Report by Dick Grosbier for theIBS
This past weekend, score shooters from as far away as Florida and Maine gathered at the beautiful Thurmont Conservation & Sportsman’s Club (TCSC) range in Thurmont, Maryland. They were there for the 19th Annual Bud Pryor Memorial Match. This match is also the Maryland State 100-200-300 championship. It is a pivotal match in the Score Shooter Of the Year (SSOY) race because 60 points are up for grabs (as many as are awarded at the Score Nationals).
The Bud Pryor Match is a three-day event. Competitors shoot at 100 yards on Friday, and at 200 yards on Saturday. On Sunday is the infamous 300-yard stage — the “great equalizer” that separates the good shooters from the great shooters.
On Friday morning the 100-yard stage started rainy and miserable (though not too cold). As the day went on the wind picked up some and before we were done I actually compared it to how wet and windy it was in Orrington, Maine two weeks earlier. Herb Llewellyn set a blistering pace at 100 yards, turning in a 250-24X performance in some challenging conditions. He was followed closely at 23X by David Apple. A total of twenty-seven “clean” 250s were shot in VFS class at 100. Also very noteworthy, in Hunter class Dean Breeden shot 250-17X and Gary Long shot 16X.
Saturday at 200 the rain was gone (mostly), and the temperature got up to around 80. All eyes were on Herb Llewellyn after his performance on Friday. He shot the only 50-5X target in match one so many were watching as he planted a 9 on his target on match 3. So much for him (we thought). But Kim Llewellyn ended up on the top of the pile at the end of the day with a 250-10X score. (Kim edged Ricky Read, who also shot 250-10X, under Creedmoor rules). On Saturday, there were six 250s in VFS and Gary Long won Hunter class with a fine 247-3X score. Saturday night we had a great BBQ dinner at the Club House and the 100-yard and 200-yard awards were distributed. (This permitted shooters to leave earlier on Sunday afternoon.)
Score Shooter of the Year — How the Point System Works
The Score Shooter of the Year is determined on a point basis. For a regular two-yardage (with Grand) match (not a State or National Championship), a maximum of 30 Points are available to the winner. That’s 10 for each yardage (100/200) and 10 for the Grand. The same match in a State Championship situation has 45 points available. A National Championship with up to 50 guns in class is worth 20+20+20 or 60 Points. Because it includes three yardages plus a Grand Agg, the Bud Pryor event is a 60-point match just like the Nationals. Likewise the Maine Firecracker held over Memorial Day weekend is also a 60-point match. These 60-point matches are very important because no matter how many matches in which the shooter competes, he only gets to count his ten best in the final standings. My friend Allie Euber, Score Shooter of the Year in 2007 and 2010, notes that these 60-point matches are essential if you want to make a serious run at Score Shooter Of the Year.
Sunday promised to be a tough day of shooting at 300 yards. The warm 83° temperatures, combined with the very wet ground, might have made for horrible mirage. Luckily the day was overcast for the most part. Mirage did get bad a few times but never as horrible as I have seen at Thurmont. Wind was constant and switchy. At the end of the day one lone shooter, Roy Hunter, was clean for the weekend with a 750-26X (and 250-5X at 300). Roy was shooting a 6PPC and his performance was no fluke as Roy was one of only two clean shooters at last years “Bud”.
All in all it was a very full three days of shooting. We had a number of first time attendees most of whom told me they had a great time and looked forward to next years “Bud”. — Dick Grosbier
You may recall that Forum member Rodney Wagner (aka “Eggman”) shot a 0.349″ (50-2x) group at 600 yards to set two IBS records. This is the smallest 600-yard group in history. With his BAT-actioned Dasher, Rodney put five shots inside a dime at six hundred yards. This is one of the most amazing feats of shooting ever. And now the gun is gone. It was stolen, along with a second benchrest rifle. The combined value of the two guns is over $11,000, but the record gun is priceless.
Rodney’s Record-Setting Rifle Stolen — We Need Your Help
Over the weekend, Rodney Wagner had two valuable benchrest rifles stolen from his truck. Yes, the BAT-actioned Dasher that shot the historic 0.349″ 5-shot group was stolen, along with a second long-range Benchrest Rifle. The theft took place at a motel in Hendersonville, NC.
We request the help of our readers in recovering these two rifles for Rodney. Help us get the word out — talk to your shooting friends, post this story on other forums, link to it on Facebook. Insurance, if any is available at all, will only cover a small part of the loss. But we all know that this isn’t all about the money. You can’t just write a check and buy a rifle that shoots an 0.349″ group at 600 yards. Ironically, the thieves probably have no idea of the special nature of the guns they stole.
Stolen Rifle One: IBS Record-Setting 17-lb benchrest rifle. The BAT B action has serial number B778. It has a white, gray, and black Shehane ST-1000 fiberglass stock, and a Brux 6mm barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher. A March 10-60x52mm scope (with tactical knobs) is fitted in Burris Signature rings on top. The action is a Right bolt, Left Port, Right Eject.
Stolen Rifle Two: IBS 17-lb Benchrest Rifle. Borden Rimrock action has serial number BR0253. It has a red and black Shehane ST-1000 fiberglass stock, and Brux 6mm barrel fitted with a VAIS muzzle brake. A March 10-60x52mm scope with tactical knobs was on top. We are still looking for photos of this rifle. It appears very similar to the first rifle, but with a red and black stock and a Rimrock action.
