Who hasn’t dreamed of having a professional-quality, permanent shooting bench on their own property? Well here’s an article that can help you make that dream come true. This “how-to” feature from the archives of RifleShooter Magazine shows how to build a quality concrete shooting bench step-by-step.
All aspects of the construction process are illustrated and explained. The author, Keith Wood explains: “Construction happened in three phases — first creating the slab foundation, then the support pillars (legs), and finally the table.”
Click image below to load article with slide show.
Each step in the process is illustrated with a large photo and descriptive paragraph. Starting with framing the foundation (Step 1), the article illustrates and explains the 15 Steps that produce the finished, all-concrete bench (see top photo).
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.009″ — The Record That Stood for 40 Years.
In 1973 Mac McMillan shot an amazing 100-yard, .009″ five-shot group in a benchrest match. The .009″ group was measured with a 60x microscope for verification. Mac McMillan shot the group using a handbuilt prototype McMillan rifle with an early McMillan stock.
Mac’s .009″ group was the “Holy Grail” of rifle accuracy. This .009″ record was considered by many to be unbreakable, a record that would “stand for all time”. Well, it took 40 years, but someone finally broke Mac’s record with an even smaller group. In 2013, Mike Stinnett shot a .0077″ five-shot group using a 30 Stewart, a .30 caliber wildcat based on the 6.5 Grendel. Stinnett’s .0077″ group now stands as the smallest 100-yard group ever shot in registered benchrest competition.* Read About .0077″ group HERE.
Stinnett’s success doesn’t diminish the significance of Mac McMillan’s .009″ group in the history of benchrest competition. For four decades Mac’s group stood as the ultimate standard of rifle accuracy*. For those of you who have never seen Mac McMillan’s .009″ group, here it is, along with the NBRSA World Record certificate. The target now hangs in the McMillan Family Museum.
*Somebody else might claim a smaller group, but unless moving backers or electronic targets were used, it cannot be verified. Moving target backers are used at registered benchrest matches to ensure that five (5) shots are actually fired in each group. That eliminates any doubt.
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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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Rodney Wagner shot the smallest 5-shot, 600-yard group in the history of competitive rifle shooting. First measured at a mere 0.349″, then certified on the IBS Record books at 0.336″, Rodney’s group is mind-blowingly small — and it was centered for a 50 score. This amazing group shows what can be done with a great gun, a talented shooter, and superb hand-loaded ammunition. Today’s Tech Tip reveals some of Rodney’s reloading methods that helped him put five shots you could cover with a dime into a target 600 yards away.
Creating Ultra-Accurate Benchrest Ammunition
Rodney takes great care in loading his brass, and he employs a few tricks to get superior consistency.
Fire-Forming — To prepare his cases for fire-forming, Rodney starts by turning his Lapua brass to just past where the new neck-shoulder junction will be: “I just cut enough for the 6mm Dasher neck. A little bit of the cut shows on the shoulder after forming.” Then Rodney runs a .25-caliber K&M mandrel through the whole neck, expanding the neck diameter. After the entire neck is expanded, Rodney re-sizes the top section with a Wilson bushing, creating a false shoulder. Then, as further insurance that the case will be held firmly in place during fire-forming, Rodney seats his bullets long — hard into the lands. When fire-forming, Rodney uses a normal 6mmBR load of 29.8 grains of Varget: “I don’t like to stress my brass before it has been hardened. I load enough powder to form the shoulder 95%. Any more than that is just wasted.” Rodney adds: “When fire-forming, I don’t want to use a super-hard primer. I prefer to use a Federal 205, CCI 200, or Winchester — something soft.” Using a softer primer lessens the likelihood that the case will drive forward when hit by the firing pin, so this helps achieve more consistent “blow lengths”.
Ammo Loading — Rodney is fastidious with his brass and weighs his charges very precisely. Charges are first dispensed with an RFD manual powder measure, then Rodney trickles kernel by kernel using a highly-precise Sartorius GD-503 laboratory scale. He tries to maintain charge-weight consistency within half a tenth of a grain — about two kernels of Varget powder.
One important technique Rodney employs is sorting by bullet-seating force. Rodney batch-sorts his loaded rounds based on seating force indicated by the dial gauge on his K&M arbor press: “I use a K&M arbor press with dial indicator strain gauge. When I’m loading I pay lots of attention to seating effort and I try to batch five rounds that feel the same. For record rounds I try to make sure I get five of the same number (on the dial). When sorting based on the force-gauge readout, you need to go slow. If you go too fast the needle will spike up and down before you can see it.”
In practice, Rodney might select five rounds with a gauge value of 25, then another five with a gauge read-out of 30 and so on. He places the first five like-value rounds in one row of his ammo caddy. The next like-value set of five will go in the next row down. By this method, he ensures that all five cartridges in a five-round set for a record target will have bullets seated with very consistent seating force.
Unlike some top shooters, Rodney does not regularly anneal his cases. However, after every firing, he does tumble his Dasher brass in treated corncob media. After sizing his brass, before seating the bullets, he runs a nylon brush in the necks: “The last thing I do before firing is run a well-worn 30 caliber nylon brush in the necks, using a small 6-volt drill for power. This is a quick operation — just in and out the neck”. Sometimes, at the end of the season, he will anneal, but Rodney adds: “If I can get 10 firings out of the case I’ve done good.” He usually makes up new brass when he fits a new barrel: “If it is a good barrel (that I may shoot at the Nationals), I’ll usually go ahead and prepare 200 pieces of good brass.”
