Building your own portable shooting bench is a great do-it-yourself project. You can build a sturdy bench for well under $100 in materials. Compare that to some deluxe factory-built benches which may cost $500.00 or more.
FREE Bench Plans on the Web
You’ll find a wide assortment of home-built shooting bench designs (both portable and fixed) on the internet. Renovation Headquarters has links to FREE Plans and building instructions for fourteen (14) different shooting benches. There are all-wood shooting bench designs as well as benches that combine a wood top with a metal sub-frame or legs.
Reader Jim Jewell has used the eHow bench design shown above. He recommends it highly. Jim reports: “A colleague and I built two of the eHow permanent wood, sturdy benches for our Pt. Phillips Rod and Gun Club in PA, which had outdated benches. I want to tell you that these benches are very stable and a real bargain. The benches cost precisely $100.00 each using the bill of materials and pressure treated wood. The bill of materials, with careful cutting, using a Chop saw, resulted in almost no scrap wood if carefully measured and cut. The plans are terrific and the benches are great platforms for bench-rest shooting. I made only one modification — I left a 6″ wing on both sides of the table to mount a spotting scope. Further we added a base of dry QuickCrete or similar fast setting concrete mix material. Add it dry, make sure the table is level and fill in the 6″ hole. The hole and QuickCrete add maximum stability. The QuickCrete sucks moisture from the ground, hardens in situ, and adds stability to the bench.
I can’t recommend this design highly enough. It is dirt cheap for clubs on a budget, goes together quickly, the table is very stable and there is no waste if you make precise measurements and cuts. A bag of QuickCrete is enough for two tables adding about $2.00 to the cost of each table. We plan on building new tables for the whole club for under $1000. After about a year, with a completely water-free wood in the bench I recommend a coat of Thompson’s Water Seal and these benches should last a long time.”
Heavy Wood Bench That Converts to Three Sections for Transport
In addition to the fourteen benches mentioned above, here is an interesting break-down bench design. Call it a “semi-portable” bench. The legs and frame are made from stout 4×4 post segments so the bench is fairly heavy. However, this bench can break down into three (3) sections for easier transport to and from the range. Dado-cut channels assure proper top alignment. This might be a good choice if you plan a multi-day excursion to a location without fixed benches. This three-leg bench design can be made from easy-to-locate materials. Note: The dimensions of this bench are are larger than typical fixed benches to accommodate 50 BMGs and other big rifles. CLICK HERE for more details.
Do you like the bench in the illustration at the beginning of this story (top right)? This is a prototype design by Chris Byrne of the Anarchangel Blog. For more details, CLICK HERE.
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We first ran this story a couple seasons back. Since they we’ve received many questions about this gun, so we thought we’d give readers another chance to learn about this truly innovative, switch-barrel “convertible” rifle. This gun works for both short-range and long-range benchrest matches.
You interested in a really wild, innovative bench gun that can shoot both short-range and long-range matches? Check out Seb Lambang’s latest “do-it-all” rifle. It’s a switch-barrel rifle combining two very different chamberings: 6 PPC and .284 Winchester. With that caliber combo, Seb’s covered from 100 yards (LV/HV mode) all the way out to 1000 (LR Light Gun mode). But the dual chambering is not the rifle’s only trick feature. Exploiting the new long-range benchrest rules, Seb has fitted a 3″-wide, flat rear metal keel to the buttstock. That counter-balances his 30″-long 7mm barrel, improves tracking, and adds stability. Seb built the stock and smithing was done by Australian gunsmith David Kerr.
Detachable Hammerhead Wing Section Plus Fat-Bottom Keel
To further reduce torque and improve tracking, the stock features an 8″-wide, detachable fore-end fixture. This “hammerhead” fore-end section has extended “wings” on both sides, making the rifle super-stable. The hammerhead unit can be removed, leaving the stock 3″ wide for use in registered benchrest matches where 3″ is the maximum width. The photos below show Seb’s gun in .284 Win Long-Range (LR) Light Gun mode.