It does NOT appear that thieves were specifically targeting the record-setting rifle. The Hendersonville Police told us that another theft was reported at about the same time in the same neighborhood. They called this “an ordinary crime of opportunity”.
Folks, please keep your eyes out for these two rifles. These are distinctive guns — not what you’d see everyday at a pawn shop (or even at most gun ranges). Please tell other folks in the firearms community to be on the look-out. Also, the thieves might try to unload the two March 10-60X Scopes separately. Look for March Serial Numbers X341 and X291. You can use this link to point people to this story: http://bit.ly/14PtT5o.
If you have any information, please contact officer Peter Laite of the Hendersonville (NC) Police Department. Call 828-697-3025 or email: plaite [at] cityofhendersonville.org
$1000.00 Reward Offered
AccurateShooter.com will provide a Five Hundred Dollar ($500.00) reward to any individual who returns the two guns in undamaged condition or provides information that leads directly to the recovery of the two guns in undamaged condition.
In addition, Rodney Wagner will pay a $500.00 reward if the two rifles are recovered intact and undamaged. This makes the total reward $1000.00. That’s $500 from AccurateShooter.com, and $500 from Rodney Wagner.
Back in May, IBS shooter Rodney Wagner shot a 0.349″ (50-2X) 5-shot group that became the talk of the shooting community. This was the smallest 600-yard group shot in the history of recorded rifle competition. Rodney’s group cuts the existing IBS 600-yard record in half. Rodney put five shots under the size of a dime at the distance of six football fields. Just pause and think about that…
News of this amazing feat spread like wildfire via the internet. People were amazed at what Rodney accomplished. Here are some actual comments posted on various shooting forums:
308Nut: Simply Astounding.
Coues Sniper: That’s insanity.
PapaJohn: I strut around like a peacock if my rifles will shoot under a half-inch at 100 yards. His group was better than that at six times the distance… that’s just unfathomable. I don’t see anyone breaking that record for a loooooooooooong time!
Given the spectacular (and historic) nature of Rodney’s 600-yard group, many folks wanted to learn more about Rodney’s equipment and his shooting techniques. For that reason, we’ve compiled this follow-up report. Rodney was kind enough to provide a short video showing his equipment and shooting technique. In his video demonstration, Rodney runs off a 5-shot group in about 19 seconds. When he actually shot the 0.349″ group, Rodney estimates he got the five shots down-range in 12-15 seconds. (He slowed down a bit for the video!)
Watch Rodney Wagner Fire Five Shots in Under 20 Seconds
Rodney comments: “You’ll notice I hold the stock with my left hand while working the bolt to keep it from losing its ‘track’ (that slows me down a lot). I have just gotten into the habit of doing that because I feel tracking is one of the most important things not to take for granted. With this technique I don’t have to ‘saw’ the stock into the bags as much when I get on to the record target.”
Record-Setting Load: Varget Powder, CCI Primers, and Berger 108s Jumped
Rodney’s record 0.349″ group works out to 0.055 MOA at 600 yards. To shoot a “zero” group at 600 yards you need the finest components and insanely good reloading techniques (not to mention the grace of God.) As he does with all his 600-yard ammo, Rodney pre-loaded before the match. This particular ammo had been loaded 5-6 days before the match. Here are specs on Rodney’s load:
32.5 Grains of Hodgdon Varget Powder and CCI 450 Primers.
108gr Berger BT Match bullets seated 0.020″ away from the lands.
Lapua 6mmBR brass fire-formed to 6 Dasher and turned to 0.265″ loaded round for a 0.268″-neck chamber.
Neck-sized with a 0.262″ Redding bushing.
Note that Rodney was using Berger 108s, not the 105gr VLDs or Berger’s popular 105gr Hybrids. Rodney found his Brux barrel shot best with the 108s: “I’d get really nice 4-shot groups with the VLDs, but it seemed there would be four together and one out. The 108s seem to have less fliers.” Rodney experimented with seating depths before he settled on a .020″ jump: “I shot them for a long time 3 to 5 thousandths in the lands, just barely in the lands. But I knew Sam Hall had really good luck jumping. So I went to .020″ jump and it all came together. The 108s have shot good like that in three different Brux barrels (all chambered with the same reamer) so I just start at that setting now — twenty off the lands.”
Rodney was shooting a 17-lb Light Gun. It features a BAT Machine ‘B’ action, and a 29″ Brux barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher with a 0.268″ neck. The 0.236″-land, 4-groove barrel was fairly new when the record group was shot — it had about 300 rounds through it, and had shot 30 rounds since its last cleaning. Rodney chambered the barrel himself. The stock is a Shehane ST-1000 fiberglass tracker, inletted and bedded by Tom Meredith. A March 10-60x52mm scope is held in Burris Signature Zee rings on a +10 MOA rail. These rings are inexpensive, but they work just fine, notes Rodney: “With the inserts I can align the scope mechanically and keep the windage pretty much centered in its travel.”
Supporting his rifle, Rodney used a Farley co-axial rest up front (on Super-Feet) and a Protektor Doctor bag in the rear. The Farley features a Borden top carrying an Edgewood bag. Rodney notes: “In the front, I use the black diamond blasting sand, because it doesn’t pack as hard as regular sand. You can buy it at tractor supply stores in the welding section. It’s not as heavy as heavy sand.”