Tips for 600-Yard Shooters New to the Game
In the course of our interview with Rodney, we asked if he had any tips for shooters who are getting started in the 600-yard Benchrest Game. Rodney offered some sensible advice:
1. Don’t try to go it alone. Find an old-timer to mentor you. As a novice, go to matches, watch and ask questions.
2. Go with a proven cartridge. If you are shooting 600 yards stick with a 6mmBR or one of the 6BR improveds (BRX or Dasher). Keep it simple. I tried some of the larger cartridges, the 6XC and 6-6.5×47 Lapua. I was trying to be different, but I was not successful. It wasn’t a disaster — I learned something. But I found the larger cases were not as accurate as a 6BR or Dasher. Those bigger cartridges are competitive for score but not for group.
3. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be competitive. Buy a used rifle from somebody and find out if you like the sport. You can save a lot with a used rifle, but do plan on buying a new barrel immediately.
4. Don’t waste weeks or months struggling with a barrel that isn’t shooting. My best barrels, including this record-setting Brux, started shooting exceptionally well right from the start.
Rodney’s record group was measured at 0.349″ at the match, then IBS record-certified at 0.336″.
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I am very sad to announce that a good friend (and a brilliant shooter) Jerry Tierney, has passed away at age 77. I have worked on this site for 11 years, and Jerry was one of the most helpful and talented men I’ve met along the way. Though he won many championships, Jerry was a modest man who always was there to help other shooters. I will really miss him. AccurateShooter.com owes a debt of gratitude to Jerry. With his technical expertise, he helped me greatly with my understanding of rifle accuracy. Jerry was small in stature, but big in talent. Rest in Peace Jerry. We’ll miss your smarts, your good humor, and your love for the sport. — Paul McM, Editor in Chief.
Jerry Tierney shot competitively for nearly 50 years and won multiple championships in various rifle disciplines. Fellow shooter Donovan Moran noted: “Jerry was the leading member of the NBRSA ‘Long Range Hall of Fame’ — well deserved! He was a very friendly man, a mentor to the sport, and one of the best Long Range competition shooters there’s ever been.”
With great natural talent and the mind of a scientist, Jerry could win events in ways not thought possible. He is certainly the only man I know who won a Benchrest Championship shooting a prone-type tube gun. He pioneered the .284 Win as an F-Open weapon. A self-declared “iron-sight prone guy”, he competed for many seasons in the full-bore and Palma disciplines, but in the last decade he turned his attention to 600-yard and 1000-yard benchrest and F-Class. He won multiple NBRSA Nationals, due in no small part to superb wind-doping skills and mastery of the “mental game”.
A former computer engineer with IBM, Jerry was an extremely bright guy who took a systematic approach to the sport. He made decisions based on hard data. He did things many shooters once considered radical (such as cleaning his barrels infrequently), but he always had the data to back up his methods. He was a forward thinker who wasn’t afraid to depart from conventional wisdom if he found a better way to do things. For me, Jerry Tierney was an important mentor — he showed me how the “state of the art” could be pushed to higher levels with careful experimentation and a willingness to try new things.
We did a lengthy interview with Jerry way back in 2005, when Jerry won the NBRSA 1000-yard Nationals. That performance helped proved the worth of the .284 Win in 1K competition, a cartridge that now is a leading choice for F-Open. Read this interview carefully — even ten years later, Jerry offers many nuggets of advice that can help with your reloading and shooting:
Danny Biggs Remembers Jerry Tierney
Past National F-Class Champion Danny Biggs wrote: “Our long-time shooting friend, Jerry Tierney, left the range last night. Jerry was 77 years old, and was overtaken by bad health over the past year…cancer and other ailments. An accomplished Palma Rifle shooter, his home range was the Sacramento Valley Shooting Center, near Sacramento, CA, and, just 16 miles from his front door, outside Plymouth, CA.
Jerry was a frequent contributor to [Rifle Blogs] in past years. In particular, about 7 years ago, he published considerable results of his testing of the Winchester .284 cartridge. This testing convinced several of us to transition from the venerable 6.5-284 to the straight .284 for both long range ‘sling’ and F-Class Open. Jerry’s testing was primarily in the realm of F-Open; wherein, he fell ‘in cahoots’ with a young F-Open shooter, Charles Ballard, who set an F-Class Open National record that stood for many years. (By the way, Incahoots is the name of Jerry’s favorite restaurant in Plymouth, CA, near his home; where I’ve enjoyed many an evening meal with him.)
Many others have contributed to the legacy of the Winchester .284… but, if you happen to be shooting a .284 in F-Open today, you might just give a thought to Jerry at your next trigger-pull. More than likely, you are shooting some of his data.” — Danny Biggs
Forum Member Killshot added:
“I only new Jerry for a few years, as I began shooting F-Class in 2010 — but he always answered my questions, helped me with my first Wildcat chambering and I never, ever, saw or heard of him ‘Big Timing’ anyone. I’ll miss his gap-toothed grin, like he knew something you didn’t. (and probably did!)
We’re better off for knowing him and worse off for not having him around any longer. So, appreciate your friendships and shoot small… Jerry would.”
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Here’s good news for short-range benchrest shooters. The two most popular powders for the 6PPC, Vihtavuori N133 and Accurate LT-32, are now in-stock at Powder Valley Inc. (PVI). In fact, Powder Valley even has the hard-to-find 8-lb jugs of N133 and LT-32.
For you 30BR score shooters, PVI has both Hodgdon H4198 and Accurate LT-30 in stock, the two most popular powders for the 30BR. A slightly faster-burning version of LT-32, LT-30 is a very promising powder for the 30 BR, while H4198 has traditionally been the “go-to” choice for the 100/200-yard score shooting game. PVI has 1-lb and 8-lb containers of both these ultra-accurate powders in stock now. Visit PowderValleyinc.com, and click on the “Powders” link in the Menu.