Over the years, noted gunsmith and a Benchrest Hall-of-Fame inductee Thomas ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez has learned a few things about “tuning” rear sandbags for best performance. On his Facebook page, Speedy recently discussed how sand bag fill levels (hard vs. soft) can affect accuracy. Speedy says you don’t want to have both your front and rear sandbags filled up ultra-hard. One or the other bag needs to have some “give” to provide a shock-absorbing function (and prevent stock jump).
SAND BAGS & HOW TO FILL THEMby Speedy Gonzalez
I was asked several times by competitors at the S.O.A. Matches and F-Class Nationals as to how I fill my sand bags for benchrest competition. Here is a copy of a reply I gave several years ago:
Back in the old days, about the time Fred Flintstone was still alive, I worked for Pat McMillan for free, from time to time to learn all his secrets. One day little Speedy was filling some new sand bags out behind Pat’s shop, stuffing them with more sand than Taco Bell put beans in their Burritos. When Pat stepped out the back door and inquired as to what in the hell was I doing packing them there bags the way I was.
I looked up at him with eyes like a kid with his hands in a cookie jar. My reply must have sounded like Homer Simpson “Doooh”. Finally I said “I don’t know, Boss. I just thought you were supposed to fill these babies up and go shoot. I got that ‘You dumb bastard look’ from Pat and I knew it was lecture time. This was what he told me:
You can not have two bags filled so hard that you gun bounces on them in the process of firing round at your target, especially if you have a rig with a very flexible stock. The bags must be set up in a manner for them to absorb the initial shock of the firing pin moving forward and igniting the primer. Then [they must] maintain their shape and absorb the second shock wave as well the rearward thrust and torque of the rifle. What happens to the rifle when this is not done? Well let me tell you. The rifles have a very bad tendency to jump and roll in the bags. This causes many of those wild, lost shots that one can’t explain.
Charles Huckaba, Ken Terrell, Larry Baggett, Ralph Stewart and some of us Texas shooters talk about this phenomena quite often. We have all agreed that:
1: You can not have two hard bags [i.e. both front AND rear] in your set-up.
2: Heavy sand magnifies these phenomena.
3: If you are a bag squeezer, pack ears hard and leave bag pliable enough to squeeze for the movement required. You may pack front bag as hard as rules permit.
4: Free recoil shooters pack both bags firm, but not so hard as to allow stock jump. Especially if you have a stock with a very flexible forearm.
5: We use play-ground sand, also know as silica sand. I sift mine to get any large impurities out then mix it with 25% to 50% with Harts parakeet gravel to the desired hardness that I am looking for. The bird gravel keeps the sand from packing itself into that solid as a brick state.
Speaking of bricks — another thing that happens when shooters employ that heavy zircon sand is the ears form a low spot under them from recoil and then tend to rock back and forth with the rifle causing many low shots to crop up. Edgewood makes an Edgewood/Speedy rear bag specially reinforced under the ears to eliminate this scenario.
One last note –If you use the Cordura bags keep them sprayed with a good silicon spray or “Rain-Ex”. This keeps them from getting sticky. Hey guys, try that and see if it helps. — Speedy
P.S.: I do not like the solid double-stitched leather bottoms. While this seems like a good idea, I see more shooters have problems because of them. They tend to slide around the bench and or slide with the rifle on recoil. The standard Protektor with Cordura rabbit ears and an Otto ring bag with a Cordura front would be what I would suggest to the new shooter or one of the Edgewood / Speedy rear bags, these mimic the “Donut” and feature a ring of leather around the bottom circumference that keep the bottom from rocking on the bench or ground if that is where you reside these days…
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This is the kind of family-friendly, “feel-good” story we like. Texan Richard King created a rimfire benchrest rifle using a classic Martini Mark III smallbore action. He fitted the gun with a new flat, wide forearm and a new buttstock, allowing the gun to sit steady on the bags and track smoothly. The narrow action was also fitted with a cantilevered top rail to hold a high-magnification scope.
