Written By
Updated Aug 2, 2022 1:49 PM

As any hunter or rifleman will tell you, a considerable amount of time can pass between setting up in your hide and breaking the perfect shot at your quarry. More often than not, that time is spent lying prone somewhere cold, damp, and muddy. Far from being a mere creature comfort, a quality shooting mat can help you maintain a better state of readiness and keep your focus on the task at hand.

In this article, we group shooting mats into two categories: field and range. Field mats are lightweight and easily carried into the backcountry, but are more austere than range mats which are ideal for shooting at established facilities or when operating in close proximity to a vehicle.

Methodology

In this article, we recommend the best shooting mats for use in the field or at the range. Our selections are based on experience with comparable equipment at Gunsite Academy’s Long Range Precision Rifle course and extensive research including reviews of manufacturer specifications, professional publications, product videos, and other sources. 

Our research started with identifying the key characteristics essential to the performance of a quality shooting mat, namely dimensions, thickness, material, and weight. These characteristics are discussed in detail later in this article in the section “What to consider when buying a shooting mat.”

Our research team then searched for shooting mats on e-commerce websites including Amazon, Cabela’s, OpticsPlanet, Brownells, MidwayUSA, and many more, with a focus on selecting those products that offer an optimal balance between design characteristics. The most promising shooting mats were then selected for in-depth research via consumer and independent third-party print and video reviews, as well as discussions within the Task & Purpose community of recreational shooters, hunters, and military personnel.

The final research step leveraged all the data, results, and commentary to develop specific questions for each manufacturer. The answers provided by the manufacturers gave us a better understanding of each shooting mat’s performance and helped us develop our final set of recommendations.

It is of the utmost importance to those of us at Task & Purpose to ensure that you, our readers, know our commitment to fair and open product reviews and recommendations so that you can trust us to provide you with unbiased, balanced information.

The NcSTAR VISM Roll Up shooting mat splits the difference between a field and range mat with an overall weight under four pounds, but with 0.3 inches of padding and a compact 19.5- by 8.5-inch cylinder for easy transport and storage. Made from durable PVC materials, the mat is both water- and chemical-resistant.

Non-skid panels located at the knee and elbow areas of the shooter ensure a stable firing platform, and the integral shoulder strap of the mat can also be used to help secure the bipod feet during use, thereby reducing movement of the rifle under recoil.

For its optimal blend of size, weight, padding, and price, the NcSTAR VISM Roll Up is our pick for the Best Overall shooting mat.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 69 x 35
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0.3
  • Packed size (inches): 19.5 x 8.5
  • Weight (pounds): 3.9
  • Material: PVC
  • Style: Range
  • Colors: Black, digital camo, green, tan, urban gray, woodland
PROS

Non-skid panels at elbows and knees

Comfortable padding

CONS

None, suprisingly

Weighing in at just one pound and priced at less than $30, MidwayUSA’s Lightweight Tactical Shooting Mat is the lightest and most affordable of all the field shooting mats that we reviewed. Its packed size of 15 by 8 inches isn’t as compact as some of the other field mats, but users will appreciate the 0.197-inch thick padding that is responsible for the extra bulk.

Made with a combination of 1200 denier and 500 denier PVC-coated polyester to save weight, this mat also includes corner grommets for staking the mat to the ground in windy conditions and a pocket to keep ballistic data cards and other materials out of the weather.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 69 x 30
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0.197
  • Packed size (inches): 15 x 8
  • Weight (pounds): 1.0
  • Material: 1200 denier PVC-coated polyester (bottom) 500 denier PVC-coated polyester (top)
  • Style: Field
  • Colors: Coyote brown, olive drab
PROS

Lightweight yet padded

Pockets for ballistic data cards

Textured, waterproof, non-skid bottom

CONS

No bipod preload area

The Bob Allen Tactical shooting mat by Boyt Harness provides a generous 85- by 27-inch shooting platform made from water-resistant 600 denier PU-coated polyester encasing a 0.5-inch closed-cell foam pad for extreme comfort. The front third of the mat where the shooter’s elbow and torso rest is coated in a rubberized material to prevent slippage when firing. Although a bit heavier than some of the other options and lacking stake-out grommets, the Bob Allen Tactical shooting mat earns an Honorable Mention in our review of Best Shooting Mats.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 85 x 27
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0.5
  • Packed size (inches): 27 x 7.5
  • Weight (pounds): 4.2
  • Material: 600 denier polyester with PU coating
  • Style: Range
  • Colors: Coyote brown
PROS

Non-skid rubberized surface

Multiple carry options

CONS

Heavy

No stake-out grommets

If you’re in the market for the most comfortable and feature-rich shooting mat, then look no further than the MidwayUSA Pro Series Gen 2 Competition series. This shooting mat has 0.5 inches of resilient, closed-cell foam padding encased in a durable nylon/polyester waterproof sheath and features corner grommets, sewn-in webbing at the top for bipod preloading, and two zippered pouches for ballistic data cards and logbooks.

