To consistently make first-round hits at long range, you must be able to accurately read conditions and know the exact range to the target. High-magnification spotting scopes, powerful laser rangefinders, and stable tripods are used to perform those tasks. Adding a video camera to the mix can create quite the juggling act for your spotter, and it can be too much to handle if you hunt by yourself. The R-F Cam Cradle, by RLC Customs, does a great job of managing these tools.
Conceived by Bob Carlock, and sold exclusively through Defensive Edge, the R-F Cam Cradle allows the simultaneous use of a spotting scope, laser rangefinder (LRF), and compact video camera. With a wide range of adjustment built into the cradle, it’s possible to aim all three devices at a long range target by simply moving the tripod head.
With seven threaded mounting holes, spread over four inches along the lower surface of the cradle, there is plenty of room to secure a spotting scope bayonet mount with the included mounting screw. This ¼”-20 screw uses the same type of lever seen on a bipod tensioner; once the screw is secured, the lever can be lifted and moved out of the way. This allows the use of a quick-release tripod head mount, such as the Manfrotto 323 RC2 QR system, which is what I used for this review.
The top of the cradle has a machined slot, with a captured ¼”-20 screw for mounting a LRF. The slot allows 2 ¾” of travel to accommodate using the LRF while the spotting scope is in place. When not in use, the LRF can be pushed forward, or turned sideways, for more room at the spotting scope eyepiece. For this review, I used my normal combination of a Leica APO 65MM angled spotter and Leica 1600-B LRF. To test clearances, I also mounted a G7 BR2 LRF with the angled spotter. With a simple adjustment of the spotter’s bayonet mount, there was plenty of clearance for the G7.
The camera mount is my favorite feature of the R-F Cam Cradle. It allows co-witnessing the video camera to the spotting scope, then aiming the field of view of both with one movement of the tripod head. This is a great improvement to the normal way of recording the shot and spotting at the same time, which previously required two tripods or a clamp-on head for the camera, both of which required separate aiming of the camera and spotting scope. On a moving animal, that’s a tall order! With both horizontal and vertical adjustment available, it doesn’t take much effort to align the camera exactly to the spotting scope, then lock it down securely while waiting for the shot.
I field-tested the R-F Cam Cradle in the mountains of northern Idaho and the wide open spaces of eastern Wyoming. I believe the most effective way to use the cradle is in a long range ambush; get the spotting scope, camera, and LRF aligned on a landmark, then lock it down. The LRF and spotter won’t be aligned perfectly, but they’ll be well within the field of view of each other, requiring only a gentle tilt of the tripod to center the beam of the LRF on the target. At ELR distances, a well-supported LRF is crucial to obtaining an accurate range. This mount makes it easy, and doesn’t require displacing your spotting scope to get it done. With the small footprint of the cradle, I found I could leave the spotter attached to it, then hook up the LRF and video camera once the QR plate was locked to the tripod. If you don’t want to video the shot, the mount for the camera is removable, streamlining the cradle’s profile for stowing in a pack.
I found the R-F Cam Cradle to work perfectly for what it was designed for. During the review, I mounted a few different LRFs, and several spotting scopes to it without any problems. Like most things with moving parts, it required some training on my part to find the most efficient way to use it. It didn’t take long, and both of my kids can operate it smoothly as well. I recommend it, and look forward to using it on future hunts. Here are a few specs, and purchasing info:
- Designed by RLC Customs exclusively for Defensive Edge, Inc., Rathdrum, ID
- Manufactured in North Idaho of 3/16” 53 Series aluminum
- Powder-coated finish
- 16.5 ounces total weight
- ¼-20 mounting system
- Retail price: $179.95
- To order, call: (208) 687-2659