I finally got around to upgrading my tripod setup to actual Really Right Stuff tripod legs in the form of the TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR tripod.
Several years back I picked up a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead and paired it with an Induro GIT-204 Stealth tripod. I bought those items because I needed a more robust tripod setup for photography as well as rifle shooting.
From time to time I will run a heavy photography setup on a tripod consisting of a Paul C Buff ABR800 ring flash which was more than my Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead could handle, much less a heavy long rifle.
The Really Right Stuff BH-55 with it’s 50 lb load capacity was a huge improvement.
After I purchased the BH-55 and GIT-204 tripod legs and started using that setup during range sessions, I found the tripod to be surprisingly less stable than expected. There was a lot of torsional flex in the legs so there was a lot of twisting, , and/or vibration laterally
At first I thought this was relatively normal until I handled Really Right Stuff tripod legs and realized their carbon tubes are much stouter than what is on my Induro legs.
After several years of running the GIT-204 + BH55 combination, I acquired the RRS TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR tripod legs and the RRS TA-2U-SC Universal Leveling Base (with SOAR Clamp). I originally ordered the TVC-22i tripod with the intention of running the BH-55 on it. But shortly after I acquired the TVC-22i, I felt like a leveling base would be a better option. So I ordered the Really Right Stuff TA-2U-SC Universal Leveling Base with SOAR clamp.
The TVC-22i has excellent fit and finish for the carbon fiber legs, which are also quite stout and rigid. The carbon fiber weave appears to exude a high quality and does not look generic or cheap.
The locking collar for the legs are smooth with no thread issues, and the tension is consistent throughout up until the collar is tightened to lock.
The feet on the TVC-22i are threaded on and replaceable. It comes with rubber feet, however metal claw and spike style feet are available from RRS. The threads for the feet are 3/8-16″, so it is possible to utilize third-party or DIY feet.
The legs can be set to three different angles via a spring loaded push lever on each leg near the apex.
The TVC-22i uses the RRS Versa apex. The apex is section of the tripod where the legs meet and the Versa apex is their widest diameter apex, which has a moderately sized ‘bowl’ to mount the interfaces for the heads to be used.
The TVC-22i comes with a Versa platform with the appropriate threaded stud to adapt standard ballheads, and it is removed to accommodate the TA-2U-SC leveling base. The Versa platform in the bowl of the apex is held into place by a ring compressed by three adjacent set screws.
The key feature of the TVC-22i is that the ‘i’ stands for inverted, which refers to the leg segment orientation. Traditional tripods have multiple leg segments and when compressed or contracted, the lowest segment retracts into the segment above it, and so-on.
With the inverted legs, the lowest leg segment actually fits over the segment above it. This gives the tripod unique characteristics in deployment.
For one, when you loosen the locking collar to move the segment, you can keep the hand on the locking collar and never release the locking collar to extend or retract the leg. With traditional tripod legs, you often will need to loosen the collar, then move your hand to the lower segment to manipulate it, then adjust your hand to keep the segment in place while then tightening the locking collar. This can be a cumbersome process, especially under time (like in a timed stage of a match).
With the TVC-22i inverted leg design, adjusting the height / extension of the leg is quick since the hand remains in one spot for the unlock, adjust, and (re)lock of the leg segment. You also retain full control of the tripod leg during the adjustment and not fumbling around with keeping the leg segment in place while locking the collar.
A second unique aspect of the inverted legs is that the locking collar remains higher from the ground. With traditional tripod leg segments, the locking collars will always be at the bottom of the legs when compressed / retracted. Even with a multi-segment tripod, usually at least one locking collar will be near the ground if not all segments are fully extended.
The reason why this should be taken in consideration is if you use a tripod in the mud or water. Locking collars subjected to such conditions will cause them to get gritty and possibly seize up.
The TVC-22i only has two segments, yet has a fully extended deployment height of 64.3 inches (without the head). With only two segments and such a tall maximum height, you can only imagine the compressed height is going to be taller than most tripods and that is true. The folded length with legs fully retracted is 38.2″ (without the head). This tripod is not very portable in terms of travel.
For comparison, the popular TFC-33 and TFC-34 tripod legs (with the RRS ‘fixed’ apex) have a folded and compressed length of 25.4″ and the 20.9″, respectively (without heads).
That being said, the TVC-22i is designed with the range shooter in mind. Most competitive precision rifle shooters and those using such a tripod at the range in controlled environments will not be concerned about portability, unlike a hunter or someone hiking with a tripod. Thus, the relatively long folded and compressed length of the TVC-22i should not be an issue for its intended use cases.
With regards to the TA-2U-SC leveling base, it is important to understand that a leveling base was not originally designed to be directly mounted to with the item to be supported.
Normally, a leveling base is put on a tripod between the tripod and the ballhead, which then allows the ballhead or other head used to be level and balanced. Thus, panning with the head is now level as long as the leveling base is adjusted to be level. This is important in photography or video when trying to conduct panoramic shots (using stitching) or panning videos.
However, when people started adopting tripods for rifle shooting, they realized leveling bases actually worked well for rifles and were not as bulky or complex as ballheads (less control knobs). Thus, leveling bases are now seen in precision shooting applications.
Of course, the leveling base does not have the same articulation as a ballhead. The TA-2U-SC has 20 degrees of adjustment from level, where as the BH-55 ballhead can move 90 degrees. Also, the TA-2U-SC is rated to hold 25 lbs without slipping, while the BH-55 has a load rating of 55 lbs.
Even with these limitations, the TA-2U-SC is slightly more compact in form factor than a ballhead and is less complex with only one control lever/ring to tighten the leveling base. When loosened, the leveling base can pan and tilt.
When I brought the TVC-22i and TA-2U-SC to the range to get some actual shooting done off of the combo, I immediately noticed that the torsional flex on the legs when behind the gun is negligible and is light years ahead of my Induro GIT-204 tripod.
Deploying the tripod is very quick and smooth with only one locking collar (two leg segments) and the inverted legs.
Even with the longer / taller height of the tripod in the various positions, I was able to still utilize the tripod effectively in various positions with my shorter than average stature, including standing, high kneeling, low kneeling, and sitting.
Really Right Stuff makes high quality products and the prices reflect this.
The Really Right Stuff TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR tripod currently (2022 Q2) retails for $920 USD and the Really Right Stuff TA-2U-SC Universal Leveling Base retails for $425 USD. RRS products are in high demand with short supply at the time of this writing in Q2 2022. I was able to find these two items in-stock at an online RRS dealer based out of Tennessee called Thermal Optics Plus. Definitely check them out for RRS gear.
I highly recommend the Really Right Stuff TVC-22i Mk2 SOAR tripod for anyone wanting a tripod for rifle shooting at the range for either recreational or competitive use. The inverted leg characteristic is advantageous for speed and easy deployment.
If you want a tripod for hunting or field carry, then I would dissuade you from getting the TVC-22i and instead get the RRS Ascend 14 which is a lightweight and highly capable tripod for field use.
As far as the RRS TA-2U-SC Universal Leveling Base, I prefer this for rifle shooting over the BH-55. It is simpler with one control lever and lessens the complexity of having three different controls on the BH-55. Also, the leveling base feels more fluid than a ballhead which makes the movement of the rifle more smooth when manipulating it while behind the scope.
For more information on Really Right Stuff SOAR (Sport Optics and Rifle) products, check out the Really Right Stuff SOAR website at https://soar.reallyrightstuff.com/.