Caldwell Matrix Shooting Rest Review
If you like to shoot guns, you will most likely be at a bench at some point and will need a rest to help stabilize your rifle. For my current position with Gunsumer Reports, a rest is important with my reviews of rifles. The price of rests range from less than $50 to over $300. With this range in price comes a variety of features, quality, material and uses. Each of these has it's own list of pros and cons. For example, if you're looking for a rest that has felt recoil reducing capability, that may be a different price, weight and complexity than a rest that is intended to support the rifle only. I would consider the Caldwell Matrix Shooting Rest to be a rest targeted towards a budget minded shooter who is wanting a light weight and easy to setup rest with no felt recoil reducing capability. I don't have any hard data on this other than past experience, but I would be willing to bet that this type of rest represents a sizable part of this consumer market. For years, my rest was what ever I could find to prop under my rifle when at the range while checking the zero on my scope. An affordable rest system for the few times a year event of sighting in my rifle is appealing. The Caldwell Matrix Shooting Rest lists for $59.99 at the manufacturer's site, but you can find it available at other websites for under $40.
The photos below show an overall view of the box and as well as photos for each side of the box. Caldwell does a good job with the marketing on their box and this detail may provide some additional information. As a reminder, throughout this review you can view a higher resolution image by clicking on a photo.
Caldwell advertises this as "The one rest that does it all." A quick run through of the Caldwell Matrix features and specifications for the rest are shown below in italics:
After you take the components out of the box, you have the Instructions, Front Base Assembly, Rear Base, and Front Cradle & Ram as shown below. You can also see the Instructions by going to this link at the Caldwell site.
Removing the tray cover reveals the Rear Cradle assembly and attachment screws.
Assembly of the rest is in no way rocket science, but I have included photos of the steps along the way. The only tool needed is a Phillips screwdriver to install the three screws holding the Rear Cradle in place.
The Rear Cradle is covered by a slightly softer material that has a texture of being in between a rubber feel and a plastic feel.
The next step is to remove the two thumbscrews that attach the clamp.
You then place the rear assembly over the clamp and then the front assembly over the rear and line up the holes. Then you can reinstall the thumbscrews. To adjust the length of the rest, you loosen the thumbscrews, adjust the length, and then retighten the thumbscrews.
I reinstalled the tray cover.
Orient the spring clamp as shown below and screw the thumbscrew full out to install the Front Cradle & Ram Assembly. You can see the plastic teeth that engage the grooves on the Ram Assembly. The Ram Assembly slides in place by putting it in the slot and pushing it down while rotating the height adjustment knob.
The next couple of photos show the height adjustment feature for the rest. It is possible to switch the adjustment knob from the left to the right. Instructions can be found at this link at the Caldwell site. You can also see that the Front Cradle and Tray Cover are covered with a hard rubbery material in the areas that could potentially come in contact with your firearm.
Now that the rest is fully assembled, I decided to check out some of the specifications. My unit weighed in at 4.77 pounds which is close to the 5 pounds as advertised.
The overall length at its shortest position and longest position were approximately 21.75" and 26.50".
The width of the rest measured 19" as advertised, not that any difference would be of any significant difference.
The Front Cradle can infinitely adjust in height from approximately 7.50" to 10.50". Also notice in the next several photos the groove at the bottom of the cradle. This is to allow your gun to rest in the cradle on the stock and not on the swivel stud.
The Rear Cradle is about 6.50" tall and is not adjustable.
When you flip the rest over, you will see that there are 5 rubber pads that contact the surface of the bench.
The next series of photos is to give you some additional shots of the overall assembled rest. You can see there is plenty of room to put bullets, turret caps, small screwdrivers, Allen wrenches and other small stuff while at the range shooting.
At this point, I can say that overall the rest is light weight and fits together nicely. When all the thumbscrews are tightened down, there is no rattle or free play which is a bad thing to have in a rest. In the next several photos I show the Caldwell Matrix Shooting Rest with various rifles in the rest.