Here is Vicki King, with Martini Mark III and her trophy.
But here’s the best part. Richard provided this updated classic to his wife Vicki, who proceded to win a rimfire benchrest match (Vintage class) with the old Martini. Richard reports: “Here is my lovely wife with her High Overall Vintage trophy. That is a Martini Mark III that I re-stocked in walnut for 50-yard, .22-caliber benchrest matches. It’s great to have her shooting with me again.” FYI, last summer Richard and Vicki celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary!
Bravo Richard — kudos to you AND to your lovely bride. It’s great to see a couple shooting together. It’s also great to see a classic rifle brought back to the winner’s circle with some inspired stock-work and other upgrades.
Here is Richard King, with his handiwork — an updated Martini Mark III smallbore rifle.
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Our Irish Friend Enda Walsh has been working overtime on a new project, and it’s a beauty. Enda has produced some stunning wood stocks for long-range F-Class applications, and now he’s come up with a new design for the short-range rimfire game. Enda’s new stock combines an ergonomic, prone-style grip area with a stiff, carbon-reinforced fore-end. The very front of the stock features “winglets” for smooth bag-riding. Believe it or not, this stock weighs under two pounds!
Enda tells us: “This Benchrest stock was the most time-consuming job I’ve done in a while as there was a two-pound weight limit. I used black walnut and carbon fiber to achieve a very strong yet lightweight stock. The stock features a lacquer finish and the .22LR Anschütz action was pillar-bedded into the stock. I’m delighted to have ended up with a stock weight of one pound, 15 ounces.”
About Enda Walsh, Master Stock-Maker
There are few master craftsmen who can create a truly “bespoke” wood stock customized for the owner. Ireland’s Enda Walsh is one such talent. Through Custom & Precision Rifles Ireland, Enda creates high-quality stocks for hunters, prone shooters, and F-class competitors. Enda first started building stocks in 2001 for himself and friends, and grew the business over time. Enda explains: “Demand gradually increased until in 2009 the decision was taken to make it my full-time occupation. My goal with my business is to manufacture precise custom rifle stocks to the highest standard, tailored in every detail to best serve the shooters requirements.” Enda adds: “I started Guns Stocks Ireland (now Custom & Precision Rifles Ireland) to produce custom, individually-tailored gunstocks. I build from hand casts so your gun is genuinely an extension of your arm.”
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Report by Boyd Allen
This pistol belongs to Dan Lutke, a Bay Area benchrest shooter who publishes the results for the Visalia matches to the competitors and the NBRSA. He has been an enthusiastic competitor for an number of years, at various ranges, notably Visalia and Sacramento. The action is a Remington XP-100, to which a Kelbly 2 oz. trigger has been fitted. On top is an old Japanese-made Tasco 36X scope (these were actually pretty darn good). The Hart barrel (a cast-off from Dan’s Unlimited rail gun) was shortened and re-chambered for the 6x45mm, a wildcat made by necking-up the .223 Remington parent case. The custom stock/chassis was CNC-machined by Joe Updike from 6061 Billet Aluminum to fit the XP-100 action and mount a target-style AR grip with bottom hand rest. The gun was bedded and assembled by Mel Iwatsubu. In his XP-100 pistol, Dan shoots 65gr custom boat-tails with Benchmark powder.
TEN Shots in 0.303″ (0.289 MOA) at 100 Yards
How does Dan’s XP-100 pistol shoot? Look at that target showing TEN shots at 100 yards, with eight (8) shots in the main cluster at the top. The ten-shot group measures .303″ (0.289 MOA), as calculated with OnTarget Software. Not bad for a handgun! What do you think, can your best-shooting rifle match the 10-shot accuracy of this XP-100 pistol?
This diagram shows the most common 6x45mm wildcat, which is a necked-up version of the .223 Remington parent cartridge. NOTE: The dimensions for Dan Lutke’s benchrest version of this cartridge may be slightly different.
