"A sport for those obsessed with perfection" is the way one aficionado described this precision shooting sport. The object is to shoot the smallest possible group of five or ten shots at ranges of 100, 200 and 300 yards with a centerfire target-grade rifle. A growing aspect of the game is that of rimfire bench-rest shooting, in which firing (in groups of five shots) is done at targets set at 50 and 100 yards and 50 meters. The advent of the rimfire class has brought many women and youngsters into the sport. As mentioned elsewhere on this Web site, muzzleloaders also are used in this sport.
Course of Fire
In bench rest shooting, participants fire their rounds while seated at a steady bench with the rifle supported by a front and rear rest. This allows for highly precise bullet placement. Once the "commence fire" command is given, shooters are allowed up to seven minutes to fire a five-round group, or 12 minutes for a 10-shot string. Some events allow the shooter to take as long as 15 minutes to fire a group.
Regardless of the type of ammunition used, the size of the group (as measured by its largest outside diameter) is what counts as there are no scoring rings on the target. The diameter of the bullet (as measured in thousandths of an inch) is deducted from the outside diameter of the group to determine the actual group size. Experienced shooters often routinely score groups under a 1/4-inch in size. Some of the smallest groups on record in a registered match are an astonishing .009-inch over bullet diameter fired at a distance of 100 yards.
Traditional rifle equipment for bench rest shooting contests is divided into several classes depending on their caliber and weight with most falling in the light varmint (10.5-pound) and heavy varmint (13.5-pound) categories. Most are custom-made bolt actions with minimum dimension chambers, stock bedding and short, heavyweight barrels with precision rifling. The rifles' actions feature hand-tuned light and crisp trigger pulls.
Rifles can run from $600 to well over $1,000 in cost. Used rifles can be purchased for less. A new basic reloading (handloading) outfit will cost $300 to $400. Investing in a spotting scope will allow the practitioner to check where his or her shots are going on the target quickly and easily. Scopes with high magnification are favored. Wearing safety glasses and hearing protection are common sense safeguards to use with any shooting.
Since a rifle is no more accurate than the ammunition it fires, hand-loaded ammunition, meticulously custom tailored to obtain maximum consistent accuracy from a particular centerfire rifle, is the order of the day. The serious devotee weighs individual bullets to within 0.1 grains for uniformity, while cartridge cases are measured, weighed and trimmed to exacting dimensions before being fire-formed to achieve a perfect fit to the rifle's chamber. Rimfire bench rest shooters buy the highest quality target ammunition available. Rimfire target loads generally cost $4 to $8 for a box of 50, depending on your location, brand and the load you select.
National Bench Rest Shooter's Association (NBRSA)
Pat Farrell, business manager
2835 Guilford Lane
Oklahoma City, OK 73120
Phone: (405) 842-9585
(Material courtesy of National Shooting Sports Foundation)