In the rear, Rodney runs a flat-top Protektor Doctor bag with Cordura ears. Rodney uses Sinclair heavy sand in his rear bag. He says “it’s got some squish — not much but just a little — call it a medium-hard fill”. Interestingly, Rodney sets up the bag so that the flat on the bottom of the stock rides on the stitches between the ears: “I like the stock to touch the top of the bag between the ears — I don’t like to see daylight.”
Conditions for the Record — You May Be Surprised
Many folks who have commented on Rodney’s 0.349″ group have wrongly assumed that the 0.349″ group was shot in “perfect” zero-wind conditions. Not so. There were switchy 5 mph winds with gusts to 10 mph. Rodney notes that on his second target of the day, he had to hold in three different places to manage a decent-sized group. So for those who think the group was shot in miraculous conditions, we have to say that wasn’t the case.
Creating Ultra-Accurate 6mm Dasher 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.”
Shooting Techniques — Piloting a 600-yard Group into the Zeros Gun-handling and Rate of Fire — As you can see from the video, Rodney shoots with very minimal contact on the rifle. He normally shoots a string fast, but he remains calm and steady — almost machine-like. In the video he runs five shots in about 19 seconds, but he figures he shot the 0.349″ group in 12-15 seconds. Rodney says: “I’m not quite as fast as Sam Hall but I can usually run ‘em under fifteen seconds, sometimes closer to 10 on a good day. But when I shot the 0.349″ I couldn’t see the flags for the last shot so I dipped the joystick down between 4th and 5th shots, and that took a couple seconds. The flags had not changed, so I kept the same point of aim for 4th and 5th shot. I’d been watching that flag all morning, so to satisfy my curiosity I kind of dipped down for a second.”
Aiming for the Nine — To shoot ultra-small at long range, you must aim very, very precisely. When shooting at 600 yards, Rodney lines up his cross-hairs on the white number “9″ in the blue field above the ten ring. This is visible through his rifle-scope at 600 yards, and it provides an aim point smaller than the center “X”.
Rodney explains: “I always aim for the number 9 up in the blue field. It provides for a smaller aim point. I noticed a difference when I started doing that. I learned that from some guys from South Dakota. It made sense so I’ve been doing it ever sense.”
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.
Well it looks like there’s some real talent in the next generation of IBS Benchrest shooters. Watch out for those young guns — they can give seasoned veterans a run for their money — and then some. Young Kevin Donalds Jr. fired a perfect 250-25X score to win a 100-yard IBS score match at the Thurmont, Maryland range on May 18th, 2013. At just 12 years of age, Kevin is already showing he has the focus, talent, and determination to win. And, yes he managed to beat his proud father Kevin Donalds (Sr.) who finished second with a 250-23x. Like father, like son. It’s great to see a father and son who shoot together — and share the podium together.
Above, 12-year-old Kevin, match winner, is shown flanked on his left by his father (second place), and on his right by third place finisher Larry Fritz. Young Kevin was shooting a 30BR (no surprise), with a BAT action, Krieger barrel, and an affordable Sightron 8-32X scope (about $860). The rifle was smithed by Sid Goodling and stocked by Roy Hunter. The load was a stout charge of Hodgdon H4198, fired by Federal primers, pushing BIB 112gr bullets.
Report by Jeff Stover, IBS President
This past weekend, forty-five shooters from nine states descended on a piece of paradise in central Pennsylvania to try to shoot small groups at 100 and 200 yards. The 27th Annual Boop Memorial shoot proved to be a study in contrasts. Saturday was a good day for shooting. Sunday was brutal. On Saturday, small groups were “in”. Temps were in the mid 60s with on and off showers and humidity well beyond the clammy side. The winds were relatively light, and readable for the most part. But by mid-afternoon on Saturday, the humidity was dropping, the zephyrs growing stronger and the groups a just a bit larger. That was a portent for the tough conditions on Sunday.
Sunday was a beautiful spring day but a shooter’s nightmare with red and green wind indicators showing.
J.D. Denoff Shines on Saturday
The 100-yard stage was a J.D. Denoff show. The Virginia-based bullet-maker had his ‘A’ game going full tilt. He started by winning the Light Varmint 100-yard stage with a .2168 aggregate. Larry Costa had the same aggregate, but J.D. had the edge via tie-breaker. J.D.’s first three groups in the Heavy Varmint stage were three .140s and tiny .057. So, after four targets J.D. had a fantastic .1230 aggregate. If he could maintain that level a new IBS record was possible. J.D.’s shot at a record all depended on what he could do with his last target.
The weather gods did not cooperate. Conditions deteriorated, and J.D. only managed a .309 for his last target. That .309 looked huge compared to the tiny groups he had shot four times in a row. Still, he managed to complete a .1586 100-yard aggregate — still superb in anyone’s book. J.D. was shooting his own bullets (of course) crafted on Sierra jackets. He was running a new Bartlein barrel that he chambered himself. Smiley Hensley and Larry Costa, despite shooting ‘teen aggs’, were pretty far back with high .19xx scores.
Tough Conditions on Sunday
Sunday was a new day in more ways than one. The range at Weikert is known for sometimes wild and woolly conditions. Yes, there are some ranges with stronger winds. And there are others with those sneaky conditions that bite the unwary benchrester in the butt. But on Sunday, the conditions in the Penns Creek valley were downright tough, even for seasoned veterans. The fresh, dry breezes could not decide which way to blow. It was a war of the wills between green and red (wind indicator colors), with each struggling for supremacy.