ACAD drawing by Peter Gnanapragasam CC by SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. Title Added.
Story tip from Boyd Allen. We welcome reader submissions.
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If you’ve tried one of the Chombart-designed, CG X-Treme Mod 22 triggers*, you know it is one of the best two-stage triggers you can buy. Now there’s a model, adjustable from 0.5 to 3.5 pounds pull weight, for shooters who prefer single-stage operation. This single-stage trigger will be offered by X-Treme Shooting Products (XTSP) in three versions, two with an integral lever-style safety. You can choose an adjustable trigger shoe (shown at right) or a conventional solid-style shoe. The trigger offers over-travel adjustment. That’s important — we’ve found some shooters like minimal over-travel while other shooters want to be able to pull smoothly past the break point. We expect to see this new trigger used in F-Class rifles as well as mid-range and long-range benchrest rigs.
No Lubrication Needed
The sears are nickel + Teflon coated, so the XTSP single-stage trigger can work smoothly with zero lubrication. That helps the trigger stay gunk-free even in dusty conditions. The new trigger boasts a rugged CNC-machined steel body, just like the two-stage Mod 22 trigger. This new trigger should be available before the end of the summer. Mod 22 two-stage triggers cost $300.00-$350.00. We expect the new XTSP single-stage triggers to retail at roughly the same price point, but that’s a guess.
*The CG Mod 22 trigger was originally designed by Robert Chombart of France and updated by X-Treme Shooting Products for the U.S. market. The Model 22 trigger is the successor to the popular CG Jackson trigger also known as the Mod 21. The Mod 21 was designed to be universal and fit a variety of popular actions. However, in the Remington action, the Model 21 had clearance issues when installed in repeater rifles. The Mod 21 trigger is no longer manufactured. The Mod 22 target trigger is a 2-stage, 4-lever trigger for Remington 700 actions and Rem 700 clones. The Mod 22 tactical trigger utilizes 3 levers to increase the final pull weight. Both Mod 22 trigger versions feature a re-designed upper frame to fit into the receiver with two cross pins. This eliminates clearance problems with internal box magazines or detachable box magazines.
Story tip by EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Over the years, many different concentricity tools have been on the market. Various approaches have been taken to straightening rounds that exhibit poor concentricity. With extreme examples of excessive run-out, the bullet is is visibly crooked in the neck with the bullet tip clearly off-center. That’s never a good thing. Straight ammo shoots better.
Straighten-Up and Fly Right
If you could straighten up crooked rounds, accuracy should be improved. In the past, some tools promised more than they delivered. But now Bill Goad, a record-setting benchrest shooter, has invented a new tool that improves concentricity via an impact or “jarring” method. A vertical rod with a curved face mates with the case-neck. You spin the case to find the “high spot” of max eccentricity. Then just tap the rod a couple of times and the neck comes back onto centerline. You can then confirm the concentricity improvement with the dial indicator. Watch the video to see how this is done. Pay particular attention to times 01:25 to 01:45. The case starts at .004″ run-out (01:32). After correction (01:40) the neck shows less than .001″ (one-thousandth) run-out.
Bill Goad knows something about accuracy. He shot a 10-target 100/200 benchrest Combined Aggregate of 0.178″ (see video at 00:15-00:35). Bill Goad’s tool offers advantages over systems that clamp a cartridge at both ends and try to bend the case or tilt the bullet without straightening the neck. Goad’s new Fli-Right tool is available now from PremierAccuracy.com.
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The Original Pennsylvania 1000-Yard Club (Williamsport) is now accepting applications for its 2015 Long-Range Benchrest School. If you want to learn how to shoot accurately at very long range, one of the very best places to learn is the Williamsport 1000-Yard Benchrest School. The 8th Annual Benchrest School will be held Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7, 2015. Classes, taught by top 1K shooters, are held at the Williamsport Range, one of the best 1K ranges in the country.
