For those not familiar with the lead sled by Caldwell, it is a rifle rest designed to fully contain and hold a rifle. There are a variety of different lead sleds available, including the Original Plus, the DFT, and the Solo. The main purpose of the lead sled is to reduce the human factor as much as possible from firing the weapon. The point of removing the human element is to reduce the error associated with the human factor. This is designed so the user can get the most accurate zero possible from the sights on their weapon.
Reducing the human factor is nothing new when it comes to zeroing a rifle. People have been utilizing a bench of some kind or another to aid in adjusting their sights since sights were adjustable.
What`s It For?
A Lead Sled is basically as improved and precise as a bench rest can be. The Lead Sled also reduces the recoil felt by the shooter, allowing the shooter to comfortably zero their weapon. This doesn’t sound like a big deal for most rifles, but when you get into the more powerful big game rifles in calibers like the 375 H&H, or the .458 Magnum, the recoil is much more brutal. Those rifles are not pleasant or comfortable to shoot, so the reduction in recoil is a major consideration. The Sled itself does not reduce recoil but relies on bags or lead shot, or sandbags to add weight to the sled. This additional weight absorbs the recoil.
So, Does it Work?
The sled is actually pretty effective at its job. The Lead Sled is capable of holding the rifle down tightly, locking into place, and makes zeroing extremely easy and precise. The Lead Sled works best when using an optic, it can be used for iron sights, but it’s honestly a bit much for irons when you are not purposely practicing long range shooting with them. With a good, solid scope the Lead Sled provides the most stable platform I’ve ever experienced. This goes for all three models of the Lead Sled.
Getting on target is a bit awkward and required the sled to be adjusted until the reticle is on target. Front elevation adjustment causes the weapon to move, and rock around, which shifts the point of impact. Since the Caldwell Lead Sled is designed for precision it’s important you have your point of aim as accurate as possible. The DFT model offers rear elevation which was much better and did not move the rifle when adjustments were made. The Solo and Original model do not offer a rear adjustment tool.
Here is short video of this whole process:
When it comes to recoil reduction it’s hard to beat the Lead Sled. The Original and DFT models have a lot of extra room, and you can use 100 pounds of lead shot with ease. The Solo is designed for lighter rifles, so the room is more limited, but it’s also not as necessary. Most shooters will find fifty pounds to be plenty of recoil reduction.
In testing we found that using the Lead Sled DFT reduces the most recoil, due to its dual frame technology, but the Original still worked very well. The Solo didn’t really need recoil reduction, but it’s effective when using the intended rifle. We found all three models made zeroing easier and reduced the amount of ammo required to get ‘dead’ on a target. This ammo savings is always appreciated, and even more so for this big bore shooters. When your rounds can cost several dollar apiece, ammo saving is always valued.
A Critical Look
The Lead Sled does its job, but is it necessary for most shooters? I would say for most shooters no, this isn’t required. Shooters that would benefit from the Lead Sled are big bore shooters and competition shooters where a fraction of an inch is a big deal. For most hunters and casual shooters, the Lead Sled isn’t necessary for an accurate zero. The Lead Sled does its job, but there are a number of reasons why not to own one.
1. Cost Factor.
The basic Original and Solo models are around a hundred bucks, and the DFT is around a hundred and seventy bucks. A good bipod and a rear sandbag come in at around seventy bucks, and I have the ability to use the bipod in the field. The Lead Sled is purely a bench rest tool.
2. Heavy to carry around.
I shoot from the bench very little, often just to confirm the zero on my rifle. The Lead Sled weighs twenty-five pounds by itself, and with the addition of 25 or 50 pounds of shot, and the weight of your rifle you are looking at a ton of gear to carry around. The rests aren’t very versatile either.
3. Solo or sandbags?
The Original and the DFT are not designed to be used with modern sporting rifles like the AR 15. This is why the Solo exists, to accommodate the modern sporting rifle. A set of rifle sandbags cost a lot less, and can be used for a much wider variety of weapons, of course, there is no recoil reduction with sand bags. Sand bags are also much easier to transport, and use in a variety of conditions.
What You Should Take Away From All This
The Lead Sled does its job very well, it makes getting your weapon zeroed very easy. The Lead Sled is quite handy, and recoil reduction is superb. Everything the Lead Sled promises to do, it does. However, I feel it’s a niche product that most shooters do not need. The product is well built, and relatively easy to use, but does not fill any need I or most shooters probably have. As a training tool, I believe it would ultimately be a crutch for new shooters. For competitive shooters, and big game hunters the Sled is perfect for their purposes.