30 BR Powders
– PVI has 1-pound LT-32 for $27.10
— PVI has 8-pound LT-32 for $204.30
— PVI has 1-pound N133 for $31.25
— PVI has 8-pound N133 for $202.00
– PVI has 1-lb LT-30 for $27.10
— PVI has 8-pound LT-32 for $204.30
— PVI has 1-pound H4198 for $23.25
— PVI has 8-pound H4198 for $165.00
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It’s important for all serious “gun guys” to share our hobby with new shooters. Sharing the fun with those new to the sport helps keep our shooting heritage alive. And going to the range is also a great way for family members and friends to spend “quality time” together. A father and son outing to the range can be very rewarding, as Forum Member Belton45 observed recently.
Forum Member Belton45 started a thread in our Shooters’ Forum, entitled “Why I Enjoy Shooting.” In the thread, Belton45 described a day at the range with his 11-year-old son: “My son wanted a nice gun like my PPC so I fixed him up a Krieger-barreled 223 AR. [The photo shows] my son shooting the newly-put-together AR. He had the best two small groups of the day with it. Smallest was this .295″ and one a little over .3″. He was very happy as I was also. He is 11 and loves going to range. I am pretty sure I was happier than he was. Although he had to call his grandpa and tell him. On the drive back home he was giving me pointers on how to shoot. He has been shooting with me for 5 to 6 years. He is definitely a good shot. He also shoots a MKIII .22LR pistol very well also. He thinks I’m the ‘coolest dad in the world’. He is a very hard working young man — he mows yards, gets good grades, and is very athletic. I could not be happier.”
Forum Member Tim B had a similar positive experience with his nephew: “I don’t have kids but feel that we need to keep alive the gun aspect of our heritage. I bought a .22 mag rifle and gave it to my nephew. He is a natural in my eyes. He loves that rifle more than anything. He has learned to read the wind and can shoot some tight groups with it. I recently let him shoot my AR I just finished building. The look in his eyes after shooting it was priceless. I hope to build him a very nice target gun someday.”
Forum Member Ray in Wenatchee also gave a young shooter a special thrill: “A 10/22 shooting teenager sideled up to me behind my Anschutz M1413 free style rifle and was amazed at my grouping. His dad had taken him down to do a little shooting, then maybe archery. I set him up on my Bald Eagle rest and let him shoot 5 rounds. [He drilled] a 5-round, nickel-sized hole at 50 yards. Both of them were still waving ‘Thank You’ when I left.”
As an eighth grader, Amanda L (photo above), attended a Benchrest Clinic in Southern California. She ended up shooting one of the small groups of the day, an impressive 0.163″. Who said short-range benchrest is just for pudgy old guys with cranky personalities? Amanda is living proof that precision shooting can be enjoyed by just about anyone, at any age.
And we can also help the sport by giving adult shooters the chance to try a very accurate rifle for the first time. Often, when a novice gets a chance to shoot a real tack-driver, he gets “hooked” on the sport. Forum Member LawrenceH writes:
One of the most fulfilling aspects of benchrest shooting, for me, is to get others interested in the sport. At my home range, most shooters have never seen a benchrest rifle, or wind flags. During range visits I get at least one person who comes over and asks questions about my gun and the flags. I will take a break from my shooting and talk with the interested shooter as long as they care to talk. I will then ask them if they would like to shoot a group with my rifle. More often than not they will say yes. The smile on their face when they finish their group and the cheer in their voice as they talk about how fun it is to shoot that rifle is enough to make my day. I got one guy hooked on the sport and made several friends this way. Being open and friendly with other shooters can go a long way toward sustaining our sport.
When I am at the range practicing, I do all I can to dispel the stigma that benchrest shooters are unapproachable or arrogant. My intention of being open and friendly with other shooters is to provide them the thrill of shooting a benchrest rifle and giving them the opportunity to find out what they can do with good equipment. In the process they will see that benchrest shooters are a good bunch of guys and that benchrest competition might be a fun endeavor. If they chose to pursue the sport, that is a bonus. In any case, it has always been a positive experience to share my knowledge and equipment with other shooters. It boils down to having fun and being a good steward of the shooting sports. I will continue to do my part and hope that other benchrest shooters do the same.”
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If you’re thinking about acquiring a 17 HMR rifle, you should read the 17 HMR Two-Gun Comparison in our Gun of the Week Archives. This two-gun shoot-out compares the performance of a Volquartsen 17 HMR semi-auto and a Ruger 77/17 bolt-action. Glen Robinson, the owner of both rifles, has done some serious comparison testing with both guns, trying out a half-dozen varieties of 17 HMR ammo. The overall results may surprise you. The semi-auto out-shot the bolt gun by a significant margin, with all types of ammo tested.
Comparing the Qualities of the Two 17 HMR Rifles
By Glen Robinson
While the Volquartsen proved to be the more accurate of my pair of 17 HMRs, I still enjoy owning both rifles. Each gun has its strong points and weak points.
Ruger Strong Points: From any angle, the Ruger 77/17 is a nice-looking rifle with classic lines. I like the gray-finish stainless barrel — it goes well with the gray laminated stock. With the addition of the aftermarket sear, the trigger is crisp and the bolt function is smooth. The action is strong and dependable. The conventional “open rear” action allows you to clean “normally” with a bore guide, cleaning rod, and patches/brushes. I feel I can do a better job of cleaning with the Ruger than with the boresnake on the Volquartsen.
Ruger Weak Points: Accuracy is somewhat disappointing. The best 100-yard group the Ruger has shot was about 0.82″ and the gun averages well over 1.25″ for 5 shots. In fairness, I haven’t done anything exotic in terms of bedding the action/barrel, and I would expect that an aftermarket barrel, perhaps combined with a barrel pre-load (up-pressure) pad, could improve the accuracy.
