While I was making my way through the sea of vendors at the 2016 NRA Show in Louisville, I came across a unique product that made me stop and take notice. While not the sexiest or most tactical wear at the event, it was something I instantly knew I needed in my kit.
As a hunter, I've become all too aware how heavy a standard rifle or shotgun gets during an all-day hunt. The average scoped deer rifle weights between 5-7 pounds... or if you're like me, you built a heavy hitting accurate rifle with nice glass that ended up north of 13 pounds. Shotguns are just as guilty, especially magnum sized receivers that were built to survive the duckpocolypse. Hauling around a heavy long gun for more than a few hours will start to fatigue even the strongest of hunters, and that fatigue just may ruin an offhand shot and a ruined hunt.
The sling is a hunter's best friend in the field, because is not only puts the weight on your shoulder, but frees up for hands for glassing the hills with binoculars, reading the GPS, rehydrating, etc. The bad thing about slings, is that burden of weight on your shoulder will still cause fatigue at some point, prompting the hunter to swap shoulders or carry the gun by hand again, until the cycle of fatigue starts again. As someone who actively hunts several species a year (on foot, rarely in a stand or blind) I've often contemplated the issue, thinking to myself "Man, I need to buy a lighter gun!"
That's exactly why the Stratus Support System caught my eye. It is a pretty simple two piece rig with a soft neoprene cuff that wraps around your long gun's stock, and a hard plastic support that you slide your belt through. The cuff has a sewn on raised plastic disc that acts like a joint when inserted into the slot in the belt unit. The result is an anchor point on your hip that shares the payload when the firearm is slung over your shoulder.
Most hunters will immediately wonder if it slows down your reaction time when that big nasty buck walks out in front of you, and you only have a few precious seconds to shoulder your rifle and drill the vitals before it disappears into the wilderness again. Believe me, it was my first question too. The belt unit has a retention clip with a ridge to help secure the cuff's disc, but is easy to overcome with a short simple upward motion... which you would perform anyway to lift the sling off your shoulder stealthily as to not spook your quarry. To me the optimal technique for releasing the joint is if you unsling the rifle from your shoulder, let it pivot forward while still clipped to your hip, lower the muzzle some and then lift up. This is easy to do with one hand, so you could use your rangefinder or binos with your support hand.
Wing shooters, I haven't forgotten about you! You remember that awkward walk to and from the truck, boat, and blind while you are trying to carry your decoys, ammo, chairs, and your shotgun, as quick as possible because that sun is rising fast and the ducks are coming in hot? Or the hours you spend marching through the wheat fields with your dog, anxiously waiting for that pheasant to take flight? No matter the terrain, I've found the Stratus Support comes in handy when you are juggling your gun and gear around, while trying to maintain stamina and stay alert.
Depending on how tall you are and if your standing in water or tall vegetation, you could even lower your firearm muzzle down along your leg while you blow on your calls, or give instruction to your dog trying to retrieve that stubborn duck. If you are really ambitious, you could use the Stratus to carry a secondary gun on your other shoulder/hip, while your are using your primary weapon. If you've ever hunted with a muzzleloader, having two smoke-poles ready to go is worth more than having only one and a pocket full of bullets!
In a way the Stratus Support is like a holster for your rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader, but designed for practicality and quick access so you don't miss any golden opportunities. I really like how it can work on almost any gun in my collection, and gives some of my heavier rifles a chance to come out of the truck and accompany me on the stalk.
NOTE: Yes, I did ask SSS about more compatibility with other platforms. They are working an a tactical rig for AR-15s, and are experimenting with archery productss. Stay tuned!
FIREARMS INSIDER REVIEWS – 8 KEY POINTS
Claim to Fame: Stratus Support Systems solves the age old problem of field fatigue incurred through carry of bare or slinged rifles and shotguns.
Target Market: Hunters (Shotgun, Rifle, or Muzzleloaders), Long Range Shooters
FNBs (Features & Benefits of this product):
- Easy to use
- Reduces fatigue by distributing an adjustable amount of weight off of the shoulders and back to the waist
- Allows quick access / use of firearm
- Does bot interfere with shooting
- Non-damaging neoprene cuff fits most firearm stocks
- Inside cuff is non-slip
- Belt support unit goes on/off easy and fits wide belts
- Designed by hunters
What other aesthetic options or finishes are available?: Flat Black only
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING?:
"Everybody needs a little support now and then. Stratus support systems has put together a system for your favorite fixed stock rifles that make hunting and target practice less painful. Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain. This system redistributes most of the weight from your neck, shoulders, and back to your belt." ilikegunz.com review
- MSRP: $24.95
I NEED IT NOW! AVAILABILITY:
- Secondary anchor point makes a huge difference when hunting all day
- Disabled hunters can benefit from the redistributed weight
- Portion of sales will be contributed to Wounded Warriors
- Inside of cuff has non-slip texture so it stays put on your stock
- Belt unit was wide loops for any belt width
- Cuff's wings are almost not big enough for modern stocks with large cheek combs
- Disc joint is plastic, and while sturdy so far in testing I would be more confident in a metallic solution.
- Since the cuff takes up approximately 4" of your stock and may interfere with ammunition carrying products, it would have been a nice addition if this had some ammo loops, or a velcro system to swap between shotshells or rifle catridges