Vanguard Equalizer QS Bipods
By Chuck Hawks
Vanguard products are becoming recognized as high value, high quality shooting and hunting accessories with innovative features. The Equalizer QS bipod line is no exception; QS bipods are generally well engineered and practical shooting accessories.
There are three bipods in the Vanguard Equalizer QS line, varying only in height. These are sensibly named the 1QS, 2QS and 3QS. The 1QS has two short leg sections and stands 254mm (10") tall fully extended. The 2QS has three medium length leg sections and stands 715mm (28.4") fully extended. The 3QS has three longer leg sections and stands 945mm (37.2") fully extended. Think of the three Equalizer QS heights as practical for the prone, sitting and kneeling shooting positions, depending, of course, on the height of the individual shooter.
Vanguard kindly supplied a model 2QS for this review. Folded, it is 350mm (13.75") tall and weighs 470 grams (1.04 pounds). That makes it sufficiently compact for practical use on most varmint rifles. (I feel that bipods are most appropriate for use on varmint rifles.) The head and legs appear to be made of aluminum and the finish is black.
The Equalizer QS bipods have some unique features. There is a large, spring loaded, concentric ring at the top of each leg. Pull down to unfold the leg. I found this system more positive and convenient than the other bipods I have used.
The bipod's head is suspended on a fixture surrounded by a heavy coil spring. This allows the bipod mounted rifle to traverse (yaw) up to 30-degrees to the left and right without moving the bipod's legs. In addition, the rifle can be canted (rolled) up to 15-degrees to either side. Finally, the bipod's head allows small pitch-up adjustments of up to 5-degrees.
The legs are extended by loosening simple screw friction collars. These are heavily knurled for easy grasping, even when wearing shooting gloves. The bipod's feet terminate in rubber pads; these can be screwed-in to reveal metal spikes when appropriate. (Unless you are shooting from glare ice, the rubber feet are probably going to be the better choice.)
Like most shooting bipods, the QS models are attached to the sling swivel stud found on the forend of most rifles. (If your rifle does not have detachable sling swivel studs, check-out the Vanguard line of shooting sticks.) Unlike most bipods I have used, Vanguard QS bipods are attached to a rifle by means of a quick mounting shoe system that allows the bipod itself to be easily attached and detached, as well as used on more than one rifle. The quick mounting shoe uses a Picatinny mounting rail and incorporates a replacement sling swivel stud, so you can still attach a sling to your rifle. The 2QS blister pack includes two quick mounting shoes.
The Vanguard QS quick detachable system is convenient once you get the QD shoe attached to the rifle, which unfortunately is not always easy. Inside the quick shoe is an anchor. The anchor is attached to the rifle's sling swivel stud by a Phillips head machine screw. The quick shoe itself is then placed over the anchor (at which point you can no longer see the anchor and its threaded mounting holes, so you are working blind) and a pair of Torx head machine screws are used to attach the quick shoe to the anchor.
My advice is to do this in your shop at home, not in the field. The machine screws are small and easily dropped, the anchor rocks on the swivel stud, making it hard to align the holes in the anchor (that you can't see) with the holes in the quick shoe and the two Torx head screws. Be careful not to cross-thread the screws in the rocking anchor. Further, trying to hold a heavy varmint rifle upside down on your lap while you fiddle with the quick shoe attachment system is neither easy nor comfortable. It is best to assemble the system at home with your rifle inverted in a gun vise.
Since some uncaring idiot specified a Phillips head screw to attach the anchor to the rifle's sling swivel stud and Torx head screws to attach the shoe to the anchor, two drivers are required. In addition, the Phillips head is dimensionally peculiar; probably some Chinese spec. screw. I was able to tighten it, but I could not find a driver that actually fit it properly among my rather large collection of gunsmith screwdrivers, so be careful not to strip the head when tightening. The little Torx wrench Leupold supplies with their scope mount bases and rings will fit the twin Torx head screws used to secure the anchor to the quick shoe.
The quick shoe has considerable curvature where it mates to the forend of the rifle. (See the photo at the top of this article.) It fits a semi-circular sporter type forend well, but this built-in curvature creates a gap when fitted against a wide, flat-bottomed, varmint type forend (the very forend it is most likely to be used on), with the result that the supplied Torx screws may not reach the anchor.
For example, I found it impossible to mount the Equalizer quick shoe system on my Ruger M77 Target/Varmint rifle. I did succeed in mounting a quick shoe to the forend of my Savage Model 12 varmint rifle, but the quick shoe screws barely engaged the threaded holes in the anchor and I was not certain they would hold indefinitely. On the other hand, the system worked fine on my Anschutz 1717 DKL and my Kimber Model 84M Longmaster Classic, both of which have sporter style forends.
Once you get the anchor/quick shoe mounted to the front sling swivel stud, attachment of the bipod itself is easy. Just slide the quick shoe into the top of the bipod and tighten the bipod's thumbscrew to lock it in place. The base of the quick shoe is the familiar Picatinny type, so the Equalizer QS bipod can be mounted directly (without using the QR mounting shoe) to a military style rifle with a Picatinny rail on the bottom of its forend.
After the quick shoe system is properly screwed together on a rifle, I suggest leaving it permanently attached. It is unsightly, but it is too much trouble to remove and reattach for every hunt. Fortunately, the Anschutz and the Kimber are my favorite Eastern Oregon sand rat rifles, frequently used together, and now I can quickly switch the Vanguard bipod from one to the other.
Functionally, the Equalizer 2QS definitely makes for a steadier hold. I shoot primarily from the sitting position and am about average in size. I achieved a comfortable bipod height by extending the middle leg section fully and the bottom leg section about an inch. There is plenty of height adjustment latitude to accomodate practically anyone. I appreciated the ability to cant and swing the rifle on the bipod, which makes getting on target faster and easier. I would say that the 2QS is not quite as steady as a rigid bipod with a solid head, but it is steady enough to get the job done and the increased speed in lining up a shot at a varmint that may move at any instant is definitely worthwhile.
I would like to see Vanguard specify the same Torx head for all QS screws and include an inexpensive wrench with each bipod, as Leupold does with their scope rings and bases. I also suggest that Vanguard supply a quick shoe with a very gentle curve for varmint/target rifles. Quick shoes to fit different forend shapes would be more useful that the two identical quick shoes currently supplied.
The Vanguard Equalizer QS is now my first choice in bipods for the rifles it fits. If you need a bipod for a rifle with a sporter style forend, I suggest you try an Equalizer QS yourself. You can visit the Vanguard website at www.vanguardworld.com
Copyright 2011, 2013 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.