At 8.5 pounds, the Pro Series Gen 2 is the heaviest shooting mat in our lineup, but if you’re shooting primarily from an established range or competition site, this mat is an ideal choice.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 74 x 35.5
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0.5
  • Packed size (inches): 35.5 x 6.5
  • Weight (pounds): 8.5
  • Material: 1000 denier Cordura nylon (top) and 1200 denier PVC-coated polyester (bottom)
  • Style: Range
  • Colors: Coyote brown, olive drab
PROS

Comfortable padding

Sewn-in bipod preload webbing

Zippered pockets for ballistic data cards

CONS

Very heavy

The One Tigris Wild Voyager Shooting Mat is a lightweight, inexpensive, no-frills mat that works well if cutting ounces from your loadout is a top priority. Made from tough 1000 denier nylon with a waterproof PU coating, the Wild Voyager mat will keep you and your gear out of mud, sand, and water when setting up your hide in the field. Grommets in each corner allow the mat to be securely staked to the ground during windy conditions or for use as a ground tarp and vapor barrier for minimalist camping. For its simple, versatile design, the One Tigris Wild Voyager is our pick for Best Unpadded Field Shooting Mat.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 80 x 30
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0 (unpadded)
  • Packed size (inches): 8 x 4
  • Weight (pounds): 2.6
  • Material: 1000 denier nylon with PU coating
  • Style: Field
  • Colors: Coyote brown, multicam
PROS

Lightweight design

Compact form factor

Large deployed surface area

CONS

No padding

No non-skid coating

With their shooting mats in use by virtually every government agency in the United States and members of the USA FTR Shooting Team, it’s safe to say that Crosstac knows a thing or two about building a great shooting mat.

The Crosstac Precision Range shooting mat (NSN #7830-01-067-6181) has all of the features that you could ask for — great water resistance, plenty of space at 79 by 36 inches deployed, an integral bipod support rail, and 0.375 inches of closed-cell foam rated to remain flexible at minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Unlike all of the other mats we reviewed, the Crosstac Precision Range mat folds up by quarters into a flat package just two inches thick. If you’ve ever struggled to get a roll-up mat to lay flat, you’ll appreciate the thinking behind this design. As an added bonus, you can transport your precision rifle to and from the shooting station with your mat — just place the rifle on the mat, fold it up, and lift the entire package with the carry handles located on the mat.

Although the most expensive mat on our list, the Crosstac Precision Range shooting mat is our pick for Best Range Shooting Mat.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 79 x 36
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0.375
  • Packed size (inches): 36 x 19 x 2
  • Weight (pounds): 4.75
  • Material: 1000-Denier Cordura, polyurethane-coated inside for water resistance, repellant on outside
  • Style: Range
  • Colors: Coyote brown, multicam
PROS

Integral bipod support rail for preloading

Closed-cell foam rated to -20 degrees Fahrenheit

CONS

Expensive

The Crosstac Precision Recon shooting mat takes its design cues from its range mat but reduces the total weight from 4.75 to just 1.5 pounds in order to provide a more portable solution for shooters operating in the field. Available in lengths of 58.5 and 70.5 inches, the Recon mat is a bit narrower at 27.5 inches and the closed-cell foam pad is only 0.125 inches thick, so you’ll still want to select your shooting site carefully and watch out for rocks.

In lieu of a ridge support rail for the bipod, the recon mat uses a length of MIL-SPEC webbing sewn into the mat on three sides. The bipod feet press against the free edge of the webbing to provide resistance when the shooter preloads the bipod prior to taking a shot. Unlike the Crosstac Range mat, the Recon mat rolls up into a compact 6- by 14-inch package for easy transport.

For its lightweight, quality construction, the Crosstac Precision Recon shooting mat is our choice for Best Tactical Shooting Mat.

Product Specs
  • Dimensions (inches): 58.5 x 27.5 (reg) or 70.5 x 27.5 (long)
  • Padding thickness (inches): 0.125
  • Packed size (inches): 6 x 14
  • Weight (pounds): 1.5
  • Material: Dual layers of 500-Denier WR Cordura with PU coating
  • Style: Field
  • Colors: Multicam, coyote brown, wolf grey
PROS

Sewn-in bipod preload webbing

CONS

No non-skid surfaces

Expensive

Our verdict on shooting mats

A quality shooting mat is a worthy piece of gear to add to your kit whether heading to the range for sight-in work or out into the field in search of this season’s eight-pointer. Shooting mats vary from simple ground cloth to more feature-rich models with padding, pockets, and integral bipod supports.  

