November 1st, 2018

How to Tame Vertical Stringing — Tips from Speedy

Speedy Vertical Stringing Tech tip

At the request of Forum members, we are reproducing this helpful article by gunsmith and Hall-of-Fame benchrest shooter Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez

How to Reduce Vertical in Your Shot Groups

One of our Shooter’s Forum members recently built a new benchrest rifle. He was concerned because his groups were stringing vertically. This is a common problem that all precision shooters will face sooner or later. In addition to ammo inconsistencies, many other factors can cause vertical stringing. Accordingly, it’s important that you analyze your gun handling and bench set-up systematically.

READ Full ‘Cures for Vertical Stringing’ Article »

Hall of Fame benchrest Shooter Speedy Gonzalez has written a helpful article that explains how to eliminate mechanical and gun-handling problems that cause vertical spread in your groups. Speedy’s article addresses both the human and the hardware factors that cause vertical. CLICK HERE to read the full article. Here are a few of Speedy’s tips:

Front Bag Tension — Vertical can happen if the front sand bag grips the fore-arm too tightly. If…the fore-arm feels like it is stuck in the bag, then the front bag’s grip is too tight. Your rifle should move in evenly and smoothly in the sand bags, not jerk or chatter when you pull the gun back by hand.

Sandbag Fill — A front sandbag that is too hard can induce vertical. Personally, I’ve have never had a rifle that will shoot consistently with a rock-hard front sandbag. It always causes vertical or other unexplained shots.

Stock Recoil — Free-recoil-style shooters should be sure their rifle hits their shoulder squarely on recoil, not on the edge of their shoulder or the side of their arm. If you shoulder your gun, you need to be consistent. You can get vertical if your bench technique is not the same every shot. One common problem is putting your shoulder against the stock for one shot and not the next.

Front Rest Wobble — You will get vertical if the top section of the front rest is loose. Unfortunately, a lot of rests have movement even when you tighten them as much as you can. This can cause unexplained shots.

Stock Flex — Some stocks are very flexible. This can cause vertical. There are ways to stiffen stocks, but sometimes replacement is the best answer.

Rifle Angle — If the gun is not level, but rather angles down at muzzle end, the rifle will recoil up at butt-end, causing vertical. You may need to try different rear bags to get the set-up right.

Unbalanced Rifle — If the rifle is not balanced, it does not recoil straight, and it will jump in the bags. If the rifle is built properly this will not happen. Clay Spencer calls this “recoil balancing”, and he uses dual scales (front and rear) to ensure the rifle recoils properly.

Firing Pin — A number of firing-pin issues can cause vertical. First, a firing pin spring that is either too weak or too strong will induce vertical problems. If you think this is the problem change springs and see what happens. Second, a firing pin that is not seated correctly in the bolt (in the cocked position) will cause poor ignition. Take the bolt out of rifle and look in the firing pin hole. If you cannot see the entire end of firing pin it has come out of the hole. Lastly, a firing pin dragging in bolt or shroud can cause vertical. Listen to the sound when you dry fire. If you don’t hear the same sound each shot, something is wrong.

Be Consistent — You can get vertical if your bench technique is not the same every shot. One common problem is putting your shoulder against the stock for one shot and not the next.

Head Position — Learn to keep your head down and follow-through after each shot. Stay relaxed and hold your position after breaking the shot.

Last Shot Laziness — If the 5th shot is a regular problem, you may be guilty of what I call “wishing the last shot in”. This is a very common mistake. We just aim, pull the trigger, and do not worry about the wind flags. Note that in the photo below, the 5th shot was the highest in the group–probably because of fatigue or lack of concentration.

CLICK HERE for Speedy’s full article with more tips and advice.

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July 20th, 2014

Tech Tip: Blue-Printing Triggers

gunsmithing Speedy Thomas Gonzalez triggerTrigger Blue-Printing — Why It Can Be Important
by Thomas “Speedy” Gonzalez

To Blueprint or Not? That is the Question.
I often get asked is it really necessary to blueprint a custom match trigger. “Abolutely” is my answer. Here is an example that demonstrates why. After I completed a recent rifle project, the gun’s owner and I took the rifle to the range to break-in the barrel. But we quickly noticed a problem. The owner Alex L’s first statement was: “This trigger sucks — better blueprint it when you get back.”

Not only did the trigger feel rough and scratchy, but it failed to hold the cocking piece 2 out of 10 times when cocking the rifle for the next shot. Not good.

No matter what we tried at the range, the problem persisted. As soon as we returned from the range, I had to take the trigger apart to solve the mystery.

