How to separate the pistol’s potential from the pistolero’s: the Ransom Rest and a grip insert that fits the firearm.

There are several ways to test fire a handgun, whether for function, for accuracy, or for any kind of instrumented testing, like chronograph load development or strain-gage pressure measurement. In ascending order, these are: by hand, from an improvised rest such as a sandbag, or from a machine rest.

The best commercially available machine rest is the Ransom Rest and it has been for a long time. It is, as you might expect, premium priced, and it also takes quite a bit of installing and setting up.

Steve Sieberts has an excellent article on setting up a Ransom Rest, one we wish we’d had the first time we monkeyed with one back in 1980 or so, in the American Handgunner online.

The Ransom Rest has been around since 1969, and really is the gold standard for gun/ammo testing.

I was building a new Caspian 1911 .45 ACP last month and needed to test it, and obtained a new Ransom Rest and insert for the 1911 from the fine folks at Brownell’s. Getting the most from a Ransom Rest means building a mounting board for it, that way it can be secured to the shooting bench at your local range. Most ranges have shooting pedestals made from cinder block with a concrete top. This is a very sturdy basis for attaching the mounting board with the Ransom Rest attached.

Siebert’s setup with a target 1911. Even the trigger contact is mechanical on a Ransom.

Note his mention of “insert for the 1911.” The Ransom Rest grips handguns in a sort of vise, and for that it must have custom jaws to fit the particular gun, in Ransom terms “inserts.” (Current ones are blue). This can be a considerable expense of its own, with the inserts costing $60-70 each now; but the bigger problem is that they are only available for the most popular sidearms. Especially for the ones popular when the Ransom Rest was introduced, like the 1911 and the S&W K-Frame!

(And no, this is not just sniveling because they don’t make an insert for the CZ-75 — they do. Like all the non-1911 non-Smith inserts, it’s a month or two special order, so you need to plan your Ransom Resting well in advance).

As for the price of the unit itself, well, that’s why they call it Ransom. The Ransom Rest, Windage Base and one set of inserts will hit you about $750 at Brownells, today. (You can save about $100 off that at Champions Choice, but we’ve ever dealt with them. They also seem to offer a different selection of inserts than Brownells). But it takes the major source of inconsistency — us humans, or as Small Dog Mk II thinks of us, Trained Feeder Monkeys — out of test firing.

The sine qua non of good results with the Rest is the setup. It has always come with good instructions, which now have a visual supplement in Siebert’s article.

Remember, you’re trying to remove as much movement as possible, in order to make sure the pistol returns to the exact same spot for each shot. If the bench you’re attaching the mounting board is wobbly, you’re just wasting your time.

via Building And Using A Ransom RestAmerican Handgunner | American Handgunner.

We don’t know how old Sieberts’s article is; for all we know, it’s as old as the Ransom itself, but really, it’s timeless.

For most target shooters, the stock inserts will cover you. For the rest of us, the insert problem actually looks like a perfect place for 3D printing and possibly, small-shop injection molding.

The biggest beef we have with the Ransom is that we’re not sure where ours is. Would be a drag to replace it (although that would guarantee finding the old one).  The next biggest? That there isn’t a rifle version. We haven’t found anything nearly as good for long guns.

This entry was posted in GunTech, Pistols and Revolvers, Weapons Accessories, Weapons Education, Weapons Technology on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

10 thoughts on “Setting Up and Using a Ransom Rest


The point learned as a lad, was that with a Ransom rest, and a camera, you too could be a gun magazine.

Best wishes on your search for the missing machine. Definitely a first-world problem there, sir.

And 3D ought to shorten Ransom’s time to deliver inserts, or take that option away from them if they can’t deal with the competition, and joining the 21st C.

One might even think a firearms company, thinking forward, would just put the recipe file for their newest shooting iron’s Ransom insert online, as a courtesy for download, and be done with it; or else just sell the thing as another part for the piece.

And if Ransom was forward-thinking, a rifle (and shotgun) machine should have been on their To Do List in about 1990.

But what do I know? I could never be on the BoD of a gun company, because my mother and father were married to each other.

Daniel E. Watters

FWIW: The Ransom Rest was named for its inventor Charles R. Ransom. I can’t seem to find a patent for his pistol rest, but a quick Google Patent search will uncover Ransom’s patent for a rifle rest: US Patent #5,067,268. Alas, it is not a machine rest. The lack of a pistol rest patent leads me to believe that Ransom bought the rights to Buford L. Broadway’s patented design (US Patent #3,024,653) and then improved upon it.

Back in the late 1960s and 1970s, the only other commercial alternative was a pistol rest from Richard J. Lee: US Patent #3,343,411. Lee is better known today for his namesake company, Lee Precision, which still produces ammunition loading dies, presses, and other related accessories.

Daniel E. Watters

I just remembered that there was a side-by-side test of the Ransom versus the Lee rests in 1978 Gun Digest.


That 1911 in the pic looks weird. Is that an Aristocrat rib mounted to the slide, with the rib extending forward of the muzzle and an ejection port macined into it?

Daniel E. Watters

That looks like one of the classic Bo-Mar sight ribs for the M1911. They have long been out of production since Robert N. Korzeniewski died. Most folks don’t realize that Korzeniewski only patented the ribs. The adjustable sights themselves were designed and patented by pistolsmith George E. Elliason, the same fellow responsible for the Colt Gold Cup rear sight.


***(You can save about $100 off that at Champions Choice, but we’ve ever dealt with them. ***

I assume you typo’d *never* dealt with them. I have dealt with them, back in the- 1990’s when the .338 Lapua was still new, cases from Brass Extrusion Labs Ltd in Illinois didn’t meet specs. and CC was the source for brass unless you wanted to cut down .416 Rigby cases. They were sometimes slow to deliver, but that may have been due to failings by their suppliers and a really long pipeline. But they always came through….eventually.


The best rifle rest of a similar intent is the Hyskore Dual Damper machine rest, in my experience. It’s not as nice overall as the Ransom pistol rest, but it works very well with some tinkering and costs all of $150.


Champion’s Choice are good to go in my experience going back nearly 30 years. The founder, who passed last year, and his son are/were both Double Distinguished (rifle and pistol). Their website may be a little clunky compared to some out there, but not excessively so. “Buy with confidence” as the saying goes.


Another opton is a low temp thermoplastic, like the stuff sold as instamorph, friendly plastic, or with other names. The granules are melted in very hot water, then formed to shape. Two wads of the polymer could be used to form custom grip adapters. Just watch out because the stuff really likes to stick to other polymers while it’s hot.