The wind moved rapidly from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock directions. The swing was so quick that checking the sighter was pretty much a waste of components. The only thing that resembled something to shoot was a dead tail wind. Yep, a tail wind was the only way to get something to resemble a decent group. Caution to the shooter, though, that ignored a teeny bit of red or green in your favored tailwind. Choosing both on the same target resulted in shots on either side of the one inch mothball (ten ring). One shooter, just for fun, shot the two extremes on his sighter and found nearly six inches of condition!
So given these conditions, many shooters, some of the best in the country were thrilled with a .6 or .7 group. It was one of those days when you shoot an inch group, you move up in the standings. So enter Larry Costa from Florida. Certainly, he is one of the best in the game. Like a lot of the knowledgeable shooters, he shot the tail wind, but he deftly holds for small changes in the wind’s direction.
Larry Costa won both Grand Aggregates and the Two-Gun overall.
Larry really dominated the match on Sunday. In the morning he shot a .2881 aggregate which was phenomenal for the day. He was followed by a top shooter, Hal Drake, with a .3310. Curtis Nelson shot his 30BR to third place with a .3806. The fifth place shooter, Bob Hamister, was over .4. Larry even shot a .177” small group just to add some zing into his win. If anything, the wind in the afternoon was bit worse. Larry won the LV 200-yard stage with a .3422 agg. Russ Boop was second with a .3759 and Hal Drake third with a .3773. With his two 200-yard wins, Larry Costa won both Grand Aggregates and the Two-Gun overall. In the Two-Gun he was followed by Russ Boop and J.D. Denoff.
IBS President Jeff Stover Talks About the 27th Annual Boop Memorial Shoot
Click “Play” to Hear Audio
Weikert Range on a damp early Saturday morning.
The Annual Boop Memorial Match honors the memories of Nate Boop and Rich Altemus. Both were “founding fathers” of benchrest shooting at the Union County Sportsmen’s Club in Weikert, Pennsylvania. Russ and Dale Boop are Nate’s sons. Awards at this year’s 27th Annual match were given by Nate’s grand-daughter Rachel (photo at right). Rachel is Dale Boop’s daughter.
This is one of the most amazing feats of precision shooting ever recorded. In an IBS 600-yard Benchrest match today at the Piedmont range (Rutherfordton, NC), Forum member Rodney Wagner shot a 0.349″ five-shot group at 600 yards. That smashes the existing 0.699″ IBS Light Gun Record (and it’s way smaller than the NBRSA record as well). To top that, the group was centered up for a 50-2X score, which establishes another record (50 score with small-group tie-breaker). Rodney (aka “Eggman” on the Forum) was shooting a 17-lb IBS Light Gun with a Brux barrel chambered for the 6mm Dasher, a popular improved version of the 6mm BR Norma cartridge. Rodney was shooting 32.5 grains of Varget, with CCI 450 primers, and Berger 108gr BTs, seated .020″ away from the lands.
Stay tuned — we will have more information soon. Our friend Sam Hall was on hand to interview Rodney at the Piedmont range. Click “PLAY” button below to hear Rodney talk about his rifle and his load:
Rodney Wagner Talks about his 0.349″ 600-yard Group (Click PLAY to Hear Audio)
Record-Breaking Family — Like Son, Like Father
Here’s an interesting factoid: In 2008, Rodney’s teen-age son set the IBS 600-yard Light Gun record with a .711″ five-shot group, combined with an Aggregate of 1.628″. That Agg was itself an IBS record (until Chad Jenkins recorded an 1.5009″ Agg in 2012). Rodney’s son was shooting a 6BRX. The 600-yard group record was then lowered by Rodney’s friend Sam Hall, who shot a 0.699″ group in 2010. Sam also set the current 600-yard LG score record with a perfect 50, but that should be eclipsed by Rodney’s 50 score based on tie-breaker by group size.
Look at that target and try not to be astonished! When this editor saw the group, I was honestly stunned and speechless. Consider this, one MOA at 600 yards is 6.282 inches. So Rodney’s 0.349″ group works out to 0.055 MOA. That’s what a mid-zero group at 600 yards looks like boys and girls….
Equipment: BAT Model B action (RBLP Rt Eject), Brux HV-contour barrel (29″), Jewell trigger, March 10-60x52mm (Tactical knobs, Burris Rings), Shehane ST1000 fiberglass Tracker stock.
Readers said they enjoyed our write-up of an innovative, offset-stocked Heavy Gun that set three multi-match Aggregate IBS records last year. If you’re a fan of “Heavy Artillery” here’s an impressive rifle from Forum member ‘Straightpipes’ that we spotlighted last year. If you missed it the first time — check out this engineering Tour De Force, complete with a custom-built, joy-stick REAR rest. We’re mightily impressed by the cutting-edge design and superb metal-work displayed by this “home-built special”. ‘Straightpipes’ certainly proved that American “know-how” and creativity is still alive….
Coaxial (joy-stick) rests allow both vertical and horizontal movement with a single control. If you want to make a diagonal shift in point of aim, you can do this with one, smooth, continuous movement. Until now, this advantage has been limited to front rests. Well there’s some new technology in the benchrest world. Forum member ‘Straightpipes’ has created a coaxial rear joystick rest. He built this simple, compact rear rest in his home workshop for use with his 40-lb Heavy Gun. In combination with a vertically adjustable front rest, this new rear joystick rest allows aiming to be controlled from the rear, with your left hand in a comfortable position.