From June 5-7 2015, the club will host a multi-day, long-range Benchrest Academy for novice to intermediate shooters. For $350 students will enjoy 1 night and 2 days of intensive training under the guidance of top 1000-yard shooters. Prospective students will be taught all aspects of long-range benchrest shooting by highly skilled instructors. All areas are covered: load development, precision reloading, bench skills, and target analysis. Much time is spent at the loading bench and on the firing line. And you don’t even need guns and ammo — all equipment and ammunition will be provided. The sign-up deadline is June 1st. To reserve a spot, email School Director/President Ryan Miller: ryanmiller @ htva.net.
School Schedule, Friday Through Sunday
On Friday night (June 5th), students will meet their mentors. Saturday (June 6th), the class moves to the range for a full day of hands-on technical training. Topics will include precision reloading, load development, gun handling, use of chronograph, analysis of shooting results, gun cleaning, and target analysis. The club will provide the rifles and all reloading components. Saturday’s training sessions are followed by a steak dinner which is included in the $350 seminar price.
On Sunday (June 7th), after an early training session covering bench set-up and match strategies, students will participate in a 1000-yard match, spending time both behind the trigger and in the pits. Instructors will explain how to read conditions, and will demonstrate target measuring and analysis after the relays. The program wraps up by 4:00 pm on Sunday.
To see what the 1K Benchrest school is like, watch the slide show/video below, produced by Sebastian Reist, an alumnus of the 2009 Williamsport 1000-yard BR school.
[wpvideo WCaMzRlg w=”600″]
Story Tip from EdLongrange. We welcome reader submissions.
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Low-BC bullets launched from a .22 LR gun are easily blown around by the wind. That’s why it’s a smallbore shooter’s dream to shoot indoors, where fickle wind currents are less likely to spoil your shots. Not many folks have the opportunity to shoot indoors at all, must less compete in an indoor match. However, a crew from Ashbury Precision Ordnance recently got the chance to try out their rimfire rifles in a indoor setting, a converted poultry barn to be precise. And today they’ll be competing in a smallbore “Barn Benchrest” match at that same barn. Looks like fun!
Could this be the beginning of a new “Barn Benchrest” league? The folks at Ashbury tell us: “Rube, Gary, and Matt headed over the mountains to Luray, Virginia, to get in some practice for [Saturday’s] .22 Cal Benchrest Rifle Match. It’s colder than a well diggers’ butt outdoors, but shooting a match indoors, in a converted poultry barn, is nice. As always, we’re shooting great RUAG/RWS ammo!”
Poultry Barn aka Piney Hill Benchrest Facility
The official name of this converted barn is the Piney Hill Benchrest facility. Virginia State 3-Gun Rimfire BR Championships will be held there February 20-21, 2015, while the IR50/50 Indoor Sporter Nationals are scheduled for Piney Hill in March. If you’re curious, the benches are made from cement blocks with wood tops, so they’re very solid. Here’s a panorama photo of the Piney Hill Barn.
Click image for full-screen version:
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Shooting reactive targets is fun, especially when you get to use ultra-accurate benchrest rifles. To see how the “Varmint Silhouette” game is played, tune in to Shooting USA tonight on the Outdoor Channel. Tonight’s episode features a long-range varmint benchrest silhouette match at the Ridgway Rifle Club in Pennsylvania. This is silhouette like you’ve never seen it, with targets placed from 850 to 1,000 yards, and shooters using precision rifles, high-end optics, and advanced rests. This new sport combines the knock-down fun of silhouette with the high-tech precision of benchrest shooting. At Ridgway’s first Bench Rest Silhouette match 28 shooters participated. Five years later, nearly 120 shooters attend regular monthly matches. CLICK HERE for Match Info.
Varmint Benchrest Silhouette Basics
In 2010, the Ridgway Rifle Club combined Metallic Silhouette and 1000-yard Bench Rest into one exciting new discipline. Steel targets are arrayed in banks of five at four distances. The targets are set up as follows: Crows at 850 yards, Ground Hogs at 900 yards, Bobcats at 950 yards, and Coyotes at 1000 yards. Just dinging a target is not enough — to count as a “hit”, the target must fall down.