FNAR .308 Caliber, Zeiss Conquest Scope, 20 round magazine
Remington Model 788 .243 Caliber, Simmons 44 Mag Scope
Colt AR-15 Sporter II, 30 round magazine
I found this exercise of placing each rifle on the rest and checking out the stability to be very informative. With heavier rifles (FNAR and AR-15), you need to make sure that the spring pressure on the Forward Cradle is as tight as possible to prevent the cradle from creeping down when you apply pressure to the rifle. The next thing I found was that my bolt action Model 788 could actually fall out of the rest if it was bumped. The combination of the stock shape of this rifle and the cradle shapes did not hold the rifle when you tilted the rifle to one side or the other.
So far I have provided many photos and comments, but the real test of this rest is during it's actual use. To check out the rest, I decided to shoot four different firearms; FNAR .308 rifle, Remington Model 788 .243 rifle, Colt AR-15 .223 rifle, and Ruger 22 Charger Pistol. This gave me a good range of gun style and variation in recoil. I also decided to shoot non-match ammo since I consider this to be an economy rest and didn't want to potentially bias the results. Just to be clear, premium ammo does make a difference. The photo below shows my setup at the range with my FNAR.
The groups below show what I was able to achieve with my FNAR and Colt AR-15 at 100 yards. The larger holes are from my FNAR .308 caliber rifle and the smaller from my AR-15 .223 caliber rifle. I shot the FNAR with a Zeiss Conquest 4-14x50 scope and achieved about a 3.4" group with 6 shots. I shot the AR with iron sights (notice the flyer at 12 o'clock that was omitted from the group) and achieved a 3.1" five shot group. Overall I have shot better groups with my .308 and should be able to consistently get within a 2" grouping with this ammo. I feel that after more practice I would be able to get the group size down using this rest.
I shot my Remington Model 788 .243 and achieved a 2.6" six shot group. Shooting this traditional stock bolt action in this rest seemed more natural. I believe the side to side scatter on this group had to do with how I was holding the rifle while it was in the front cradle. Again, with a little practice I believe this group would also tighten up.
Next I decided to try out the rest in a pistol configuration so I headed over to the 50 yard range. I removed the back section (rear assembly) off the rest as you can see in the photos below. Due to the range being slightly up hill and the distance from the bottom of the pistol grip to the fore grip, I had to shim up the back of the rest so that I could adjust the front cradle so my red dot sight would be on the target.
I was able to achieve a 3" twenty shot group at 50 yards with with my Ruger 22 Charger Pistol using Winchester X-pert .22 ammo and a 1x power red dot scope. Overall I was very happy with this group since I was not using match ammo and only had a 1x power red dot scope.
Some of the things I observed throughout the range testing were that with heavier guns like my FNAR, the front cradle would slowly creep down and I had to hold the vertical adjustment knob while using the rest with this rifle (even with the spring tension at it's maximum). Also for some rifles and pistols, it seems like the front cradle should be able to adjust lower. For my AR-15 and Ruger Charger, I had to put something under the rear portion of the rest to get the overall rest at a different angle so I could adjust the front cradle. Last is the same comment for any rest, it takes a while to develop a consistent shooting form with any rest. A rest will hold the gun in a certain position and you have to get familiar with how to hold that position consistently while shooting on the rest.
My overall impression of the Caldwell rest is that for the money (search the web and get it under $40), it is a good buy for those wanting an entry level rest. The main thing you need to watch with this rest is that some guns can fall out of the rest if they are bumped when sitting in the rest. You can spend much more on a rest and there are good reasons why they cost more (felt recoil reducing, wind age adjustments, stock clamping features, etc.) If you are wanting the best rest that will help you achieve your maximum accuracy possible, you may want to look at putting at least another $100 into the investment for starters. If you are looking for a rest that will help you achieve an accuracy to hunt in most situations and a rest to enjoy general shooting and one that is easy and family friendly, the Caldwell Matrix Shooting Rest should be considered. One of the key components in your ability to shoot is your own skill. As with any sport, practice is the key to consistency. If you want good results from any rest, you are going to have to make the investment of your time and effort to reach it's maximum capability.