Straightpipes Rear Coaxial Rest — Design and Features
The rear rest is crafted from aluminum with a stainless steel forward-pointing joystick. Total weight, including the long, stabilizing base foot, is about 10 pounds. Though the rear rest doesn’t seem to have a large movement range, the system offers plenty of “on-target” travel. At 100 yards, the rest offers 10 MOA left, 10 MOA right, 5 MOA up, and 5 MOA down adjustment. That’s plenty of range for most targets, once you center the Point of Aim vertically using the captain’s wheel on the front rest, which Straightpipes also crafted himself. Click Square Photos Below to see Large Images.
Inside the rear cradle sits a Protektor rear sandbag, with Cordura fabric filled with ordinary sand. This fits the 3″-wide bottom of Straightpipes’ 40-lb heavy gun. There are some sophisticated components you can’t see in the photos. The rear rest can pivot (right or left slightly) to stay aligned with the front rest (as adjusted to level the cant of the rifle). Straightpipes says: “With the pivot, whatever I do to the front, the rear follows.” The basket (cradle) also employs a 20-lb bias spring system to handle the weight of the Heavy Gun. This prevents the co-axial system from binding, so it is fluid and easy to operate. Even with 20 pounds of gun weight on the rear, the joystick can be easily manipulated with a light touch of thumb and fore-finger.
Video Shows Rear Coaxial Rest in Action
Watch the video below to see how the joystick controls the rear rest. Total joystick movement is about a 2.5″ sweep. This gives 20 MOA total windage adjustment at 100 yards, and about 10 MOA vertical.
About the Straightpipes Front Rest
The coaxial rear rest is designed to work with the massive front rest as a system, though they are NOT connected, so as to comply with IBS Heavy Gun rules. The 30-lb front rest supports exactly half the weight of the rifle and is used to set gross elevation. Windage and fine elevation is controlled in the rear. Straightpipes also designed and built his beefy front rest himself. As with his rear coaxial unit, the front rest pieces were all shaped by hand on a belt sander after being milled out. Straitpipes even “finish-sculpted some pieces with hand files the old craftsmen way.” The main center support column was milled with extremely fine threads. This allows the captain’s wheel to turn with little effort and no locking mechanism is required. Straightpipes does not need to fuss with locking knobs when he sets gross elevation. To help keep the unit from binding, there are stainless guide shafts on the left and right. These shafts slide in oil-impregnated bronze bushings.
40-lb Barrel Block Heavy Gun with Savage Action
Straightpipes built this beautiful set of rests to work with his 40-lb Heavy Gun. Chambered in 7mm WSM, the gun features a Savage Target Action, and a Brux 32″, 1.300″ straight-diameter barrel fitted with a custom barrel nut. The barrel is clamped forward of the action in a 9″-long barrel block. This allows the Savage action to free-float. The block, also built by Straightpipes, looks fairly standard, but it has some clever design features. Between the barrel and the block there is sleeve that is slightly compressed when the block’s bolts are tensioned. This sleeve, made of a proprietary material, eliminates metal to metal contact between barrel and block. Straightpipes believes this enhances accuracy and provides some damping. Other shooters with barrel-block guns have used epoxy between block and barrel, but that makes disassembly difficult. The sleeve system on Straightpipes’ gun allows the barreled action to be easily removed from the stock. In addition, the compressed sleeve system is very stable — Straightpipes doesn’t have to fiddle with the bolt torques on his block.
‘Black Beauty’ Stock Made from Resin-Soaked Laminated Wood, with Rust-Oleum Finish
Straightpipes built the beefy stock himself. It is made from “red oak” wood soaked in resin and then laminated together with JB Weld. The rear section features a polished aluminum buttplate and twin metal “runners” on the underside, where the stock rides the Protektor Cordura bag. Straightpipes says the stock is very stable: “it absolutely does not flex or warp with changes in temp or humidity”. We asked Straightpipes about the stock finish. To our surprise, “Pipes” revealed he used inexpensive Rust-Oleum fine texture outdoor furniture paint. “Pipes” told us: “I’ve been using this stuff for years. It’s abrasion proof and tough as nails — the bags won’t wear it off. It’s solvent-proof, won’t get soft or bubble up. It cleans up with a damp cloth, just rub it down and it looks like new.”
As designed and crafted by Straightpipes, this Heavy Gun rest system is impressive. The rear rest is brilliantly simple, and beautifully finished. But the important question is: “how does it shoot?”. Straightpipes reports that the whole system exceeds his expectations: “The rear rest actuation is smooth and positive. It works smoothly in conjunction with the front rest. Everything is working together — there’s nothing that’s fighting another element of the system. The gun tracks straight. When it returns to battery, the thing is pretty much waiting for you shot after shot.” The rear rest’s small footprint allows the “driver” to sit comfortably behind the rig. Straightpipes reports: “Shooters can ‘address the rifle’ just like a Light Gun — you’re not straining to wrap your arm around something overly massive. Anybody can shoot this, it’s a very easy gun to shoot.”
Is it accurate? In a word, “Yes”. Straightpipes doesn’t want to make claims before the rig has been tested in competition, but he says it has “shot groups at 600 and 1000 yards that would be very competitive.” We promised not to publish group sizes yet, but we can tell you that at 600 yards in good conditions it drilled some “scary small” 5-shot groups, well, well under 1/4 MOA.