Ridgeway allows two classes of guns, Heavy Class with a maximum weight of 17 pounds, and Standard Class with a maximum weight of 12 pounts. Both classes must otherwise conform to the Light Gun rules for the Original 1000-Yard Bench Rest Club in Williamsport, PA.
Varmint Silhouette West of the Mississipi
Clubs in other states also host Varmint Silhouette matches (or some variant thereof). One of the longest-running and most popular Varmint Silhouette matches is held the first weekend of every month at the Pala Range, in San Diego County, California. At Pala, competitors shoot at “critter” targets placed at five yardages: 200 Meters – Field Mice (“pikas”); 300 meters – Crows; 385 meters – Ground Squirrels; 500 meters – Jack Rabbits; 600 yards – Prairie Dogs
Fun Weekend for the Whole Family
At Pala, there’s a deluxe Indian Casino/Spa nearby. So don’t hesitate to bring the wife. If she’s not a shooter, she can enjoy a fancy brunch or spa treatment while you’re having fun mowing down metal critters. Pala is a 30 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches, so you can make this a weekend holiday for the whole family — kids love sand and surf.
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Sometimes superlatives really aren’t necessary. Just look at that target. Yes that is FIVE shots (although it truly appears like one hole). And it is centered! This remarkable group, measured at 0.039″, was shot by Lou Murdica in Phoenix on January 3, 2015. Lou drilled this group with his 6 PPC railgun. Rounds were loaded with Accurate LT-32 powder and Berger 65gr BT bullets. The target will be submitted to the NBRSA as a potential new 100-yard Benchrest record in the Unlimited (Railgun) Class. The current NBRSA record small group (Unlimited) is a 0.049 shot by Hall-of-Famer Gary Ocock in 2009.
This is a file photo with a different railgun.
This wasn’t the only tiny group shot by Lou over the weekend. Murdica shot a sizzling 0.1262 five-target 100-yard Unlimited Aggregate. That 0.1262 Agg will also be submitted for consideration as a possible record. Here are the individual group sizes: 0.104, 0.183, 0.201, 0.104, 0.039. At this match Lou won both the Unlimited and Sporter class. “It was a great weekend” Lou reported.
About the Gun
What kind of rifle can put five shots in one hole? Lou was shooting an Unlimited-class railgun. This return-to-battery rig (a Kensler railgun) allows the shooter to focus on firing at the perfect time for the conditions. Lou’s Kensler railgun (see below) features a Kelbly top-loader Grizzly action, Shilen 6-groove barrel, and March 10-60X scope. The Shilen is chambered for the 6 PPC cartridge. But there’s something special about this particular 6 PPC — read on….
Click photo for larger version:
Radical New Reamer Design from PT&G
Lou used a new chamber reamer from Pacific Tool & Gauge (PT&G) with special geometry in the leade/throat section. Called a “Bore Rider” (or sometimes “bore-runner”), this new reamer design cuts a staged, variable taper in the leade/throat area that is quite different than the taper in a typical throat. It’s a little hard to explain, so we’ve included the 6 PPC Bore Rider reamer print below. (Download the PDF file for a better view.) Experts should look at the leade angle(s), freebore, and throat dimensions. You may be surprised. Dave Kiff of PT&G says this Bore Rider design has worked successfully for other cartridge types/calibers as well. Apparently this design helps the bullet center up smoothly in the bore before the bullet engages “hard” in the rifling — or so we’ve been told.
Here’s a simple solution for lumpy front sandbags. Cut a small block the width of your fore-end and place that in the front bag between matches. You can tap it down firmly with a rubber mallet. This will keep the front bag nice and square, without bunching up in the center. That will help your rifle track straight and true. Rick Beginski uses wood (see photo), while our friend John Southwick uses a small block of metal. The metal block might work a little better, but the wood version is easier to make with simple tools. John Loh of JJ Industries offers a slick Delrin block with a built-in bubble level. Loh’s block helps ensure that the actual top surface of your front bag is level, as distinct from the front rest assembly.
