Educational Zone #98 – Shooting a Rifle from a Benchrest

A lot of my friends that are hunters know that I am a “gun nut”, and often ask me to help them sight-in their rifles for deer season. I am glad to do so.

However, I am often surprised at how awkward many people are when they try to shoot a rifle off of a benchrest. Today, I will show those of you that are interested, how to use a benchrest to sight-in or to test a rifle.

First, let’s clear-up what we are doing.

We are not talking about how to hold a rifle for hunting or about off-hand shooting positions.

We are strictly talking about how to use a benchrest to test a rifle for accuracy, to sight-in a scope or iron sights, or to test ammo.

The purpose of using a benchrest is to “remove the shooter” from the equation as much as possible, so that we can test the rifle, ammo, or sights.

First we need some equipment. You need a good rifle rest.

I have one that I bought from Sinclair, many years ago.

It is a nice rest, and has adjustments that are easy to use.

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I like to place a loosely filled sandbag on the rest, as I don’t like to take the chance for the rifle to “bounce” on the rest.

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If you don’t have an expensive rest like that, you can build one like this, that I used for many years.

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I place the sandbag on the top, to rest the rifle fore end.

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One of the most critical items needed is the rear bag.

Mine is one that I got from Sinclair long ago, and it is leather, filled with sand, and has “ears” to hold the butt stock. But any sandbag can be used.

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I often see people sighting-in a rifle with no rear bag, and trying to hold the rear of the rifle steady with their hand, like this.

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That simply will not result in a good, steady position.

Get a rear bag and learn how to use it.

I place the rifle butt between the “ears” of the bag and then use my left hand to position the bag and to squeeze it to get the sights on target.

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One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they are often confused about where to place their left hand.

Some want to place it under the fore end of the stock like this.

Don’t do that.

It will only open-up your groups.

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Some folks want to place their hand over the fore end, especially if using a scope (as you can’t see irons sights doing this)

Don’t do that.

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I shoot off of concrete benches, and they can be hard on the old elbows.

I place a folded towel under my right elbow like this.

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And place one under my left elbow like this.

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When using a rifle with a scope, some folks put their hand on the scope, like this.

Don’t do that.

It will only open up your groups.

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I’ve even seen people that want to hook one finger over their barrel, like this.

Don’t do that.

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Keep that left hand off of the rifle.

Put it on the rear bag, and use it to position the bag.

By carefully moving and squeezing the rear bag, you can make very fine adjustments and get perfectly on target.

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When you have done this correctly, you should be able to remove both hands from the rifle, and the cross hairs ought to stay on the target.

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Another common mistake is to “creep up” on the scope, like this.

If you do this, the scope can smack you right in the eye from recoil.

When we did this picture, Vern said, “We should have brought some ketchup to demonstrate how the blood runs down your face if you creep up on the scope.”

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Of course, the reverse is often a problem, especially for those that have been smacked on the head by a scope.

They sometimes get way too far back from the scope, like this.

I suggest starting there, but slowly moving towards the scope until you have a full field of view in the scope, and then stopping there.

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Lastly, hold the rifle “solidly”, but not too tightly, as you want it to be able to recoil.

Place the tip of your trigger finger on the trigger only when you are ready to shoot, and pull straight back, very smoothly on the trigger.

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If you do all these things right, you can test rifles and ammo and learn a few things, without the shooter causing any problems.

And like today, you can verify that the Swedish Mauser on the top target, shoots much better than the worn-out Mosin on the bottom target.

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Conclusion:
Testing rifles and sights and ammo will then give you the confidence that your “system” is working perfectly, and any errors in where the round hits, will be strictly a result of the shooter, and not the system.

It’s fun to shoot stuff.

2 Comments on Educational Zone #98 – Shooting a Rifle from a Benchrest

  1. Adam Jacob // July 11, 2016 at 6:06 pm // Reply

    Great tips for a noobie. Thanks.

  2. Bernard Gilsleider // March 16, 2017 at 7:52 am // Reply

    Excellent info. I learned I have been doing some things that did not help me and created erroneous data. Thank you .

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