Most long-range benchrest stocks are three inches wide because that used to be the max width under the rules for Light Gun Class. Many folks may not realize that the IBS, the NBRSA, and the Williamsport organizations have all modified their Light Gun rules to allow wider forearm widths in registered competition. A wider stock provides increased stability and resists rotation (torquing) as the gun is fired. If you’re building a new Light Gun, you may want to consider a 4″-wide or 5″-wide forearm. Do check the rules of your local club or regional organization to ensure the wider width is allowed in the matches you attend. And if you plan to shoot F-Class as well, stick to 3″. Under F-Class (Open) rules, “the width of the rifle’s forend shall not exceed 76mm (approximately 3 inches)”.
Wider Forearm Stock Options
Most stock-makers still only offer a 3″-wide forearm width with their Light Gun long-range benchrest stocks. However, there are some other options. On request, Joel Russo, Russo Rifle Stocks, can cut a stock with 4″-wide forearm, but that’s not a standard pattern.
If you want a 4″-5″ wide version of the popular MBR Tooley-style long-range stock, Bill Shehane offers a ‘Big Dawg’ version of his MBR Tracker stock. This features a longer, deeper, and wider fore-end for added stability and more resistance to torque with the heavy calibers. Along with having a wider forearm, the Big Dawg stock is cut 4″ longer than a standard Shehane ST-1000 Tracker. This provides a “longer wheelbase” for better balance with very long (30″+) barrels. (The ST-1000 itself is 3″ longer than most benchrest stocks.) The Big Dawg is available with a 4″-wide or 5″-wide forearm, and will handle barrels up to 40″ in length and 1.5″ in diameter. In the top photo, taken by Forum member Preacher, you see a 4″-wide Big Dawg next to a normal ST-1000 Tracker. (Both stocks are symmetrical; there is distortion caused by wide-angle lens.)
This color pattern is what Bill calls “Prairie Dog Camo”, a Rutland laminate in orange and dark gray, with olive ‘accent’ layers. The price for a ‘Big Dawg’ in Rutland laminate is $625. In African Obeche wood (any color choice), the price is $855.00. For more info, contact Bill Shehane at (704) 824-7511, or visit his website, www.ScopeUsOut.com.
Wide Stocks for Rimfire Benchrest
Ultra-wide stocks are also legal in many rimfire benchrest disciplines. Shown below is a rimfire rifle built with a 4″-wide Shehane Big Dawg stock. This gun is used in ARA Unlimited competition. Extra-wide stocks like this can also be used in the IR 50/50 Unlimited Class and RBA Unlimited Class.
Why use a wide stock for rimfire where recoil is not an issue? The extra width definitely provides more stability in the bags. This is noticeable when cycling the action during the loading process — the gun shows less “wiggle” when opening and closing the bolt. The larger mass of wood also, potentially, provides additional vibration damping. A wider stock design carries more weight (per inch of length) and more mass is distributed outboard. Initial testing shows that the wide stocks work well for rimfire shooters who like to grip their gun — the gun feels “planted” with less wobble when the stock is gripped or cheeked by the shooter.
Match Report by Mike Wallace for the IBS, with photos by Hillary Martinez and Dean Breeden. This is the first in a series of in-depth match reports published jointly by the IBS and Accurateshooter.com.
The Bridgeville Rifle and Pistol Club (Bridgeville, DE) held 600-yard IBS matches on March 16 and 17 — a separate match on each day. These two matches were the final competitions counting towards Bridgeville’s 600-yard Shooter of the Year honors. Turn-out was strong, with 21 Light Gun (LG), 17 Heavy Gun (HG), and 1 Factory Class competitors. On Day 1, weather (for Bridgeville) was good, with temperatures as high as 54° F, winds less than gale force, periods of overcast and bright sun. On the 17th the shooters braved more challenging conditions. Temps ranged from the low 30s to as high as 40 degrees, with more wind than the previous day and snow flurries in the afternoon.
Topping the podium on March 16th for the Two-Gun Aggregate were Dewey Hancock (1st), Roy Hunter (2nd), and Craig Rowe (3rd). Top performers by Class were Dewey Hancock (2.3855 HG Group), Carey Lamb (196-2X, HG Score), Craig Rowe (2.2703 LG Group), Michael Wallace (189-2X, LG Score), and Robert Jones (4.9845, Factory Group; 172-2X Factory Score).
On March 17th, Craig Rowe, Roy Hunter, and Dewey Hancock finished first, second, and third respectively in the Two-Gun Agg. Class Winners were Jerry Ware (2.7213, HG Group), Roy Hunter (189-3X, HG Score), Dewey Hancock (2.1359, LG Group), and Craig Rowe (188-1X, LG Score). Robert Jones again won for group (6.9494) and score (159-0x) in the Factory Class.
Shooters L to R Craig Rowe, Roy Hunter, Dewey Hancock.
Competition is very keen at Bridgeville. Richard Timmons, Match Director, said, “It can be challenging….it can cause you to talk to yourself!” Rookies and those interested in taking up the sport are gladly welcomed and mentored. When asked his advice for new shooters in the sport, Richard said, “Factory Class is the best place to start for beginning shooters. There are some good factory guns out there that will shoot 600 yards.”
The Bridgeville matches showcased a bright, young talent. 12-year-old Kevin Donalds Jr., the youngest competitor at the two-day event, is already a shooter to be reckoned with — Kevin placed 2nd in Light Gun Group (2.5343) at the March 17th Match. Woe unto many of us later because Kevin plans on staying in the sport a long time!
Like Father, like Son… Kevin Donalds Sr. and Kevin Donalds Jr.