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Butch Lambert of ShadeTree Engineering provided this tip. Butch notes that many 6 PPC benchrest group shooters also enjoy shooting in score matches. But to be really competitive in the BR for score game, that means shooting a 30BR, which has a wider, .308-class rim (0.4728″ diameter). Likewise, if you want to compete in 600-yard registered BR events or in varmint matches, you probably want to run a bigger case, such as the 6BR, 6mm Dasher, or 6-6.5×47. Those cartridges also have the larger 0.4728″ rims.
To convert a PPC-boltface action to shoot the bigger cases you can spend a ton of money and buy a new bolt. That can cost hundreds of dollars. The simpler solution is to turn down the diameter of the larger cases on a lathe. Butch explains: “We’ve seen plenty of interest in rebating case rims. This lets you shoot a 30BR in score matches using your PPC action. All you need is a new barrel. This saves buying another bolt, receiver, or rifle if you have a PPC boltface. Anyone who has access to a lathe can do this job pretty easily. Yesterday I turned 150 case in about an hour.” Below are photos of a rebated 6BR case, along with the lathe form tool Butch uses to rebate the case rims.
Cutting Head for Rebating Rims
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Here’s some benchrest advice that can help you reduce vertical and shoot tighter groups… without spending another penny. Next time you go to the range, experiment with the position of your rifle on the front rest, and try a couple different positions for the rear bag. You may find that the rifle handles much better after you’ve made a small change in the placement of your gun on the bags. Recoil can be tamed a bit, and tracking can improve significantly, if you optimize the front rest and rear bag positioning.
Balance Your Gun BEFORE You Spend Hours Tuning Loads
In the pursuit of ultimate accuracy, shooters may spend countless hours on brass prep, bullet selection, and load tuning. Yet the same shooters may pay little attention to how their gun is set-up on the bags. When you have acquired a new rifle, you should do some basic experimentation to find the optimal position for the forearm on the front rest, and the best position for the rear bag. Small changes can make a big difference.
Joel Kendrick, past IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year, has observed that by adjusting forearm position on the front rest, he can tune out vertical. He has one carbon-fiber-reinforced stock that is extremely rigid. When it was placed with the front rest right under the very tip of the forearm, the gun tended to hop, creating vertical. By sliding the whole gun forward (with more forearm overhang ahead of the front sandbag), he was able to get the whole rig to settle down. That resulted in less vertical dispersion, and the gun tracked much better.
Likewise, the placement of the rear bag is very important. Many shooters, by default, will simply place the rear bag the same distance from the front rest with all their guns. In fact, different stocks and different calibers will NOT behave the same. By moving the rear bag forward and aft, you can adjust the rifle’s overall balance and this can improve the tracking significantly. One of our shooters had a Savage 6BR F-Class rifle. By default he had his rear bag set almost all the way at the end of the buttstock. When he slid the rear bag a couple inches forward the gun tracked much better. He immediately noticed that the gun returned to point of aim better (crosshairs would stay on target from shot to shot), AND the gun torqued (twisted) less. The difference was quite noticeable.
The important point to remember here is that each rig is different. One gun may perform best with the front rest right at the tip of the forearm (Position ‘D’ in photo), while another gun will work best with the rest positioned much further back. This Editor’s own 6BR sits in a laminated stock that is pretty flexy in the front. It shoots best with the front rest’s sandbag located a good 6″ back from the forearm tip (position ‘A’).
A small change in the position of the forearm on the front rest, or in the placement of the rear bag, can make a big difference in how your gun performs. You should experiment with the forearm placement, trying different positions on the front rest. Likewise, you can move the rear bag back and forth a few inches. Once you establish the optimal positions of front rest and rear bag, you should find that your gun tracks better and returns to battery more reliably. You may then discover that the gun shoots smaller groups, with less vertical dispersion. And all these benefits are possible without purchasing any expensive new gear.