Volquartsen Strong Points: The Volquartsen is a well-made, accurate, dependable rifle. The gun cycles very reliably and requires very little maintenance. To clean it, just pull a boresnake through the bore. The gun exhibits very nice machining, and the VX-5000 stock rides steady on a front sand-bag, even though it’s only about 1.75″ wide. Even without any tweaking the trigger is very good, and the pull weight is fine for varminting.
Volquartsen Weak Points: The VX-5000 stock is not ideal for bench work — the comb is a bit too high, though I like the feel of the vertical grip. This stock profile is really more suited for silhouette shooting, but this stock seemed to be the best option offered by Volquartsen that could be used for both paper-punching and varminting. The receiver design limits your options for barrel cleaning.
Conclusion — The Volquartsen Takes the Prize
Having shot both rifles extensively, if I had to pick one gun, it would be the Volquartsen. The Volquartsen is much more accurate and it offers much faster follow-up shots. For varminting the Volquartsen would be superior, no question about it. I’m happy I bought the Volquartsen and the VX-5000 stock. It is a fun, versatile gun that lives up to the accuracy claims.
To get the best accuracy out of any benchrest rifle, you need to find the optimal position of front rest and rear bag. The important point to remember 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’).
Here’s some benchrest advice that can help you reduce vertical and shoot tighter groups… without spending another penny. Many benchrest shooters spend a fortune on equipment and devote countless hours to meticulous handloading, but they never experiment with their rifle’s position/balance on the bags. This article explains why you should test your rifle in various positions. What you learn may surprise you (and improve your scores).
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.
This competitor has the front rest positioned fairly far forward but not all the way out. Note the stop on the front rest — this limits forward stock travel.
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.
Fore/aft stock position is important even with very wide fore-ends.
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.
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.
We congratulate Rebecca Richards of Australia for her incredible shooting in the recent RBA Benchrest Grand Prix at the Sydney International Shooting Centre. Consider this, out of the five (5) benchrest classes competing (two air rifle, and three rimfire) Rebecca won four classes outright while placing third in the fifth class. Wow — that represents complete and total domination. Remarkably, Rebecca dropped only 10 points in four days of shooting.
Rebecca’s amazing 4-day performance was near perfection. Overall, she scored 2740 out of a total of 2750 possible points. She shot four of 11 targets with perfect 250/250 scores, and six more with 249/250. Over the course of the event she hit 152 “dots” (center bulls) out of a total possible 275. That’s pretty amazing if you understand how small those center bulls really are. Take a look at the target photo below — the center dot is tiny.
All in all, this was a performance for the ages — one of the best combined airgun/rimfire benchrest performances in Southern Hemisphere history. Kudos to Rebecca for her brilliant performance.
Here’s the modern Sydney International Shooting Centre…
Sam (L.E.) Wilson actively competed in benchrest matches until he passed. He’s shown here with an Unlimited benchrest rifle of his own design.
If you’ve used hand dies with an arbor press, chances are you’ve seen the L.E. Wilson company name. You may not know that the founder of L.E. Wilson Inc. was an avid benchrest competitor who pioneered many of the precision reloading methods we used today. Known as “Sam” to his friends, L.E. Wilson was one of the great accuracy pioneers who collected many trophies for match victories during his long shooting career.
The photo above shows Sam (foreground) with all of his children at a shoot. Behind Sam are Jim, Jack and Mary, shooting in the Unlimited Class. What do they say — “the family that plays together stays together”? Note the long, externally-adjusted scopes being used. Learn more about Sam (L.E.) Wilson and his company on the L.E. Wilson Inc. Facebook Page.
Unlimited Class was Sam’s favorite discipline, because in the “good old days” top competitors normally would craft both the rifle and the front/rear rests. This rewarded Sam’s ingenuity and machining/fabrication skills. In the “build-it-yourself” era, one couldn’t just order up an unlimited rail gun on the internet. How times have changed…
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IBS Match Report by Bob White
The “Mainville Mania” match marked the last International Benchrest Shooters (IBS) group shoot of 2015 on September 26-27, 2015. It was held at the Mainville Sportsman Club in Mainville, PA, and was attended by 30 shooters. Shooting conditions were good, with light winds and temperatures ranging from the upper 50s to high 70s both days. The “Mainville Mania” Two-Gun Aggregate winner for 2015 was Al Auman who recorded an impressive .2294 Overall Agg. There was some very tight competitition this year — second to sixth place in the Two-Gun Agg was separated by only 0.008. Jeff Peinhardt was the Two-Gun runner-up with 0.2545, while Harley Baker placed third with 0.2569.
The Mainville Sportsman Club is a very scenic venue, set in wooded countryside. Here is the view of the covered rifle benches, as seen from the target bays.
Saturday Start to a Great Event
The Saturday morning warm-up began with Light Varmint (LV) class. Sarah Dolinsky, a first-year rookie, shot the smallest group: 0.111 inch. With the start of the record matches, Barney Small jumped out in front with a 0.139 but his lead was short-lived as Howie Levy shot his second sub-0.2 group in match Two to take over first place. Bill McIntyre’s 0.114 placed him on top after match Three. Bill maintained his lead through match Four with a slightly larger Agg. Following match Five and completion of the yardage, by virtue of his 0.121 final group, Wyatt Peinhardt won with a superb 0.1830 LV Aggregate.
Following lunch in the clubhouse (the “Mainville Cafe”), the Heavy Varmint 100-yard event began with record match number One. Al Auman took the lead with a 0.122 group. After match Two, Auman was still on top. But Harley Baker took the lead with a 0.158 after match Three. A new leader emerged after match Four as Howie Levy posted a 0.217 to take the number one spot on the leader board. On the fifth and final group, Bob White, who had been in third to seventh place all afternoon, fired a 0.121 to steal the HV 100-yard Agg. White’s final group edged out Howie Levy by a mere .002 for the win.
