September 11th, 2012
In the short-range benchrest game, most of the attention goes to the 10.5-lb Light Varmint Class, and the 13.5-lb Heavy Varmint Class. But there’s another class that is enjoying increased popularity — Hunter Benchrest. In some ways, Hunter BR is more challenging, because you shoot a 10-pounder with a narrower (2.25″ forearm) and a 6-power scope (both LV and HV allow 3″-wide forearms and high-magnification scopes). It takes skilled gun-handling and careful aim to get the most from a Hunter Benchrest rig.
The modern Hunter BR rifle is a far cry from a typical deer rifle, or even a walk-around varminter. Jackie Schmidt explains: “Do not be fooled by that title ‘Hunter Benchrest’, or HBR. The typical HBR Rifle has, like its cousin the Group Rifle, evolved into a very singular-purpose piece of equipment, suited to do one thing very well — namely to shoot Xs in the competitive arena, governed by rather strict sets of rules promulgated by the IBS or the NBRSA.
Hunter Benchrest Rifle Standards
The two defining factors in HBR are the minimum case capacity, and the 6-power scope. Everything else is just window dressing. Can one shoot a real factory gun in Hunter BR Class? YES — IF your factory rifle meets these qualifications:
■ Total gun weight no more than 10 pounds.
■ Stock forearm must be convex (at least slightly) on the bottom, and no more than 2.25″ wide.
■ Gun must have magazine capable of holding at least two cartridges. (Normally, however, Hunter BR shooters don’t feed from the magazine.)
■ Gun must shoot cartridge with at least 45 grains of H20 capacity (same as a 30-30).
■ Scope must be a 6-power or capable of being set and used at 6X magnification.
If you go to the IBS website, you will see that there are a couple of exceptions, but in the end, to compete for the prize, you must have a legal Hunter BR rifle. But even if you’re not completely within the rules, most match directors will let a newcomer shoot along, for the fun of it, and to see what the game is really all about.”
Top Hunter BR shooter Al Nyhus tells us: “As Jackie has pointed out, the Hunter class in Benchrest has mutated into full race BR rigs…much like NASCAR ‘stock cars’ or NHRA ‘Pro Stock’. The original intent of Hunter was for a class where the average person with an interest in accuracy could bring a good shooting hunting rifle and give BR a try. Still a darn good idea, to me.
Hunter Benchrest Rig Chambered for the .30 Wolfpup
Here are photos of my Hunter Benchrest rig, which is pretty typical of what’s being used at this point in time. My Hunter BR rig is pretty standard stuff except for the chambering. It features a Stolle R/L Kodiak action tweaked a bit by Stan Ware, Kostyshyn 1:17 four groove, chambered for Stan Ware’s 30 WolfPup (30BR .240″ long/.085″ neck length). The photo below shows a Leupold 6X scope but I’ve been using a Sightron 6X lately.
This stock is an old Speedy/McMillan pattern HBR stock. I had it dipped (externally coated) with a carbon fiber pattern. By the rules, Hunter rifles cannot be glue-ins, so pillar-bedding is the norm. I guess the forearm is about as ‘convex’ on the bottom as any other stock currently in use. This is another area where the guns have evolved and the rulebook(s) haven’t exactly kept pace with the current state of what’s being used.”