At this match, Bridgeville honored its 600-yard Shooters of the Year (SOY). Earning hard-fought SOY honors were the following shooters (listed 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for each Class).
Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club 600-Yard Shooters of the Year
1. Roy Hunter
2. Dewey Hancock
3. Bobby Mallory
1. Robert Jones
2. Terry Balding
3. Charles Thuet
1. Dewey Hancock
2. Roy Hunter
3. Craig Rowe
Shooting at Bridgeville is Fun and Challenging Dewey Hancock is a rookie in his second year in the sport and is making a mark as you can see from match results and Shooter of the Year standings at Bridgeville R&P Club. He advises, “Good bench handling, good equipment, a good gunsmith, and good loading practice — these things will make you shoot with the good guys. You want to stay consistent in this game and that will eventually get you some wins.” When asked who his biggest competitor is, he smiled and said, “The wind!”, but then slipped in Roy Hunter’s name for 600 yards and Dean Breeden for the short range game. Dewey also stated what many of us in the sport know – “It is fun and the whole family can do it.”
Craig Rowe, in the sport for seven years shooting 600 yards and Score, said: “Bridgeville is a great place to shoot – great people – great food – and lots of great competition.” Craig cautions: “Don’t think you’re going to come here, walk in and steal the show, because there are a lot of good shooters.”
About the Bridgeville Club
The Bridgeville Rifle & Pistol Club, Ltd. was established over 50 years ago. The primary activity was NRA High Power Rifle competition at 200, 300 and 600 yards. There are 12 firing points on the High Power range. The Club recently opened its 1000-yard range, which also has firing points at 800 and 900 yards and is used for NRA Long Range Competition (Conventional, Fullbore, Palma, and F-Class) and IBS matches. The Club also has a multi-purpose range with a covered, concrete firing line with 15 benches and impact areas at 100, 200 and 300 yards. A pistol range has covered, concrete firing points and backstops at 25 and 50 yards. Another pistol range is open with five shooting lanes. This range is used for IDPA-style shooting, SASS (Cowboy Action) and Action Pistol. One 600-yard HG Score record has been set by Hal Drake at Bridgeville. For more information, visit www.Bville-rifle-pistol.org.
As we commence the 2013 IBS benchrest season, it’s time to give credit to the 2012 IBS long-range Shooters of the Year. Bill Shehane of D&B Supply sent us photos and profiles of three winners, who all used his Tracker stocks. Bill writes: “I would like to thank all the many 600-yard and 1000-yard shooters for once again making Tracker Stocks the number one choice in long range shooting for 2012.” Bill notes that: “I’ve always said we get beat by women and children more than we own up to and 2012 was a perfect example of this.”
Photo Credit: Gordy Mitchell
Sally Bauer, 2012 IBS 1000-Yard Shooter of the Year
In 2012, Sally Bauer became the first lady to win the title of IBS 1000-yard Shooter of the Year. Sally earned that honor through hard work, dedication, and a burning desire to “be all she can be”. While helping her husband Jim rise to the top of the 1000-yard benchrest game, Sally was taking notes and working toward her turn at the top. Well friends, Sally took no prisoners in 2012. At the Nationals, Sally fought a very tight battle with several extremely good shooters. But then she “put the hammer down” and pull away in a very convincing manner to clinch the top title.
Mason Hildrith, 2012 IBS 1000-Yard Junior Shooter of the Year
Mason Hildrith not only had a great performance at the 1000-yard National Championship in his home State of West Virginia, but was once again the top Junior Shooter in the IBS 1000-yard Shooter of the Year program. Bill Shehane writes: “I know just how proud your Grandmother and Grandpa are of you and Diane and I are just as proud of not only how good you are with the rifles but the way you conduct yourself. You are a fine young man and a great example of an humble shooter willing to help others enjoy the sport too.”
Mike Hanes, 2012 IBS 600-Yard Shooter of the Year
Mike Hanes is a reformed .22LR rimfire shooter who took a liking to 600-yard benchrest competition. At last year’s 600-yard Nationals in St. Louis, Mike put on quite a show against a steller group of the Nation’s best 600-yard shooters. After this performance, Mike never let up and captured the 2012 IBS 600-yard Shooter of the Year title
Congrats to Sally, Mason, and Mike for a fine season of great shooting. Bill Shehane adds: “Diane and I both thank all of you for choosing Tracker Stocks. Keep up the good shooting and have fun in 2013.”
Legendary firearms engineer Merle “Mike” Walker passed away on March 6, at the age of 101. Walker was one of the most important gun and cartridge designers of the 20th Century, and he also was a leading proponent of benchrest shooting. Mike worked for Remington Arms Company for 37 years, as a lead designer and engineer. While at Remington, Mike created many of Remington’s most popular bolt action rifles. For many years, Mike served as Director of Research and head of the Custom Shop at Remington’s, Ilion, NY facility.
Mike led the development of many important Remington rifle designs, including the Rem m700, Rem 40X, Rem m721, and Rem m722. Walker held numerous patents, mostly for trigger designs.
“Without a doubt, the Remington Model 700 is the most popular commerical, high-power, bolt-action rifle in the world. The Model 700 is actually a product-improved Model 721 and Model 722 bolt-action rifle, the brain-child of Merle ‘Mike’ Walker and his Remington design team in the 1940s.” — Roy C. Marcot, The History of Remington Firearms
Mike was a major pioneer in modern cartridge design — he was the originator of the .222 Remington and the 6mm Remington Int’l rounds. According to Guns & Ammo: “Long-time Remington employee and benchrest competitor Mike Walker, who headed up the M722 design team, is largely credited with the development of the .222 Rem”. The .222 Rem (aka “Triple Deuce”) dominated short-range Benchrest competition until the advent of the PPC cartridges.