More Mirage on Day Two
Sunday’s weather conditions had more mirage, but were still quite shootable. Once again Sarah Dolinsky claimed small group on the warm-up in the Heavy Varmint (HV) class. Not content with a 0.277, she shot a 0.263 in match One. The lead changed to Al Auman in match Two following his first and second groups in the “threes”. However, Al wasn’t done — he improved with a 0.283 in match Three, giving him a 0.1637 Agg (as corrected for 200 yards). It appeared that a record Agg might be possible. Al maintained his lead throughout the match, finishing with a 0.2068 Agg for a solid win.
In the Sunday Afternoon Light Varmint event, Barney Small’s 0.277 in Match One had him on top. He maintained this spot through match Three, but Bob Brushingham was nipping at Barney’s heels. After match Four, Brushingham took the lead with a 0.2011. The final group gave Bob Brushingham the yardage win with a flat .2100 followed by Barney at 0.265 and first year Rookie Jason Brown in third with his 0.2707.
LV and HV Grand Agg Top Guns
Looking at Grand Agg standings in Light Varmint, Wyatt Peinhardt took third with a 0.2595. In second was Al Auman at 0.2476 and Top Dog was Bob Brushingham with a 0.2366. In the Heavy Varmint Grand Agg, Al Auman was the winner with a fine 0.2112. Harley Baker was second with 0.2395 and Howie Levy placed third with a .2423.
As awards were ending Brian Dolinsky (patriarch of the famous shooting Dolinskys) offered a $100 cash prize for the best Mainville three-match Two-Gun Agg average for the 2016 season. Bob Brushingham won the special award for best three-match Aggregate in 200-yard Light Varmint. The $100 award was donated by Kent Harshman to reward the shooter who excels in what are usually the last five targets shot in two-day match. The Mainville Club welcomes other cash award offers for its 2016 season.
The Mainville Sportsman Club (MSC) was founded in the mid-60s to promote pistol and rifle shooting. With over 400 members, the Club hosts benchrest rifle competitions, pistol matches, Cowboy Action events, Buffalo Shoots, and an annual Ground Hog Shoot.
The Club operates a covered 40-bench rifle range, a 6-lane Cowboy Action Shooting area, plus an indoor meeting facility. The rifle range has targets set at 100, 200, and 300 yards. The club also offers Hunter Safety Courses. The facility is located in the Northeast corner of Pennsylvania near Bloomsburg, PA, about 5 miles east of exit 242 on I-80 near Mainville, PA.
The Mainville Sportsman Club has a rich history. In the early years the organization held Dinner-Dances which were popular throughout the community. MSC also held Beef Shoots featuring 6″ black targets shot off-hand at 100 yards. These events were well-attended, with as many as 100 shooters.
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Benchrest Hall-of-Famer Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez has teamed up with the Shurley Brothers on a new ARK series of wood laminate competition stocks. Speedy has combined the best features of various popular F-Class and Long-range Benchrest stocks into new designs to be produced by Shurley Brothers Custom in Austin, Texas. These stocks should be very straight and geometrically correct as they will be crafted on the Shurley Brothers’ new CNC mills. These stocks will be made with new-generation precision technology, not old school duplicating machines.
Initially two models will be offered: the “Hand of God” (HOG) and the “Spear of Destiny” (SOD). Both are designed for multiple shooting disciplines, so they should work well both for benchrest and for prone F-Open shooting. (FWIW, John Myers used a Speedy-crafted stock to win the 2015 Mid-Range National Championship). The forearm is 76mm (2.99″) to comply with F-Open limits. A wide variety of options will be available including adjustable Cheek Piece, adjustable length of pull, carbon fiber inserts, and exotic woods.
We like many aspects of the new stocks. First, the front of the stock is low profile, placing the barrel close to the bags for better tracking (and less hop). However, a deeper (top to bottom) section extends forward of the action — this is important. We have seen some low-profile stocks that suffer from forearm flex/hinging because they don’t leave enough wood under the action area. Speedy’s design eliminates this problem. Another nice feature of this stock is the subtle curve from the back of the action to the buttpad mount. Speedy calls this the “scooped cheek”. This allows the “driver” to shoot without face contact if he prefers, but it also allows for a higher buttpad position — which is useful when shooting heavy recoiling chamberings such as the .300 WSM.
Note how the comb area has a curve to provide clearance. For those shooters who prefer to have face contact on the gun, an adjustable Cheek Piece is offered.
Shurley Brothers Custom says these new ARK stocks are fully customizable for competition shooters with optional carbon fiber, adjustable R.A.D. systems, and many other features. The stocks, uninletted, will run $750.00. CNC-inletting (for action of your choice) is an additional $100.00. Here are some of the many available options:
— Pillar Bed and Inlet: $425.00
— Custom Wood Upgrade (Price Dependent On Wood): $100.00 – $500.00
— Full-length Carbon Fiber Stringers: $200.00
— Cheek Piece Addition: $100.00
— Cooling Ports (Buick Vents): $60.00
— R.A.D. System #2A: $335.00 (plus $100.00 to install)
— 3-Way Butt Plate: Call for Price
— Adjustable Neodymium Magnetic Cheek Piece: Call for Price
— Install Neodymium Magnetic Cheek Piece: $150.00
— Stock Finish & Clear Coat: $350.00
— Carbon Fiber Forearm Tunnel: $300.00
The underside of the forearm is relieved in the center, leaving twin outboard rails. This helps stabilize the rifle and aids tracking. (A conventional, flat forearm without rails tends to rock if there is any hump in the middle of the sandbag). Between the rails is a carbon-fiber stiffening insert.