What to consider when buying shooting mats

Types of shooting mats

Field

Field mats are designed for a balance between comfort and portability. These mats generally have minimal or no padding to reduce weight and bulk. All field mats roll up into a compact package with the smallest mats taking up less space than a one-liter Nalgene bottle. Field mats generally weigh less than three pounds, with the lightest designs weighing just one pound.

Range

Range mats are intended for use in established areas accessible by vehicle where the shooting stations will typically be on concrete pads or gravel. As such, range mats typically have generous padding — usually 0.25 to 0.5 inches of closed-cell foam. Range mats may also have other features such as pockets and integral bipod supports.  

Key features of shooting mats

Dimensions

Field mat dimensions are a matter of user preference. Minimalist mats may be 60 inches or less in overall length, putting both the rifle bipod and the user’s legs on the ground. As the purpose of a shooting mat is to keep the shooter and their gear clean and dry, this is a poor trade-off. We recommend mats at least 70 inches in overall length, with a preference for 80 inches if possible.

Field mat width generally ranges from 27 to 36 inches, with the wider mats offering space for not just the shooter, but also log books, ballistic data cards, ammo boxes, etc. Our recommendation is to select a shooting mat that is at least 30 inches wide unless there is a compelling reason to choose a narrower model.

Thickness 

Also a matter of user preference, padding adds not only comfort, but also bulk when the shooting mat is stored for transport. For range mats, padding is essential, but the need is not as clear for field mats where the shooter can not only select the site, but also clear the area of rocks and debris, much as one would do when preparing a site for a tent or tarp shelter. For this reason, we recommend an unpadded or minimally padded mat for use in the field.

Material

Whether nylon or polyester, a shooting mat must have a waterproof coating on the bottom surface to fulfill its primary function of keeping the user and their gear dry and comfortable. Higher denier material will offer greater durability in exchange for greater weight.  

Weight

Field mats should weigh no more than three pounds and ideally less than 1.5 pounds. Weight is generally not a concern for range mats, as the shooting station will likely be reasonably close to a vehicle.

Pricing 

Prices for shooting mats range from under $30 to more than $200. DIY options are certainly possible (see Tips and tricks below) if desired, but our Best Overall and Best Value recommendations were selected with affordability in mind.

Tips and tricks

A shooting mat is basically just a ground cloth with optional padding. For years, the ultralight backpacking community has used common Tyvek HomeWrap sheets for a vapor barrier in a layered sleep system consisting of a ground cloth, closed-cell foam pad, and sleeping bag or quilt.

If style and color aren’t a concern, an inexpensive shooting mat can be easily constructed using Tyvek, available cut-to-length on eBay, or by the roll at most home improvement stores. Wash the Tyvek in a thumper-style washing machine (without soap) and allow it to air dry — this will make the Tyvek softer and considerably less noisy than Tyvek straight off the roll. Use Gorilla Tape to fabricate stake loops in each corner and add a closed-cell foam pad if additional comfort is desired.

FAQs about shooting mats

Q: What are shooting mats used for?

A: Shooting mats allow hunters, recreational shooters, and military personnel to set up a shooting position in austere conditions where the ground may be wet, muddy, sandy, or covered in other undesirable material (e.g., coyote dung in the high deserts of Arizona).

Q: Why do you need to preload your bipod?

A: Preloading a bipod is when the shooter “leans in” to the rifle, pressing forward with their entire body against the bipod to minimize the effect of the recoil impulse and the tendency for the rifle to jump off target after a shot. Done correctly, this allows the shooter to retain the sight picture during and after the shot, and substantially reduces the time required for a follow-up shot if necessary. Some shooting mats include ridges or straps to secure the feet of the bipod so that they don’t slip when the bipod is preloaded. This feature is a “nice-to-have” rather than a “must-have” as the bipod can be preloaded effectively by using rubberized or spiked bipod feet or placing a small weight (e.g., sandbag) in front of the bipod.

Q: In what environment will you mainly be using the shooting mat?

A: Generally speaking, shooting mats are used either on hard surfaces at established shooting facilities (concrete pads, gravel, etc) or in the backcountry on bare ground, which may also be wet, muddy, or sandy. The shooting mat keeps the shooter and their gear dry, clean, and reasonably comfortable.

Q: Can I stake down the shooting mat?

A: Yes, many shooting mats have either grommets or stake loops in the corners to secure the mat during windy conditions.

Q: Can I use a shooting mat in wet environments?

A: Absolutely! In wet environments, a quality mat makes the shooting experience more comfortable and improves the ability of the shooter to focus on the fundamentals: sight picture, breathing control, and the surprise trigger break.

Q: What else can I use a shooting mat for?

A: Shooting mats are handy for a multitude of uses. I keep one in my truck for when I have to repair or maintain my truck. A shooting mat can also double as a ground cloth for camping or even as a small picnic blanket for lunch by the stream. Padded shooting mats can even replace closed-cell foam or inflatable sleeping mattresses when camping. 

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