Walker also worked with Jim Steckl on the .30-cal wildcat that eventually evolved into the 6mm Bench Rest Remington. This cartridge demonstrated the accuracy and efficiency of the “short, fat” case design. When brass was eventually produced for the 6mmBR Rem, Mike convinced Remington to produce a run with a small primer pocket. Thanks to these pioneering efforts by Walker and Steckl, we now have the ultra-accurate 6mmBR Norma (with a small primer pocket), and the 30BR wildcat.
Mike was one of the “founding fathers” of the International Benchest Shooters (IBS), and he was in the early IBS leadership group. He was a talented (and dedicated) benchrest shooter. Remarkably, Mike shot in the 2010 IBS Nationals at age 99. Mike also played an key role in the creation of Precision Shooting Magazine. Still engaged in his passion for gun-building and firearm design, he worked in his shop even at the age of 101. He passed in a hospital on March 6, 2013 after hip replacement surgery.
IBS President Jeff Stover tells us: “The term ‘living legend’ is used in many sports and endeavors. Rarely, though, is that term used as accurately as when referring to Mr. Merle ‘Mike’ Walker. He developed the Rem 700, he helped invent the button rifling process and many other firearms innovations. Probably the last time he shot in competition was at the 2010 IBS Group Nationals at Weikert, Pennsylvania. He got around quite well — even at 99 years of age! He shot an older rifle in a beat-up stock, but he was there on the line with the rest of us. During one match Mike was having some problems and it was close to cease fire time. Our range officer could see that everyone else had finished. Mike kept shooting, trying to get five on paper. The range was quiet except for the reports from Mike’s rifle. When it was clear that all five were on paper, ‘cease fire’ was finally called. There were no questions as to what happened — all of us on the line realized it was a tribute to probably the only real Living Legend that any of us would meet, let alone shoot with….”
Mike Walker will be missed. As James Mock has written: “We in the shooting community are truly diminished. Mike was an icon of the innovative spirit of America.” Mike Walker was a true pioneer who has left an enormous legacy to all those engaged in the “pursuit of accuracy”.
Rest in Peace, Mike Walker. Thank you for your contributions to our sport.
Here’s great news for IBS members. The IBS has announced its affiliation with AccurateShooter.com, the premier website dealing with all types of rifle accuracy. The IBS and this website will work together to provide prominent media coverage of IBS events. IBS President Jeff Stover explains: “The IBS leadership was faced with an unexpected dilemma in late 2012 with the loss of our print media outlet. We think the partnership with Accurateshooter.com will present the IBS (and the sport of benchrest) front and center before a large, global audience of shooters interested in small groups and high scores from 100 to 1000 yards.”
Building its internet presence will benefit the IBS and its members says Stover: “Benchrest shooting has earned a highly respected position among the shooting disciplines. Most, if not all, innovations in rifle accuracy technology have been derived from benchrest. Nevertheless, it has been a ‘niche’ shooting sport. We in the IBS feel that AccurateShooter.com will help us achieve two major goals. The first is to give our members (and the matches they shoot) increased exposure. AccurateShooter.com has a worldwide audience with over 130,000 visitors every week. Secondly, we hope this website will present benchrest shooting as approachable and a mature discipline that is ready to welcome new shooters.”
IBS President Jeff Stover Talks About IBS Match Coverage on AccurateShooter.com
Click “Play” to Hear Audio
Beyond the major match coverage at AccurateShooter.com, the IBS website (Internationalbenchrest.com) will remain the IBS’s primary online resource for schedules and match results for every registered IBS match, be it short range or longrange.
Looking Ahead — What the IBS Plans
In the future, the IBS envisions further synergies with AccurateShooter.com. Together we are exploring ways to enhance the way benchrest matches are scored and reported. AccurateShooter.com provides a new media platform that will allow both the match results and the human side of the competitions to be brought to life. There will be a dedicated area on this website for important IBS match reports (and special IBS features). We foresee a system being developed that will standardize the match scoring software that would be used at the range and then quickly be made available on the web. Match reports will evolve from a simple set of scores and equipment reports to rich content with lots of photos, audio reports, and even video clips.
Watch IBS Slide Show
AccurateShooter Teams up with IBS for Event Coverage
At AccurateShooter.com, we’re delighted to team up with the IBS. We plan to provide enhanced IBS match coverage in the months ahead. With luck, we’ll kick off our IBS coverage with three upcoming matches: the 1000-yard Match at Whitehorse WV (April 20), the Pennsylvania State Score Championships in York, PA (April 27), and the Boop/Altemus Memorial Shoot at Weikert, PA (May 11-12, group match). And of course, we’ll be covering the major IBS National events later in 2013.
We want to provide the “full story” of matches with photos, equipment features, and interviews with top shooters. Where possible, we hope to include audio interviews with the “Top Guns” and some videos of the matches. Our IBS Match Reports will feature the latest benchrest hardware, including some of the most accurate rifles ever made….
Our IBS Reports will show the ranges where benchrest dreams are chased, and world records are set.
And our Match Reports will feature the great people (of all ages) who make IBS Benchrest shooting such a great sport and rewarding pastime.