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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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Did you know that, since 2009, Canada has had its own dedicated website for short-range benchrest: www.Benchrest.ca? Founder/webmaster Rick Pollock notes: “As Benchrest up here in the great white north has little or no web presence, a website was long overdue. It is non-commercial and not affiliated with any one sanctioning body. The only aim is to get more people into Benchrest in Canada.”
The site is a valuable resource. You’ll find upcoming BR matches (in Benchrest.ca online forum), a list of clubs, recent news, and, of course, match reports. In addition there is a buy/sell “classifieds ads” section, as well as a photo gallery. Benchrest.ca also has a YouTube Video Archive with clips showing many of the legends of the sport. Here’s a 2010 Benchrest.ca video showing Tony Boyer at the 2010 NBRSA Nationals:
If you live “North of the Border” and shoot benchrest for score and/or group, definitely visit (and bookmark) www.Benchrest.ca.
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At the 2015 F-Class National Championships, nearly three-quarters of the F-Open shooters were using SEB coaxial front rests. And the man who makes them, Sebastian Lambang, was on the firing line too. Seb shot very well, finishing in second position in the F-TR division for the Saturday (Oct. 31) session. For those shooting F-Open or benchrest matches, Seb’s joystick rests really do represent the current state-of-the-art in front rest design. Courtesy of Seb, here are some photos that illustrate the “inner workings” of the SEB NEO Front Rest.
If you’ve ever wondered how a joystick front rest works, and how the parts go together, study the photos below. In addition, for those who use a NEO rest in competition, Benchrest Champion Mike Ratigan offers some PRO USER Tips that will help you get the best results from your NEO.
Unique Features of the SEB NEO Front Rest:
Lots of Travel — 43 MOA Vertical and 48 MOA Horizontal via joystick alone. The NEO offers more joystick travel than any other coaxial rest.
Variable Joystick Movement — The NEO is the only rest that can be configured for reverse action mode. That means you can optionally set it to lower the rifle with an up movement of the joystick if you prefer. (Standard setting raises rifle with up joystick movement.)
Rack & Pinion Risers — The NEO has dual support columns with Rack & Pinion system, offering a very broad vertical adjustment range.
Optional Counter-Weights — The NEO comes standard with a spring-loaded top mechanism to help hold up the rifle. Optional counter-weights allow you to reduce spring “pre-load”. Many people feel the counter-weights also allow a smoother, less jerky movement.
Reversible Base — The NEO’s base can be set-up with either the long leg in the rear or the long leg in the front. Putting the long leg in front gives more room under the rifle.
NEO Packs Flat — The SEB NEO is easily dismantled for transport, and can pack nearly flat. This is a big advantage when traveling.
Counter-weight Function and Calibration: “With the Seb NEO, equipped with the optional static counter-weight, the shooter can calibrate the counter weight to the rifle weight. The counter-weight is used to hold up the rifle. Clamping pressure of the sliding plates is NOT used to hold up the rifle like other coaxial rests on the market today. Other coaxial rests apply enough clamping force to the rest top mechanism sliding plates to resist the downward movement of the top when the rifle weight sets on the rest. This one feature of the Seb NEO almost completely eliminates bullets falling out of the bottom of your groups because the rest moved (or falls) down when you fired the rifle. This function is very important.”
On Hand Position: “I try to keep the palm of my hand grounded to the bench at all times. To do this at the closer distances, the handle will be laying flat (bend to the side) while shooting on the bottom of the target. To move to the top up (for right-handed shooters) I rotate the handle counter clockwise, which [raises the top] while maintaining my palm grounded to the bench.”
On Front Bag Fill: “Give some coarse sand blasting sand a try with the small stuff screened out. This will help reduce compaction from daily use.”
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IBS Report by Randy Jarvais
The 2015 IBS 100/200 Score Nationals were held August 22-24 in Augusta, Maine at the Capitol City Rifle and Pistol Club. By all accounts, the 2015 Score Nationals event was another success. Fifty-three guns participated in this year’s Score Nationals, with 38 Varmint for Score (VFS) and 15 Hunter rifles registered. Nine shooters competed for the 2-Gun award. Mike Niblett shot great to win the Varmint for Score (VFS) Grand Agg, while finishing first at 200 yards and second at 100 yards. Mike’s impressive 500-39X Grand Agg total was just one point shy of the current IBS record. Kudos to Mr. Niblett! Dean Breeden won Hunter Class with Randy Jarvais in second — and that was also the result for the 2-Gun Grand Agg (Breeden first, Jarvais second).
Among the Top 10 VFS shooters, nine shot a 30 BR, while the 10th campaigned an unidentified 30-caliber cartridge. Six of the Top 10 VFS shooters used Hodgdon H4198 powder, three used Vihtavuori N130, and one loaded with Hodgdon H322. Krieger barrels were used by five of the Top 10, with two Bruxes, two Liljas, and one Rock Creek. There were a wide variety of bullet choices. VFS Winner Mike Niblett used a Hillbilly 118-grainer while 2-Gun winner Dean Breeden used 115gr “10X” bullets in both his rifles (VFS and Hunter).
Southerners Shine in Augusta
From a Maine perspective, every USA destination is south, but the true South was well represented in both number and quality of shooters. To illustrate, in the 100-yard leg of VFS class only one person north of the Mason/Dixon line was able to crack the top seven positions, and he had the home field advantage. For match One, five shooters shot 5X targets, but from then on it was the Jerry Powers show. Powers, from North Carolina, put together a string of three 5X targets before faltering with a 3X during match four. Undaunted, Powers finished strong with another 5X. He needed to, as his 23Xs were but one better than both Mike Niblett of Kentucky and Jim Cline of South Carolina.
