because I didn't want a loose grip on my rifle due to not having enough sand.

When you put the pieces all together in the basic configuration, this is what it looks like.

Now, remember when I said I was going to fill the entire bag with sand. I started with a new 50 lb bag of sand. After the filling process, only 9 pounds of sand remained. Basically, my bag system has 41 lbs of sand. In Step 6, they say their complete system needs about 30 pounds of media. They must be referring to a sand and other media combination.

For example, if I remove the weight of the cup (0.084 lbs), then the bird seed would be 51% the weight of sand. Since I weighed each of the bags, the total weight for the rectangular and owl-ear bags was 34.8 lbs. If I filled them with bird seed, they would have been about 17.7 lbs. With the vise-grip bag still being sand, the total weight of the media for a bird seed and sand combination would be 24.9 lbs.

I think we now have two good data points for possible system weights. If I round everything to the nearest pound and add the weight of the bags themselves, you have a full sand system of about 42 lbs and a sand & bird seed combination of about 26 lbs. It becomes a tradeoff. Bulls Bag says the reduced weight will not affect performance, so if you are looking for a lighter system, maybe that is the way to go. I still have to believe that the additional mass of the full sand system would help in reducing felt recoil. For now, I'm sticking with all sand.

Next I'm going to look at how the system will work with my FNAR rifle. This will end up being a two part section. The first part will be my in-house evaluation . The second will be next Friday (weather permitting) when I take it to the range and do some more range testing with my FNAR rifle.

I decided to head to the kitchen table and spend some time aiming out the window. While you are looking at the photo below, I want you to consider a couple of things. First, I must feel pretty confident that my rifle is not going to rotate down and scratch the table, because if it did, I'm in the dog house. Second, that is a 20 round clip and pistol grip on the rifle and it clears the table by about 2 inches. Third, you can't see them, but that is also a full 20 round clip of 7.62x51mm FMJ bullets. The center of gravity of my rifle is not even on the bag and the gripping action held it solid. When I grabbed the pistol grip and started pulling the rifle, it seemed that the whole system (gun and bag and table) were going to move before the clamping action on the forearm started to slip. When you consider it is a 42 lbs bag and 13 lb rifle and the friction of the bag on the table, that is a lot of mass to help soak up the recoil.

The next thing I wanted to do was try out my AR-15 with a 30 round magazine so I headed to the basement before I did some dufus stunt and messed up the kitchen table. It is a little more difficult to see, but there is about 1/2" clearance between the bottom of the 30 round magazine and the floor. Clearly, the X7 Bulls Bag can handle the height needed for high capacity magazines and pistol grip rifles. I do want to point out that I had to move my forearm grip forward to allow a space for the rifle to rest on the bag and allow the vise-grip bag a good area to clamp. I don't have a problem doing this because I will use the bag for sighting in the rifle and then move the grip back when I'm finished.

My main interest in this bag is for rifles, but keep in mind that there are really 5 sand bags in this system that can be reconfigured for many different firearms, shooting styles and situations. I'm not going to spend a lot of time going through those different scenarios, but I do want to at least point you back to the Bulls Bag X7 website. The pictures there speak for themselves.

The bottom line with any rest system is performance. I can tell you clearly that the X7 Bulls Bag can perform. If you check out two posts that I did while reviewing my FNAR rifle, it will be clear. This link takes you to a post that used a mechanical rest. This link takes you to a post using the X7 Bulls Bag. With the mechanical rest, I was only able to shoot one group that was 1 MOA or better. With the X7, I was able to shoot 7 groups that were 1 MOA. Some might say that would be a 700% increase in accuracy. The photos below shows my basic setup for the range testing. Just to be honest, I did have a small bag of bird seed between the bottom of the pistol grip and bench. I didn't use it to support the rifle, but to help stabilize the rifle.

The photos above show the main configuration for my shooting, but the photo below shows an alternate more conventional style. This style does not grip the rifle, but it does support the rifle.

Bottom Line:
The X7 Bulls Bag has outperformed any other rest system I have used to date. Also, after shooting for hours, the reduction in felt-recoil of this system made shooting a pleasure.

Since I originally purchased the 15" Bulls Bag rest, I have something to compare the X7 against. I think I like the increased friction coefficient of the material on the 15" bag over the suede on the X7. Also, while at the range, I learned that you need to make every effort to put as much sand in the top vise-grip bag. When you think you can't get any more sand in the bag, keep working at it. You are going to want the grip on your rifle stock to be solid. After shooting for hours, I feel I could have gotten more sand in this bag and that would have helped the suede grip the rifle even better.