As soon as I opened her up on the operating table it was evident to me where the problem was. I have only seen the inside of about 3000 of these rascals and the head of the Over-Travel Screw stuck out like a sore thumb. The head of the Over-Travel Screw was nearly twice as thick as its other brothers and sisters. This caused the relationship between travel adjustment and sear engagement to be nearly impossible to adjust. And that, in turn, created a serious safety issue.

To remedy the situation, I replaced the screw with [another screw with] standard head thickness and ALL PROBLEMS DISAPPEARED… Amazing! Had I blue-printed this trigger before going to shoot, this never would have happened.

gunsmithing Speedy Thomas Gonzalez triggergunsmithing Speedy Thomas Gonzalez trigger

So, should one blueprint a trigger? I say “Hell yeah” if you are serious about competiting and winning. Otherwise be prepared for the worst. — Speedy

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May 27th, 2011

Speedy’s Guide to Benchrest Competition

Benchrest Hall of Famer Speedy Gonzalez has prepared a comprehensive Guide to Benchrest Competition. It covers all aspects of the game: gear selection (hardware), reloading methods and tools, plus shooting skills and strategies. All of this is available on the web for free, thanks to Speedy and the Swedish Benchrest Shooters Association (SBRSA).

CLICK HERE to read Speedy’s Guide to Benchrest Shooting.

Benchrest Speedy PPC

Speedy’s article is a gold-mine of info on shooting components and specialized reloading tools. It is also richly illustrated with high-quality photos showing gun components and reloading gear. Many of the photos show tools that have been sectioned so you can view the internal components.

Speedy also covers bullet design, and load tuning. There are thoughtful sections on Time Management and Target Management that will benefit all competitive shooters, no matter what their discipline.

Permalink - Articles, Reloading, Shooting Skills 4 Comments »
February 14th, 2010

Advanced Third Year Gunsmithing Program Opens Doors

Trinidad State Junior College (TSJC) has launched an advanced Third-Year gunsmithing program at the school’s Trinidad, Colorado campus. This program augments Trinidad State’s respected two-year gunsmithing school, established in 1947. For the past 63 years, TSJC has built a world-wide reputation for the excellence of its program. Companies involved in the firearms industry have been quick to hire TSJC’s gunsmithing graduates. The new third-year program is an elite school, open to the top 25 percent of graduates from all gunsmithing schools in the nation.

Trinidad State Junior College GunsmithingThe Advanced Third-Year Gunsmithing Program will be directed by Tom ‘Speedy’ Gonzalez, an innovative smith and Benchrest Hall of Famer. Speedy observed: “At the grand opening (of the new program), we’re pleased to have the President of the NRA attending, along with [Brownell’s President] Pete Brownell and the governor of Colorado.” Trinidad Interim President Felix Lopez explained: “The goal of the third-year gunsmithing program is to prepare its graduates to be ready for employment directly out of school.” Dr. Sandy Veltri, TSJC’s VP of Student/Academic Affairs added: “This third-year program will allow our students to gain entrepreneurial skills that will make them not just successful gunsmiths, but savvy business leaders.”

Development of the third-year program began with conversations between the college and representatives from Brownells about the need in the industry for gunsmithing graduates who are not only accomplished gunsmiths, but who also understand the firearms business, including retail sales, inventory control, counter sales, customer service, and dealing with vendors and management. Pete Brownell, shared his vision for this program to reflect real world employment in a working gun shop environment. Brownells provided $250,000 in funding for facilities remodeling plus needed equipment for the new retail-repair facility, christened the “Brownells Trinidad American Firearms Technology Institute”.

The first class of third-year students will experience the hard work and challenges of starting up a small business under the guidance of TSJC gunsmithing instructor Speedy Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a member of the Benchrest Hall of Fame, spent 30-plus years building precision rifles before coming to TSJC to “pass on his knowledge of gunsmithing to the next generation of gunsmiths”.

“Our intent is to open and operate a real-life gun shop with third-year students who will provide top quality gun repair, parts, and services for gun owners and collectors and hunting and shooting sports enthusiasts. We will offer retail, repair, blueing, reloading, and we even plan to do some light manufacturing”, said Gonzalez. The shop will maintain regular hours to serve local customers, including shooters from the nearby NRA Whittington Center in Raton, NM.

Additional ‘Gunsmithing Business Practices’ and ‘Gunsmithing Shop Management’ modules will be taught year-round by experts directly involved in the industry. Gunsmiths already employed and even gun shop owners/managers can sign up for modules of particular interest. In addition to the original two-year Gunsmithing Program and the new third-year program, TSJC offers short-term summer courses designed for anyone interested in learning gunsmithing. To learn more about gunsmithing programs at Trinidad State Junior College, visit, or call Lynette Bates at (719) 846-5650.

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