Eight VFS Shooters Post 500-Point 100/200 Grand Aggregates
At the Capitol City Range, the 100-yard targets are downhill, while the 200-yard targets are near level with the benches. While the benches are covered there is little covered area aft for equipment in waiting. With the prospect of showers for the entire weekend, Club members rigged tarps, hoping to provide a dry haven if needed. For the most part, ‘Tarp City’ worked sufficiently well. Fortunately, after Friday’s rain, the remainder of the weekend was mostly free of any heavy precipitation.
Score Nationals competitors line up for the Rifle Weigh-In process. The blue tarps provided a little extra protection from the elements.
Thunder and Lightning, then Drizzle on Sunday
Although the weather was very nice while shooting the 100, shortly thereafter the sky opened up with an impressive display of thunder and lightning. Although that front passed, Sunday’s weather started as overcast with drizzle and showers, but no lightning. Winds started mild but as the day unfolded and the sun was able to break through, so did the wind — it became down right gnarly during some relays. The wind was gusty, and constant switching from 11:30 to 12:30 was problematic, creating vertical issues. Even so, nine shooters were able to shoot 250s at 200 yards on Sunday, all from the VFS class.
Tough Competition in Hunter Division
In IBS, Maine is the last stronghold of hunter classification shooters, thus it was no surprise that the Hunter class was the National’s largest in recent memory. At 100 yards, five Hunter shooters shot perfect 250s on Saturday. Dean Breeden nailed a 250-19X followed by Randy Jarvais with 250-18X. Third place went to K.L. Miller who out-dueled Peter Hills and Tim O’Mara who were the other two 6-power shooters to shoot the coveted 250.
In the 6-power Hunter class, the battle between Breeden and Jarvais continued on Sunday. Breeden started better and maintained a 2X lead through match three. Skip Plummer, a long-time 6-power shooter (with a very “stock”-locking rig), shot three straight 50-point targets (on targets 2, 3, and 4) to threaten the two leaders.
Breeden shot a 50-1X on his fifth and final 200-yard target and watched through his spotter, while Jarvais dropped one point on his very last shot for record at 200. The order of finish for the five-target, 200-yard leg was Breeden (249-6X), Jarvais (248-5X) and Plummer (247-8X). Sweeping both the 100- and 200-yard legs gave Breeden (499-25X) the Hunter Grand Agg with Jarvais (498-23X) placing second.
Breedan Wins 2-Gun Aggregate… Again
The 2-Gun is a recent award and as yet has been contested but a few times. That doesn’t diminish the feat that there has been but one winner of the award, Dean Breeden. Prior to match 5 on Sunday, Jarvais had the Xs to dethrone Breeden from the 2-gun award, but this is a score game. Match 5 is now a nightmare memory for Jarvais, losing the last shot with each gun. So close yet so far! Breeden on the other hand proved again why he is the competitor to beat. With all the chips on the table, Dean did what he needed to do — dropping just a single point in the entire match. Breedan finished with 999-50X (for both guns) to secure another 2-Gun title, followed by Randy Jarvais (997-55X) two points back. That was tough for Randy, but as Orland Bunker observed: “All the Xs in the world means nothing if you don’t have the points.”
Every Shooter Was a Winner
The Capitol City Rifle and Pistol Club offered a rich prize table. Thirty Benchrest vendors donated nearly $9000.00 worth of hardware and shooting supplies. That generosity allowed each shooter to receive a door prize. In addition, a Nightforce Competition scope was raffled off, with the proceeds earmarked for new concrete benches. Wyatt Fox of New Hampshire was the lucky winner of the Nightforce.
All shooters received a door prize. Lucky Wyatt Fox (above right) received a Nightforce scope.
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Report by Clint Johnson, ACWLC
The 2015 IBS 200/300 Yard National Championships were held September 12-13 at the Ashe County Wildlife Club (ACWLC) outside Jefferson, North Carolina. Fifty shooters from 13 states attended. Nightforce was the major event sponsor, donating a $2,400 rifle scope. While rain threatened to mar the 200-yard match on Saturday, none fell. By Sunday, the day of the 300-yard shoot, the first cold front of the fall had passed, leaving mostly sunny conditions.
Conditions Keep Scores Low At 200/300 Yard Nationals
The rain that fell on Friday night started drying Saturday morning when the sun rose. That slow evaporation created mirage that plagued shooters looking northeast down the two-year-old, 300-yard range with a 50-foot high backstop. The wind that came in with the cold front also hampered shooters on both days.
Mean Conditions at Ashe County
“Shooters told me the conditions were as bad as they have ever shot”, said Steve Eller, the IBS chair for the Wildlife Club. “We all had a hard time seeing the rings through the mirage blur. No one shot clean, and no records were set.”
Shooters came from as far away as Maine, Indiana and Florida to Ashe County, “the coolest corner of North Carolina”. The ACWLC range is located in the mountainous northwest point of the state with Virginia to the north and Tennessee to the west. Some of those shooters have made every one of the four IBS-sanctioned matches held at the club this year and last year. The Club hosted the 100 and 200 Yard National Championship in 2014, the first full year since the opening of the club house in 2013 with its 30 benches protected by an overhang.
“I love coming here. It is my favorite place to shoot,” said Hillary Martinez of Damascus, Maryland. Hillary, shown below, was one of the four women shooters this year.
Danny Hensley of Jonesville, Virgina, won the Grand Aggregate Varmint for Score (VFS) with a score of 493 (10X), followed by David Richardson with 492 (11X) and Randy Jarvais with 491 (12X). Danny talks about his victory in the audio clip linked below. To listen, click on the black arrow in the white circle.
AUDIO FILE: Danny Hensley Talks about the Conditions at the 200/300 Nationals.
Here are all the Class Winners at the IBS 200/300 Yard Nationals:
Wayne France of Burke, Va. won the 200-Yard VFS with a score of 250 (11X), followed by rookie Ken Habedank with score of 250 (8X), and David Richardson with a score of 250 (8X).Morris Williams of Eden, Maryland, won the 300-Yard VFS with a score of 244 (3X), followed by Danny Hensley with a score of 243 (4X), and David Richardson with a score of 242 (3X).
There were just five (5) shooters in the Hunter Class. Dean Breeden topped the small field to win the Hunter Grand Aggregate with a score of 483 (10X), followed by Randy Jarvais with a sore of 480 (7X), and K.L. Miller with a score of 478 (12X). Randy Jarvais won the 200-Yard Hunter with a score of 248 (6X), followed by K.L. Miller with a score of 246( 8X), and Dean Breeden with a score of 246 (7X). Orland Bunker of Damariscotta, Maine, won the 300-Yard Hunter with a score of 238 (2X), followed by Dean Breeden with a score of 237 (3X), and K.L. Miller with a score of 232 (4X).
Dean Breeden (Frederick, Maryland) had a beautifully-figured wood composite rifle.
Barbecue North Carolina Style
Some shooters remarked that they drove to Ashe County not only to shoot, but to eat as well. A 300-pound hog was slow-cooked all Friday night by Club members. Corn was also roasted on the grill. The cost of this distinctive North Carolina pork barbecue was included in the registration fee.
Ashe County Wildlife Club maintains a website, www.acwlc.org and a public Facebook page. The Club hosts rifle, pistol, and shotgun sports (skeet, trap, sporting clays) events at its range facility located about 15 miles east of West Jefferson at 3220 Big Peek Creek Road, Laurel Springs, NC (turn north off NC Highway 88). Visit www.acwlc.org to learn more about the club or obtain Membership applications.
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Barney M. Auston of Tulsa, OK with rifle he built to break NBRSA record and win $250 cash award from Sierra Bullets. (From cover of Precision Shooting magazine. May 1956).
Way back in 1955 Sierra Bullets offered a $1000 prize for anyone setting a new Aggregate benchrest record with a 6mm (or larger) bullet. At the time the .222 Remington ruled the roost, and Sierra wanted to promote the larger caliber. Sierra also offered a $250.00 prize for a record-breaking performance with any size caliber (including the .22s). Here is the story of how a Tulsa shooter claimed the $250.00 award with a world-record-setting Aggregate involving 10-shot groups at 100 and 200 yards.
Barney Auston’s record-setting rifle was built on an FN Mauser action with double set trigger, with a Hart stainless steel barrel, 30″ x 1 1/8″, chambered for the .222 Remington cartridge. The stock, made by Auston, has a hydraulic bedder as made by L. F. Landwehr of Jefferson City, MO. The scope is a 24X, 2″ inch Unertl. Mr. Auston shot 50gr bullets, custom made by W. M. Brown of Augusta, Ohio, with .705″ Sierra cups and soft swedged. His powder charge was 21 grains of 4198. The rifle rests, both front and rear, were also made by Auston.
On August 20, 1955, shooting at night in a registered shoot on the John Zink range near Tulsa, Oklahoma, Barney M. Auston of Tulsa broke the existing National Match Course aggregate record and, as the first to do that in 1955, won the Sierra Bullets $250 cash award. Here is the original Sierra Bullets prize offer from 1955:
10-Shot Groups at 100 and 200
Mr. Auston’s winning Aggregate for the National Match Course (five 10-shot groups at 100 yards and five 10-shot groups at 200 yards) was .4512 MOA. He also broke the 200-yard aggregate with an average of .4624 MOA, beating the .4801 match MAO record set by L.E. Wilson only a month earlier.
Barney Auston was a custom rifle maker in Tulsa who fabricated the rifles used by many of the leading benchrest competitors in the Mid-Continent and Guild Coast Regions. Auston was himself one of the top benchrest shooters in those regions during his shooting career.
Editor’s Note: Both of Mr. Auston’s records were broken before the end of the 1955 shooting season, but Auston was the first to win the Sierra Prize. Interestingly, in setting his record, Austin broke the existing Agg record by L.E. Wilson of Cashmere, Washington — yes, the same L.E. Wilson that now makes dies.
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The NBRSA short-range Group Benchrest Nationals commenced this week at the St. Louis Benchrest Club Range in Wright City, Missouri. This will be followed, next week, by the World Benchrest Shooting Federation (WBSF) Championships at the same venue. Lapua staffer (and Forum member) Kevin Thomas trekked to Missouri for this combined National/International event. Kevin reports: “The best benchrest shooters [on the planet] will fight it out over the next two weeks to see who can shoot the smallest groups possible. And I’ve got to say, many of these shooters are truly amazing. It doesn’t hurt a bit that virtually all of them are shooting Lapua brass, either.”
The WBSF event has attracted shooters from around the world. Benchrest aces from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and South Africa are already in St. Louis, with other international competitors set to arrive next week. On Monday, Day One of the NBRSA Nationals, the Unlimited Class rigs showed off their capabilities. As shown below, these heavy rail guns represent the pinnacle of precision in the 100/200-yard benchrest game.
Here’s living legend Walt Berger, founder of Berger Bullets. Now in his late 80s, Walt is still competing at a very high level. Walt is proof that Benchrest shooting is truly a “sport for a lifetime”.
Here’s a beautiful Missouri sunrise captured as Kevin Thomas drove to St. Louis for the 2015 NBRSA Benchrest Championships.
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